Friday, December 18, 2009

Coffee could help keep Type 2 diabetes away

Good news for the addicted among us. Even better news for those of us coffee junkies (like me) with a history of Type 2 diabetes in our families. From the LA Times:

The study, which appears today in Archives of Internal Medicine, is a meta-analysis of 457,922 people in 18 studies published between 1966 and 2009 that looked at the link between drinking coffee and diabetes risk. After analyzing the research, the study authors concluded that every extra cup of coffee consumed in one day was correlated with a 7% decrease in the excess risk of diabetes. Even better results were found for bigger coffee and tea consumers--drinking three to four cups a day was associated with about a 25% reduced diabetes risk compared with those who drank between none and two cups day.

Researchers also saw positive results with decaf coffee and tea (some tea varieties do have caffeine, but typically far less than the average cup of coffee). People who drank more than three to four cups of decaf a day had about a one-third lower risk than those who didn't drink any. And tea drinkers who consumed more than three to four cups a day had about a one-fifth lower diabetes risk than non-tea drinkers.

Someone else's poem

Author Latayne C. Scott shared an old poem of hers on the group writing blog "Novel Matters" today. I've become friends in the last couple of years with some musicians of the sort that it's a privilige just to listen to the practice. I appreciate this poem.

I watch his fingers
Teasing the piano
As he caresses the ivory teeth
It purrrrrrrs
Harder now – he strikes
A glancing blow off the black fang

An answering roar

ah Rachmaninoff
just because my soul is not in
my fingertips does not
mean I do not have one

A recipe that I keep meaning to try

I had this once at a potluck and promptly begged the chef for the recipe. It has rested since then in my recipes binder . . . I think that what really made this dish the time I had it was that the bread was a most excellent foccacia . . .

Breakfast Casserole:
10 cups bread cubes, 1/4" diced
5 large eggs
8 oz. prosciutto, coarsely chopped
8 oz. shredded mozarella
1/2 cup sour cream
3 cups whole milk
minced garlic (I can't make out how much is called for--1 . . . tsp.? Tbsp? head? . . . to taste)
4 oz. sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
fresh parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Toast bread cubes. Make a mixture of the beaten eggs, milk, sour cream and garlic. Put 1/2 bread cubes in a 9 x 13 greased pan. Layer ham, tomatoes, mozarella. Top with remaining bread. Pour egg mixture over the whole thing. Let sit refrigerated overnight (8+ hours). Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and top with parmesan. Continue baking for another 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The acceptance of "I" comes with the acceptance of "you"

The root of man’s joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself. He lives in this affirmation. And only one who can accept himself can also accept the you, can accept the world. The reason why an individual cannot accept the you, cannot come to terms with him, is that he does not like his own Iand, for that reason, cannot accept a you. Something strange happens here. We have seen that the inability to accept one’s I leads to the inability to accept a you. But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one’s I? The answer may perhaps be unexpected: we cannot do so by our own efforts alone. Of ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become acceptable to another I. We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when she takes the child’s tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist . . . If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: “It is good that you exist” – must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love. For it is the way of love to will the other’s existence and, at the same time, to bring that existence forth again. The key to the I lies with the you; the way to the you leads through the I.

--Benedict XVI

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ancient Roman Boursin

Translation courtesy of Klio

1 to 5 heads of garlic (whole bulbs, not cloves. We used 1. Susan is brave, but not 5-heads-of-garlic brave.)
8 ounces Pecorino-Romano cheese
2 teaspoons celery leaf
1 teaspoon rosemary (substituted for the original rue)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 handful coriander leaves
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

Chop the garlic and shred the cheese, or chop cheese into small blocks if using a food processor. Combine the herbs and salt and grind together in mortar with garlic, or use food processor to combine. Add the cheese to your bowl or food processor and do same. Add olive oil and vinegar and mix thoroughly into a paste. Form into a ball (you can spoon the mixture into some plastic wrap and use that to shape it).

Ta-da! You are done! Set out with some hearty dark bread that can stand up to its flavour. Serves about a dozen bold-hearted guests.

Leftovers are said to get better as the ingredients combine, but this wouldn't last overnight in my house.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nacho Taco Salad

The perfect potluck dish--one of those guilty pleasures that we all love, but there's no excuse in making a batch for just you or your family . . . thanks for the recipe, Kristin!

Note: Make this in your biggest mixing bowl. My 7-8 quart one was barely large enough. (Maybe that's why the recipe recommends halving it . . . but who wants to use 1/2 lb of hamburger, or worse--1/2 a packet of taco seasoning?)

Nacho Taco Salad
1 lb. hamburger, browned, drained and mixed with
1 packet taco seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch green onions, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
3-4 diced tomatoes
3/4 to one whole bottle of Henri's Tas-Tee dressing

mix all ingredients well. Then mix with

1 12-17 oz. bag smashed Original Doritos

Refrigerate overnight before serving

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Japanese history and archaeology

Interestingfrom a number of angles.

Preschooler declaration of the week

Bronwyn (age 3 1/2): "I'm going to be a Tooth Fairy when I grow up. And I'm going to live with Tinkerbell!"

turkish coffee

I'd be having one of these mornings if my wonderful husband hadn't already made the coffee for me when I got up. For someone who never drinks it himself, he's learned to brew a pretty mean pot over the years.

They say that towards the end of his life Voltaire didn't bother to grind or brew his coffee, but just ate coffee beans straight up.

