Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Everything In Its Place

I WANT to say I don't know how this happens.  But I do.  I get wrapped up in this project or that opportunity or this person or that book...I run from one to the next to the next without coming up for air and when I finally SLOW DOWN...I am surrounded by ONE BIG MESS!

This week I began putting things back in order in my home, one room at a time.  First: I empty it completely, as if I were moving out.  Then: I clean the empty room, top to bottom.  Next: I handle every single item that came out of the room. It either gets tossed, or put in a yard sale pile, or cleaned and assigned a home within the newly cleaned and organized room.  

Room #1:  Laundry Room - View 1

Laundry Room: View #2

Just getting' started...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Red Carpet

I have never yet watched the Academy Awards, but I almost always scroll through the red carpet fashion pictures afterward...mostly for entertainment, shock and awe.  This year, I was pleasantly surprised to actually see dresses I liked!   Here are my top 5 favorites of the evening:






I thought each of these was lovely...feminine, well-fitted, and relatively modest too.  These gals also carried themselves with dignity.

Kudos to Glenn Close and Natalie Portman, who also looked lovely!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gooey Butter

The concept of "Gooey Toast" was introduced to me by one of my girlfriends and it is...well...just yummy to put it in technical eating terms!  In her family it is a comfort food that G'ma used to make for the grandkids and I can see why.

It's good on plain ole toast, but it is really fabulous on good bagels or homemade bread.  I tried it tonight on this Rustic Artisan Bread (what-ever!).

Gooey Butter

1 c. butter, softened (no substitues, please!)
3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 t. cinnamon

Blend all three ingredients in small bowl, either by hand or with a mixer (I've done both and both worked well).

Spread on warm bread or toast for a sweet accompaniment to a hearty meal, or as a midnight snack...or even for dessert.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meditations for Ash Wednesday

Wilt Thou Forgive?
by: John Donne

Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I begun
Which is my sin though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin through which I run
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin by which I won
Others to sin and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear that when I've spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore.
Swear by Thyself that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as He shines now and heretofore.
And having done that, Thou hast done.
I fear no more.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bluegrass for Blue Days

Bluegrass is Happy Music and one of the means by which I keep my spirits up in these days when glimpses of sunshine are rare.  So bear with me through yet ANOTHER music post.  The Quebe (kway-bee) Sisters are some talented young ladies from Texas...of course.   Hope they put a smile on your face like they do on mine!

Peru Mission

This article comes from one of our church's missionaries serving in Trujillo, Peru.  It provides a helpful reminder of how beneficial short-term missionaries can be, both to the permanent missionaries as well as the local congregations.   If you're a member of PRPC, or an otherwise interested party, mosey on over to the Peru Mission website and see what intensive labor Wes Baker and his family are doing for Christ's Kingdom.  

Peru Mission Trailer from Nate Henderson on Vimeo.

Love incarnate
Ricardo Hernández, pastor of Manuel Arévalo Presbyterian Church, served as a missionary in the rural Peruvian town of Celendín for over two years. Hernández believes that missionaries, whether they serve for a week or a lifetime, provide a strong example of what it truly means to live self-sacrificially. “Whenever someone comes to do a missionary trip, I believe that this demonstrates that person’s identification with the reality of those whom he came to serve. And this shows us what Jesus Christ is like. Jesus Christ did not just say, ‘Okay, I’m going to see from heaven how I’m going to save humanity.’ Instead, He descended and was there with the ones He wanted to save. He lived their reality, lived what hunger is, what thirst is, what injustice is.” 

