Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review-"How To Grow Fresh Air" by Dr. B..C. Wolverton

We had our first frost this week, which meant there was an evening when we had to speedily bring in all the potted plants that have spent the warm weather outside, enjoying the extra sunlight and fresh rainwater. Finding room for them inside, especially accounting for their sunlight needs was tricky, because we already have a certain number of houseplants that reside indoors year 'round. This year we also have a large contingent of green things that have moved home with our daughter, who appears to have inherited her love of plants from me. She had a large, sunny bedroom in an old house she shared with some other girls on campus, and a couple of her plant-children are pretty big. We now have plants stuffed in nearly every nook and cranny that is anywhere near a window!

As much as I love houseplants for their beauty, and the homeyness I think they lend to any room, there is another good reason to have them. In his book "How To Grow Fresh Air", Dr. B. C. Wolverton synthesizes 25 years of research on indoor air quality, and explains how we can prevent Sick Building Syndrome, which can cause allergic and respiratory problems. Since most Americans spend about 95% of their time indoors, this is very important information.

Wolverton worked for NASA, teaming with others to find ways to keep air breathable in space stations, and potentially in sealed modular housing that could be used to inhabit other planets. They studied what chemicals building materials, furniture, and appliances and electronics off-gas into the indoor atmosphere, and which plants most effectively remove certain gasses and toxins.
I appreciated the careful explanation of what chemicals are present in our buildings, and what effect they have on our health. Wolverton is able to make this information accessible to some one like me, who does not have a strong background in chemistry. He gives a clear review of the process of plant respiration.

After you learn all this information, there is a good chapter on caring for the plants. Then, most helpful of all, is an extensive list of plants to choose from, with photos, care information, and an explanation of which chemicals that particular plant is good at removing from the environment. For instance, some plants are very useful used in close proximity to computer equipment, some are especially good in bedrooms, since they do more of their breathing at night, when you are sleeping there, and so on.

I loved this book for it's readability, accessible research, and the way it broadened my understanding of the symbiotic relationship we have with the plant kingdom. If you are new to the houseplant world, you should be able to get off to a good start with the growing information. If you are an old hand at it, you will still learn plenty of interest to you. If you are interested in environmental issues, and how to live in a less toxic space, this book would definitely be of use to you, as well.

I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
For more book reviews, go check out The Blogging Bookworm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ancient Wisdom

"Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to
the ground;
on that very day their plans become nothing.

"Blessed is he whose help is in the God of
whose hope is in the the Lord his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them-
the Lord, who remains faithful forever."

Psalm 146:3-6

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


My daughter recently showed us a site that she and her music friends find pretty humorous. Here at home we've been listening to her prepare excerpts for a couple of upcoming auditions, and on this site, Trumpet Bloopers, there is a recording of a standard trumpet piece that allegedly was sent in to the Boston Symphony as an audition tape. Since we've heard the piece played well by a number of trumpet students, we howled at this version of it:

Hummel.mp3 (832k)

I traditionally have our choir end the Easter service with "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah", which, for us, is a pretty big deal to prepare. As the director, I know anything can happen, whether it's a whole section losing it's place (which has happened-what a train wreck!) or the the sopranos and tenors losing a grip on the high notes (so far, so good). I always hold my breath and hope that we don't manage to have something like this happen:

MessiahOrganistOnCrack.mp3 (6829k) (the title is his, not mine)

They were doing so well, I really feel bad for them! But how can you not laugh?

If you're a musician, or ever sat through student recitals, you may chuckle at some other things he has posted on this site, all meant in good fun, and proof that perfection is, indeed, a rarity.

Voting As Though Not Voting

I will feel some relief when the election is over, because I do take seriously listening to the candidates and weighing what they are saying, trying to hear them through the filter of the media, and evaluating not just what they will do for my pocketbook, but where they will take the country morally and ethically. It's my civic duty.

