Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Stroll-8-31-08

Well, this week sure has flown by! I don't know what I've been doing, but it obviously wasn't blogging!

I've been griping, with much justification, that my garden stinks this year. I know I have only myself to blame, though I would just like to make sure everyone knows that we had over 17 inches of rain in June and July, creating a swampy mess, and then, basically no rain in August! So the ground was either complete muck and mire, or hard as concrete. And I was lazy. So there it is.

However, yesterday was very nice, and I spent the whole morning doing battle with all the bindweed that managed to grow in the last two weeks or so. Made me feel like, if I had a machete, I could have been in the jungle. Between that and the suckers I pruned from the crab apple tree, I got some good piles of yard waste going. I didn't have to mow, because the grass went dormant. At least I accomplished something!

I do have sedum starting to bloom. These were swarming with bees. I noticed that it "sounds like" September now. Where I live we have a certain kind of small brown cricket with a very high-pitched chirp that sing all day at the end of summer. I think they wait until then so they don't have to compete with the cicadas!

I felt a little better when I went over to my neighbor's garden and noticed that he was getting more casual about his weeding, too. But wait, you want to see the pumpkins, don't you?

I always come back to the house singing "Bibbidi, Bobbity, Boo!". I wonder why?

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

Monday, August 25, 2008

He Never Has A Trivial Thought

I've been thinking a lot the past couple of weeks about the difference between a "call" to do something, and just doing a job that you might like or have a certain talent for. You might get a post about that, from time to time in the next little while. It's an important thing for everyone to think about; in fact, I think it is one of the main things we wrestle with in our human existence.

Once again, a wonderful post from Ray Ortlund offers help in understanding the concept of "call":

"Every one of us has some brilliant counter-argument to the call of God. “Lord, I am only a _________.” But what God said to Jeremiah he says to every one of us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5). You don’t define yourself. God does. And he never has a trivial thought. He's not even capable of it.God also said, “To all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:7-8). You have been sent by God on a unique mission in life, he handmade you for it, and he is with you every day to deliver you."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Still Growing!!- Sunday Stroll, 8-24-08

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

Aiming High

Now that Robin has moved home, we have a room upstairs that is devoted to trumpets.

Some people don't realize that in order to be a professional trumpet player, you are expected to own a Bb trumpet, a C trumpet, an Eb trumpet (which, by switching out certain parts, can also be a D trumpet), a piccolo trumpet, and in some cases, a cornet and a flugelhorn. The latter two are used primarily in jazz and military-style brass bands. The rest are absolutely necessary if you are planning to play for an orchestra. All must be of professional quality. She's got the trumpets, but that's why she hasn't owned a car! I'm just glad she doesn't play tuba; those cost some real money.

This next couple of weeks, she has several auditions coming up, for various regional ensembles. She's been practicing orchestral exerpts 3 1/2 to 4 hours a day. There aren't any days off; it's very comparable to being an elite athelete in that sense.

I have a lot of those excerpts stuck in my head. It's not at all unpleasant to hear her practice, though; quite the contrary, since she is so good. If you have musical children, there will be a period of time when you listen to a lot of rough practicing, but you really have to tolerate that if you want to hear the good stuff later on. When our children were all at home, there was always somebody playing some instrument-French Horn, cornet, tuba, trombone, piano, electric bass, electric guitar, and trumpet, trumpet, trumpet. For a while, Robin even had some younger kids coming to our house for lessons. I hate to say it, but we called those beginners the "baby elephants". They all got pretty good, but there were days when I needed to take a walk to get away from the racket!

I guess there's a lesson here, somewhere. Something about persistence. Something about goals. Something about sacrificing time to develop talent. Remembering that if you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time. Well, Robin knows where the bulls-eye is, and she's got it in her sights.

