Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Father and Son

Today I am sharing an excerpt from the book Father and Son: a Nativity Story by Geraldine McCaughrean in which she imagines what it must have been like for Joseph to father The Son of God.  Scenarios like this, though extra-biblical, help us to enter into the magnificence of the reality that is The Incarnation.

What lullabies should I sing to someone who peppered the sky with songbirds?

What stories can I tell him who wrote the whole history of the world?

Someone tell me: how do I protect a child whose arm brandished the first bolt of lightning, who lobbed the first thunderclap, who wears sunlight for armor and a helmet of stars?

How do I feed and clothe someone who seeded the oceans with fish and hung up fruit in the trees?  Who shod the camels and crowned the deer?

And how shall I ever astound you, child, as my father did me?  You are the one who fitted the chicken into the egg and the oak tree into an acorn!

I am a carpenter, child.  By rights, you should learn my trade.  But how can I teach you to plane a door, knowing it was you who planed the plains, who carved the valleys and hewed the hills, the wind in your one hand and rain in the other?  How?

These imaginative fatherly reflections remind us why this event in history is so utterly astonishing and deserves to be celebrated with all the pomp and circumstance we can muster!


O Come All Ye Faithful: Celtic Woman



Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Tapestry

Jonathan Weeks doesn't understand why his family has to leave their comfortable life in Tennessee for a difficult new start in Michigan.   He's left friends for strangers. and his father's beautiful, well-established church for a broken-down, barely attended one.  Nothing seems right.

In Christmas Tapestry, Patricia Polacco has created a lovely, if sentimental, tale that condenses the reality of God's sovereignty into a single vignette  in which young Jonathan is able to look back and see how an unwanted move, inclement weather, a roof leak, a dead battery and a late bus, all work together for a single good purpose. 

Many times we are not able, or are not allowed, to see the way in which our troubles and inconveniences work together to accomplish God's greater good, but this story reminds us that it's TRUE nonethless.  God is working behind the scenes, weaving together a tapestry whose beauty we often cannot see, and He is bringing reconciliation and joy to others through our trials, both large and small.  It is appropriate that this revelation, for Jonathan, culminates at Christmastime, which is indeed God's great demonstration of reconciliation and joy!!

I should point out that Polacco doesn't preach or moralize...this is the interpretation of her story by a Christian imagination, so don't pick up the book expecting an overtly Christian message.

Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming: Atlanta Symphony Chorus



Friday, November 26, 2010

A Lament & A Promise

Lamentations 1

The Prophet Speaks:

Alas! The city once full of people
now sits all alone!
The prominent lady among the nations
has become a widow!
The princess who once ruled the provinces
has become a forced laborer!

She weeps bitterly at night;
tears stream down her cheeks.
She has no one to comfort her
among all her lovers.
All her friends have betrayed her;
they have become her enemies.

Judah has departed into exile
under affliction and harsh oppression.
She lives among the nations;
she has found no resting place.
All who pursued her overtook her
in narrow straits.

The roads to Zion mourn
because no one travels to the festivals.
All her city gates are deserted;
her priests groan.
Her virgins grieve;
she is in bitter anguish!

Her foes subjugated her;
her enemies are at ease.
For the Lord afflicted her
because of her many acts of rebellion.
Her children went away
captive before the enemy.

All of Daughter Zion’s splendor
has departed.
Her leaders became like deer;
they found no pasture,
so they were too exhausted to escape
from the hunter.

Jerusalem remembers,
when she became a poor homeless person,
all her treasures
that she owned in days of old.
When her people fell into an enemy’s grip,
none of her allies came to her rescue.
Her enemies gloated over her;
they sneered at her downfall.

Jerusalem committed terrible sin;
therefore she became an object of scorn.
All who admired her have despised her
because they have seen her nakedness.
She groans aloud
and turns away in shame.

Her menstrual flow has soiled her clothing;
she did not consider the consequences of her sin.
Her demise was astonishing,
and there was no one to comfort her.
She cried, “Look, O Lord, on my affliction
because my enemy boasts!”

An enemy grabbed
all her valuables.
Indeed she watched in horror as Gentiles
invaded her holy temple –
those whom you had commanded:
“They must not enter your assembly place.”