But, despite that duty, I know that there is a level at which too much weight can be given to elections. This isn't the first election where I have heard people on both sides say that this is "the most important election in our history", as if they knew exactly how world events will transpire during the next administration, events that may totally overwhelm the plans currently being laid out by the candidates. I also know, as a Christian, that God is ultimately in control, and that there is a hidden parallel Kingdom that makes this visible one pale by comparison, and that that Kingdom is the one that really matters.

Recently, John Piper addressed this perspective in his wonderful post "Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting" that, in his inimitable way, expressed this "two-worlds" perspective in a way I had never been able to articulate well. I recommend the whole article, but he says, in part:

"Christians should deal with the world. This world is here to be used. Dealt with. There is no avoiding it. Not to deal with it is to deal with it that way. Not to weed your garden is to cultivate a weedy garden. Not to wear a coat in Minnesota is to freeze—to deal with the cold that way. Not to stop when the light is red is to spend your money on fines or hospital bills and deal with the world that way. We must deal with the world.

"But as we deal with it, we don’t give it our fullest attention. We don’t ascribe to the world the greatest status. There are unseen things that are vastly more precious than the world. We use the world without offering it our whole soul. We may work with all our might when dealing with the world, but the full passions of our heart will be attached to something higher—Godward purposes. We use the world, but not as an end in itself. It is a means. We deal with the world in order to make much of Christ.

"So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.

"By all means vote. But remember: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). "

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reaching Out In Love

I think we could use some positive stories. Here's one that touched me:

HT:Justin Taylor

Sunday Stroll-October 26, 2008

There is a very nice walking/biking path about a block from my house that follows a drainage area that leads to Mattis Lake. I often go the the lake area, but this time I followed the path, which winds along behind some houses. The water is down to normal, after being up pretty high most of the summer.Once you get back in there a few yards, you come to some cattails, which, for some reason, I always love.

Growing up, I always heard this called slough-grass. It must have some more specific name. Does anyone out there know it? It gets about nine feet tall.
There are several places where the city has put measuring posts into the slough. I would imagine that they can go out there when we've had too much rain and use the measurements to know if they need to evacuate the neighbors. Part of me wishes I lived along this little wild area, but part of me (the sensible part!) knows I would be pretty frustrated by having to watch out for high water every time it rains.
I could also hear a lot of little "plopping" noises as I walked along. It seems pretty chilly for frogs; I think it was probably muskrats, though I didn't get a glimpse of them this time.

I love watching the wind move through that grass!

Eventually, there is another retention pond, that is very peaceful to sit by. All of this, lake, ditch, and pond, are man-made. Prior to them being created, I remember as a child that this area was our favorite place to ride our bikes through big mud puddles, and the farm field that was there always had ponding issues. This is a big improvement (though maybe not as fun for children!).

It's such a beautiful place to sit on a bench and relax in a natural environment.

So, that was my stroll. If you'd like to see who else is strolling, visit Aisling, at The Quiet Country House.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Should You Be Allowed to Vote?

You Should Be Allowed to Vote

You got 14/15 questions correct.

Generally speaking, you're very well informed.

If you vote this election, you'll know exactly who (and what) you'll be voting for.

You're likely to have strong opinions, and you have the facts to back them up.

Edit:This is just for fun! I think everyone should get to vote.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Financing College

I've seen a couple of news stories in the last few days about how the tightening credit market may affect student loans. Having just finished getting the kids through school, Mike and I were commiserating with these families. One thing that stood out, though, was the fact that some of the people interviewed really couldn't imagine choosing a state school over a private one, or working part time while they went to school, or choosing a school close enough to home that they didn't have serious travel expenses to come home for holidays. I guess what the student loan crisis is really doing is limiting options for students who were not used to thinking within those boundaries. In a way, I began to wonder if that might be a healthy thing.