This example, Hernández says, will never go to waste. He recalls a missionary trip he led to Celendín with a group from a congregation in Trujillo. The experience, he says, allowed the Peruvian believers to live out what they had already seen lived out by many short-term teams from the U.S. The trip, from the relative comfort of a metropolitan area to the poverty-stricken hinterlands, was a first-time experience for many of the participants, who were received with great joy by the brethren in Celendín. Hernández believes that the testimony borne by short-term missionaries from the U.S. compelled the Peruvian congregation likewise to serve.
The long-term effects of short-term missions 
There is tremendous value, then, in the mere fact of the missionaries' presence. But, as you might have guessed, their presence alone only goes so far in lifting up the local church. The actual projects a short-term team executes on the field are of incredible value. “They are of great help for the church,” says Avellaneda. “For example, the Bethesda Clinic in Wichanzao—thanks to the short-term teams, we have what we have there.” For his part, Hernández singles out the efforts of ministers who come to preach and teach, edifying the local churches in Peru. From construction, to medical ministry, to evangelism and teaching, short-term missionaries can make a significant difference during their short time on the field.

But what happens after the trip is perhaps even more important. We can’t speak for short-term missions around the world, but we know that people who come to work with Peru Mission on a short-term visit are more likely to pray, more likely to give, and more likely to serve in the future. “They go home and they talk to their friends, their family, and their church,” says McLain. “They pray for the global kingdom in a different way; they give in a different way.” Vicki Powell, who recently came to Peru on a short-term construction trip, says this has certainly been true for her. “For me it’s been a delightful learning experience. Having never been on a mission trip, never having seen the workings of a mission up close, but having prayed for missionaries all of my life—it’s more real now. And I think that one of the main achievements of short-term missions is that in many ways it’s just as much for us as it is for whomever we’re trying to accomplish the work [for]. It expands our vision of the Church at large in a way that will help us forever to pray for the Church at large.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wordsmith Wednesday

Having trouble keeping these words distinct from one another in your mind?  Maybe this little graphic will help:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weeping, Rejoicing and Giving Thanks

It is delightfully easy to thank God for the grace we ourselves have received, but it requires great grace to thank God always for the grace given to others.  James Smith

"Weep with those who weep."  We've been commanded to do that.  It makes sense that we have to be reminded to enter into the sorrow of others.  Sorrows which we have not experienced are foreign to us and may seem insignificant.  If the circumstances of our lives are such that we have not yet personally experienced grief or loss, we can be dismissive of others.  Thus we need to be directed to weep with our brothers and sisters.

But we are also commanded to "Rejoice with those who rejoice."  Is that command entirely necessary?   That's the easy part, right?  Do I really need to be told to do that?  How hard can it be to be glad for my neighbor who is experiencing some great joy?

Well, if we're honest with ourselves, it's not always as easy as it seems.  

When MY child has rebelled and left the faith and all of YOURS are walking the straight and narrow, do I really rejoice with you?  Or do I secretly harbor resentment?  Would I be momentarily glad if one of your children slipped and think, "Aha!  Now who's the perfect parent?!" 

If my marriage is difficult, do I rejoice with those who find joy and fulfillment in it?  Or do I cynically assure myself that it must be a pretense...or that their turn will come...or that they are too shallow to desire something better?

If my fellow church-member has the financial resources to travel the world, drive reliable luxury cars, wear the latest fashions, eat at the finest restaurants, provide all the sleekest electronics for their children, donate significant sums to the church and other charities...and I am stuck with year after year after year of lack, debt,  unreliable cars, clothes from Goodwill, off-brand food from Aldi, and decisions about whether to buy a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk...do I rejoice with or criticize them for their wealth?  "They probably haven't been honest in their dealings."  OR "They come from money...and don't even know what it means to work and to appreciate the simple things in life." OR "They appear generous, but who wouldn't be with THAT kind of money?  It's not like it's a big sacrifice or anything."

If I am sickly and HE is the picture of health...if I can't seem to make a single friend and SHE is surrounded by hordes of doting friends...if I cannot form a coherent sentence and HE can speak with great eloquence etc., etc., etc...do these disparate circumstances create a bitter and critical response in me?   Am I able to genuinely rejoice in others prosperity, success, health and happiness?