All her people groaned
as they searched for a morsel of bread.
They exchanged their valuables
for just enough food
to stay alive.

Jerusalem Speaks:

“Look, O Lord! Consider
that I have become worthless!”

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by on the road?
Look and see!
Is there any pain like mine?
The Lord has afflicted me,
he has inflicted it on me
when he burned with anger.

He sent down fire
into my bones, and it overcame them.
He spread out a trapper’s net for my feet;
he made me turn back.
He has made me desolate;
I am faint all day long.

My sins are bound around my neck like a yoke;
they are fastened together by his hand.
He has placed his yoke on my neck;
he has sapped my strength.
The Lord has handed me over
to those whom I cannot resist.

He rounded up all my mighty ones;
The Lord did this in my midst.
He summoned an assembly against me
to shatter my young men.
The Lord has stomped like grapes
the virgin daughter, Judah.

I weep because of these things;
my eyes flow with tears.
For there is no one in sight who can comfort me
or encourage me.
My children are desolated
because an enemy has prevailed.

The Prophet Speaks:

Zion spread out her hands,
but there is no one to comfort her.
The Lord has issued a decree against Jacob;
his neighbors have become his enemies.
Jerusalem has become
like filthy garbage in their midst.

Jerusalem Speaks:

The Lord is right to judge me!
Yes, I rebelled against his commands.
Please listen, all you nations,
and look at my suffering!
My young women and men
have gone into exile.

I called for my lovers,
but they had deceived me.
My priests and my elders
perished in the city.
Truly they had searched for food
to keep themselves alive.

Look, O Lord! I am distressed;
my stomach is in knots!
My heart is pounding inside me.
Yes, I was terribly rebellious!
Out in the street the sword bereaves a mother of her children;
Inside the house death is present.

They have heard that I groan,
yet there is no one to comfort me.
All my enemies have heard of my trouble;
they are glad that you have brought it about.
Bring about the day of judgment that you promised
so that they may end up like me!

Let all their wickedness come before you;
afflict them
just as you have afflicted me
because of all my acts of rebellion.
For my groans are many,
and my heart is sick with sorrow.

Jerusalem is in anguish as she mourns her sin, her wandering and the grave consequences which God has dealt her.  But this is not the end of the story!  Her cry, "Save me, O God, for the waters are coming even unto my soul!" is not left unanswered.   She has been given a gracious promise that one day all the shame and trouble will be removed from her and she will be made new!  

Psalm 62

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.

The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of Yhwh will give.

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of Yhwh,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight is in Her,
and your land Married,
for Yhwh delights in you,
and your land shall be married.

For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

They shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of Yhwh;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken.

This is a beautiful promise indeed!  May we, as individuals, and more importantly, as The People of God, believe that this promise will be fulfilled in a profound and thorough-going way because of Christ!  May we wait in patient faith and look forward with expectant hope to that day.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Simple Pleasures

*  Church service with people we love
*  Walking into the house w/ the smell of roasting turkey
*  Harry Connick Christmas music while cooking
*  Snow!
*  Setting the table 
*  Eating good food
*  Sons who ate and appreciated my cooking
*  Succumbing to a tryptophan-induced sleep
*  Waking up to the sound of Joe Buck's voice
Watching Keith Urban's "pitchy" halftime performance
*  3-mile walk in the frosty air
*  Getting soundly whipped in CLUE
*  Leftovers
*  Anne of Green Gables by the fire

It's the Butter, Stupid!

The older I get, the more clearly I see it.  Cooking is all about the butter.  Now, Julia Childs could have taught me that long ago, but I tend to be one of those stubborn souls who has to learn things for myself. 

I'm warning you so you won't go into shock when you read my Thanksgiving Day recipes and see the copious amounts of butter I used for fairly small portions.  I may die with clogged arteries, but what a way to go...butter OD.  Mmmmm.

Lori's Turkey Rub

1/2 c. coarse sea salt
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. minced garlic
2 T. tarragon
2 T. oregano
2 T. parsley
2 T. dill
2 T. rosemary

Combine all ingredients in small bowl.  Rinse turkey, pat dry, rub with herb mix inside and out before baking.