When I am on campus here, using the campus recreation facilities available to me as an alum, I'm often surprised to hear conversations revealing that students don't work, don't live at home during the summer, call home for money frequently, and yet have more than enough "play-time" money for partying, clothes, spring-break trips, etc. Not all of them live like this, of course, but probably two thirds of them do. I really like being around these kids; I'm not writing them off as obnoxiously spoiled. And we do get a very academically talented population here, as this is our flagship state school, highly ranked in several disciplines. However, I think some of them are receiving less preparation for their future than they need. I know from what I overhear that many of them say they have never held a part-time job!

That's a shame. I probably learned as much of use to me as an adult from my part-time jobs as I did from my college classes themselves. Let see....

babysitting: I started doing this when I was twelve, and made a lot of money this way all the way through high school. Managing small children, seeing how different families operated, realizing the safety of my charges required my attention all the time I was with them, was great preparation for parenthood.

cleaning for a furniture store, and later for an office building: I learned that cleaning is never really done. Dirt happens. Someone has to deal with. Just do it.

on the production line of a plastics factory: We made those little disposable gloves that food workers use that look like baggies with fingers. For eight hours a day. Five days a week. I was the only girl on the line who had gotten a high school diploma, and the only one who did not have a child, though I was the oldest at only 20, earning me, for some reason, the nick name "rich b-----". Never, never, never want to work someplace like that again. But I did learn that you can do anything for three months if you have to!

university band library: I was hired for four hours a day, five days a week. The problem was, there was really only about 30 minutes of work per day. I learned I did not feel good about being paid to read novels by the hour, especially when I knew it was the tax payers of Illinois that were really paying me. I also learned that there is a ridiculous amount of waste in government institutions, and we need to proactively go after that waste.

two different retail jobs, one in a music store, and one in an outlet clothing store: I liked the music one. I learned to be patient with people working a cash register, having been that person myself. I didn't like the clothing one. When some one came to the counter with an arm-load of clothes, I wanted to say "Do you really need all that? Are you sure you don't have a closet full of clothes at home already?" So, I guess I learned that I don't have the "sales" gene!

research flunky for an agronomist at a seed corn company: I really liked this one. First, it was outside, which I loved. And the guy I worked with realized that I enjoyed having him explain why we were counting how many seeds had germinated per row, how many ears per stalk, which hybrids suffered lodging problems after a storm, etc. I learned so much there. It was the summer that I was getting married in August, which meant my tan made my little bit of Cherokee ancestry pretty obvious in our wedding photos, but I still think about what I learned as I drive around Central Illinois and look at crops out my car window.

I've done a few other things, since, even as a mom and home maker, I always worked part-time at something: daycare provider, foster parent, recess and lunchroom supervisor, voice teacher, crossing guard, and church choir director. They are always adding to my life experiences, and helping me to see things through other people's eyes. This is why I think it might actually be good for our college students to have less money available to them. If it makes them pick up a job to earn at least their spending money, I think it will be a good thing in the long run.

Did you have any part-time jobs you liked, or hated? What did you learn from them?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Little Brain Food

"We need, once again, to relearn, and to teach the young, how to think. I often say in my diocese that I am passionate about the authority of scripture but equally passionate about the vital and necessary place of reason. We live in a world of unreason, where right and wrong have been reduced to personal preferences and ‘attitudes’, which can then be manipulated by smooth talk – like the verbal shift which says ‘credit’ when it means ‘debt’, and the equivalents of that in every sphere – and where people don’t need to think because they can drift along with the current mood. And you and I know that the next generation will need – boy, will they need! – to be able to think: to think hard, to think through where the world is going and what they need to do in it, to think not about how they can feather their own nests but how they can wisely serve their fellow human beings in God’s world." -N.T. Wright

My blog-reading is quite an eclectic mix these days. Sometimes I want to be challenged to think deep thoughts, to reason through difficult issues, to have my assumptions shattered.

Other days, I just want to see pictures of some one's kids or flowers.

I guess today was my day for the former, and I thought you might like to see where I have gone to read and think and reflect on current events that are challenging us.

