Friday, July 30, 2010

Vacation Time

Vacation Time = Reading Time.  What else is a girl gonna do who's holed-up in a cabin for 10 days with the In-Laws?  Well, besides hike through the mountains, lay on the beach, ride bikes and go boating on Lake Tahoe.  But other than THAT?

I make my choices carefully.  This time I have opted to take several books which have been given or suggested to me in the last year:

The Hole in Our Gospel - this was recommended by an old friend, who apparently thinks I need to be challenged spiritually.  Thanks a lot, Richard. 

The idea behind The Hole in Our Gospel is quite simple.  It's basically the belief that being a Christian, or follower of Jesus Christ, requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God.  It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world.

Failure is Not an Option - Gene Kranz's account of his years at NASA.  A birthday gift from LAST summer that I'm just now getting to.  Thank you, Bill & Barb. 

Kranz reveals little-known details to demonstrate the leadership, discipline, trust, and teamwork that made the space program a success.

Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend - a compilation of stories, essays and poems written by women on the topic of baseball.  Also recommended...by a FB friend whom I have never met.  Thank you, Bill Feil.

And finally:  I can't believe I'm admitting this publicly, but I have begun reading The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo - A NYT bestseller which was recommended to me by...shall I say...an elder gentleman who knows I like to read.  Thank you, "Grandfather", for broadening my literary horizons. 

So, wish me happy reading and know that you probably won't hear from me for a week or two, unless I unexpectedly have access to a computer while I'm there!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pure Drivel

The local Schnuck's (one of those grocery stores which I just looove to visit), has just enticed me to visit them a little less grudgingly.  They have set up a used book table:  paperbacks $.50 each and hardcovers $1 each.  I splurged and spent a whopping $3 on my first perusual.  Few greater joys exist in life than finding that super-sweet bargain on a used book table.  Yes, I am a nerd.  However, the nature of the bargain also means that I will purchase something I would never have considered paying "good" money for. 

I found a treasure - a  "like new" hardcover edition of Willa Cather's My Antonia - and I found a "buy-it-because-it's-only-$.50" bargain - Pure Drivel by Steve Martin.

As you might expect, Martin's book is both amusing in a bizarre sort of way, and risque.  One of his most comical "essays" is on writing.

Writing is one of the most easy, pain-free, and happy ways to pass the time in all the arts.  For example, right now I am sitting in my rose garden and typing on my new computer.  Each rose represents a story, so I'm never at a loss for what to write.  I just look deep into the heart of the rose and read its story and write it down through typing, which I enjoy anyway.  Sometimes, it is true, agony visits the head of a writer.  At these moments I stop writing and relax with a coffee at my favorite restaurant, knowing that words can be changed, rethought, fiddled with, and, of course, ultimately denied.  Painters don't have that luxury.  If they go to a coffee shop, their paint dries into a hard mass.

I would recommend to writers that they live in California, because here they can look up at the blue sky in between those moments of looking into the heart of a rose.  I feel sorry for writers - and there are some pretty famous ones - who live in places like South America and Czecholslovakia, where I imagine it gets pretty dreary.  These writers are easy to spot.  Their books are often depressing and filled with disease and negativity.  If you're going to write about disease, I would suggest that California is the place to do it.  Dwarfism is never funny, but look at the result when it was dealt with out here in California.  Seven happy dwarfs.  Can you imagine dwarfs in Czecholslovakia?  You would get seven melancholic dwarfs at best...seven melancholic dwarfs with no handicapped parking spaces.

I can't say I exactly recommend the book, but the laughs were worth the $.50, and the couple hours I spent on its 104 pages.   

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For Want of Wit: 14

My friend, Angie, brought me 10 pounds of freshly-picked blueberries from Michigan last week.  Of course, I immediately set out to find folks willing to take pies off my hands.  So...this sweet, sophisticated, lovely mother of one of my girlfriends tells me she would LOVE to have a pie for her very special company which is coming on Tuesday (which is now today). 

As I dutifully - and cheerfully, of course - set out to make her pie this morning, I realized I was out of cornstarch.  I hate going to the grocery store...but one can't very well make blueberry pie filling without cornstarch, so I had no choice.  I ran out and bought some.


But I encountered a problem.  When I added the sugar and cornstarch, my "filling" foamed up and then looked like this...which is not quite right.  OK...it's not AT ALL right.


I had boiled the blueberries the night before so I concluded that they must have fermented a bit, causing this strange phenomenon.  No problem.  I have lots more berries.  I set out to make batch # 2.