Lori's Mashed Potatoes



Place the following in a large saucepan and boil until potatoes are fork-tender:
5 lbs. russet potatoes
Water to cover
4 heaping T. minced garlic
6 cubes chicken boullion

Drain all but 1-1 1/2 c. liquid.

Add:
1 c. butter
1/2 c. milk

Mash with electric mixer until smooth.  Use more milk if needed to achieve desired consistency.

Lori's Easy Stuffing

Saute in skillet until tender:
4 T. butter
1/2 large onion
2 stalks celery

Combine in saucepan and bring to boil:
2 1/2 c. water
1 c. butter
2 chicken boullion cubes

When it reaches a rolling boil, add and toss thoroughly:
(2) 6 oz. packages Stove Top Stuffing
Sauteed celery and onion

Place in baking dish.  This can sit as long as overnight.  About 30 minutes before serving time, combine and pour over top of dressing:


1/2 melted butter
1/2 hot water
1 cube chicken boullion


Heat at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Lori's Sweet Potatoes

Wrap in foil:
4 large sweet potatoes

Bake at 350 degrees until tender (1-2 hours)

Cool.  Remove skins.  Place "pulp" in baking dish.  Mash with a fork.

For topping, blend to fine crumbs in food processor:
7 oz. Walkers shortbread
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. pecans
2 t. cinnamon

Add and process just until blended:
1/2 c. butter

Sprinkle topping over sweet potatoes.  Can be refrigerated overnight.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Lori's Gravy

Melt in saucepan on Med-High heat:
1 c. butter

Whisk in:
1/2 c. flour

Whisk in:
2 c. turkey pan juices
2 c. water

That wasn't as bad as I thought...only 10 sticks of butter...that's a mere 2 1/2 pounds.  Well...not counting what we put on our bread! 

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  Hope yours has been special. And butter-filled.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wordsmith Wednesday

Root:

phon (Greek) - sound

Derivatives:

polyphony - many sounds 
symphony - combined sounds
phonics - the science of sound
cacophony - a harsh sound
telephone - a device used to transmit sound across distances
phonograph - a device for reproducing sounds which have been written onto a disk
microphone - a device used to amplify small sounds
phonate - to utter a voiced sound
phoneme - a representation of a single sound within a langage
phonology - the study of speech sounds
phonoscope - an instrument used to measure sound



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Scarlet Letter

Minister Arthur Dimmesdale is partner with Hester Prynne in the sin of adultery.  While her guilt is made public because she is with child, Arthur's participation remains hidden.  For seven years, Hester has openly borne the mark of their sin and she has endured contempt, whispers and scorn from her community of fellow Christians.  Arthur, on the other hand, continues to be adored as an icon of holiness by his congregation - the same community - a torturous burden from which he longs to be freed.  It seems to me that discussion about The Scarlet Letter tends to focus on Hester's humiliation and the community's judgmental nature, while Arthur's journey of agonizing secrecy seems to be ignored, yet is at least as compelling as the story's other aspects. 

Following is Hawthorne's account of their first conversation since their sin, in which Hester and Arthur decide to make the truth known:

"Hast thou found peace?" she asked.

"None! - nothing but despair!" he answered.  "What else could I look for, being what I am, and leading such a life as mine?  Were I an athiest, - a man devoid of conscience, - a wretch with coarse and brutal instincts, - I might have found peace, long ere now.  Nay, I never should have lost it!  But, as matters stand with my soul, whatever of good capacity there originally was in me, all of God's gifts that were the choicest have become the ministers  of spiritual torment.  Hester, I am most miserable!"

"The people reverence thee," said Hester.  "And surely thou workest good among them!  Doth this bring thee no comfort?"

"More misery, Hester! - only the more misery!" answered the clergyman with a bitter smile.  "As concerns the good which I may appear to do, I have no faith in it.  It must needs be a delusion.  What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls? - or a polluted soul, towards their purification?  And as for the people's reverence, would that it were turned to scorn and hatred!  Canst thou deem it, Hester, a consolation, that I must stand up in my pulpit, and meet so many eyes turned upward to my face, as if the light of heaven were beaming from it! - must see my flock hungry for the truth, and listening to my words as if a tongue of Pentecost were speaking! - and then look inward, and discern the black reality of what they idolize?  I have laughed, in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am!  And Satan laughs at it!"