First, The above quote from N.T. Wright, the Anglican bishop of Durham, can be found in a sermon he gave September 30th at Westminster Abbey, referencing the economic turmoil we are experiencing. If you think sermons are dull to read, you haven't read his! The man is gifted, articulate, and considered to by many to be one of Christendom's foremost contemporary thinkers. Find him at The N.T. Wright Page.

Next, I read Gerard V. Bradley's essay, "When Is It Acceptable For a "Pro-Life Voter" to Vote For a "Pro-Choice" Candidate?". Very timely, as you can imagine, and I learned a lot from him. The article appeared on the new web journal Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good. There are many excellent essays already posted there, including some interesting ones discussing greed, also in light of our economic problems.

Finally, there is an artist I have really come to appreciate recently, He Qi. He is a contemporary Chinese painter who is also a Christian. He interprets the Bible through his work in a uniquely Chinese way. It just gives me a fresh look at the Gospel's relevance to the whole world, not just the West. I hope you enjoy wandering though his online gallery.

Happy thinking!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gardening Info Online

For those of you who garden in Zone 5b, like I do, or anywhere in the Midwest, there is a new site you can bookmark if you like. Illinois Gardener is a service of WILL TV, our local PBS affiliate, which is affiliated with the University of Illinois. You can watch videos, view photos, and submit questions. The questions will be answered by U. of I. horticulturists, and answers are researched based. It's very handy! My husband did the graphic design and photography for it, so I'm biased, but I think it is a very attractive and informative place to go.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Stroll-October 19, 2008

It's the last hurrah for the violets under our crab apple tree. Their cool colors are quite a contrast for this season. The rest of the neighborhood is going up in flames.

Maple leaf among the chrysanthemums:

Honey locust:
Sugar maple:
Burning bush:

A last round of blooms from the geraniums:
To see who else is strolling, visit Aisling at The Quiet Country House.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Facing Disagreements

Life is full of messy stuff, isn't it? Relationships can be unsettled by disagreement, which, if not resolved, can lead to relational death. Sometimes "letting go", "going along to get along", biting your tongue-however you want to say it, seems like the wise thing to do. That doesn't always lead to reconciliation, though, and, as Christians we are called to the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

I have jotted down a few things I've read recently, and I've been reviewing them as a reminder of how to deal with disagreements in a way that leads to reconciliation.

From JT at Between Two Worlds:

How do I know when to confront something and when to overlook it?

The short answer is that it is a matter of wisdom or discernment. Each time you are offended, you need to wisely decide whether or not you need to bring it up. Only you can make the decision, but several diagnostic questions can help you work through it.Here's an outline of the questions:

Before confronting, ask, “Have I examined myself yet?”
Before confronting, ask, “How sure am I that I am right?”
Before confronting, ask, “How important is this?”
Before confronting, ask, “Does this person show a pattern of this kind of behavior?”
Before confronting, ask, “What do wise people counsel me to do?”
Before confronting, ask, “What else is going on in the other person’s world?”

If, after asking those questions, we determine that the matter is important enough to pursue:

From Rob at The Spyglass:

Christian unity costs us something. It costs us our egos, our comfort zones, and our ease. It calls us not to avoid those with whom we disagree, or with whom we have issues, or with whom we’re in conflict, but rather to confront them head-on—and to do so not with anger, or self-assertion, but with love and grace. This is not to say we must do so with approval; there are times when rebuke is necessary, and refusing to speak the hard truths is a violation of unity just as much as refusing to repent of our own sin and ask forgiveness. It is to say, however, that we cannot hang back from the work of reconciliation, and we cannot let mere disagreement become grounds for disunity. We may be rejected by others—but we cannot in good conscience be the ones to do the rejecting; and though there are times when God calls us to correct one another, even correction must be offered with open arms.

Of course, once we've gathered the courage to have that difficult conversation, there is that one last, difficult step.