But if you're actually interested: How to make Turkish Coffee

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mother Goose and Grimm goes post-modern

Sure, in "Pearls Before Swine" the characters are not only aware that they are comic strip characters, they can bully their artist and kidnap characters from other strips. "Mother Goose and Grimm" chooses to take a more Star Trek-y type approach. Now I'm just waiting for Grimm to stumble through a rip in reality caused by a boiler explosion and land in "Blondie." Except, wait--in the Blondie universe, all comic strips exist in one giant shared reality (witness the character party that Blondie and Dagwood had for their 75th).

Except, wait again: There's Grimm, right in the front row of the 75th anniversary party. The two strips already occupy the same reality . . . hmm. Maybe I'm getting a little too hung up on continuity. Maybe.

Friday, November 6, 2009

how apropos

Our middle daughter lost her first tooth last night. The going rate around here is $1 per tooth. Plus gum, occasionally. Gum especially for those cases when the absent-minded tooth fairy doesn't show up the first night and needs to make sure that Guido doesn't take it out of an elbow.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

maybe there's more to all those images of the great tapestry of history . . .

We glorify God by working out our own salvation. God has twisted together his glory and our good. What an encouragement is this to the service of God, to think, while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory. --Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philipians 2: 12-13)

One of those theological paradoxes that my mind persists in trying to untangle is that of our free agency and God's sovereignty. God is sovereign, and only he accomplishes our salvation--but somehow what we do and think and say matters in there too. It is not by works that we are saved, but Paul clearly tells us to work out our salvation, and James tells us that our works are the evidence of our faith. One word in that Watson quote this morning gave me what I think may be a useful mental image. "Twisted." As in thread, or rope.

Our actions are not, in and of themselves, enough . . . for much of anything, really. Not to accomplish those things which can only be accomplished by the work of the Spirit. But if the Spirit is the one spinning into being those things which the Father wills, perhaps our actions are one of the strands being spun. Twisted. Even as we work, we are being worked upon, and our works are being included in the work of God . . .

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I find myself agreeing with Rat

American literature would not be a poorer thing for the absence of Walt Whitman . . .

being like Christ

Theological confession: I'm guilty of the NT's idolatry of self. Of identity. Which is to say, I read all those New Testament passages about being transformed into the likeness of Christ and think, "but I'm not sure that I want to become Jesus. I really like being myself." Yes, I know that a proper theological understanding doesn't mean the abrogation of the self, but its fulfillment--God doesn't strip us of who he made us to be, rather, through Christ, he transforms us into who he intended us to be all along. But still--in the image of the Son. Shouldn't be scary, but it is. I don't want to be turned into something other than what I am . . . but it didn't occur to me until this week to look at it from the flip side.

Christ became sin for us. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus Christ--the second person of the Trinity--let himself be transformed into--not us, just the worst parts of us. Our sin. Holy God inverted himself into that . . . and in so doing, actually exemplified the true character of who he is. By becoming sin, he became saviour. By becoming the sacrifice, by accepting death, he became life and redemption.

And all so that we could become the righteousness of God. Our transformation into the likeness of Christ is nothing less than the perfect inversion of Christ's initial transformation into us. He who was born into the likeness of men. Perhaps it is only through our transformation that we become that which we truly are? Perhaps that is one of the ways that we actually become like Christ?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sally Thomas on Hallowmas

While I am not Catholic and do not revere the saints of past ages or pray for the dead as Roman Catholics do, Sally Thomas's reflections at First Things on the three day pageant of Halloween, All Saint's Day, and All Souls resonate with me very much as a story teller and a story receiver. Donald Miller writes of the stories that we write with our lives, and those are shaped by the stories that we listen to, and read, and tell--and re-enact. N.D. Wilson writes of the necessity of darkness in our stories and artwork, as well as light. And while I don't think that God needed us--or wanted us--to sin in order to tell his story, the fact remains that we DID sin. The world in which we live has darkness and sin and death and shadow. It is what we know and understand and in order to tell ourselves the story of redemption--of rescue from the darkness--one must necessarily start with the darkness. Maybe Halloween, from a Christian point of view, isn't such a bad place to do that.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tim Keller, again

“Identity is a complex set of layers, for we are many things. Our occupation, ethnic identity, etc., are part of who we are. But we assign different values to these components and thus Christian maturing is a process in which the most fundamental layer of our identity becomes our self-understanding as a new creature in Christ along with all our privileges in him.

- Timothy Keller “Gospel Christianity” Course 3 (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 141.

HT: Of First Importance

Thursday, October 15, 2009

the logical consequence . . .

Given that we already nearly have an obesity tax, given the tax-funded universal health care system that the Obama administration wants to saddle us with, is the criminalization of my own failure to take care of my body according to the government's specifications really that far-fetched?

Since it's showing up in my daily comic crawl, I'm saying . . . no.

some useful perspective

somewhere between "it could always be worse and "why did God give me this job . . ."

I especially like this in the context of this strip's huge arsenal of "bad weather" gags.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lindsay's Festive Egg Squares

1 lb. cooked sausage, well drained (chicken or meatless works fine, as well as normal "country" sausage)
2 bunches green onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozarella
1 1/4 cups baking mix
12 eggs
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 cup milk

Spray 9 x 13 pan. Layer tomatoes, onion, sausage and cheese. In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, oregano and baking mix until no lumps. Pour over the sausage and veggies. Bake at 350 degrees 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

Sara's notes: I've never gotten "to the no lumps" stage. Mine always has small lumps--that's fine. Baking mix is NOT the same as Bisquick--but it should be right next to it in the baking aisle. I learned with this recipe that there is a specific product "baking mix." Lindsay recommends the buttermilk variety, but I use plain and it works out. I've always had to bake mine 40-45 minutes to keep it from being soupy in the middle.