Once again, I had the same result...with freshly-boiled berries!!  DARN!  It must be that cornstarch I bought.  It does say, "No aluminum"...maybe that's a BAD thing???

So...I ran to the store (the only thing I hate more than running to the grocery store, is doing it twice in 30 minutes) and I bought the brand of cornstarch I normally use...none of this "aluminum-free" stuff. 


"And just to be safe," I think, "I'll use a different pan this time. Maybe there's some strange chemical reaction with this pan...although I'm quite certain I've used it before."

Would you believe it?  It happened AGAIN!!!  The filling foamed up immediately when I added the sugar and cornstarch, spilling over the sides of the pan, before falling into a flat, nasty-colored mess! 
 
Suddenly, I begin to feel like I am going out of my head!  What can possibly be the problem??!!  I have already made a DOZEN of these pies this summer and every single one has turned out fine....HOW IN HEAVEN'S NAME CAN THIS SAME FLUKE HAPPEN 3 TIMES IN A ROW???!!!  It doesn't make sense!!  Think!  Think, Lori!  What else is different?


"Maybe it's the sugar.  I did open a new bag of sugar.  There must be something wrong with it.  Or maybe these berries have been sitting for too long and aren't fresh enough?"  So...I ran back to the store (did I mention I hate going to the grocery store?) and bought a new pound of sugar and some even "fresher" blueberries.  I determined to be smart this time and eliminate 2 more variables at once.  Brilliant. 


By this time, I only have about an hour before my boys are leaving with my car, so I have to get this pie made and delivered within the hour.  You'll never guess what happened??  No really.  IT HAPPENED AGAIN!! 

"What in the devil is going on here??!!  Am I out of my freaking mind??!  I cannot fail this lady!  I made a promise!"  I begin to panic before finally accepting the fact that God, in His electing providence, determined beforehand that He did not want these people having blueberry pie tonight.  Or else He wants me to experience the humiliation of having to admit I am an utter failure.  SO...I do it.  I call this prim and proper lady (who has likely never let anyone down in her entire life) to tell her I have failed.

Thankfully, I get the answering machine.  Somehow that feels safer to me.  I begin,  "Hi, Mrs. K.  This is Lori Shaffer calling to tell you that for some reason I simply cannot seem to make a pie filling this morning! (nervous laughter) It keeps foaming up on me...it's SO BIZARRE!  I have bought new sugar, new blueberries, new baking powd.........uh...uh...I'll call you back."

BAKING POWDER!!!!  BAKING POWDER!!!  Are you SERIOUS, Lori!!??  You have just made 4 batches of blueberry pie filling with BAKING POWDER instead of CORNSTARCH!! 

I didn't know whether to be elated that my problem was solved...or mortified at my utter stupidity.  I chose both.

SO...this time, in order to maximize my very limited time, I began batch #5 and sent my teenage son to the store to buy MORE cornstarch:

Thankfully, he's slightly less of an imbecile than his mother.  He actually bought cornstarch.  And I?  I successfully made a blueberry pie, while choking down a healthy dose of not-so-sweet humble pie.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Morbid Fascination

As I've revealed previously, I have a morbid fascination with true stories of disasters-at-sea...probably because it seems to me one of the most frightening ways to leave this world.  Besides the well-known story of the Titanic, I've enjoyed The Lusitania, The Sea Shall Embrace Them, Left for Dead, and my all-time favorite, In Harm's Way

I just added another of these heartrending stories to my repertoire:  The Perfect Storm.  Even though I wouldn't call the author's style riveting, I found myself unable to put it down until I knew exactly what happened to all these characters to whom I had been introduced.  Amidst the fear and tragedy of these events,  man sometimes reveals his cowardice, but more often we see him engage in great acts of courage and sacrifice.  

I can not compare the book with the movie, which I have not yet seen, but I think I will see it now.  Even if it doesn't remain faithful to the book, I already know it has at least one redeeming quality: George Clooney.  I know.  I know.  Trivial and shallow.  But we are all entitled to a weakness or two, right?

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Woman Your Age

Are you aware that:

Interjecting any phrase which contains the words "your age" into a compliment tends to drastically reduce its positive impact.  No, seriously.  Is it entirely necessary to qualify your statement in that way?  Unless, of course, you intend to couch an insult in subtle language and leave the recipient wondering if she's supposed to feel better or worse.  If that is your intent, then I must say, "As you were."