"You wrong yourself in this," said Hester, gently.  "You have deeply and sorely repented.  Your sin is left behind you, in the days long past.  Your present life is not less holy, in very truth, than it seems in people's eyes.  Is there no reality in the penitence thus sealed and witnessed by good works?  And wherefore should it not bring you peace?"

"No, Hester, no!"  replied the clergyman.  "There is no substance in it!  It is cold and dead, and can do nothing for me!  Of penance, I have had enough!  Of penitence, there has been none!  Else, I should long ago have thrown off these garments of mock holiness, and have shown myself to mankind as they will see me at the judgment-seat.  Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom!  Mine burns in secret!  Thou little knowest what a relief it is, after the torment of a seven years' cheat, to look into an eye that recognizes me for what I am!  Had I one friend, - or were it my worst enemy! - to whom, when sickened with the praises of all other men, I could daily betake myself, and be known as the vilest of all sinners, methinks my soul might keep itself alive thereby.  Even thus much of truth would save me!  But, now, it is all falsehood! - all emptiness! - all death!"

Hester Prynne looked into his face..."Such a friend as thou hast even now wished for," said she, "with whom to weep over thy sin, thou hast in me, the partner of it!"  The sufferer's conscience had been kept this long while in an irritated state, the tendency of which was, not to cure by wholesome pain, but to disorganize and corrupt his spiritual being.  Its result, on earth, could hardly fail to be insanity...

Such was the ruin to which she had brought the man, once, - nay, why should we not speak it? - still so passionately loved!  Hester felt that the sacrifice of the clergyman's good name, and death itself, would have been infinitely preferable to the alternative which she had taken upon herself to choose.  And now, rather than have had this grievous wrong to confess, she would gladly have lain down on the forest-leaves, and died there, at Arthur Dimmesdale's feet.

"O Arthur," cried she, "forgive me!  In all things else, I have striven to be true!  Truth was the one virtue which I might have held fast, and did hold fast, through all extremity; save when thy good, - thy life, - thy fame, - were put in question!  Then I consented to a deception.  But a lie is never good, even though death threaten on the other side!"

No golden light had ever been so precious as the gloom of this dark forest.  Here, seen only by his eyes, the scarlet letter need not burn into the bosom of the fallen woman!  Here, seen only by her eyes, Arthur Dimmesdale, false to God and man, might be, for one moment, true!

"Do I feel joy again?" cried he.  "Methought the germ of it was dead in me!  O Hester, I seem to have flung myself - sick, sin-stained, and sorrow-blackened - down upon these forest leaves, and to have risen up all made anew, and with powers to glorify Him that hath been merciful!  This is already the better life!  Why did we not find it sooner?" 

"Let us not look back," answered Hester Prynne.  "The past is gone!  Wherefore should we linger upon it now?  See!  With this symbol, I undo it all, and make it as it had never been!"

So speaking, she undid the clasp that fastened the scarlet letter, and taking if from her bosom, threw it to a distance among the withered leaves.

The stigma gone, Hester heaved a long, deep sigh, in which the burden of shame and anguish departed from her spirit.  O exquisite relief!  She had not known the weight, until she felt the freedom!  A crimson flush was glowing on her cheek, that had been so long pale.  All at once, as with a sudden smile of heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest, gladdening each green leaf, transmuting the yellow fallen ones to gold...the course of the little brook might be traced by its merry gleam afar into the wood's heart of mystery, which had become a mystery of joy.

I'll say no more for the sake of those who have not yet read the book!  This was my second time through it, and both times I found Hawthorne's depiction of the Christian community uncharitable and discomforting,  but I fear he may have been more accurate than we'd like to believe.  Anyway...it's a moving story of sin, guilt and redemption.

Let me warn you away from the motion picture version with Demi Moore and Gary Oldham!  The particulars of the adulterous relationship, which are absent from the book, are the focus, while Hester is depicted as a rebellious women's liberator who is, in some measure, proud of stepping outside the bounds of The Church and refuses to be judged by them, which is not the case in Hawthorne's book.  Stick with the book and ignore the movie!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Yeah...I didn't either.  Until now.  I think one has happened to me. 