From Ray Ortlund, quoting Spurgeon at Christ Is Deeper Still:

"When Pompey was killed, Julius Caesar obtained possession of a large casket, which contained a vast amount of correspondence which had been carried on with Pompey. There is no doubt whatever that in that casket there were many letters from certain of Caesar's followers making overtures to Pompey, and had Caesar read those letters it is probable that he would have been so angry with many of his friends that he would have put them to death for playing him false. Fearing this, he magnanimously took the casket and destroyed it without reading a single line. What a splendid way of putting away and annihilating all their offenses against him! Why, he did not even know them, he could not be angry, for he did not know that they had offended. He consumed all their offenses and destroyed their iniquities, so that he could treat them all as if they were innocent and faithful.
The Lord Jesus Christ has made just such an end of your sins and mine. Does not the Lord know our sins, then? Yes, in a certain sense. And yet the Lord declares, 'Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.' In a certain sense, God cannot forget. But in another sense, he himself declares that he remembers not the sins of his people but has cast them behind his back. 'The iniquities of Israel,' says he, 'shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.'
An accusing spirit might have said to Caesar, 'Do you not know that Caius and Florus were deeply involved with your enemy, Pompey?' 'No,' he replies, 'I know nothing against them.' 'But in that casket there is evidence.' 'Ah,' rejoins the hero, 'there remains no casket. I have utterly destroyed it.'"

C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of the New Testament, IV:131-132

So, the Biblical process here is to determine the seriousness of the disagreement; confront, only if necessary, in an appropriate and Christ-like manner; and be willing to completely forgive and forget. That's the process of the "ministry of reconciliation".

Three Generations.....

Bonding over a YouTube clip!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blog Action Day Follow-up

Even in my rather small blogging circle, there were some very thought-provoking posts yesterday on the theme of poverty. I'd like to invite you to check them out. It's interesting how different writers and different personalities came at this subject from so many angles.

Grant wrote about the way he acts upon his convictions by heading up a team to rehab houses locally.

Rob's interest in economics and politics are easy to see in his post; they are worth noting in this political season.

Erin takes the Evangelical mega-church movement to task about it's skewed priorities.

Sara reminds us that we will be accountable for what we focus our lives upon.

Beth has a powerful post showing how those of us who have much inadvertently misuse the poor by degrading their environment with our waste.

Jared quotes Bono's speech about justice for the poor.

Others who have posted recently on the subject of poverty and justice:

Joey reminded us a couple of days ago that there is an historical record of what happens to a society that ignores the plight of the poor.

Ruchi"s observations a month ago, made during a visit to India, fit right in with the theme.

It is great to see so many thinking and writing on this subject, and important to keep it before every one's eyes. But the goal of all that is to provoke action. Has reading any of this inspired someone out there to do something? Give something?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day-Poverty's Neighbor

A man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
"Which ones?" the man inquired.
Jesus replied, "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother, and 'love your neighbor as yourself'."
"All these things I have kept," the young man said. "What do I lack?"
Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

(Matthew 19:19-22)

I have a new camera that has a very nice zoom lens. I can get up close, with the macro setting on, and zero in on a flower, an insect, a unique stone or fungi, and the viewer of such a picture can focus on that item, marveling at it without the distraction of it's surroundings.

When I am in a reflective mood, examining my place in the world, I tend to focus in closely. What is my position in my family? My workplace or neighborhood? It's very rare that I assess my position in a context broader than that. In an election year such as this one, I might think a bit about my role as a citizen of my community, my state and my country, but, really, not much. It's a difficult perspective to grasp.

Recently, I was exposed to an interesting website called the Global Rich List. The site gives you an opportunity to plug in your income and compare it to the rest of the world, calculating your percentile rank by income. Though my family lives modestly, firmly in the middle of the middle class in the U.S., my percentile rank compared to the rest of the world was .91%. In other words, our family is wealthier than more than 99% of the world's population.

It rocked me back on my heels a bit to find that out. It was a wide-angle view of my place in the world, in which I am very, very tiny. Microscopic, even.

