Thursday, May 29, 2008

Back In A Few

We're off for a long weekend trip to Oklahoma to spoil our baby grand-daughter. Happy blogging!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In The Wheelbarrow

From Rob Harrison at The Spyglass:

As Chesterton wryly observed, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried."

The bottom line here is that true Christian faith is not just intellectual assent to a series of propositions, nor is it a commitment to pursue what we consider to be good and helpful behaviors (though in some sense, both of those are involved): true Christian faith is a belief in a Person, and a commitment to follow that Person, wherever he might lead us. To borrow from the old story about the Great Blondin, it's not just a matter of agreeing that if we get in the wheelbarrow, he'll be able to push us safely across his tightrope over Niagara Falls—it's a matter of actually getting in the wheelbarrow and hanging on. It's a whole-life commitment, giving everything we have to follow Jesus.

What Started Our Remodelling Project

Some one who read yesterday's post wondered about the reference I made to a deer incident, and it is a strange enough story I thought it would be fun to post the letter I sent to family and friends back when it happened in November of '06. Here it is:

"Yep, the strange rumor you heard as church was letting out this morning is true. Our neighbor, Barb, came down to the church and found Mike to tell him that witnesses had seen a deer jump through one section of our big picture window, bungle around inside the house for a few minutes, and then jump back out through another section of the same window. She wanted to catch us before we came home to all that bloody mess and had to play CSI to figure out what had happened. Apparently, the people who saw this were driving by. They saw it go in, went down to the intersection and turned around, and saw it come out as they arrived back at our house. They went check on us, and finding us gone, called the police and began knocking on neighbor's doors. The guy two doors north of us was home, and he told them he would keep an eye on the house until we returned. Then Barb, who lives between us, came home from the store, and she said she knew exactly where we'd be. So she drove to the church.

The police never did find the deer, by the way. They received a report of a badly wounded six point buck in the courtyard of Carle Arbours (about a mile south of us), but by the time the deputy got there, it was nowhere to be seen.

Meanwhile, we rushed home. Grant and Traci followed, since our plan had been to meet for lunch at Culver's. The house was just a mess, with glass and blood-lots and lots of blood-everywhere. He apparently thought he could get out the back sliding-glass door, because there was a lot of blood and some hoof-scrapes on the glass, but he didn't break it, which is good, because he just would have been trapped in the sun porch. He knocked most of the furniture over in the dining area and pushed the table up against the wall by the garage door. When he turned around and ran back out, he must have launched himself from the piano bench, because there was a hoof mark and a lot of blood on the Sunday paper that was laying on the bench.

The Halls came by as we were inspecting the damage, and very kindly went and got us Subway sandwiches, since we really couldn't make use of the kitchen at that point. Then Robin arrived to do her laundry. So, Mike and I, Grant and Traci, and Robin, started dealing with the mess. Traci took Mike in her truck to Lowe's to get plywood; Robin scrubbed and mopped the blood up in the kitchen, Grant and I put on leather work gloves and began picking up glass. Our neighbor lent us their shop vac. We all worked full tilt for 3 solid hours. and in the end the house was livable, believe it or not.

Really, it could have been much worse. I have to admit that my first concern had been for our new leather couch that sits in front of the window, but it was only slightly scratched despite being absolutely covered in glass shards. Though there is some blood on the living room carpet, most of it was in the kitchen where the floor is tile. And the piano bench was protected by the newspaper. I was able to get the blood off the couch with the cleaner that came with it when we bought it, and the blood on the piano, walls, floor, tablecloth, sliding-glass door, etc. could all be washed off. There was some music piled by the piano that will always be blood stained, and of course the two big windows will have to be replaced ASAP, and that will be expensive. Insurance will help.

I'm glad I wasn't home when it happened! And our fierce attack-kitties were no help, cowering under Robin's bed for hours after the event. Last time I depend on them to guard the house while we're gone! Anyway, once the windows are replaced and the carpet cleaned it will all fade into a very surreal memory. Robin used to call these kinds of events "Adventures With Robin" here's the new chapter , Robin!"

It turned out, when all was said and done, the deer caused about $6,000 dollars in damage to the house, and the carpet had to be completely replaced, since the glass shards were never going to be completely out of it, along with an entire new picture window system. We don't live on the edge of town, so everyone is kind of amazed by the whole incident, but our insurance company was great, and we got it all covered. They even credited us with the clean up, thus eliminating the deductible.