So it's like this.  The statement, "It's nice to see a woman your age staying in shape,"   can only make me question, "So, which part is it that belies MY AGE?  If it wasn't my 'shape' (whatever that means!) was it the dark circles and bags underneath my eyes, or was it my erratic speech patterns that revealed my rapid descent toward dementia?  Or perhaps it was those wrinkles just above my knees?  And, by the way, exactly how old do you think I am?"

Or..."You dress so hip for your age."  May I suggest that you stop after the word "hip" and then maybe...just maybe...I might feel complimented?  As it is, I'm inclined to wonder, "Are they really trying to tell me that I'm too old to pull this outfit off and I should stop trying so hard?  Maybe they mean that at my age I could be stuck in 80's fashion, but have progressed all the way to the 90's...and that's something, right?"

Shall I offer more examples, or are ya'll quick-studies?  I'm thinkin' you probably get the general idea. 

Yes, perhaps I'm a tad sensitive...or then again, maybe I'm just right.  Can I get a witness?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chastisement

From D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' Spiritual Depression, a collection of sermons on Psalm 42:  "Why are you cast down, O my soul?  Why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God!" 

In Chapter 17, he says one reason we can come into this condition of unhappiness as a Christian, is because we fail to realize that God uses varied methods, including chastisement, to bring about our sanctification.  If we recognize and submit to it, we will not be utterly cast down because of it.

The whole of salvation is God's work from beginning to end, and God has His ways of producing it. Once God starts working He goes on with that work.  He has an ultimate purpose and objective...much that happens to us in this world is to be understood and explained in light of that fact.  God will bring us to that condition, and nothing shall prevent our coming into that condition.

Now God has several ways of doing this.  One is to give us instruction through His Word.  But if we become recalcitrant, if we will not learn the lessons that are presented to us postively in the Word, then God, as our Father, with the great end and object in view of perfecting us, will adopt other methods.  One of the other methods He uses is this method of chastisement.  Far from being annoyed by this process, we ought to thank God for it, for He is giving us proof that we are His children.

What is chastisement?  It means to train.  It includes correction...instruction...rebuke...and may include punishment, but the essential object of chastisement is to train and develop a mature person.

Why does God chastise?  Because He loves us.  Let us look at some of the particular reson which He has for doing so.  One is that there are certain faults in us, certain faults in all of us, which need to be corrected.  What are they? 

Spiritual pride...being exalted over-much.  Spiritual pride is a terrible danger and it is a danger that persists.

Self-confidence...the danger is for man to rely upon himself and his gifts and to feel in a sense that he does not need God. 

Being attracted to the world...it is not that a man deliberately sits down and decides that he is going back into the world.  It happens almost imperceptibly...a man slips into them almost without knowing it...he comes to love the things of the world.

Self-satisfaction...the danger of resting on our oars, being satisfied with the position we have reached in the Christian life.   We become smug...and we do not grow.

The chastisement God sends for these sins produces certain qualities in us: 

Humility...God knows, we all have to be humbled in order to arrive at humility.  Failure can be very good for us there.  It is very difficult to be humble when you are always successful.

Heavenly-mindedness...We so cling to the world that God has to do something which shows us very clearly that the things that bind us to this world are fragile and can be snapped in a second.  So we are suddenly awakened to keep our affections on things above, not on things of the earth.

Meekness...it is almost impossible to be sympathetic in our relationships with others unless we know something of the same experience.  God sometimes has to deal with us in order to remind us of our need for patience.  He says in effect:  "You know I am patient with you, now go and be patient with that other person."

Blessed be God Who has undertaken our salvation and our perfection and Who, having started the work, will go on with it, and Who so loves us that if we will not learn the lessons voluntarily, will chastise us in order to bring us into conformity with the image of His dear Son.

Primeval Saints

In this book on the patriarchs of Genesis, Mr. Jim Jordan, undertakes to highlight the faith of the heroes of the city of God, and to help us glean insight from their experiences.  Here's a sample from his chapter on Joseph, Faith and Service:

Though Joseph had the name of slave, he was actually exercising considerable dominion [in Pharoah's household].  Though he had the name of prisoner, he was exercising dominion...acquiring mastery over the house.  The road to victory, dominion, and mastery is through service, the humble service of a slave. 

Though He sometimes takes them through "the valley of the shadow of death," God will in time revive the hearts of those who cling to Him.  God never lets His people go.  Whatever we as individuals or communities pass through, it is only part of God's good plan for us.