Monday, October 5, 2009

the story is . . .

Three year old, drawing on her drawing pad, and Uncle Will

UW: What are you drawing?
3YO: a bridge
UW: don't forget the water
3YO: here it is
UW: where are the fishies in the water?
3YO: they're on land and they all died
UW: oh
3YO: actually, they're looking for their mommies. Their mommies all got eaten. By a shark.

it's all in the narrative . . .

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What does God require of us?

well, to walk justly, and love mercy and walk humbly with our God, of course, but sometimes it's nice to have a little more in the way of specifics. :)

The Koala Bear Writer passes on Kathleen Gibson's thoughts on God's requirements and uses of writers. They are:
1. that our words be heard
2. that we become word-wrestlers
3. that we speak and write things we'd often rather not
4. that we do whatever it takes
5. that we be flexible and willing to change
6. that we give feet to our words
7. that we be effective people in our own back yards.

I was particularly struck by the first, second, and fourth of these. I think we are often over-ambitious and prestige hungry about being heard . . . but the error at the opposite end of the spectrum hadn't occurred to me--that it could actually be sin to hide our writing, to keep quiet when God intends us to speak. That wrestling with words means actually pinning concepts down strikes me interestingly too. I know about myself that I do write to pin concepts down, but it's felt like play to me. Or the gravy of life. That God might have intentions for my life and the lives of others through the process of my wrestling . . . hmm. And of course, on the fourth point--doing whatever it takes--the discipline of actually following out and doing the work of living into one's call . . .

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

What makes a good story? What kind of story is God trying to write my life into? Am I cooperating with my life being a story worth reading, or am I fighting to remain in the "senseless, selfish ways of non-story"? Donald Miller wrestles through these questions in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The process of trying to turn a memoir about his life (Blue Like Jazz) into a movie script leads him to examine what makes stories work as stories. He reflects on what makes stories meaningful and then evaluates how that reflects back on the way that we live our lives. If stories are our lives with all the meaningless bits left out, is there a way to live our lives so that more of the meaningless bits are left out in the first place?

This book was far better than I'd hoped for. I wasn't a huge fan of Blue Like Jazz, but I'm a sucker for pretty much anything that deals with story structure and meta-story and that post-modern sense of the characters and writer interacting. (Think Stranger than Fiction.) Miller has all of that, but ruthlessly brings it down to the level of personal challenge. What am I going to do, what are you going to do, to write a better story with your life? How do we infuse our lives with meaning? Miller has grown up a lot as a writer and--apparently--as a human being in the years since Blue Like Jazz was published. There's less of his ego tangled up with his prose, making both for better prose and for less of an impression of a writer who needs his ego taken down a few notches. The book is somewhat slow for the first forty pages or so--don't judge the entire book by the sample section that's up on the publisher's website. It's the weakest section of the book. After reading a few pages here and a few pages there for a couple of weeks, I read the last two hundred pages more or less in one sitting. I'll also note that reading it side by side with Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl was a great experience. The two books are dealing with some similar themes from very different angles and inform each other well. Miller's conclusions, like his beginning, is not nearly as strong as his middle . . . but the man's trying to write an ending when he's still stuck living the middle of his own story. He can hardly be blamed for not having lived far enough to see the ending clearly yet. Especially in a book about living the middle more deliberately.

Four stars out of five
Reviewed for Thomas Nelson

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Honest faith

MckMama has a rant up this morning--why is someone criticizing her whatever she chooses to share or not share? Why don't people just believe her? People say they want honesty, but do they really? It made me want to post a comment on her thread with a Mark Driscoll clip I listened to a while back. (But I can't find it). He made the comment in one of his sermons that there are only a select handful of people from whom he will take criticism--his elders, a few mentors, his wife. People who he trusts to have his best interests and God's best interests in mind. All the rest, he can't afford to take the time and energy to chase down all the anklebiters, naysayers and sour grapes and convince them to like him. There's wisdom there.

Say what you will about Driscoll. I certainly have issues with the man. But I give him this--he is who he is and he offers himself to the church and he doesn't take the time of day from critics who say, essentiall, that who and what he is needs to change (let them tell you how!) in order for his life to be something fit to offer to the church.

There's a tension in the church between deep and surface living. How much of ourselves do we expose to each other? And how much is appropriate to tell and under what circumstances? Am I willing to tell you when I'm just having a lousy day? (And when is it honest for me to do that, and when am I just being self-indulgent in my complaining?) How about things like financial problems, or marital problems? Is it honest to talk about those? Dishonest to hide them? Are there times when talking about such things to someone you don't know very well might be a betrayal of intimacy? What about issues of faith and doubt? Worry. Parenting. All mixed up with "I don't feel like doing the laundry," and "What's for dinner?" and "Did you see the new Harry Potter movie?" and "I'm having a great day because my potty-training child did NOT have an accident today." (The thing about "small talk" is that most of most of our lives are honestly made up of wonderful mundanity. We might say we want honesty . . . that we want things to be genuine . . . but what are we after, really?

The thing is, I don't think that most of us understand people in general, or the world, or our own lives, or other people's lives nearly as well as we think we do. We don't understand how the mundane and the profound are woven together as the warp and woof of life. We don't understand the ways that sin breaks us. We don't realize that someone we know has dealt with that--that among my 200 Facebook friends, probably every "that" is covered. We don't understand the reality that "that" is going to take years to heal, and is going to leave scars--and that there will be days that that seems really important, and plenty of days that I'm more concerned with what's for dinner.