Most of us rarely, if ever, give voice to those kind of sinful thoughts, but they probably crop up in our hearts more frequently than we care to admit.  This is why we have to be TOLD to rejoice with those who rejoice!  Someone is going to have it easier or better or different than we do and that hounding desire for fairness will tempt us to scoff at, criticize, diminish or otherwise dismiss our neighbors' joy.  Our own lacking or sorrow stings more forcefully in the face of others' rejoicing.

But if we are to live faithfully before God and among one another, we must learn to rejoice FROM THE HEART with those who rejoice.

Ultimately, I think it comes back to an attitude of thankfulness.  And remember, we are not commanded to BE thankful (something we feel in our hearts), but to GIVE thanks.  We must cultivate a heart of thanksgiving by practicing the duty of returning thanks to God for all He has placed in our path...both the seemingly good and the seemingly bad.  Until that attitude becomes second-nature to us, we must consciously and purposefully set out to give thanks.  Nurturing a heart of thanksgiving will shape our response not only to our own circumstances, but also to the circumstances of others.

God knew just how deficient we would be in this area and therefore established our central ritual as one that promotes a practice of giving thanks.  The Eucharist is the culmination of weekly worship and resets our hearts and minds to one of thanksgiving. (I do realize that this is only one of MANY aspects of this rite...but it IS one!)

So this week, may we be enabled to Give Thanks, Weep with Those Who Weep, and Rejoice with Those Who Rejoice.  No matter what...

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Power of Story

A moving and artful story of loss and grief, restored joy, and a lifetime of labor to return joy to another. 

That is the way I would encapsulate this short, animated film.  I know everyone's lives are busy, but you won't regret the 14 minutes it takes to watch this.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Musical Monday: Adele

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Marquee Madness

Is it just me or is this a rather disrespectful and immature display of foolishness?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Understanding the Sentence

I am a huge proponent of diagramming as a means of understanding the way words, phrases, and clauses are related to one another in a sentence.  I believe it is one of the principal tools that allows the mind to fully grasp the logic of language and sentence structure.   I found a wonderful site several years ago and keep forgetting to share it with all of you language nerds and/or teachers. 

Read this sentence from the first pages of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, then examine the diagram below to see the logical and grammatical relationships within the sentence:

In my native town of Salem, at the head of what, half a century ago, in the days of old King Derby, was a bustling wharf--but which is now burdened with decayed wooden warehouses, and exhibits few or no symptoms of commercial life; except, perhaps, a bark or brig, half-way down its melancholy length, discharging hides; or, nearer at hand, a Nova Scotia schooner, pitching out her cargo of firewood--at the head, I say, of this dilapidated wharf, which the tide often overflows, and along which, at the base and in the rear of the row of buildings, the track of many languid years is seen in a border of unthrifty grass--here, with a view from its front windows adown this not very enlivening prospect, and thence across the harbour, stands a spacious edifice of brick.  

(click photo to enlarge)

Is this fun or am I a nerd?  I'll accept a YES on both counts.  

Remembering Dickens

In honor of Charles Dickens' 200th birthday, I'd like to offer some opening lines from his works.  The man was a master architect of The Sentence and ought to be appreciated as much for his stylish craftmanship as for his ability to devise tales which are simultaneously insightful, intriguing, and delightful.   I have made it my goal to finish reading all of his novels this year.  That's a LOT of novels!

That punctual servant of all work, the sun, had just risen, and begun to strike a light on the morning of the thirteenth of May, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, when Mr. Samuel Pickwick burst like another sun from his slumbers, threw open his chamber window, and looked out upon the world beneath.   (Pickwick Papers)

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.  (David Copperfield)

Although I am an old man, night is generally my time for walking.  (The Old Curiosity Shop)

There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face on the throne of France.  In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled forever.  (A Tale of Two Cities)

Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds, this day, in the sight of heaven and earth.  (Bleak House)

And of course, my all-time favorite:

There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr. Godfrey Nickleby: a worthy gentleman, who, taking into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who  in her turn had taken him for the same reasons.  Thus two people who cannot afford to play cards for money, sometimes sit down to a quiet game for love.  (Nicholas Nickleby)

I, for one, am thankful that he shared his gift with the world!  Happy birthday, Mr. Dickens, Sir.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Musical Monday: Crystal Bowersox

Whatever happened to American Idol's Crystal Bowersox?  