Back in October, I discovered this website which lists the holidays for every month.  I was more than a little surprised and quite entertained by the lengthy list.   All manner of sarcastic thoughts sprang immediately to mind, so I decided to have a little fun with it on my blog...for one month.  Not only would it be potentially entertaining for all 5 of my loyal readers, it provided ready-made material for a whole month!  I wouldn't have to labor and think and read and try to come up with something profound to say.

Much to my chagrin, I only made it to the 18th before...get this (herein lies the miracle)...I got tired of being sarcastic.  Seriously!  It frightens me a bit.  Perhaps I'm getting all soft and sensitive in my old age?  Nah.  But surely this is a portent of something...something dreadful.

Now, I don't suppose this is a permanent state of mind because I didn't actually run out of sarcastic things to say, and I fully expect to resume my smart-alek commentary on life at some point - tomorrow perhaps - but apparently even I need a break from it every now and then.

Just so you know, I am bypassing the opportunity to shed light on, International Men's Day (boy did I have some ideas for THIS one!), World Television Day, and World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.  I willingly pass the sarcasm torch to any of you who may wish to take it up in my stead.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nov 18 - World Philosophy Day

UNESCO - What?! ANOTHER U.N. invented "holiday"? - introduced World Philosophy Day in 2002 to honor philosophical reflections throughout the world by "opening spaces and encouraging people to share their philosophical heritage, opening their minds to new ideas, and inspire public debate on society’s challenges."

UNESCO’s Director-General, Ko├»chiro Matsuura, said that philosophy gave the conceptual grounding to the principles and values that shaped the possibility of world peace – democracy, human rights, justice and equality. Really?! Reflection on contemporary society’s unsolved problems and unanswered questions was always at the heart of philosophical analysis and thinking. Reflection on problems is at the heart of philosophy? I was under the mistaken notion that the pursuit of TRUTH was at its heart.  That's the unenlightened Christian coming out in me, I suppose.

I think the Frenchman, Voltaire, struck pretty close to the truth when he described philosophy this way:  When he who hears does not know what he who speaks means, and when he who speaks does not know what he himself means, that is philosophy. 

If you are inclined to exercise your mind with some serious philosophical reflections that will be worth your time, but not so serious that they will bog you down and make your brain hurt, I suggest taking up some Augustine, Pascal, Chesterton, Lewis, or Leithart.

Happy Philosophy Day, ya'll!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nov 17 - World COPD Day

COPD...what is it?  The acronym stands for: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a condition of the lungs in which the flow and exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is hampered by inflamed bronchial tubes.  The disease manifests itself in shortness of breath, chronic cough, and fatigue.  The World Health Organization (AKA: Panic Now 'Cause We're All Gonna Die! Organization) sends out the prophetic word that this will be the leading cause of death by 2030.   But who will be paying attention to see if they are indeed true or false prophets?  By then, they will have issued hundreds of other prophecies...and no one can possibly track them all!  

The leading causes of COPD, as you might suppose, are SMOKING, POLLUTION, and WORKING, according to the WHO website.

Of course, Mayo clinic acknowledges that these factors may contribute to the progression of COPD, but the disease itself is associated with chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and a genetic protein deficiency.

Bottom line: if you want to reduce your chances of getting the disease, don't smoke, stay inside, and by all means, avoid physical labor...it usually involves dust or vapors or chemicals.  You may become depressed from this hampered lifestyle, but hey...they have drugs for that!

In the meantime, have fun celebrating World COPD Day in the privacy of your non-smoking, pollution and chemical-free home.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nov 16 - International Day for Tolerance

Ah, yes.  A day to celebrate the buzzword of the decade.  Delightful.  Hey.  At least it's only ONE DAY!  The whole YEAR of 1995 was declared a Year for Tolerance.  

Of course, we all have our idea of what this concept means.   To some, it means "put up with" those less-enlightened than you, but feel free to despise them and speak condescendingly to or about them, just don't act violent or exclusive.   To some, it means "look at everyone as wonderful...well...everyone except those hateful Christians and those nasty cigarette smokers."