We want honesty, but we're not prepared for it when we get it. It's too raw. Too scary. Too boring. Too threatening. We want to think we understand. Honesty shows us we don't. We want to think we have the answers. Honesty shows us we don't. We want the world to be a safe, manageable, controllable place. We know that we ourselves are buffetted and thrown about, but we want to think that someday, somehow, we'll get to a place of answers. But when we really interact with each other, we discover that none of us is one self-help book or one good sermon, or one inspirational song away from having it all together. We discover that giving or receiving a bellyful of honesty requires humility and commitment far beyond what most of us are willing to give most days. It means saying things like "I'd never thought of that before," and "I don't understand, but I'd like to." It means expecting to find that we're all sinful, complex, broken people in a sinful, complex, broken world.

Too often, when we say we want honesty, we just want to be voyeurs. Too often, when we get honesty, we try to trim off the edges so that it will fit back in the box. But we were made by a God bigger than we are, who placed us in a world too complex for us to understand. And he made each of us unique. Different. Should it be any surprise to us when other's individual experiences and stories seem alien to us? When our finite interactions with an infinite God seem too big to handle and comprehend?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

further thoughts on "Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl" : the problem of evil

So . . . more on N.D. Wilson's "Notes from a Tilt-A-Whirl". Wow. I think I'm going to be re-reading and chewing on and quoting this one for years. I'm still turning over in my mind what I think of how he addressed the problem of evil. Because, for the most part, he doesn't see much of a problem. He presents it in artistic terms--a painting needs light and shadow, a story needs conflict for a plot line. And I certainly take his point that much of what we blithely call "evil" might actually not be so--that it is simply a higher, greater, more dangerous, sharper edged good than we are prepared to handle. Do we want sharp edged mountains in our world? Or would we rather have a world where no foolish grade schooler can ever concuss herself on a steep snowfield? I think it was worth it . . . since I didn't end up dying anyway . . .
But what of the evil we do see? The real, undeniable, pit-of-hell stuff? Is that from God? Does he actually desire it? Is it simply the shading in his pencil sketch? No--God is light, and in him there is no darkness. God is not tempted by evil, nor does he create or encourage evil, nor does he set us up for a fall for his own purposes. The evil in the world, the sin in the world, is our fault. God doesn't need it. God doesn't want it. It is not an addition to God's color pallete.
Would Wilson agree with me? Well, I can't entirely tell from the book. Maybe he just figured that other takes on dealing with the problem of evil had been well addressed in other places and he was doing something different here. He is presenting, if you will, the problem of Good. The problem is that Good is too much for us to handle. And it's certainly true that if we stop trying to reduce Good to fuzzy bunnies and safety scissors, our perspective on evil looks a little different. If we stop trying to equate evil with "anything I don't want," and remember that the plotline of this universe is about more than my comfort--if we attempt, at all, to take it in context--maybe the problem turns out to be a little different than we thought at first.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cause and effect

John Cleese is still at the top of his form--skewering virtually all of Western Civilization (with special attention to the Brits, of course) in a compact two minutes.

HT: Barb

Monday, August 24, 2009

Black Russian Cake

1 Chocolate Cake Mix
1/2 cup sugar (optional)
1 6.5 oz. box Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup kahlua
3/4 cup cold strong coffee
Pam Cooking spray.

Beat ingredients together about 4 minutes. Pour into greased Bundt pan. Bake 350 degrees, 50-60 minutes


1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup kahlua
1/4 cup dark chocolate syrup

Cool cake for 10 minutes. Invert onto serving plate. Poke holes in cake and pour on glaze. Sprinkle with extra powdered sugar for decoration if desired.

Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl

It took me all summer to finish N.D. Wilson's Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl. It seemed I could never get through more than a few pages without stopping to reflect on it. Hands down, one of the best books I've read in ages. How to describe a books that's been called stream of conciousness? (It's not). That opens its introduction with "What excuses can I possibly make for this book?" Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl is intentionally written to be as dizzying as its titular ride. It's a book to be felt--not analyzed. Though it would stand up to analysis. Just as distilling and titrating a bottle of Dom Perignon would give you a certain type of information. But it's not the way it's meant to be consumed. Nor, Wilson shows us, leads us, is God a being to be thought about, or proved, or deconstructed. He is one to be lived with, lived into, imbibed.

Two measures of a good book. One--how likely am I to re-read it? Very--I'm quite sure that it's one of those books that will read differently a number of times depending on what experiences I've accumulated and what I bring to my reading. Two--how many people am I thinking of who I've got to get to read this book? Lots. Regretfully, I cannot loan my single copy to my parents, best friend, music minister, cousin, and my entire book club all at the same time. The review in the current Books and Culture says that Wilson's "God is definitely NOT too small." That's a truth that none of us will ever grow out of growing into--the experience shattering gut-knowledge that God is infinite . . . Wilson demands that we experience more than we can handle, and that we stagger away, drunk and reeling from the spoken Word and the spoken World.

Five stars. Easily.

Not me Monday: Vacation retrospective

It wasn't our family that you saw the other week, taking over the single stall restroom in that diner so we could get the entire family "pottied" before we hit the road again. When our family is road tripping, we always make sure to do our pit stops at places with plenty of stalls. And when my grade school aged daughters need to use a public washroom, I can just lean against the wall and cross my arms while they calmly and quickly take care of their business. It wasn't me you heard threatening, cajoling and bribing my children ("Do you want to have to go on the side of the road?"). It wasn't my kids you heard freaking out over the automatic toilets and begging me to cover the electric eyes. My children are rational and mature for their age and don't get all wrought up over evil toilets that may or may not flush loudly and suddenly under them while I am trying to keep my temper and get them to "just relax and hurry up and pee, okay?"