The road to dominion through service is not always a straight one.  Joseph was faithful to his father and it landed him in slavery.  He was faithful to Potiphar and it landed him in prison.  Yet in the end, he was placed over the entire world of that day.  The story of Joseph tells us to pick up and move on in faithful service to whatever vineyard we have been given, even if the new one is smaller than the old.

As is to be expected from Mr. Jordan, this book is enlightening.  You will read the book of Genesis Through New Eyes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Name That Flower

Both of these plants boast a beautiful grey-green foliage...can you guess what they are?




Thursday, July 15, 2010

Coming to Terms

I only know one person, other than myself, who is geeky enough to read the book I just read, and that's Tim LeCroy.  The difference is, HE would understand it!

It has taken me 3-4 months to labor through The Trivium: Understanding the Nature and Function of Language.  Sister Miriam Joseph writes in somewhat technical and sometimes tedious detail, which meant I spent significant time re-reading sentences and paragraphs which I didn't understand the first time through.  At some points I determined to keep going without fully understanding, but other times I was delighted at her ability to make philosophical sense of the everyday science (or should I say miracle?) of language.

When the listener or reader obtains from and through language, the identical proposition intended by the speaker or writer, he understands; they have "come to terms."

Does that seem like a statement of the overly obvious?  Yet how very difficult it is to achieve in reality!  How often do any of us feel that we have sufficiently communicated the full intention of our thoughts...AND...that they have, in turn, been received exactly as we intended?

The process of transferring thought from one being to another is highly complex and involves nearly innumerable variables.  At the most basic level, the two minds must assign the same denotative value to the words being used (that is, the explicit dictionary definition).  If either party holds a broader or more narrow definition to even a single word, some degree of misunderstanding has already begun.  And that's before we even consider the impact of connotative associations which arise from culture, sub-culture, vernacular, and individual experience!  In every written or verbal exchange, then, each word or term provides opportunity for the original intent to be lost or distorted.

Additionally, the interpretation of ideas can vary widely based on personal and corporate context, as well as philosophical, moral or religious presuppositions.  "Morality" and "religion" are themselves prime examples of terms or ideas that are rarely understood primarily in light of their dictionary definitions, but instead are very personally understood based on background, experience, instruction, worldview, and beliefs.

This grid through which we interpret words and ideas also includes emotion, which we tend to overlook in this process we call communication, but should not be underrated!  Not only can terms and ideas convey or arouse emotion, but phrasing, tone, countenance, body language, and personal experience all color the transaction.

In other words, every word, every phrase, every inflection I use to communicate, is chosen through the very personal, very individualized grid of my background, my intention, my understanding, my beliefs and my emotions.  It is then filtered through the very personal, very individualized and likely very different grid of the recipient.

If we consider the layers involved in even the "simplest" transfer of ideas, we will either come away wondering if meaningful communication is even possible, or we will be in awe at how often we achieve a high enough level of understanding to live, work and laugh with one another!

Of course, many of our daily interactions are fundamental enough that we can "come to terms" rather easily.  BUT...as soon as we begin to exchange words and ideas which carry great import or to which we are personally attached, the likelihood of miscommunication skyrockets, if for no other reason than we are most sensitive to being thoroughly understood when the subject at hand matters to us.

This complexity is the reason I place high value on the study of language and logic (formal and material).  The more commonality we can achieve in our understanding of words and the more clarity in our lines of thinking, the more readily we can convey the full intent of our thoughts and ideas to others, thereby achieving real understanding.

Now...Sister Miriam didn't talk about any of THIS in her book.  These are just my derivative thoughts (are there any other kind?) prompted by the quote above.  If the world of language intrigues you, I don't necessarily recommend this book!  Complete some vocab studies and examine Quintillian's approach to expression.   If the world of logic attracts you, I don't necessarily recommend this book!  Complete a high-school logic course instead.  However, if you fall into the rare category of word-language-logic-philosophy-rhetoric geek and enjoy reading paragraphs like this:

The predicate of an affirmative proposition is, however, distributed whenever the proposition is a definition, by virtue of the following reasoning: (1) a definition is always an A proposition (necessary affirmative) and therefore its subject is distributed through the form; (2) the predicate, being the definition of the subject (whether by genus and differentia or by property), has not only the same intension but the same extension as the subject, namely, full extension and is therefore distributed (through the matter, the terms, although not through the forms, the copula).  The very fact that a definition is convertible proves that the predicate has the same extension as the subject, and therefore, since the subject is distributed, so is the predicate.  Conversion is the test of distribution. 