But if you want to learn and absorb the real meaning of tolerance, then you'll want to venture to either of the coasts to visit The Museum of Tolerance in NY or LA.   Or you could just visit their website.  Under the "What Does Tolerance Mean to YOU?" section, you'll find such profundities as:

Tolerance means I don't like you but I can't do anything about it.

Tolerance means that we tolerate each other. (this person has obviously spent too much time reading modern dictionaries where it has become common to use the word being defined in the definition!! Bad form...)

Tolerance means to respect other races, even if you hate them.

Tolerance is acception with more strength.  Alrighty then.

Tolerance means acknowledging that there is no "one true way."  Ay...there's the rub.

If you desire further inspiration as you celebrate diversity and tolerance on this happiest of holidays, check out the website.  You'll be unendingly inspired.  OK...you'll at least be moderately amused.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nov 15 - A Birthing Day

Today is a holiday too...in our household anyway.  This day, 17 years ago, just before midnight, Grant Ford Shaffer entered this world and I became something I had never been prior to that day.  I became, forever, a mom.  O happy day!  Well...OK...THAT wasn't a happy day as you've heard before, but it has led to many happy days and a happy estate in general!

As I reflected on Grant's last year, the thing that stands out to me for which I am most thankful, is the friends he has made.  Not only because he appears to have chosen wisely (is it just me or do parents always have that lingering suspicion of the possibility of being deceived?), but because these friendships seem to be meaningful.  These guys are there for each other.  Yeah, they spend lots of time together goofing off, texting other people, talking shop, and just hanging out (case in point...see pic below).  But they talk.  They help one another.  They listen to each other.  They even confide in one another.  Really.  Teenage boys.  Who would've thought?  Not me, that's for sure. 



We offered Grant a party this year...he hasn't had one for the past 3 years...but all he wanted was to have his "bros" for dinner and some hang time.    I love these guys.  I love them because they are my son's friends.  I love them because they are good guys.  And I love them because they let me tell them so tonight and didn't even flinch or act embarrassed.  (Of course, after being served Lobster Bisque, Filet Mignon and Garlic Mashed Potatoes...they BETTER NOT refuse my sentimental maternal declarations!)

My prayer is that God will continue to be merciful to each of them and that no matter where the course of time takes them, that they will remain close to one another, and that they will be blessed with true friendship throughout the course of their lives.

Happy birthday, Son.  I thank God that you are not the foolish son of Proverbs who is a burden around his mother's neck, but are instead being fashioned into a wise son who is a garland of grace.  May God bless you in the coming year.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nov 14 - World Diabetes Day

Today is a day set aside to raise awareness of diabetes.  I can't exactly make fun of this one...even though it was initiated by...you guessed it, the UN!...and even though MY awareness has never been raised as a result of this "holiday."

My awareness HAS been raised by personal relationships with people whose lives have been drastically affected by the disease.  That will get your attention more quickly than any campaign, that's for sure.

If you want to learn more about Diabetes, check out this website.  Somehow "Happy Diabetes Day" just doesn't work, does it?

So...happy Lord's Day!  Worship, Fellowship, Feast and Rest!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Phantom of the Opera

I just finished reading Leroux's Phantom of the Opera.  For only the second time in my life, I much prefer the cinematic version to the original story. Perhaps after multiple viewings I have become too enthralled with the movies to appreciate the books (the other was P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins).

The Phantom musical is true to Leroux's basic storyline, yet varies widely in detail and effect.  The variation is infinitely more compelling.  This may be due, in large part, to Leroux's writing style. I found it disjointed in many places, which detracted from the power his story could otherwise have had over me.  It almost seemed as though he had written an initial draft and never fine-tuned it...as though events and chapters should have been arranged differently so as to maximize the impact and feel less like "tying-up-the-loose-ends" afterthoughts.

The musical gets it right, though.  I've only seen it live one time (here in STL), but after a couple of viewings, I became nearly obsessed with the most recent movie version.  2 of the 3 primary actors' voices seemed flawed to me at first watch (not Wilson's...he's magnificent!), but I finally realized that these "flaws" served to create more realistic and effective characters. 