Good luck this week, darling daughter!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spazzing Out

If you get some goofy comments from me on your blog posts, blame it on the Darvocet and muscle relaxants I'm on. I'm "down in the back", as my grandmother used to say. In other words, I've done something (who knows what!) that is making the muscles in my lower back spasm. Made for an interesting choir rehearsal last night!! I'm sure the new people think I'm a closet drunk or something. Anyway, I have some ideas for posts, but I'd better not write them until I'm less medicated.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Seven Weeks of Vacation

It seems like this summer there has been a lot of discussion among my blogger friends about how to really step back from the rat-race and enjoy family, friends, neighbors, good books- in other words, find some space at the margins of life to breathe and think.

I loved this quote from Ray Ortlund:

"If we did set apart as holy one day each week, we would add to every year, for the rest of our lives, over seven weeks of vacation. And not for goofing off, but for worship, for fellowship, for mercy, for an afternoon nap, for reading a theological book, for thinking about God and taking stock of our lives, for lingering around the dinner table and sharing good jokes and tender words and personal prayers.
I know the objections to the Sabbath. But I am answering this question: How can I live with quietness of heart in the madness of this world? If anyone has a more biblical (and more immediately usable and beneficial) place to begin answering that question, I’m open. But raising hermeneutical objections to the Sabbath principle doesn’t give me quietness of heart."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Stroll-August 17, 2008

Welcome to my Sunday Stroll. Things are starting to look slightly autumnal at my house. The occasional leaf falls, the hydrangeas have their end-of-the-summer tan, the sedum is going to start turning pink any day now.

I am only going to show you the biggest of the pumpkins. The one that turned orange first has pretty much quit growing. The two that are competition worthy are the one in the back here:

And this one. I wish there was a good way to give you some perspective on these. This one is fabulously huge!

To see who else is strolling, go to The Quiet Country House.

Paul Farmer on 60 Minutes

My book review of "Mountains Beyond Mountains" yesterday discussed the work of Dr. Paul Farmer. I thought you might like to learn more about him by watching this clip from 60 Minutes.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Book Review: Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder

While I was on vacation, I read "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder. This is a very thought provoking piece of non-fiction about a physician and anthropologist, Paul Farmer who is one of the founding members of Partners In Health, an organization which directs attention, money, and service toward the very poorest people on earth.

Farmer says there are two kinds of poverty: relative poverty, which we see primarily in the developed countries such as our own; and abject poverty, which is found in underdeveloped countries. The former is exemplified by those who are certainly restricted from higher education, full-service medical care, excellent nutrition, and comfortable housing by inadequate income and education. However, there is still a safety net in the form of food stamps, subsidized housing, universal primary education, and emergency medical treatment. When we think of the kind of poverty that was revealed by Hurricane Katrina, it was this kind of relative poverty. Certainly these people live in very trying circumstances, and feel marginalized in our affluent culture.

The latter, who are the focus of Farmer and his organization, have no safely net. They lack shoes, potable water, access to even basic education and medical care, their housing is totally inadequate (i.e., dirt floors, leaking roofs, no insect screens, no furniture, etc.), they are landless and often disenfranchised by completely dysfunctional governmental and cultural systems. For Farmer, the people of Haiti best exemplify this kind of poverty, and that country has been his primary focus.

Farmer had a very non-traditional upbringing, and, as an adult, practices Christianity in a non-traditional, though Biblically driven way. Many Christians would struggle with his salty language and some other eccentricities of his life-style. However, it would be hard to argue against the fact that he is one of the few who is absolutely focused on living out the teachings of Matthew 25- "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."- meaning that he focuses on serving those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, or in prison. He has used his education and the connections formed by his time at Duke and Harvard to bring attention and help to these afflicted people.

While others in Partners In Health chose to work with the big picture by bringing their needs to the attention of the World Health Organization or the Gates Foundation, Farmer has always been known for his personal attention to the individuals he treats. He argues that healing someone, then sending them back to the very conditions that caused their illness in the first place (malnutrition, impure drinking water, constant exposure to malarial mosquitoes, etc.) is a fool's errand. He takes a holistic approach to medical intervention. While he has long been one of the top experts on TB, he has also taken his methodology into the AIDS epidemic, including the explosion of cases of both diseases in the prison system of the former Soviet countries. He sees prisoners as humans in need of healing, no matter how monstrous their crimes, and is unique in his ability to rally a staid international medical establishment to tackle issues that most would not care to think about.