If you like that...then this is the book for YOU!! 

Now you understand why I latched onto the first quote!  I understood it.  Sister Miriam and I "came to terms."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wordsmith Wednesday

I think it's high time I offered another "contest."  So here goes.  I will give a set of words which have a Latin root in common.  You give me the Latin word and its basic meaning.  Simple enough...

Those who answer correctly will have their names put into a "hat" and one of my sons will draw the winner, who will receive a Peter Leithart book of their choice.

1.  incantation, recant, canticle, cantata, descant

2.  remote, emotion, remove, motivate, motif

3.  impugn, repugnant, pugnacious

4.  denomination, ignominy, nominal, nomenclature, nominate

5.  emit, remission, non-committal, premise, dismissal, commissary, missionary

6.  speculate, retrospective, perspicuous, species, despicable

7.  regalia, region, regulate, regent, regicide

8.  primogenitor, genocide, engender, regenerate, generic

9.  lucent, elucidate, luciferous, illustrious, lustrous

10.  factory, facsimile, faculty, facilitate

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Name That Flower

What is it?

De Profundis

I just can't help myself!  Here is another beautiful offering - a confession of faith -  from Ms. Browning:









De Profundis
(a selection from Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

The face which, duly as the sun,
Rose up for me with life begun,
To mark all bright hours of the day
With hourly love, is dimmed away -
And yet my days go on, go on.

The tongue, which, like a stream, could run
Smooth music from the roughest tone,
And every morning with "Good day"
Make each day good, is hushed away -
And yet my days go on, go on.

That heart which, like a staff, was one
For mine to lean and rest upon,
The strongest on the longest day
With steadfast love, is caught away -
And yet my days go on, go on.

The past rolls forward on the sun
And makes all night.  O dreams begun,
Not to be ended!  Ended bliss,
And life that will not end in this!
My days go on, my days go on.

I sit and knock at Nature's door,
Heart-bare, heart-hungry, very poor,
I knock and cry, "Undone, undone!"
Is there no help, no comfort - none?
My vacant days go on, go on.

A Voice reproves me thereupon,
More sweet than Nature's when the drone
Of bees is sweetest, and more deep
Than when rivers overleap
The shuddering pines and thunder on.

God's Voice, not Nature's!  Night and noon
He sits upon the great white throne
And listens for the creature's praise.
What babble we of days and days?
The Day-Spring He, whose days go on.

By anguish which made pale the sun,
I hear Him charge his saints that none
Among His creatures anywhere
Blaspheme against Him with despair,
However darkly days go on.

Take from my head the thorn-wreath brown!
No mortal grief deserves that crown.
O supreme Love, chief misery,
The sharp regalia are for THEE
Whose days eternally go on.

For us, - whatever's undergone,
Thou knowest, willest what is done.
Grief may be joy misunderstood;
Only the Good discerns the good.
I trust Thee while my days go on.

Whatever's lost, it first was won;
We will not struggle nor impugn.
Perhaps the cup was broken here,
That Heaven's new wine might show more clear.
I praise Thee while my days go on.

I praise Thee while my days go on;
I love Thee while my days go on;
Through dark and dearth, through fire and frost,
With emptied arms and treasure lost,
I thank Thee while my days go on.

And having in Thy life-depth thrown
Being and suffering (which are one),
As a child drops his pebble small
Down some deep well and hears it fall
Smiling - so I.  THY DAYS GO ON.

Monday, July 12, 2010

From Gratitude to Glory


When did Satan fall?  The Scriptures don't tell us explicitly when this happened, and veteran theologians have not reached a concensus on the matter.  Although I was taught that his fall occurred at some point before Genesis 1, I have heard a very strong case made that his temptation of Adam and Eve likely was his fall.

It has been suggested that Lucifer was sent as a ministering spirit to Adam and Eve in the garden (that is the role of angels in the Bible, right?), but that he was envious of the position Man had been given as Vice-regent over all creation. 

Remember Satan's sinful declaration that he himself would be like God and his deceptive promise to Adam that he too could be like God (to which Adam should have promptly replied, "I already AM like Him!  I am created in His Image!").  Satan rebelled by grasping for a position which he had not been given.  He had not been created as a ruler in The Image of God, so he attempted to simultaneously exalt himself and bring low the one who had been given that right.

It makes sense to me that his seduction of Man was his fall...the very moment at which he shook his fist in the face of God and announced, "I will be like The Most High...and that Adam guy will not!"