Well, here's the latest: Crystal released her first album just over a year ago, which sold more than 58,000 copies in the first 10 days or so, and 194,000 in the U.S. as of today.  Not bad.  But not exactly stellar, either.  Perhaps I was not the only one who was slightly disappointed with the recording.

I expected something rougher around the edges...more pared-down and bluesy.   Instead, the album sounds pretty mainstream and over-produced to me.  Ideally, her albums should recorded in the same style as Guy Clark or John Prine.  Bare bones.  Crystal and her guitar full bore...with maybe a wee bit of additional acoustic accompaniment thrown in here and there.    Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad album, but neither did it leave me awestruck and anticipating the next one the way I had anticipated this one.

This first video represents the title track of the album: Farmer's Daughter, and is pretty well done.  

This next one demonstrates the more pared-down style that I prefer from her:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

His Parting From Her: Donne

Elegy XIII: On His Parting From Her
by John Donne

SINCE she must go, and I must mourn, come night, 
Environ me with darkness, whilst I write;
Shadow that hell unto me, which alone
I am to suffer when my love is gone.
Alas! the darkest magic cannot do it,
Thou and great hell, to boot, are shadows to it.
Should Cynthia quit thee, Venus, and each star,
It would not form one thought dark as mine are.
I could lend them obscureness now, and say
Out of my self, there should be no more day.
Such is already my self-want of sight,
Did not the fire within me force a light.
O Love, that fire and darkness should be mix'd,
Or to thy triumphs such strange torments fix'd!
Is it because thou thyself art blind, that we,
Thy martyrs, must no more each other see?
Or takest thou pride to break us on the wheel,
And view old Chaos in the pains we feel?
Or have we left undone some mutual rite,
That thus with parting thou seek'st us to spite?
No, no.  The fault is mine, impute it to me,
Or rather to conspiring destiny,
Which, since I loved in jest before, decreed
That I should suffer, when I loved indeed;
And therefore, sooner now than I can say,
I saw the golden fruit, 'tis rapt away;
Or as I'd watch'd one drop in the vast stream,
And I left wealthy only in a dream.
Yet, Love, thou'rt blinder than myself in this,
To vex my dove-like friend for my amiss;
And where one sad truth may expiate
Thy wrath, to make her fortune run my fate.
So blinded justice doth, when favourites fall,
Strike them, their house, their friends, their favourites all.
Was't not enough that thou didst dart thy fires
Into our bloods, inflaming our desires,
And madest us sigh, and blow, and pant, and burn,
And then thyself into our flames didst turn?
Was't not enough that thou didst hazard us
To paths in love so dark and dangerous,
And those so ambush'd round with household spies,
And over all thy husband's towering eyes,
Inflamed with th' ugly sweat of jealousy;
Yet went we not still on in constancy?
Have we for this kept guards, like spy on spy?
Had correspondence whilst the foe stood by?
Stolen, more to sweeten them, our many blisses
Of meetings, conference, embracements, kisses?
Shadow'd with negligence our best respects?
Varied our language through all dialects 
 Of becks, winks, looks, and often under boards 
Spoke dialogues with our feet far from our words? 
Have we proved all the secrets of our art, 
Yea, thy pale inwards, and thy panting heart? 
And, after all this passed purgatory, 
Must sad divorce make us the vulgar story? 
First let our eyes be riveted quite through 
Our turning brain, and both our lips grow to; 
Let our arms clasp like ivy, and our fear 
Freeze us together, that we may stick here, 
Till Fortune, that would ruin us with the deed, 
Strain his eyes open, and yet make them bleed. 
For Love it cannot be, whom hitherto 
I have accused, should such a mischief do. 
O Fortune, thou'rt not worth my least exclaim, 
And plague enough thou hast in thy own name. 
Do thy great worst ; my friend and I have charms, 
Though not against thy strokes, against thy harms. 
Rend us in sunder ; thou canst not divide 
Our bodies so, but that our souls are tied, 
And we can love by letters still and gifts, 
And thoughts and dreams ; love never wanteth shifts. 
I will not look upon the quickening sun, 
But straight her beauty to my sense shall run; 
The air shall note her soft, the fire, most pure; 
Waters suggest her clear, and the earth sure. 
Time shall not lose our passages; the spring, 
How fresh our love was in the beginning; 
The summer, how it ripen'd in the year; 
And autumn, what our golden harvests were; 
The winter I'll not think on to spite thee, 
But count it a lost season; so shall she. 
And dearest friend, since we must part, drown night 
With hope of day—burdens well borne are light—; 
The cold and darkness longer hang somewhere, 
Yet Phoebus equally lights all the sphere; 
And what we cannot in like portion pay 
The world enjoys in mass, and so we may. 
Be then ever yourself, and let no woe 
Win on your health, your youth, your beauty; so 
Declare yourself base Fortune's enemy, 
No less be your contempt than her inconstancy; 
That I may grow enamour'd on your mind, 
When mine own thoughts I here neglected find. 
And this to the comfort of my dear I vow, 
My deeds shall still be what my deeds are now; 
The poles shall move to teach me ere I start; 
And when I change my love, I'll change my heart. 
Nay, if I wax but cold in my desire, 
Think, heaven hath motion lost, and the world, fire. 
Much more I could, but many words have made 
That oft suspected which men most persuade. 
Take therefore all in this; I love so true, 
As I will never look for less in you. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Call to Remembrance