I needed some way to see my position in the human race using some comprehensible middle lens. Eventually, I stumbled on to this:

"If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following. There would be:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both North and South America
8 Africans

52 would be female
48 would be male

70 would be nonwhite
30 would be white

70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth and all 6 would be from the United States
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death
1 would be near birth (ready to deliver)
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer"*

So, in this model, I am a white female, from the Western Hemisphere, a Christian, and one of those six outrageously wealthy Americans. I am well nourished and comfortably housed. As far as anyone can know, I am not near death. I am not due to deliver a child. I have a college degree, and I own a computer (actually, there are three in our home).

There is no one in this village of one hundred people who is even remotely as fortunate as I am. I have more, in every respect- health, education, material goods, spiritual life, status conferred on me by race and place, than every single other person in this village. Surrounding me in this village are many, many people who are illiterate, homeless, starving. Right there, in my village of one hundred people. The place where I, as a Christian, am to love my neighbor.

The challenge is to never forget that. The challenge is to leverage that knowledge of my good fortune for the good of my fellow villagers.

Now that I have this perspective, it's time to zoom back in. On them.

*Philip M Harter, MD, FACEPStanford University, School of Medicine

Monday, October 13, 2008

The APLS Blog Carnival-Education

For this month's APLS blog carnival, members were asked to write about environmental education- how we learned about the issues ourselves, and/or how we teach others about them.

At first I wasn't going to write anything (again!). I had written once before about how I came to be concerned about the environment on a personal level, despite the fact that I am otherwise fairly conservative socially and politically. I have also reviewed a couple of books I felt described far better than I could how Christians can embrace creation care from an ethical point of view without compromising on other concerns.

After thinking about it a bit, I decided I did want to write a post for the carnival. One reason I challenged myself to do this is because, honestly, it's been hard the last couple of months to hang in there with the green blogging world. Blogs I have loved, that were essentially about how to make changes in personal lifestyles in order to live more sustainably, suddenly became intensely political. I know people have strong opinions, but I also want to be sure that I don't "sit in the seat of mockers", a position we are advised to avoid in Psalm 1. There are plenty of mockers to be found on both sides of the political spectrum right now, and I'm not going to sit there with them, because even if you are just sitting there, not saying anything, your presence can be construed to be agreement with them. Guilt by association, so to speak.

But, in a couple weeks the election will be over, and we can all get back to writing about sustainable living and encourage each other again. That's something I'm not willing to give up on. I have learned a LOT from the blog world that is very, very helpful, and I'm sure we can continue to do so for a long time to come. And we have to, really. When even a Texas oil baron like T. Boone Pickens is saying, essentially "Hey, people, wake up! We've got a crisis in the making when it comes to energy, and we should not be fiddling while Rome burns!", you know we need to just doggedly find a way to cooperate with each other and get the job done, whether we agree on other stuff or not. So first and foremost, in talking about education, I want to give credit where it's due, to the green blogging community. You guys were out there writing about this stuff while everyone else was snoozing, and now, a lot of your suggestions are now popping up in homemaking magazines, HGTV, and my local newspaper. You put your money where your mouth is and figured out how to convince your spouses and kids to conserve and recycle and get off the "gimmee" cycle, and the rest of us can now see that it is doable.

The flip side of the question is, what am I doing to educate others on sustainable living? The answer is, just leading by example. At least I try to. It's not perfect. However, when I see my grown kids committing themselves to sustainable habits, I give myself a little, tiny mental pat on the back. I know I'm not the only, or even the main influence on them (and they are still young enough to want to make sure I know that!), but hopefully I have contributed at least a little to their habits for the future. If we don't look past ourselves into the future, we could easily grow discouraged. My kids encourage me when I see them putting into practice things I tried to model for them.