The fall of Satan and of Man run parallel in that both are tempted by the desire to grasp more than what had been given to them.  Both were given glorious tasks for which they had been specifically designed, yet both were discontent.  Both failed to serve.  Satan failed to serve Adam and Eve.  Adam failed to serve the creation.  As God's Imager, he was to serve and guard the portion he had been alloted and, gradually, as he communed with God in the sanctuary, he would have matured in wisdom so that his rule would have increased.  That is, he would have been transformed from glory to glory as he beautified and transformed God's creation from glory to glory.  But he desired to have it all...NOW.

Bottom line:  both Lucifer and Adam were thankless.  Instead of expressing gratitude for the glories with which they had been gifted, they resented that which had been withheld and determined to grasp it, independent of their Creator.

Do you see your own reflection in this mirror?  I know I do.  How often have I secretly accused God of withholding from me that which I know would be good for me?  At the heart of the matter is the sin of ingratitude which leads to an "I will have it," mentality which inevitably leads us to act independently of God.  "When I depend on You, You fail me...therefore, I will, apart from you, take hold of that which You should have given me."

That is the anatomy of a faithless, unbelieving heart and is at the core of all our wanderings.  Of course, we rarely take the brazen fist-shaking approach and all too often we don't even recognize this attitude in ourselves until we have grasped...and fallen...and been cast out.

Thank God for the Good News of the Seed who has crushed the Serpent's head and who never fails to hear us when we find ourselves - again and again - outcast and alone, pleading for deliverance. 

Thank God that the angel with flaming sword in hand, barring the way to His presence, has been replaced by free and open access to the throne where sits the mediating Man, Christ Jesus!

May the grace and truth of this Gospel restore in us the thankfulness of heart that leads us to depend on Him to provide everything we need...when we need it.  May we have the grace to serve humbly and wait patiently for Him to mature us and transform us from glory to glory.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Beautiful Battle

I spent some time this weekend listening to one of the great sopranos of our time, Kathleen Battle.  I have long enjoyed her recordings with Wynton Marsalis.  This is one of my favorite pieces from their "Baroque Duet" album.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Glory of Man

James Jordan begins his Primeval Saints (Studies in the Patriarchs of Genesis) by establishing the significance and glory of this new creature called "Man."  Because he is made in the very image of the Creator God, Jordan says:

God caused light to shine on a dark world, then he began to work with it.  That is what man is like...the kind of understanding man is created to have.

God laid hold of a formless world and gave it formThat is what man is like...the kind of world-shaping thing man will do.

God laid hold of an empty world and filled it.  That is what man is like...the kind of productivity he will have.

God reorganized whole oceans and planted vegetation.  That is what man is like...the kind of thing man will do.

God flung the sun, moon, and stars into space.  Could it be this man will even do such things as this?!

Man is not a worm, but a son of the King, not a bit player on the stage of human history, but captain of the whole of God's earthly creation.

Man is given the task of imitating God by cultivating and serving the garden where he is placed.  He is to beautify and transform it, as well as the wider world, into a glorious garden-city of God.  Thus:

As Adam and his posterity undertook to change the earth to God's glory, they themselves would also change, growing and maturing from glory to glory.

Greater projects would require greater time and planning.  As he matured...his heroic task for world-transformation would take on an "epic" quality...he and his descendants would come to see themselves as part of God's great design for history, with each contributing his or her part to the tapestry of universal glorification.

Such was the glory and destiny of man when he was created!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity...or Death

Political overthrow, intrigue, murder, subterfuge, injustice, forgiveness, confused identities, sacrificial love and substitutionary death.

These are just a few of the themes and driving forces in Dicken's masterful novel, A Tale of Two Cities, which I have just read for the first time!  As is commonly the case with illustrious works of literature, I came away startled at the genius of his multi-faceted plot.  I now know why it has earned its spot on every list of the all-time Great Books.

Not only is Dickens remarkably adept at describing features of face, physique, and habiliment in a way that creates a clear mental picture, but he also brilliantly illuminates the attitudes and motivations of each character.  He brings each one fully in front of our eyes in a way that forces us to judge them as he does, while simultaneously concealing just enough that the twists and turns still cause our jaws to drop in astonishment.

The story reveals how one man's unjust suffering finally bears fruit, and how another man's profound love leads to the ultimate selfless act. 