And my kids most certainly do not still feel the need to strip off everything below the waist in order to use the washroom. They don't take off shoes and socks and shorts and underwear and leave it in a pile on the floor of a public washroom. That would be gross. Those floors aren't sanitary! And if one of my daughters did such a thing, I would never decide that a good solution would be to precariously pile her clothes on the back of the toilet where she could knock her underwear into the water when she was done. I would never take a situation that wasn't going to get any worse on its own and make it potentially disastrous like that. Not me!

It wasn't my daughter that you heard screaming at the top of her lungs from that single washroom in the diner. My children use appropriate, inside voices in public places. Even when their underwear is taking a swim in the toilet bowl, and Mom, for some inexplicable reason, wandered back to the table.

When our family goes on vacation, I plan for contingencies, so my daughter wouldn't find herself without a spare pair of clean underwear in the suitcases in the back of the truck. I wouldn't have to convince my kid to borrow a pair of her older sister's. Nope, not me. And I wouldn't go out of my way to find a different store with an available public washroom in which she could change. Nor would I, a parent who would never bribe her children,* nearly breathe a sigh of relief when my daughter spotted that perfect toy coming out of the washroom in the second hand store. The one she's been wanting and asking for. Nope--not me breathing a prayer of thankfulness that God turned imminent disaster into a perfect coup, and that we could drive away with a happy kindergartner and a steal for a piece of doll furniture. Oh--wait. Maybe that last one was me.

*(no, those are not my children who nearly accost the bakery ladies at the grocery store for free cookies every time we go shopping)

Not Me Monday is a blog carnival created and hosted by MckMama at My Charming Kids.

Friday, August 21, 2009

7 quick takes: volume 090821: coaching string players

This spring, we started our middle daughter on violin lessons and our eldest on cello. And now 10-12 hours of my week are spent supervising practice and lessons, and driving back and forth. It's worth it.

Seven things I'm learning on how to help your grade schooler have a happy and productive intstrument practice

1. At this stage it's all about posture and muscle memory.
I knew somewhat from potty training how difficult it is to teach body awareness and muscle control to a child. Playing a stringed instrument involves learning to use and coordinate many different muscle groups that most of us never think about. My main job as a parent in helping my girls practice is to be an outside set of eyes and help them be aware of what they need to learn to be aware of. To help them build muscle memory.

2. Be endlessly encouraging.
You're doing a great job. I can see you're really working on that. That sounded a lot better this time. Your teacher's going to be really impressed at your next lesson. You're putting in good practice. I'm glad you let me help you. That's really going to help you.

3. But don't let anything by. At all.
Two or three days of a bad habit can take weeks to fix. Or months. Years? Perhaps--but we haven't gotten that far yet. :) Also, if they learn to take correction and improvement as part and parcel of practice then it's not something unusal or something to get upset at. If I can offer correction in a routine, attentive, even bored manner, then they are much better about taking it as what it is--something to HELP them, a positive thing--rather than taking it as negative criticism.

4. Train the ear.
I was a piano player--hit the right key, and you get the right note. Unless the piano is out of tune, and there's nothing you can do about that. It took me a long, long time to begin to listen critically to my own playing. But string players have to learn to listen critically to themselves from the get-go. They need to hear how the notes relate to each other, not just see it on the page. Am I in tune? How's my tone? They only get 4 notes as gimmes . . . not all 88l.

5. Let them enjoy the music
There's always something to work on. If they want to spend an entire practice playing nothing but "Jesus Loves Me," we can do that. And do it a little straighter, a little more musically each time. In retrospect, one of the things I most regret about my own music lessons was how little I was engaged with so much of the music that I was playing. Why couldn't we have skipped many of those exercises that I didn't find interesting? And those ones that I absolutely loved? What if, instead of being told "Oh, that's too easy for you now, that doesn't count," or "That's not part of your lesson," I'd heard, "Oh, you really love that tune? Let's see what else we can do with that."

6. Keep your temper--and theirs
Getting angry isn't going to fix the problem. Getting frustrated isn't going to help them "get it." Making their practice time a time when they get yelled at isn't going to make them want to practice. In addition, their own frustration and convincing of themselves that they'll "never get this!" doesn't help practice. "Give yourself some grace. Give yourself some time." See #2. Remember . . . if it was easy, we wouldn't have to practice it. Helping my girls learn to work hard at something that isn't easy, that isn't natural, that takes discipline is one of the main reasons that we're doing this. After all, discipline and disciple have the same root. It's about training them in the tools that they will need to tackle all sorts of difficult, frustrating things over the course of their lives. It's about learning to disciple my children.

7. Remember that there's no deadline
We can just keep working at it. There's no getting ahead. There's no falling behind. We're not on a schedule here, and I don't need push my kids or make them push themselves. This is just an introduction and a tool for (hopefully) a lifetime's enjoyment of and participation in music.

quick takes are sponsored by jen@conversion diary

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And once more back into the school year

I'm not quite sure how our summer break evaporated so quickly. It just seemed to . . . disappear. Books were read, games were played. We had company multiple weekends and concerts to go to. A friend's wedding out east and a wedding present to make. Laundry to fold and blueberries to pick and summer reading programs to exploit. A basement to organize and summer blockbusters to go see. But none of it coalesced into blogging. It didn't NEED to . . . Sometimes there are seasons in my life when I really feel the need to make sure I'm paying attention to life, to hang words on it. And sometimes, it's better to not step outside myself, not watch myself doing something as I do it, but to just live life and let it pass. I don't need a record of everything. My kids don't need me to analyze all of it. And where could I find the quiet to think about it all anyway, with all three kids home all the time?