So, mixed in with all the pictures of my flower beds and posts about my job as a church choir director, and just things I find inspirational and want to share with others, I will still be posting about that other thing that I think is important: being a good steward of the world the Lord created for our use and enjoyment. I'll still be riding my bike to work. I'll still be composting and turning out lights and catching my shower warm-up water to re-use to flush the toilet. And I'll still be reading and learning from the green bloggers.
**"Is Anybody Listening?"-painting by Michael Owen Thomas

Daniel Style Worship

"Extreme worship is not a manner of praise. It’s not a specific method or a particular tradition. It’s not determined by debating organ music versus contemporary praise. In fact, it has little to do with how we praise God at all. Extreme worship is defined by when and where we worship. When we are drawn to worship during our most stressful times, we practice extreme worship. When we are drawn to sing praise where the opposition is strongest, we practice extreme worship. Like Daniel, we must not allow our circumstances to dictate when and where we worship God. We must be prepared to live out our faith anytime, any place. Are you willing to serve God in extreme worship today?"

From The Voice of the Martyrs Persecution Blog

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sunday Stroll-October 12, 2008

For today's stroll, I just walked up and down my block and looked for signs of Fall.

To see who else is Strolling, visit The Quiet Country House.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I'm the sixth generation of my family to live here. My ancestors weren't famous or wealthy, but they were good, hard-working people. There are still signs of them around the towns.

My Great Grandpa H., who was a carpenter, moved to this town with his young family to take advantage of the building boom right before WWI. Both Chanute Air Force Base and the University of Illinois were building at a tremendous rate. Great Grandpa H. helped build many buildings that are still standing, including the historic round barns that are part of the College of ACES on the University of Illinois campus. If you click on the picture of the marker, you'll be able to read it.

He also was the finish carpenter on some of the most beautiful Craftsman style houses just off the campus.

Another one of my ancestors, Great Grandpa G., walked to school every day from his little house next to his father's cobbler shop, through a little slough and over the historic Stone Arch Bridge, over the Boneyard Creek. It's called the Boneyard because along it's banks some local Indians liked to make their winter camp. They left the bones from the animals they hunted piled along there. There are a few other more romantic stories about the naming of the creek, but that one seems the most likely. If you know the area, they camped about a block south of the bridge, in what is now Scott Park.
There is an historical marker for the bridge, too, which was built in the late 1850s, but it's down right now because, once again, Champaign is trying to do something to prevent flooding in that neighborhood. The plan is to create a "scenic" biking/walking path long the "flood plain" of the creek, through the park and on through the neighborhood just north of the campus. That's certainly our history, too. If life gives you a swamp, create a "scenic flood plain path"!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Shamelessly Bragging

I hope you'll cut me a little slack here. My second son just posted some great news over on his blog, and I hope you'll go check out his work. I will admit that in my old-fogeyness I don't know much about graphic poems, but I did think they were pretty cool. Even if I am just his Mom.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Who Will Survive the Meltdown?

From a beautiful post on Cerulean Sanctum:

"Some believe that the financial meltdown now afflicting our country is the start of a great tribulation. I don’t know; it may be.

What I do know is this: The just shall live by faith.

The one who trusts money will see that money fail.

The one who trusts in cunning will see that cunning fail.

The one who trusts in elaborate disaster plans will see those plans fail.

The one who trusts in friends will see those friends fail.

The one who trusts in the ability to control life will see that control fail.

The one who trusts in self will see self fail.

Who will survive when all the foundations are rocked? The one who trusts God and God alone for all provision, all wisdom, and all security.

The just shall live by faith."

Oh, please go read the whole post!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Stroll- October 5, 2008

Our old kitty, Cinnamon, rarely stirs her old bones to much activity these days, but it was such a perfect October day that she decided to lead me on my Sunday Stroll today, and show me all her favorite haunts. Here, she wants to make sure you notice her perfectly white belly. She works very hard at keeping it clean!

Next, she wandered through the sedum and chrysanthemums, but coyly dodged the camera.

She "helped" me by winding around my feet as I enjoyed the rose hips on the climber.

She meowed loudly to make sure I discovered her in one of her favorite haunts under the forsythia.

Again she dodged me as she frisked under the big yew, but I was enjoying the textural contrast of the yew with the purple wintercreeper and the bark of the maple.