"I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die." 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Sociology of Barnes & Noble

There was  time when I could sit for hours in B&N studying diligently...writing Latin curriculum or literature guides, or preparing a week's worth of lessons on Genesis...all the while, completely oblivious to the folks around me.  An intense focus resulted in tunnel vision.  I had a purpose...and NOTHING could distract me from it.

Not so anymore.  Lately, when I go to study or write, I find myself people-watching or eavesdropping on nearby conversations.

One man sat alone typing furiously for two hours with only his index fingers!  I was mesmerized by the speed and agility he displayed...and his ability to block out the rest of the world as he focused on the task at hand.

An elderly gentleman, armed with coke-bottle glasses - and a hand-held magnifying glass to boot - voraciously devoured page after page of the volumes stacked on his table.  He was oddly methodical.  Open the book to the middle, skip randomly from right to left, left to right, moving both forward and backward through the pages until he was satisfied, at which point he would move on to the next book.

A crowd of twenty-somethings sat listening as one gal shared the experience of her first CT scan.  She had changed into her hospital gown and been bustled into a small room and told to wait. While waiting, she began to hear instructions such as, "Hold your breath...be still...OK good."  "Now, turn your left foot outward...hold still...good, good."  She very cooperatively followed these instructions for about 5 minutes before she realized the voice was coming through the wall from the REAL testing room and the instructions were not intended for her at all!  I think she figured out I was listening in when I laughed harder than her friends did, but it sounded just like something I would do!

My conclusion is that focus, study and intensity are highly overrated and that it's much more entertaining to show up without an agenda and just enjoy the diversity of personalities that gather in our public places. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Post Worth Reading

I am going to do something I've never done before.  

I try to avoid posting multiple blogs per day, unless at least one of them is light on content.  Otherwise, folks get overwhelmed and don't read any of them!  Since both of today's previous posts are short and light, I am going to add a third, which is decidedly NOT.

This comes from my friend, Annie.  Annie is a beautiful, sweet-spirited, tough-minded, creative, talented, intelligent, southern gem.  And she's modest.  Which means I've probably embarrassed her with that description.  But I don't mind...it's all true. 

Annie spends her days mothering 4 exceptional boys.  4 brilliant, quirky, outside-the-box, boys.  With no intention of being sappy here (it's not my style, you know!), I'll say that the Lord must have known  her to be an exceptional woman herself.  A single day in her life would break many of us, but Annie trudges on...steadfastly and gracefully...day after day after day.  She is one of few people who deserve the appellation, "Amazing."

All of that is by way of introduction so that you can more fully appreciate the richness and beauty of this blog post of hers:  The Embroidery of Life.  Take the time to read it.  If it doesn't move you in a profound way, you may want to check your pulse and make sure you are still alive. 

Thank you, Annie dear.

Name That Flower

Can you give me the Latin or common name?

Wordsmith Wednesday

Words from this week's read:  A Tale of Two Cities

He had resolved to immolate the traitor he could no longer cherish...

immolate (v) - fr. Latin immolare = to sacrifice - to sacrifice, kill or destroy

The air among the houses was of so strong a piscatory flavour...

piscatory (adj) - fr. Latin piscator = fisherman - fishy

...he had arrived at the peroration of his discourse...

peroration (n) - fr. Latin perorare: per = through + orare = to speak - the concluding part of a speech

"Don't prevaricate," said Mr. Lorry.

prevaricate (v) - fr. Latin praevaricare: prae = before + varicare = to straddle - to evade or tell a lie

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Living Without Stuff

"We could all just get rid of our stuff and go live there and help out.  The needs are so great...we don't NEED all this stuff.  We should just sell it and go."

This gauntlet was thrown by a gentleman who is currently involved in an overseas missions project and his challenge prompted me to examine my values.

Would I be able to give away or sell all my "stuff" to go and serve permanently in a poverty-stricken village?  Of course, I'd like to THINK myself noble enough to sacrifice my luxurious life for the sake of the needy.  But I wonder...

That choice would require leaving behind not only obvious luxuries - machines which make life simpler (washers, dryers, microwaves, vacuums, etc.), constant access to technology, a cushy bed, an abundance and variety of foods, transportation, electricity, mobility, climate-controlled buildings, healthcare, sanitation, etc. - but I suspect I'd also have to give up intangibles that matter to me - orderliness, cleanliness, routines, predictability, leisure time.  All of these provide a measure of security and pleasure for me.