So, that's the story.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's On Your List?

Today was desk clean-off day. The main reason I have to clean off my desk is that I have an inordinate fondness for making lists and outlines, and then keeping them in neat little stacks and never looking at them! I subscribe to the theory that I should get things off my mind and on to paper, so I write and write and write. I think what it really does is organize my thoughts. Then I don't actually need the lists and outlines.

Anyway, there were a lot of little pieces of scratch paper with home improvement lists. Some of those were nice to see; we've done a lot of work to the house this past year and a half, since the deer came through and got us started with the insurance claim. I made little check marks by all we'd finished , consolidated what we still needed to do on to one list, and threw the remainder away. See what I mean? It's obsessive. But I love to do it anyway.

Then I found something kind of interesting. Last fall, I read the book "Garbage Land" by Elizabeth Royte. Some of you will roll your eyes and think "Yes, I knew she was weird, and this proves it! She reads books about garbage!" I do love the subject of garbage. Ask me all about it, when you have an hour or two to spare. Anyway, after reading that book I sat down and made some of my little lists.

Sources of Paper/how to deal w/it:
1.newspaper-recycle; use for mulch
2.magazines-cancel those not read; share at work; recycle
3.junk mail-get off lists; recycle; re-use blank stuff; scratch paper
4.packaging-refuse as much as possible; reuse; recycle paper-receive and store records electronically; compost shredded material; recycle paper-use cloth napkins; rags; ceramic plates only

See, I told you it was obsessive! But the cool thing is, we've done all of it. In fact, we've cut back on our trash output so much that we can go three weeks without putting anything at the curb, and then it's just one container for trash, and two recycling tubs.

There was also a list for plastic:
1.milk and soy milk jugs-buy in glass returnables, recycle
2.cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt tubs-make my own yogurt; recycle
3.bubble packaging-?? reuse bags-use cloth

Again, we've done it.

Glass and Cans:
beverage cans and bottles-stop drinking it!
food cans-use more home-made foods

Done, and done.

So, as you can see, my life is full of action and excitement. Please excuse me while I line my pencils up in a nice neat row.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Stroll

The irises are at their peak, now. Their season is so short, I try to enjoy them thoroughly while we have them.

Memorial Day is tomorrow, and I hope these peonies will be blooming by then to put out in the cemetery.

This bed is not blooming yet, but contains roses, chrysanthemum, Moonshine coreopsis, daylillies, and sundrops, plus a sedum that must be on steroids!

The sun came out just as I took this shot of the nice wine-colored penstemon, washing out it's color, but I love it's contrasting foliage against the peonies and lamb's ears. All of these plants are pass-along plants; the lamb's ears have come down in the family from my great grandmother.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

1,2,3, BLOOM!!

They've Got It Under Control

"We'd rather be doorkeepers in the house of our God than dwell in the dirty retension pond of the wicked." Ps. 85:10 (Revised Canada Goose Version )

Uncomfortable Worship

"The church is to be aware of the world in its worship, not to seek to match its style or to attempt to be relevant to the world on its own terms, but in order to offer its true relevance: to show and tell the world those things with which it is not comfortable, because it has forgotten them. Rather than being a public echo of the world’s familiar business, we’re called to be “the public forum of the world’s radical business,” the place where the world is called back to the root of every matter, the source of every existence, to confront the God who made it; our worship, insofar as it meets needs, should be meeting needs which the culture does not see. Insofar as it’s about us at all, which is only secondarily, it should be building us up as the people of God to go out to serve him in the human city as agents of the city of God, and not for any other purpose."

Rob Harrison, The Spyglass

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Decisions, Decisions.....

I've done a pretty good job of eliminating junk mail coming into my house, but I'll have to admit I'm still getting two clothing catalogs, just because I like to drool over their clothes. L.L. Bean satisfies the outdoorsy side of my personality; Coldwater Creek makes me think I might someday make a fashion statement as a "professional" woman (for the two hours a week that I need to look professional!). I should just get off their lists, since I can't afford most of what they offer. I look at them for a couple of days, and then chuck them out, which is really a waste.

Today I have two catalogs in the house. The Coldwater Creek one came today, and I started to indulge my fantasies as I ate my lunch.