The butterflies were out in full force.

I had to show you this cute clothespin holder that belonged to Mike's grandmother. I'll bet she bought it at a church bazaar! It just has that church bazaar-ish look to it, doesn't it?

Lamb's ears-great texture, isn't it?

Now Cinnamon is all worn out, and wants to go inside to take a nap- for at least the next five hours or so.
Thanks for strolling with us! If you'd like to stroll with a few other folks, go to The Quiet Country House.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

An Invitation to Blog Action Day

On October 15th I will be participating in Blog Action Day. On that day thousands of bloggers will write on the subject of poverty, with the goal of "changing the conversation" in a way that will enlighten, inspire, and, hopefully motivate to action, the hundreds of thousands of readers these bloggers have collectively. If you have a blog, I encourage you to participate. The more the merrier! It's easy to get involved. Just go to the button in my sidebar and click on it to go to the website, where instructions on participating are available.

Let's change the conversation, just for one day.

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Worshipping In Humility

This Sunday, Pastor Randy will begin a short sermon series on the subject of worship. As you can imagine, I'm pretty excited about that!

I have chosen two pieces for the choir. The first, to open the service, has lyrics that remind us that God Himself is with us, and it calls on us to come before Him in humility. This is an expression of God's immanence, that is, His nearness to us.

The second anthem is a real favorite with the choir, and I think it is the third time we've sung it since I came on staff. It's a setting of Psalm 8 called "The Majesty and Glory of Your Name". That psalm, written by the young David as he reflected on the night sky while herding sheep, captures the way the Creation can glorify God and reveal Him to all who see the natural order of the universe. Again, it calls on us to be humble in the presence of God's transcendence over His Creation.

Light pollution prevents most of us from seeing the sky that David saw 3, 000 years ago, with it's millions of stars visible to the naked eye being only a drop in the bucket compared to the vastness of the universe. I found this picture of our own galaxy of stars, the Milky Way, as seen from an Andean mountain top. I thought this might be a close approximation of David's view:

"O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds,
and beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Christian's Battle With Evil

I found this quote powerfully strengthening and uplifting today. I encourage you to look up the verses and read them in their context.

From John Piper's new book, Spectacular Sins, pp. 50-51:

Eight Things to Do with Evil

On the one hand:

Expect evil. “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12).

Endure evil. “Love bears all thing, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7; cf. Mark 13:13).

Give thanks for the refining effect of evil that comes against you. “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20; cf. 1 Thess. 5:18). “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance . . .” (Rom. 5:3–5).

Hate evil. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9).

Pray for escape from evil. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13).

Expose evil. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph. 5:11).

Overcome evil with good. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).

Resist evil. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).

Four Things Never to Do with Evil

But on the other hand:

Never despair that this evil world is out of God’s control. “[He] works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).

Never give in to the sense that because of seemingly random evil, life is absurd and meaningless. “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! . . . For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Rom. 11:33, 36).

Never yield to the thought that God sins or is ever unjust or unrighteous in the way he governs the universe. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways” (Ps. 145:17).

Never doubt that God is totally for you in Christ. If you trust him with your life, you are in Christ. Never doubt that all the evil that befalls you—even if it takes your life—is God’s loving, purifying, saving, fatherly discipline. It is not an expression of his punishment in wrath. That wrath fell on Jesus Christ our substitute (Gal. 3:13; Rom. 8:3). Only mercy comes to us from God, not wrath, if we are his children through faith in Jesus. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Getting to Authentic Worship

From Howard Stevenson in "Mastering Worship":

"If a good sermon needs time to develop and drive home a point, so does authentic worship. Worship needs at least fifteen to twenty minutes to build. In our church, we normally devote thirty minutes to worship- congregational singing, special music, and Scripture readings.

In order to devote that kind of time, we strive to eliminate as many nonessentials as possible. We want to give maximum time to worship and congregational singing. We know sermonettes produce Christianettes, and we don't want to find out what shortened worship produces."