I asked myself which "things" of mine would be hardest to give up.  What are the "essentials" in my everyday life?  I immediately settled on these: books, music and writing paper.  I cannot imagine living without those 3 things!  I suppose that the blessings and benefits derived from a life of extreme sacrifice and service are transformative and bring a kind of heart-joy that we are often too busy and distracted to cultivate, and maybe I could learn to be content even without those 3 things.  I don't know.

At this point in my life, God isn't asking me to leave everything behind and serve in this way, but He might some day.  Even now, just THINKING about the possibility has required me to take stock of what matters to me...what I value...and what that reveals about the committments of my heart.

I asked my sons the same question (what stuff could you not imagine living without?) and it prompted some interesting and meaningful conversation with them.  Although I recognize that the mental process is not at all the same as the practice, I think it's helpful to think it through and I encourage you to do the same thing.  You may be surprised at what you discover about yourself and your children!  

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Darndest Things














Kids DO say the darndest things, and our little "Garfield" is no exception!   These are all from the last year or two...so he was either 3 or 4 when these things came out of his mouth.

Eric:  Julian, you need to eat your vegetables.  Have you even tried your zucchini yet?
Julian:  Yes...it's gross!
Eric:  Julian!  Aunt Lori made that!
Julian:  That's OK...I still love her.

"Are these all Aunt Riesa's SUPPLEMENTS?"  

One of us, for some unremembered reason, called him a "loser."  His response:  "Grant is the biggest loser because he eats upstairs AND downstairs!" (he had heard us fuss at Grant about leaving food messes in his bedroom and the TV room!)

"Yep.  I'm a genius."

"Holy Quacamole!" (that's the way he pronounced it!)

"You look adorable!"  (to me when I came out of my room with a headband in my hair)

"This has been the best night of my whole life!" (at the Pitts' house for a bonfire) 

"I'm asking Aunt Lori because SHE'S IN CHARGE!!"  (I love that kid...)

"Man!  You're a NINJA!!"  (Eric opened a kitchen cabinet, a cup fell out and he caught it)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

From:  An Address to American Youth
by:  Reverend L. Parmele

Independence Day!  The booming cannon and rattling firearms!  It is not the wrath of battle, but only echo-thunders, rolling back upon us from the great war-tempest of '76.  Nor are these sounds now mingled with the cries of the wounded and groans of the dying - mournfully terrific swelling up from the field of blood.  The report of guns and voice of artillery that fall on our ears today are all mellowed down into notes of enchanting music, and sweetly chime in the glorious triumphal anthem of our national jubilee.

Upon the youth of America is conferred the noblest birthright in the whole world.  The stars under which you were born beam with brightest promise and kindle loftiest hope.  Before you all, without any miserable and silly distinction of ancestry or estate, is placed the brightest diadem of moral dignity, intellectual greatness, and civil honor. 

In countries where rank is obtained on easy terms of ancestry and a man becomes a king simply because his father before him was one, noblity relaxes into indolence of spirit and imbecility of intellect, and royalty, with all its imposing honors, degenerates into mental dwarfishness, and the king's jester is often, really, a greater man than the crowned head. 

Let us remember that religion was the early harbinger, and continues the guardian angel of the American birthright - the note of religious freedom struck on the rock of Plymouth, and was the grand prelude to the swelling anthem of civil liberty.  Now, the war-storm over, and the battle-thunder ceased, the precious blood of our forefathers that was poured out as a free shower upon the earth - those peerless drops are gathered over us in a bright bow of promise, spanning a continent and resting on two oceans, attracting a world to "the land of the free and the home of the brave."  But the fear of God is the great keystone in this bow of national hope - take away this, and the sunlit arch will vanish into the blackness of a second moral deluge.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Substitution

I hope you all never tire of reading Mrs. Browning's poetry.  I continue to share her poems because  they are both beautiful and soul-stirring...and because I hope that even one of you might fall in love with her work, as I have!




Substitution
by: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

When some beloved voice that was to you
Both sound and sweetness, faileth suddenly,
And silence, against which you dare not cry,
Aches round you like a strong disease and new-
What hope?  What help?  What music will undo
That silence to your sense?  Not friendship's sigh,
Not reason's subtle count; not melody
Of viols, nor of pipes that Faunus blew;
Not songs of poets, nor of nightingales
Whose hearts leap upward through the cypress trees
To the clear moon; nor yet the spheric laws
Self-chanted, nor the angels' sweet "All hails,"
Met in the smile of God: nay, none of these.
Speak THOU, availing Christ! - and fill this pause.