But, also on the table was a catalog I had brought home from church on Sunday, put out by World Vision. I had salivated over that one for several days, too.

So, what do you think? Should it be the tropical blue print dress for $79.50? Or the flock of chickens for the starving family for $50.00?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Book Review: Saving God's Green Earth by Tri Robinson with Jason Chatraw

I had signed on for Green Beans's Bookworm Challenge. I chose my book: "Living Downstream". Then, Pastor Randy handed me a book that he had received in a mailing from the Willow Creek Association, and wondered of I would like to read it, since he himself did not have time at the moment. The book looked intriguing, and, in what seems to be my new habit of jumping from thing to thing, I decided to read it and review it instead of my original choice.

"Saving God's Green Earth" was written as an outgrowth of Pastor Tri Robinson's experience of teaching his Vineyard Church of Boisie, Idaho, how they could involve themselves in environmental stewardship. When he first felt lead to start teaching his congregation about creation care, he was somewhat concerned about the reaction he would get from them. He needn't have worried; his sermon received a standing ovation. He found that there is profound concern for the environment among evangelicals, but their leaders have been reluctant to approach the subject because the environmental movement has so often also been associated with the New Age movement, as well as with liberal social causes that cannot be embraced by many Christians. He has navigated this minefield very successfully, and his congregation has embraced a role in the community as leaders in creation care.

Pastor Robinson's approach resonated for me with things that I had already thought through in my own life. Premise #1: The way we treat creation says something about our respect (or lack thereof) for the Creator, and relates to the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Premise #2: In loving our neighbors as ourselves, we need to keep in mind that they live downstream, downwind, and beyond us into the future. We have an obligation to share the environment with them as loving neighbors. Premise #3: Hopelessness is not part of Christian faith. We can do all things through Christ, including tackling a monumental challenge like restoring and maintaining the creation. Every individual's lifestyle choices, no matter how small, can be multiplied for the good of others when they are dedicated to God.

This is a short and easily read book, and provides an excellent Biblical foundation for dealing with the issues that are so front and center in our society today. I recommend it as a starting point for Christian thought on the subject. There are some concrete suggestions in the last two chapters that can be applied in most churches. It is readable and practical. I think the Willow Creek Association should be commended for making it available to all the association pastors.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday's Deep Thought

"We depend on plans, programs, vision statements—but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning.” D.A. Carson

Thursday, May 15, 2008

N.T.Wright's Description of Biblical Worship

I have been enjoying reading the writings of Bishop N.T.Wright on the subject of worship. Did you realize that as we worship every week in our church, as Christians all over the world worship, there is worship going on in heaven as well? In the book of Revelation, John was allowed to take a peek at what is going on in heaven. Bishop Wright expands upon this description for us:

"I begin with the spectacular scene in the book of Revelation, chapters 4 and 5, where John the Seer is summoned to become for a while a spectator at the heavenly court, watching as the whole creation pours out its ceaseless praise before its creator. This is not a vision of the ultimate future — that comes in chapters 21 and 22 — but of the heavenly dimension of present reality. When John is told that he will be shown “what must take place after this” (4:1), this does not mean that chapters 4 and 5 themselves are a vision of the future; they are a vision of the throne room, where ceaseless worship is made, within which the vision of the future is to be vouchsafed to the seer as the sealed scroll (5:1) is gradually unsealed.[1] It seems in 4:1-2 that “coming up to heaven” and “being in the Spirit” are functionally equivalent; heaven and earth are the interlocking spheres of God’s single creation, and when John is “in the spirit,” he is suddenly open to and aware of the heavenly dimension of what we call ordinary life.[2]
The scene laid out before him begins with a description of the heavenly throne-room itself, rather like the one in Ezekiel 1. God himself is not described, but a sense of his presence and majesty fills the whole passage. We are not surprised when the first thing that happens is worship; though we are perhaps surprised that the beginning of worship is that of the animal, rather than the human, creation. The four living creatures, the lion, the ox, the one with a human face, and the eagle, six-winged like the seraphim in Isaiah 6, praise God ceaselessly with the Trisagion: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come. Then, in the context of this praise from all creation, the twenty-four elders, representing the people of God from old covenant and new, fall down and declare that God is worthy of this worship, because he is the powerful creator of all. The English word “worship” comes from the word “worthy,” and here is one of its classic expressions: “worship” means acknowledging the worth, the worthyness, of the one who is worshiped. It means gladly recognizing and celebrating the fact that this God is who he is and does what he does.
Already two fundamental points emerge. First, biblical worship is grounded in the fact that God is the creator of all. Any attempt to slide off into a dualism in which creation is secondary, shabby or evil is ruled out. Second, the task of humans is to bring to conscious thought and expression the worship of the rest of creation. Heaven and earth are full of God’s glory, but God’s image-bearing creatures, we humans, are called to know that it is so and to put it into words of praise. That is what you do every time you say “hallowed be thy name” or “glory be to God on high.”
All this, of course, takes us back to Genesis 1. God saw what he had made and declared it good; after the creation of man and woman, he declared it “very good.” But Genesis 1 was a project, not a fixed tableau; and the project misfired. In Revelation 5 we see that God is holding a scroll, the scroll which contains, we understand. God’s sovereign purpose for the world; but the scroll requires someone to open it, and John weeps because nobody can do so. More specifically, it requires a human being to open it, and no human being is worthy to do so. But then we look, and see the lion who is also the lamb; the Messiah, the Root of David, who has conquered because he is also the lamb who was slaughtered, and who now sends God’s sevenfold spirit into all the world. He is the one who can now take forward God’s project, not just for human beings but for all creation.
The result is a new outburst of praise. The song of creation is taken up into the song of redemption, and this time there is instrumental music, incense, prayer, and singing: because this is the new song, the song of new creation, the song which opens up the new world of possibility for worship. This is the song which celebrates the Messiah’s saving death and resurrection, and its result in creating humans as kings and priests to bring God’s wise order to the world. When the four living creatures reply “Amen!” at the end of the song, we find ourselves back where we were at the start. Creation worships God the creator, and humans bring that worship into conscious articulation; humans worship God the redeemer, and creation utters a glad “Amen.”"

We get to join this worship when we meet on Sundays. Next time you come into the sanctuary, why not carry this picture of heavenly worship in with you? If you do that, how could you help expressing your joy in God's presence?

Monday, May 12, 2008


Congratulations to Julie, Jess, Leslie, and Robin, the ladies of The White House on Lincoln!

Not pictured: Mike and Joyce running a victory lap around the quad after completing eleven straight years of putting kids through the Universtiy of Illinois.

More "Well, Duh!" Environmentalism

Devastated by tornado, Kansas town rebuilds on green plan
by Olivia Blanco MullinsMon Apr 21, 12:46 AM ET

Devastated by a tornado, this tiny Kansas town is banking on a greener future as homeowners, businesses and officials weave environmentally-friendly features into their rebuilding plans.
It may seem an unlikely choice in this largely rural and conservative state where many municipalities don't even offer basic recycling services and environmentalism is often considered a new age or liberal trend.
But town leaders -- who are determined to become the first town in the United States to have all municipal projects built to the highest environmental and efficiency design standards -- say going green is the only way to save a town that was dying long before the tornado struck a year ago.
"Building green we come in contact with new industries to come and bring people back to Greensburg," said Thomas Corns, president of the Greensburg State Bank which is housed in a temporary building as a new, energy efficient bank is being built.
"If we were going to rebuild the same we would have the same community, the same problems."
Like many small towns, Greensburg had been waning for years before a massive tornado destroyed 95 percent of its homes and businesses on May 4, 2007.
Children went to college and never came back; there were no jobs, no entertainment.
Its biggest attractions were having the world's largest hand dug well and being the site of a meteorite crash.
Now, television crews and reporters are regularly drawn to the story of the town's environmental crusade, and many hope industries and job prospects will follow.
The town is building an eco lodging project, a recycling center and a water conservation system to turn rain into drinking water.
Residents have been encouraged to purchase energy efficient appliances and light bulbs; consider alternative energy sources like solar panels and windmills; use local, non-toxic and recycled building materials; and use native plants that don't require much watering to provide shade and reduce the load on storm sewers.
An Australian company even donated 200 water-saving toilets that are expected to save 2.6 million gallons (9.9 million litres) of water a year.
Some of the projects have confounded local residents who care more about getting life back to normal than saving the environment.
"I don't know and I don't care, just put a grocery store in town," said senior citizen Margaret Janct when asked what she thought of the plans.
Town leaders launched a non-profit group to teach residents how to improve efficiency and reduce their environmental impact in the old farmer spirit of doing more with less.
"The process for us was getting the community to understand what building green meant, and diffusing political issues of environmentalism," said Greensburg GreenTown director Daniel Wallach.
"We helped them see that they were environmentalists whether they knew it or not."
Wylan Fleener's furniture warehouse is surrounded by empty lots and the rubble left behind by the tornado.
The unfinished facade reveals Styrofoam-covered concrete blocks which will insulate the structure that he is planning to cover with old bricks that the tornado left behind.
Rebuilding on an energy-efficient plan has increased Fleener's costs by about 15 percent, but he figures he'll make up the difference in about five years.
He hopes to further cut energy consumption by installing solar panels or a wind turbine and is planning to rebuild his home with efficiency and sustainability in mind.
"This is more an older way of living than a green fad," he told AFP.
Farrell Allison is perhaps the town's greenest resident. He's rebuilding his home with a geothermal pump for heating and cooling, strategically placed windows and skylights to cut down on electrical lighting needs, and a buffalo grass lawn which needs less water.
"The efficiency of it is what I am really after," he told AFP. "I am an agronomist ... conserve the soil, conserve the water, that is just what I do."
Nearly a year after the tornado struck, some 800 of the town's 1,400 residents have come back to rebuild and more plan to return.
Greensburg has also succeeded in drawing back a number of young people who thought they had left home for good.
Stacy Barnes, 26, had been living in a larger city for years when the rebuilding process brought her back to take a job as the assistant to the city manager.
"I wanted to be here. It is town pride. I wanted to be part of this movement," she said.
"I want to walk down the street with my children and grandchildren and say 'I was part of that.'"