I found this book, and Farmer himself, inspiring. He will challenge you on every level to think about your prejudices, phobias, and political philosophies. You will, perhaps for the first time, realize what one individual can do to make a difference of global significance. You will wonder what you could be doing yourself. Your eyes will be opened, your comfort afflicted by what you read. I recommend it to everyone.

To read another review, see Donna's post.

Friday, August 15, 2008


We "vacated" this week. To me, that means going someplace different and doing things you don't do at home. Here are twenty things we did that we don't usually do:

1.Lived in a rustic cabin in the woods.

2.No electricity.

3.Read in Adirondack chairs.

4.Got poison ivy.

5.Made s'mores over a campfire.

6.Went mountain biking-some of us, any way.

7.Chased a very persistent half-grown raccoon out of our campsite, repeatedly.

8.Used pit toilets.

9.Wore sweatshirts, morning and evening.

10.Saw birches, pines, and aspens.

11.Went swimming in a lake.

12.Pumped well water by hand.


14.Hung out with Matt.

15.Enjoyed dragonflies sunning themselves on my shoulders.

16.Provided a steady diet for mosquitoes.

17.Visited the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.

18.Watched swallowtails on Queen Anne's lace.

19.Visited sister-in-law and nieces in Saginaw.

20.Spent 31st anniversary sleeping in bunk beds in a one room cabin with our son.

It was fun! But I'm always glad to get back to where there are no silly trees and hills blocking my view of the sky.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Can You Stand The Light?

During the Welsh revival of 1904-1906, about 100,000 people were added to the churches, as reported by Andrée Seu in the latest issue of World magazine. Then she asks,

"A revival cynic later noted that after five years, 25,000 people had left the church. But which 25,000? Revival converts, or original members who couldn't stand the light?"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Stroll-August 10, 2008

Welcome to my Sunday Stroll. As I told Nan today, my garden has been sort of disappointing this summer. What I'm starting to realize is that we just have more shade, so I need to move some plants around and find them their correct amount of sun, if possible, or plant a few new varieties.

It's another breezy day here, so the phlox were dancing around, sharing their fabulous scent.

The black-eyed susans are always faithful bloomers, and don't seem to mind what weather or garden pests we are enduring at the moment.
I had a chance to talk to my neighbor about his pumpkins today. He's starting get quite a few visitors to the garden. Everyone is so fascinated by the pumpkin's progress!

He told me he shades them from the sun, not only to keep the skins soft (so they can put on 15-20 lbs. a day without splitting), but to keep the fruit dry and avoid fungal diseases.

So, here they are.

This one had some extra protection, because the vine was being watered

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

1st Birthday

What is this thing on my head? Why are we at the park? I thought it was nap-time.
Hmmm. Daddy is putting something interesting on my tray. Should I eat it?
Wow! That was good! A little messy, though. I'll have to help Mommy clean me up.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Helping the Poor Find Access to Farmer's Markets

A couple of days ago there was quite a discussion over on Crunchy Chicken's blog about the effects of rising food prices on the economy in general. One of the things I like about this blog is that she throws out topics for discussion and just let's people run with it. I have to admit I climbed up on my soapbox over there, because there were some commenters who thought anything that drove people to think about raising more of their own food, or otherwise disconnecting from Big Ag might be a good thing. And in some ways they are right. Where I got distressed was the assumption that everyone was going to be able to do this easily and successfully. My biggest concern was for people who simply don't have the resources to do that.

Interestingly, the very next day our local newspaper ran a story on the difficulty poorer families have in accessing things like farmer's markets, and how the local public health department is seeking ways to solve that problem. I thought some of you might be interested. It is revealing to read what exactly the issues were for these families.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Crunching Numbers

I'm working on the hosehold budget for this fiscal year ( a little late!).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Which Party Is The Party Of The Church?