He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

Faithful is He who calls you and He also will bring it to pass.

The God of peace will Himself sanctify you entirely; and will preserve your spirit and soul and body complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen you and protect you from The Evil One.

He will not always chide, neither will He keep His anger forever.

God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, because He who promised is faithful.

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.

Know therefore that the Lord, He is God, the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

His compassions fail not, they are new every morning.  Great is Thy faithfulness.

From A.W. Pink:

God is true. His Word of Promise is sure. In all His relations with His people God is faithful. He may be safely relied upon. No one ever yet really trusted Him in vain. We find this precious truth expressed almost everywhere in the Scriptures, for His people need to know that faithfulness is an essential part of the Divine character. This is the basis of our confidence in Him. But it is one thing to accept the faithfulness of God as a Divine truth, it is quite another to act upon it. God has given us many "exceeding great and precious promises," but are we really counting on His fulfillment of them? Are we actually expecting Him to do for us all that He has said? Are we resting with implicit assurance on these words, "He is faithful that promised" (Heb. 10:23)?  There are seasons in the lives of all when it is not easy, no not even for Christians, to believe that God is faithful. Our faith is sorely tried, our eyes bedimmed with tears, and we can no longer trace the outworkings of His love. Our ears are distracted with the noises of the world, harassed by the atheistic whisperings of Satan, and we can no longer hear the sweet accents of His still small voice. Cherished plans have been thwarted, friends on whom we relied have failed us, a professing brother or sister in Christ has betrayed us. We are staggered. We sought to be faithful to God, and now a dark cloud hides Him from us. We find it difficult, yea, impossible, for carnal reason to harmonize His frowning providence with His gracious promises. Ah, faltering soul, severely-tried fellow-pilgrim, seek grace to heed Isaiah 50:10, "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God."

When you are tempted to doubt the faithfulness of God, cry out, "Get thee hence, Satan." Though you cannot now harmonize God’s mysterious dealings with the avowals of His love, wait on Him for more light. In His own good time He will make it plain to you. "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter" (John 13:7). The sequel will yet demonstrate that God has neither forsaken nor deceived His child. "And therefore will the Lord wait that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him" (Isa. 30:18).

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace,
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread,
Are rich with mercy, and shall break
In blessing o'er your head.