Copyright © 2008 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Measuring the Success of a Missional Church

Living in a consumerist society can be a struggle for churches, because their members unwittingly bring that attitude to bear when choosing a place to worship. Is this church meeting my needs? Do they have a really well-run nursery/youthgroup/coffee corner, etc.? Instead of seeking to serve, they are looking for the church to serve them.

Quoted by The Dying Church:

"If the church were a business we would measure our profit and if we weren’t making enough we would change. If we were a hospital we would measure how many of the sick and injured become healthier. If we were a vocational training institute we would measure how many people get jobs and keep them in their area of training.

Now imagine a school that measured how much people enjoyed the classes, how great the day care was, how inspiring the teacher was, the levels of enrolment and the amount of funding they had but only passively cared about the success of their graduates in the workplace. That my friends describes most of the church in North America today.

We need to change what we measure and how we measure our success.

· Do people have a proper understanding of the gospel?
· Do they love the people that can offer them nothing in return?
· Are people willing to sacrifice for others?
· Are people becoming more like Christ in their values and behaviour?
· Do they have life and freedom?

If we considered these things, we would realize the state we are in and we would change. As long as we measure things based on our own personal satisfaction or by the markers of organizational success we will miss the point."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Is Your Lifestyle Informed By Your Faith?

There is a wonderful conversation going on today over at Crunchy Chicken's blog about how (or whether) our lifestyle and attitudes about consumption are informed by our religious beliefs. I hope you will go over there and give both the article and the comments a read. As I write this she is up to 27 comments, and the conversation has so far been civil and thoughtful. I really appreciate her opening up that forum. It is prompting me to post on the same topic, and I may indeed have several posts over the next few days that continue to explore my own thoughts on the subject. They are just my thoughts; take them or leave them as you wish. I welcome any civil discourse they may generate in the comments section of this blog.

What first comes to mind requires a little family history. Virtually all my ancestors came to this continent prior to the Revolutionary War, and all of them, to a person, came because they were being persecuted for their faith back in Europe. It is beyond ridiculous that Christians were mistreating Christians, but there it is, it happened, and we cannot erase that from history. My ancestors were all Protestant, and they came variously from the British Isles (with the exception of Ireland), Switzerland, and Germany. There was one Huguenot, as well. At a later point here on this continent, we acquired a Cherokee Nation branch also. They were people who cared so much about their beliefs that they gave up everything to practice their faith freely.

While Christians are to raise their children in such a way that they will accept their faith at some point, no one can inherit their faith in Christ; each must internalize it themselves. So, while I honor my family's faith history, my faith is my own, make no mistake of that. However, the family can certainly set examples, and many of mine did. I'd like to share one story that relates to the examples set about consumerism and putting others before yourself.