"... in its political orientations the church should find another way. It should not conform to the present age. Nothing is more false than to say: “Society presents us with three or four options, which should we choose?” In reality the church ought to invent and innovate. It ought to propose something new. It should never serve as an instrument of propaganda. It should never seek to justify any political force."

Jaques Ellul

Does Joyce Have Any Deep Thoughts Left In Her Tiny Little Brain?

You know, I can post funny videos about Pachelbel's Canon, or about squirrel obstacle courses. And I know some of you found Bono interesting, either because he was Bono the very cool rock musician, or because he was Bono the humanitarian, or even because he was Bono excoriating the church for ignoring the poor and sick. And, if I post another video, I'm sure some one could start thinking, "doesn't she have anything original to say anymore? Is this blog just becoming a series of quotes and clips from other people?"

I've seen blogs like that, and I don't check them out very often myself, because I love strongly written prose, serious or funny, but always revealing the inner thoughts of their author. I love that so many people are writing, and there are so many more deep thoughts out there among people who appear to be average folks. I say, appear to be, because, once you get to know them through their blogs, you discover once again, there are no average folks! Everyone, everyone is bursting at the seams with ideas and opinions and intense curiosity about a zillion different subjects: politics, child-rearing, the environment, gardening, cooking, money-management, faith, community, literature- oh, man, you name it, people are thinking about it! And some are even writing about it.

Reading all that keeps me thinking hard, too. But I do have a job. I do go to work. And I need to think about the things that relate to my work. I work in a church. So, when I'm thinking about my job, I'm thinking about how I can be a better employee for my church, and help my church be the best it can be. When Pastor Randy challenged the staff to start blogging, he argued convincingly that a blog would help us communicate with our congregation. I'm pretty low on the staff hierarchy, and I'm not sure anyone feels terribly compeled to find out what I think, but, amid all the fun exchange of ideas with gardeners and green moms, I do try to think about what I would like to communicate to my fellow church members.

Recently, the staff has been thinking about how our church can become more "missional", that is, live out the real mission of the church. The term "missional" is confusing to many, and we are trying to perhaps clarify what we mean by it. Pastor Randy wrote a post on his blog recently that gave a good concise explaination.

Then I found something that I completely related to, and that helped me to grasp it even better. But it was a video clip! And I just posted a video clip! I shouldn't do that two posts in a row, should I? But it's a really good clip! By Tim Keller, one the formost church leaders in our country! So at the risk of sending the message that I am no longer capable of creating an original idea, here it is:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sorry, Pachelbel; I Couldn't Resist!

Pumpkin Update

I've missed the last two Sunday Strolls because we've been travelling. I know there are some of you who like to check on the growth of my neighbor's pumpkins, so here's a Monday Stroll to keep you all updated. Don't you love the flowers he plants along the street?

Here are two growing close enough to be shaded by the same tarp:

This is the first one to show any color:

I call this one The Couch-Potato Pumpkin, because it sort of "flows" like a fat belly!

This one is the biggest. It's huge! I'm sure it will be the one he takes to the competition, and I think it will be a lot bigger than last year's.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Food For Thought

I'm going to a birthday party! One with hats and balloons and toys that make enough noise to drive the parents crazy! It's for the cutest little one-year-old you could imagine. And yes, her name is Malorie!

While I'm gone, I'm going to leave you with a list of some of my favorite blogger-friends' most thought-provoking posts. These are the ones I enjoyed re-reading, and continued to think about for at least several days after they were posted. Enjoy!

Let's Back Up, by arduous
The Future of America's Favorite Pasttime, by eco-burban-mom
What Would My Grandfather Do?, by Melinda
Stop, Look, and Listen, by Greenbean Dreams
Babies of a Different Sort, by Lisa at Greenbow
More Experiences, Less Stuff, by CindyW
In the Territory of the Devil, or What Would Flannery Think of the Dark Knight?, by Grant
Guest Post: A Word From Toby, by Rose
First Garden Mentor: Edith Juanita, by Red Dirt Ramblings