Here are 4 intense and favorite scenes.  If you haven't seen the movie, I encourage you to do so!  If you haven't read the book, I suggest you spend your energy elsewhere.

Here Raoul and Christine first openly express their love:



Christine mourns the loss of her father in this stunning scene:


The phantom casts his spell over Christine, persuading her to succumb to him:


Raoul attempts to rescue Christine from the phantom:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nov 11 - Veteran's Day

Obviously, this holiday is widely known and celebrated here in the states and much pontificating has already been done on the subject.  Therefore, I will limit my remarks to a personal thanks.

Thank you to Chaplain Bryan Walker, who set aside his "leisurely" life as a stateside bachelor to carry comfort, counsel, a listening ear, and the hope of Christ to men who are daily entrenched in danger, stress and loneliness.  He not only performed his duties faithfully, but with joy and a heart of compassion. 

Thank you, Chaplain Walker.  And welcome home.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nov 10 - A Day for Peace & Wordsmithing

Today, as I am sure you are already well aware, is:  World Science Day for Peace & Development.  I thought I would blend an exposition on this well-loved traditional holiday with my own personal tradition, Wordsmith Wednesday.  I think you may find that the combination works.

I suspect that the prescient among us have already recognized this holiday as yet another profound invention of the United Nations.  This day is designed to advance UNESCO's Science Agenda, which is primarily about pollution, sustainability, and sharing (OK...that's a slight oversimplification, but I did actually read the document...all 96 points...and it's only slight!).  It really boils down to an imposition of their social and political ideology into the world of science and technology.   

As you might also have guessed, this day's celebration is marked by activities similar to this week's previous UN holiday: engaging in discussion, displaying posters, visiting museums, and of course, the all-important government affirmation of commitment to scientific initiatives.  Oooh.  Let the partay begin!

For Wordsmith Wednesday, I give you a list of some of my favorite adjectives:

ridiculous, vain, absurd, preposterous, nonsensical, mindless,  moronic, farcical,  meaningless, outrageous, inane, self-indulgent, egotistical, vacuous, inconsequential, obtuse, sophomoric, nescient, irrelevant...

Feel free to share your OWN very favorite adjectives in honor of promoting peace and development within science.  And while you're at it, care to join me for a celebratory glass of port?  Anyone...?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Patient in Suffering

My nephew, Jon, who looks about 12, but turns 20 in a few days, underwent his 34th surgery today.  He was born with cerebral palsy and 32 of these surgeries were attempts to regulate seizures by installing, adjusting and resizing a shunt in his brain.  The child has, in his short life, endured more pain and physical hardship than most of us will encounter in a lifetime.

Today, in an attempt to relieve current pain and maintain his ability to walk, doctors cut his femur just below his hip, rotated the joint inward while nestling it more deeply into the socket, then cut his tibia and fibula just above the ankle, rotating the rest of the leg outward, securing the new positions with rods, plates and screws; finally, they did a heel cord release, which involved cutting and lengthening the Achilles tendon.

One of the truly amazing things, is that with everything Jon has been through and continues to go through, this child never complains.  When he is in pain or is anxious he turns quiet, but he readily submits to whatever is placed in his path, facing it with courage, while maintaining his sense of humor.  He is a shining example of patient endurance in suffering.  I moan and groan about inconveniences more than Jon does about his real trials.   

Jon's parents are no slouches either.  My sister, Vicki, and her husband, Quentin, have been required to make significant sacrifices for Jon through the years and they have been called upon to make very diffcult decisions on his behalf; decisions whose outcome isn't always crystal clear, but which may - or may not - improve his daily life. 

I know these experiences have taken their toll at times, on them personally and on their family, but God has been gracious to strengthen their faith and to sanctify them.   During my visit tonight, I was nervous and tearful, while they remained calm and strong.  They have their moments - it is, afterall, no small thing to watch your child undergo such trauma - but they have learned to trust and rest, and they heartily maintain that God is good.

I would appreciate it, if those of you who are so inclined, would pray for Jon's recovery...that God will be merciful, that the therapy will be effective and will produce the desired result, that Jon, Vicki and Quentin will continue to be blessed with strength and patience.  Recovery will be long and difficult and by far the most painful one Jon has been through.  Thanks for taking the time to read his story.