One Swiss-German branch of my family settled near Springfield, IL in the 18oos, and there is a story about them that has been told in my dad's family for generations around the Thanksgiving table. In the story, the father (who was also a minister in their little church) and the boys were out working about the farm place, and the mother, daughters (among them my great-great grandmother), and smaller children were in and around the house. There had been rumors floating about for several days that there were Indians in the area, and every one was nervous about safety. It was early spring and the father was doing early field work, when his son ran to him and said that there was an Indian standing at the edge of the woods, watching them. The father told his son to run back to the house and have the family gather in the house and shut the door. The son asked the father if he should load the gun they had in the house. The father said no. He was going to talk to the Indian, if he could, and God would protect him.

The family shut themselves in the house and were very worried. The father was gone a long time. When he finally returned, his first words on entering the house were, "Children, go down in the cellar and bring up everything that's left of the food." Then he turned to his wife and said, "They don't want to hurt anyone. They're starving, and we are going to feed them." With his family's help, he loaded their wagon with everything they had left in the cellar, and drove it down to where the Indians were camped by the river, and gave it all to them. As best I can tell, this is a Trail of Tears story. At least my ancestors were able to mitigate that evil to some degree.

My great-great grandmother was just a little girl when she witnessed this, but it was one of her strongest memories. She would recount it at Thanksgiving dinner, and always ended by saying something like, "You never know who might need your help, so keep watch. Never be selfish. You should always share with anyone who is in need. Even though we gave all the food away, we some how had enough to eat until the garden came in. That's how we learned to be thankful for what we had."

Isn't that a great story? I've never been asked to give everything I have for sustenance away to some one in need, and then rely on God to fill in the gaps. But at least I have that story as an example to me that it can, and should, be done.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stimulating The Economy

Want some ideas on how to direct that rebate check? Check out The Pentecost Project.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

April Buy Nothing Challenge

Now that April is over, it's time to give a short synopsis of my experience with the "Buy Nothing" challenge. A group of bloggers challenged each other to try to buy nothing unnecessary for the entire month of April. Their reasons for joining the challenge varied widely, with some coming at it as a path to debt reduction, some as a way of making a break with mindless consumerism, and some just purely as an environmental effort, seeing wastefulness as a contributing factor in environmental degradation.

For me, it was just a good chance to practice the discipline of frugality, and get a picture of where I am most tempted to spend mindlessly. I didn't have the"stick it to the man" or "boycott Target because I can't stop myself from spending there" thing going on. We try pretty hard to live within our means, and for me, I just wanted a little check-up. Also, as some of you know, I have kind of a thing about tossing things in the landfill, so that also was something I wanted to look at; how much flimsy disposable stuff are we bringing into the house?

For April, we averaged $65.00/weekly for food. The only non-food items we bought were all essential, and the total was about $25.00. We spent another $65.00 for gas. We bought tickets to a couple of concerts our daughter was performing in. That's it. We couldn't keep this up indefinitely, but we didn't feel uncomfortable forgoing anything.

The good news is, we have pretty good habits. We've never been big spenders. A year or so ago, we noticed, when we scrutinized our spending while creating our budget, that we tend to overspend on books and eating out. We've pretty much solved the book thing. I think we've only bought three or four since July, so that's all good. The key is to stay out of bookstores and to use the library religiously. We used to go spend a Friday evening browsing and eating fun food in the little cafe each store now seems to have, which is our idea of a wild weekend night, but we can surely come up with something else equally exciting! If we can't we're a sorry pair of losers, and there's nothing to be done with us.

Where we still need to work on changing habits is the area of eating out. We don't go anyplace expensive at all, but for several reasons, we have fallen into this habit. For one, after cooking for a large family, most of whom were distance runners, I really have hard time thinking about cooking for just two people. It seems like such a puny affair, and we have leftovers that don't always get used up before they morf into science experiments in the back of the fridge. For another, it's nice to get out of the house, and possibly bump into friends at Panera or the Courier Cafe, so it's a social thing. I don't mind cooking, but it's not a form of self-expression for me like it is for some people, so I can take it or leave it. And I've been leaving it, a lot! Time to discipline myself, and get back in the kitchen more.

So that's the summary. We can live contentedly on little, which is good to know. As the Bible says, "Godliness, with contentment, is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6-8). Now, if only there was a "Godliness" challenge!