But this week, I'm enjoying the quiet of having the kids be back to school. Our preschooler is going three mornings a week this fall. There's time and quiet and space to think, pray, write, again. I like it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

7 quick takes: volume 090724

7 books I'm reading this summer when I'm not blogging

1. The Dresden Files (Jim Butcher): okay, a whole series of books. This summer's fluff. Jim Butcher has a deft hand at weaving a lot of stock Fantasy/Sci-Fi elements with snarky humor and likably flawed under-dog characters. Plop the whole thing in a familiar setting--like an alternate-reality Chicago--and it's easy to see why Butcher's managed to land himself on top of the best seller lists.

2. Watership Down (Richard Adams): Book club book for the summer. A pleasant re-read. I must have been about seven or eight when my dad read this to my brother and me for bed-time reading.

3. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy): The other book club read for the summer. I actually read this when I was fourteen and hated it. Re-reading it at 34 is proving to be a college course's worth of insight into how our life experience informs our reading. I'm not sure if I like it or not this time round. I'm not sure I can even really compare. I feel like I'm reading a completely different book.

4. Story (Robert McKee): A book about writing screenplays that has a lot of material which is directly applicable to novels. My writing classes in college focused on structure at the sentence and paragraph level. They never addressed such things as plot arc and scene selection--those macro-structuring issues with which I've struggled a great deal in my attempts to write. This book is a God-send.

5. Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl (N.D. Wilson): My next book review book for Thomas Nelson. A philosophical, apologetic hymn of awe to a Creator-God who is too great for us to even begin to comprehend. Beautiful.

6. God's Prayer Book (Ben Patterson): A how-to devotional guide for Protestants on the spiritual discipline of praying the book of Psalms. A birthday present from my best friend. A not-so-subtle hint from God.

7. Cicero (Anthony Everitt): A biography of the great Roman orator. An overview of Roman politics that makes our current, corrupt American politics look like a model of integrity.

What are you all reading this summer?

As always, 7 Quick Takes are sponsored by Jen at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

how to get a bird out of the house, (or church, or garage, or . . .)

Half a dozen of us were polishing off the pre-Fall-kickoff cleaning for our church when a small songbird got into the building. There's the lot of us, playing bird hockey, with brooms, rakes, whatever long-handled whatever we can grab . . . churches have high ceilings. (And did you know that when there's vertical space available, birds don't like to fly down to things like open doors.) My friend Joy discovered the one essential tool in trying to catch a bird: a spray bottle full of water. It's much easier to spritz a bird than it is to herd it. And eventually, the water in the feathers weights the bird down enough that it can't fly. At least until it dries out. And that point, it's a pretty simple thing to pick the bird up and set it out in the sun to recover. I presume that this wouldn't work with birds that God designed to live in the water, like ducks or swans or something. But I haven't yet heard of someone getting those in their house. And it's okay on sparrows.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th!

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

kid play

I have two little girls galloping around the house on the stick horses (sound effect: "ga-LOP, ga-LOP, ga-LOP) with their baby dolls, deep in a game of pretend. When they apparently arrive at their destination, I hear "How about you park your horsey here?" Park? A horse? I'm quite sure that's not right, but it suddenly occurs to me that I'm not sure what I would do with my horse, once we got where we were going. Other than, you know, tie it up somewhere so it didn't wander off . . .

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book Review: Jack Hanna's Wackiest, Wildest, Weirdest Animals in the World

Jack Hanna's Wackiest, Wildest, Weirdest Animals is a fun true facts book for mid range elementary schoolers (2nd to 5th grade). It profiles thirty animals--ten of the wackiest, ten of the wildest, and ten of the weirdest animals in the world. It has beautiful glossy photographs of each of the animals profiled, food, habitat and size for each, and two to three paragraphs of exciting and bizarre information.

This is a great book for lovers of the weird and wonderful in creation. Well bound, with thick glossy pages, it will stand up well for reading and re-reading. My third grade daughter sat down and read the whole thing cover to cover the afternoon it showed up at our house. It is also be well suited for a parent to sit down and read aloud with their child. The information is too dense for an early elementary age school child (my kindergartner was bored), but the included blooper DVD will be enjoyed by both younger and older children. There is no overtly spiritual slant to the book, but there didn't need to be. And it was refreshing to find a modern naturalist book entirely free of pseudo-environmental propaganda. The book simply does a fine job broadening the knowledge base for those children who want to know how things are. Highly recommended for the fans of Ranger Rick or National Geographic Kids in your home. Four out of five stars.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

dangerous things

Got to thinking about this video while camping with my brother and his family this past Memorial Day weekend.  We were camping in the same spot that we've used for years, where there has been much Playing With Fire and Using of Pocketknives.  And Spear Throwing.  It was a good weekend.

For the record, the "five" are:
1.  Play with fire
2.  own a pocketknife
3.  throw a spear
4.  deconstruct appliances
5.  Break the Digital Media Copyright Act
5b.  Drive a car

Friday, May 22, 2009

make mine an Irish cream latte with an extra shot of espresso

I admit to being equal parts horrified and delighted at the idea of there being a Starbucks down the Road-Less-Taken . . . and to not being sure that I like what that says about me . . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Book Review: The American Patriot's Bible, NKJV Translation

The American Patriot's Bible (New King James Version) is Thomas Nelson's latest venture into the world of thematic study Bibles.  It has a minimal set of maps, a good concordance, a brief introduction for each book of the Bible, and a large number of essays and reflections purportedly connecting the Bible and American history.  

From a purely physical book-making standpoint, this is a nice Bible.  It has thicker than average paper for a study Bible, a decently large typeface and it looks like a durable book.  It's really too bad that such a nicely designed Bible wasn't matched with quality of content:  as a Christian study Bible, it fails on both counts.  

First off, aside from the "patriot's" material, there are virtually no study elements at all.  No biblical cross-references.  No footnotes aside from the NKJV's translators' notes.  No charts or timelines.  A shameful dearth of maps.  The introductions to each book give considerably less historical and theological context for the book than the equivalent Wikipedia articles.

Secondly, it fails to be Christian.  Michael Horton would call it Christless.  You want a Bible for Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?  Legalism?  This is it.  Its essays emphasize such traditional American values as hard work and our accountability to God.  There is plenty to encourage the idea that what God wants from us is to work harder.  There is nothing here for the broken, repentant sinner, aware of his own inadequacy, whose desperate hope is to fall at the foot of the cross and find grace.

What then of the patriotic elements?  The glowing biographies of people honoring God for their American success, the vaguely spiritual, inspirational quotes scattered throughout, the multiple glossy inserts attempting to sketch out all of American history and tie it to the Biblical narrative?  All I can say is that I found it all as dubious in its history as its theology.  This flag-waving, Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul-ish pass at a study Bible is best left on the shelf at the Christian bookstore.

Book Reviews

So I've signed up for Thomas Nelson's Book Review Bloggers program.  It's a pretty straight forward they-send-you-free-books-in-exchange-for-publicity type arrangement.  My goals for the program are to get some free books (of course!) and also, some practice writing reviews, a form I enjoy both reading and writing.  I do my best  writing and thinking when I'm interacting with lots of stuff.  Their review guidelines are pretty stringent, so I'm envisioning doing a couple of blog posts on each book--one short one according to the guidelines and word count, and one more rambling and free-floating one, if it seems that there's more that needs to be said/considered about a book than can be said in 200-600 words.  Here's hoping that this turns out to be an enjoyable adventure for all involved . . . :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

7 quick takes, volume 090515

. . . because blogging is more fun than housework.

1.  In the middle of too many books at once, as usual.  Meaty reading is Michael Horton's Christless Christianity.  Continuing Roman history survey is Documentary perspectives, alternating with Polybius online.  For pure escapism (new) I just polished off the archives of Kevin and Kell (one of these days, I'll have to blog about comics as literature). Pure escapism (re-read) is Anne McCaffrey's Harperhall trilogy (the best work of anything she's done, imho).  The summer book club book is Watership Down (a pleasant re-read).  

2.  Also trying to make a point of reading to my younger two more.  Our oldest, before she could read, pestered for books all the time.  She would happily listen to stories several hours a day, before the age of two years old.  I'm realizing how much I developed the habit from that of putting off reading, and encouraging her to do other things . . . with the result that her two younger, less obsessed sisters get put off more they have coming.

3.  Music practice.  Ack.  Never thought I would be raising strings players.  Now I find myself trying to supervise 45 minutes to an hour of practice time every day . . . trying to encourage my daughters to patience . . . to not scream in frustration and hit things when they don't get it right the first time.  I was never any good at it myself.  I'm still not great.  Whole situation:  very bemusing.

4.  Actually, middle daughter is far more patient that oldest.  Temperment, I think.  Oldest appears to view music as something to be conquered.  Done right.  Looking towards the end result--20 years from now.  Middle is much more able focus on right now.  Middle is also much more able to absorb praise and encouragement . . . if I tell her that she's doing well and making progress, she believes me and is encouraged and keeps working with a good heart.  Oldest (like me), is less able to accept outside validation.  She needs to be able to tell herself that she's doing a good job.  Many lessons from all this, and many more to come, I'm sure.

5.  My good coffee pot broke.  Again.  There seems to be some sort of flaw in this model that makes the electrical system short out at right about a year old.  About a year ago, I had to get my machine exchanged for this flaw.  Now my replacement has died.  Very irritating.  Debating whether to spend $20-30 in shipping to get another $100 model that may die in a year, or whether to bite the bullet and just go shopping for something else altogether.  Or whether I should just live with a $15 machine that makes substandard coffee and learn to drink less of it.  Bah.  Bad options, all of them.

6.  I bought plants this year.  I've never suceeded in keeping anything green alive.  I even killed my aloe plant, which is supposed to be next to impossible.  I bought two lilac bushes for our yard and a few little tomato plants.  We'll see if I can manage to not kill them.

7.  I'm ticked off with the IRS.  I am not going to write about this in detail in this venue, except to say that in surveying what's going on in my life, this situation has a significant place.

7 quick takes is hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary

Monday, May 11, 2009

Christless Christianity

One of the (many) books that my husband brought home from the Gospel Coalition conference in April was Michael Horton's "Christless Christianity."  It's a blistering critique of the American church, one that I've been interested to read since reading Jared Wilson's praise of it a couple of months ago.  And I'm torn.  

My biggest complaint of the book is this:  I'm not sure you could tell from this text whether the good Michael Horton believes that God is a god of love or not.   Dr. Horton's contention is that awareness of God's holiness and majesty are absent in most of the American church.  That the knowledge of impossible gap between God's holiness and our sin, and our complete helplessness in the face of our sin is missing.  I do not argue any of these points.  But salvation in this book seems to be primarily an escape from God's wrath.  There is little sense that we are being saved into anything positive.  That I should want to avoid having Michael Horton's God angry at me, I am very clear on.  But once I'm assured that Christ's atoning sacrifice has taken care of that . . . then what?  Has works salvation infiltrated the American church?  Undoubtedly.  Is the average American church goer able to articulate the fact that our sin is so great and God's wrath with it such that only Christ's death could deal with the problem.  Maybe not so much.  But my friend Barb wrote this recently about understanding the reality of God's wrath without understanding his love:  
I have always viewed sin as something that we do that falls short of a rule that God made. Sometimes this was an intentional act on our part, sometimes it was unintentional. Either way when we did this God was anywhere from mildly frustrated to totally consumed with rage toward us. Sin ultimately gave us the death penalty. Jesus had to die to allow God to even have contact with us. He had to kill his Son for our screw-up-ed-ness. No wonder he was pissed off.
It's an imbalance which doesn't to leave you with a God that you're looking forward to spending eternity with . . .

That said, I presume that Horton probably figures that the American church doesn't need to understand that God is love.  That our buddy-buddy, I'm-okay-you're-okay, God understands if you just try your best . . . or even if you just try some type of culture needs to get it pounded through their skulls that our sin is serious business that we're talking about.  Horton does a masterful job of tracing out works-righteousness and showing how and why human religion constantly returns to it.
He also does a great favor to the American church by diagnosing the dominant spirituality of our age as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  (This amorphous spirituality is characterized by the beliefs that:
1.  God created the world
2.  God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions
3.  The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself
4.  God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life, except when needed to solve a problem
5.  Good people go to heaven when they die )

By naming Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as the Christ-less, feel-good, self-affirming pablum that it is and then uncovering salvation-by-works (Pelagianism) in many and various forms that it hides itself in the landscape of American spirituality, Horton exposes much in the church that needs to be seen for what it really is and reveals a great deal about why so many American churches produce so little in the way of actual disciples.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Antwerp Station

So you've seen the Antwerp Station Do-Re-Mi stunt (in part notable for taking one of the most definitionally non-techno songs and setting it partly to a techno beat)

Now enjoy the "Making of" sequence

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kevin and Kell on coffee

Mouseover:  "Coffee--bringing the day into focus."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kipling's "Just So Stories"

How marvelous!  The complete Just So Stories, with original illustrations are up in their entirety on-line.

"But the wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him"

Saturday, April 25, 2009

some saturday silliness

I was in college when Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet came out in the theater.  I asked my Shakespeare prof what he thought of it, his reply was, "When I left the theater, I was surrounded by weeping fourteen year old girls.  Really, what more can you ask of a Romeo and Juliet?"

Friday, April 24, 2009

seven quick takes, volume 090424

the trip to Chicago edition

1.  I did it!  This is an accomplishment for a five (the defining fear of fives is having enough knowledge/skill to be competent to act).  In this case, I sucessfully navigated Chicago's public transportation system to get myself and three small children from O'Hare-land downtown to the Shedd aquarium and back.  I did so without losing any of the children, and I managed to keep us all fed during the day, and my youngest didn't even decide she had to go potty while we were trapped on the over-crowded El, 45 minutes from getting off.
2.  I think my kids even had a good time at the aquarium.  I might feel bad about the three hours out of the day that transit took, except that was clearly as much of a treat as the fish.  There haven't been questions about when we get to go back to the aquarium.  There have been many questions about when we get to ride the train again.
3.   I did it!  I sucessfully followed the directions my friend gave me to drive the hour trip from our O'Hare hotel to her house in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.  I didn't miss any turns, I didn't get ticketed.  I didn't even get honked at.
4.  We had a great day with friends on Wednesday.  It's a wonderful treat when your kids are as good of friends with your friends' kids as you are with the parents.  It means the parents are free to completely ignore the children and let them play while we have our own conversation . . .
5.  I did it--mostly.  I made it back from my friend's house to the hotel in the dark, only muffed two of my turns, managed to work around them anyway without panicking, and didn't actually end up having to run the toll station for incorrect change . . . And anyway, the first muffed turn was really more of an alternate route.  Right?  (I mean, I was told before we headed home "If you miss the turn onto Lake Cook Rd., just keep going and you can get onto the highway off of 12--it just takes longer.")  It was the way that the freeway interchange between 90, 190, and 294 works going south/east that really threw me.  I mean, everywhere else in Chicago, signs that say "O'hare" mean towards O'hare . . . not "we're going to route you directly to the arrivals and departures drop-off point."
6.  Why were there toll booth attendents available to make change at every booth that we passed for four days except for the one I got to at 9:30 at night with two sleeping children in the back?  Why can't they jigger the toll machines to take dollar bills?  Why doesn't the U.S. mint simply decide that it's going to sensibly convert our nation to dollar coins and be done with it?  And if they throw in some of the pretty two-tone two-dollar coins like Canada has, that'd be a nice bonus.
7.  I . . . did . . . it.  When 90 turned into a parking lot in front of us and my wonderful husband got us off the freeway, I sucessfully helped navigate us through the side-roads and alternate routes of greater-greater-Chicago.  

A good trip.  I'm glad to be home, sleeping in my own bed with my own pillow.  I'm glad to be back in my own little midwestern town where 15 minutes in any direction gets you to corn fields and I can drive my standard routes without thinking about it.  And next time will be a bit easier.  :)
7 quick takes is hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary