Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Dreams

Looking forward to this day:

"No longer will babies die when only a few days old.
No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life.
No longer will people be considered old at one hundred!
Only the cursed will die that young!

"In those days people will live in the houses they build
and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.
Unlike the past, invaders will not take their houses
and confiscate their vineyards.
For my people will live as long as trees,
and my chosen ones will have time to enjoy their hard-won gains.
They will not work in vain,
and their children will not be doomed to misfortune.
For they are people blessed by the Lord,
and their children, too, will be blessed.

"I will answer them before they even call to me.
While they are still talking about their needs,
I will go ahead and answer their prayers!
The wolf and the lamb will feed together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
But the snakes will eat dust.
In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain.
I, the Lord, have spoken."

Isaiah 65:20-25

But here's something for the meantime:

Praying you have a blessed New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The One Year Plan

As I've mentioned in a couple of previous posts, Thursday morning will start another annual Bible reading plan. I'm not telling you this to make myself look all holy or something. It's just something I've found to be extremely beneficial to me, and, if hearing about how I do it encourages you to try it, then so much the better.

There are a lot of ways to do this. If you google "one year Bible reading plans" you'll find quite a few you can choose from. The online ones are nice because they let you plug in any start date, so if you don't start on January 1, you'll still be fine, you'll just go for a full year from your start date. If you attend FBC, there are little bookmark sized brochures down by the reception desk that you can have to keep with you that have a plan in them. I like to use those because then I don't have to use the computer (say, on vacation) to find out what I should read for the day. It's just stuck in my Bible.

Usually these break the readings up into chunks that take me about 15-20 minutes to read each day. I have a routine of reading them right after I come home from my crossing guard post in the morning, while I warm up with a cup of coffee. I'm alone in the house then, and not distracted. You can probably think of a time that's best for you. My husband does this in a building on campus. His bus gets him there about a half hour before he needs to be at work. He goes into a building that has a quiet, out 0f the way lounge area, and he reads there before he goes into the building where he works.

Each year that I do this I go out and buy a cheap Bible that I don't mind marking up with a pencil. Paperback is fine. I get a modern translation, what ever is on sale. I like to get one that is relatively small so I can stuff it in my purse or backpack when I need to. This year I was fortunate enough to find one deeply discounted that actually has a decent cover, and better yet, larger print! I get a new one each time because I want to be able to mark the passages that really pop out at me during this particular reading. If I use an old one, it can become a kind of walk down memory lane- "Oh, I remember this cool verse! That was meaningful last year when I was going through such and such." But this year I may need to learn something new, so it's best not to have those old notations getting in the way of that. I do save the old ones, though, to refer to sometimes for other things. No one else would want them once I have them all marked up.

And that's pretty much it. I don't get panicked if I forget to read for a day or two. When that happens (inevitably!) I just double up for a few days until I'm caught up. This is most likely to happen when we are out of our routine; company comes, or we travel, etc. As I say, I do stuff this Bible in my purse, with the reading plan in it, and that way I can keep up by reading while waiting somewhere, if necessary. But I really do best if I can do it at home where it's quiet. The goal, of course, is to actually absorb what I'm reading. Underlining passages that I find meaningful is the best way for me to know that I'm focusing. Think of it somewhat like studying a textbook, where you're looking for the important thing to remember each day.

This is my main New Year's resolution. Oh sure, I want to exercise more and lose weight; doesn't everybody? I'll work on that, too. But mostly, I want complete the one year Bible reading plan.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Stroll-December 28, 2008

This past month we've had just about every kind of winter weather it's possible to have. Today was the first pleasant day we've had in weeks ( 40F and sunny), and I had to get out and see what was going on in the yard.

Yesterday's all-day downpour caused the sump pump to run so much that it scoured away the earth and exposed tree roots, and the pale yellow sprout of a tulip, that should still be resting peacefully below the ground.

In the back yard, I found the pile of limbs that Mike made when he cleared them from the front yard. We'll have to deal with them later. There are a lot of them. If only we had a fireplace!

I went in search of anything green. There definitely isn't much, but I did find a few surprises. The lamium must have been pretty well insulated under all the snow and ice, because it will usually turn a deep purple when it's dormant.

There were a few true geranium leaves still green beneath a mulch of leaves.

The purple wintercreeper also has not turned color. Last week it was pretty well encased in ice, so I assume it also was insulated to some degree. The weight of the ice pulled it away from the tree trunk it is usually climbing.

That's all the greenery I saw today, and I expect that's all I will see for a couple of months.

If you'd like to see who else is strolling today, visit The Quiet Country House.

P.S.- Blogger and I can't seem to agree on spacing today. I bow to it's omnipotence.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reading List For 2009

I've changed my sidebar list that was titled "Recently Reading" to "Reading List for 2009". I want to return to a more disciplined routine of reading this year, and I hope having this list will prod me to be more accountable about actually finishing books I've started, as well as plowing through the little pile on my bed stand. I will keep a record of which ones I am in the process of reading, which I have finished, and which I have then reviewed on this blog.

I have pretty eclectic taste in reading, but in recent years it has tended to be non-fiction more often than not. I enjoy history and biography, as well as social history and commentary. When I see a title, or read a review, that intrigues me, I'll add it to the list for future reference. This should help me to remember to get to them eventually.

I also plan to read through the Bible this year using a reading plan that is designed for that. I've done this a number of times before, and, though it can be a challenge, I always benefit immensely.

I imagine this will mean less TV watching in the evening, and less bird-dogging around on the Web, though I feel that reading web articles and blogs is really no different than reading magazines. Though I've been wanting to make this shift for a while, I was given a little nudge by an article I read online about a contest President Bush has annually with Karl Rove to see who can read the most books in a year. It's amazing how much those men got read despite the busyness of their jobs, and it was not light reading either. Like them, I think it's important to read broadly. I also think it will benefit my writing ability.

Edit: Here's a link to the Peggy Noonan article that Susan T refers to in the comments.

Saturday Silliness-Something That May Inspire A New Year's Resolution Or Two

I saw this Craig Ferguson clip a couple of weeks ago. I liked the fact that he tackled a couple of very important social issues with some pretty disarming, self-deprecating humor. I'll warn you, there is a little mild swearing.

Friday, December 26, 2008

I Hope Yours Was As Wonderful As Mine

It's been a busy but joyful Christmas, with a house full of family; two church services on Christmas Eve; a day of visiting, gifts and dinner at my sister's home; and the fun of chasing a little 16-month-old whirlwind through the house. Four generations celebrated together. We even held a 21st birthday party for our niece, who was a Christmas Day gift all those years ago!

I'm exhausted, but I'll come out of hiding to wish you all a happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have A Blessed Christmas

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

lyrics by Chris Rice, from "Welcome To Our World"

Monday, December 22, 2008


I saw this meme over on Arduous' blog, and it looked more interesting than most. You bold the ones you've done, and, if you want, you italicize the five you haven't done yet but would most like to.

1. Started my own blog-um, yes
2. Slept under the stars-in the Grand Canyon, and at Girl Scout camp
3. Played in a band- the concert band type of band, not a rock band; I played French Horn
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity- what does this mean? We have given "sacrificially", so to speak.
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain- Mt. Washburn in Yellowstone
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo- I was a voice major, so yeah
11. Bungee jumped-this will never be on my list of things I've done!
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea- only from the beach, not from a ship
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child-no, but we were foster parents for a while
16. Had food poisoning-and that's all you'll want to know about that
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty- it was closed to the public when I was in NY in 2006
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train-from Luxembourg to Venice
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill-thought about it, but couldn't bring myself to actually do it
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb-no, just petted one
26. Gone skinny dipping-does the bath tub count? I thought not.
27. Run a Marathon-wanted to, but had a baby instead, which, come to think of it, is comparable
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse-we had a full eclipse of the sun about fifteen years ago
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run- Ha! I'd just like to make contact with the ball!!
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors-which ones? The ones from Illinois? Or the one's from way back in Europe? I've definitely visited the birthplaces of the Illinois ones. We go back 8 generations in this state.
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language-just enough Spanish to find the bathroom in Honduras-does that count? I had five years of German, and a semester each of French and Italian diction, but I had teachers for those.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing-no, as this would involve possibly falling off a cliff
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke-surprisingly, no.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance-sigh...yes, after shattering my arm at the ice arena
47. Had my portrait painted-yep, by my husband
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris-saw it but didn't go up
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud-a favorite childhood occupation; just ask my mom!
54. Gone to a drive-in theater-this is how my parents got to see movies without hiring a sitter.
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business-does giving voice lessons count? Or providing daycare in my home?
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen-yes, in Honduras
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies-I was a good little Girl Scout
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason-oh, there was always a reason!
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving-People! No. Just no.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check-yes, in college (oh, the shame)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy-my teddy bear, Johnny
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar-and once was definitely enough! What's the attraction?
72. Pieced a quilt-a small doll-bed sized one
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone-several, I'm sorry to say
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person-seen it, hiked in it, rafted through it for 10 days
80. Published a book-I need to write one first
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life-twice, once from drowning, once from a potentially explosive car accident/gas station disaster-it's a long story
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous-Count Basie, IL Gov. Jim Edgar (A good guy!! There are good guys in Illinois!)
92. Joined a book club-no, I don't want to have to read books I don't choose for myself
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby-four!
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

There you have it. My life's an open book. Let me know if you give this a try on your own blog.

Book Review- "The More-With-Less Cookbook" by Doris Janzen Longacre

As our economic crisis deepens, and frugality has become the mode, I've thought more and more that I should post a review of "The More-With-Less Cookbook", by Doris Janzen Longacre.

As a young mom, living on a shoestring budget, and trying to learn how to cook from the large vegetable garden I grew to help feed my family, I came to rely on this remarkable little volume, with it's garden-to-table recipes, and instructions that emphasized cooking "from scratch". As a Christian, trying to align my lifestyle with the doctrine of justice for the poor, I loved it's emphasis on consuming only our fair share of the planet's resources, so that we could not only control our own budget, but have enough to give and share with others.

Amazingly, it's still in print, and available through, though Doris Janzen Longacre died of cancer in 1979, shortly after the publication of her second book, "Living More With Less". Both of these books were very influential for me, and have continued to color the way I look at homemaking over the years.

Longacre was commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee to use her background as a dietitian to collect recipes and ideas from the world-wide Mennonite community and adjust those recipes to reflect contemporary nutritional research and food justice issues. Many of the recipes submitted by the mostly agrarian Mennonites were heavy on sugar and fat. Longacre experimented to readjust them so that the well-loved family dishes could be enjoyed just as much, but with healthier ingredients. She collected many meatless dishes, reflecting our growing understanding of the impact of raising livestock on our environment. She gave good, clear teaching regarding moving away from a meat-heavy diet while maintaining good nutrition. At the same time, she managed to celebrate the Swiss-German and Russian culture at the heart of the Mennonite denomination, and elevate the custom of unpretentious hospitality.

I practically wore this book out! It was my essential guide for learning to cook for my growing family for years. In pulling it out to reread the other day, I was flooded with memories of days in our kitchen, surrounded by small children who always wanted to stand on a chair next to me and "watch" as I worked with produce from the garden, or bulk items from a foster parent's food co-op we were part of, or the bags and bags of apples from a second cousin's orchard. Many a dollar was stretched, many a tummy was filled, based on the information and recipes found in this wonderful cookbook.

I hope that you will find a copy of "The More-With-Less Cookbook" and read it, really read it, and absorb the wonderful spirit of Longacre and the Mennonite cooks who submitted recipes to this collection. It has a place in every kitchen where the cook(s) are focused on meals made with love.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Stroll-December 21

Okay, I know I'm a Ninny, with a capital "N", but the windchill is -25 F, and we still have a glaze of ice over everything, so this normally hardy prairie gal is staying inside. I kind of doubt that I would have seen any living creatures or green plants out there anyway. Even our adventuresome little winter birds have given up trying to cling to the bird feeder in this gale, and are huddled deep in the yew.

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season. Just remember, the days are getting longer now!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Musings For A Day In The House

If you are snowbound and bored, here are a few things I've been reading in the past few days that were very interesting:

Dean Ohlman's beautiful blog, Wonder of Creation. He strikes a wonderful balance between science and faith.

Stephen Nichol's article on "apostasy lit", and what believers can learn from the angry authors who write this genre.

A powerful story of forgiveness.

A great article on musical taste, and how to express it graciously.

A discussion by an atheist of how he feels about proselytizing, in this video clip:

Did it get you thinking?

I Guess You Could Call It Beautiful...

I woke up in the wee hours to the sound of limbs breaking and falling. It had begun to ice up mid evening last night, but we were hoping it wouldn't be thick enough to do any real damage. No such luck. We fortunately still have power, but there will definitely be some clean up to do this weekend.
After it got lighter, I went out to inspect. There's no question that an ice storm is beautiful.

But there's no question that we experienced some "natural" pruning as well. My night time prayers the the house and car would be spared were answered, though. Everything fell the other way.

School was canceled. I feel bad for all the children who were looking forward to their holiday parties. Some of the schools were going to have winter concerts today, as well. As a former elementary school music teacher, I was commiserating with them all.
It's starting to melt off now, so we won't really be housebound. That's good; I still have one more present to get!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anne Rice, On Her Return To Faith

"Well, what happened to me on that Sunday that I returned to faith was this: I received a glimpse into what I can only call the Infinite Mercy of God. It worked something like this. I realized that none of my theological or social questions really made any difference. I didn't have to know the answers to these questions precisely because God did. He was the God who made the universe in which I existed. That meant He had made the Big Bang, He had made DNA, He had made the Black Holes in space, and the wind and the rain and the individual snowflakes that fall from the sky. He had done all that. So surely He could do virtually anything and He could solve virtually everything. And how could I possibly know what He knew? And why should I remain apart from Him because I could not grasp all that He could grasp? What came over me then was an infinite trust, trust in His power and His love."

Anne Rice, in the author's notes to her novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (HT-Ray Ortlund)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Tis The Season

Today at staff meeting I proofed the worship order for the Christmas Eve Service. Oh, what a sense of accomplishment that was! Although there is still one more choir rehearsal before our special Sunday of music this weekend, it is finalizing the Christmas Eve service that allows me to feel that all the pieces are in place for our church's celebrations.

Sunday morning we will have lots of beautiful Christmas hymns, extra instrumentalists, and, as has become our custom, a sermon given as a first person dramatization by Pastor Randy. This year he is portraying the Innkeeper. He does this in costume, with all of his message memorized. The job of the choir is to sing two anthems that will support the theme of this sermon. People love this special service, and every year folks invite their friends and family members to come especially to experience it.

Then, Christmas Eve, we will have our traditional evening candle-light service. Scripture will be read. Again, there will be Christmas hymns and carols, soloists and instrumentalists, and the children acting out the Christmas story under Ellen's supervision. At the end, with all the the lights out, we will all sing "Silent Night" as we light each other's candles. The room grows gently brighter as we sing each verse. We all remember the Light of the World, whose birth we celebrate.

I still have some presents to get together. I still need to clean (and baby-proof!!) the house for the arrival of our far away children. Haven't done any baking yet. But all is well. We're ready to worship.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Nice Andrew Peterson instrumental version, wherein Gregorian chant meets contemporary bluegrass. Love it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On Prideful Politicians and Their Downfall

Isaiah 32:6a:
"For the fool speaks folly,
his mind is busy with evil...:

Isaiah 32:7
"The scoundrel's methods are wicked,
he makes up evil schemes
to destroy the poor with lies,
even when the plea of the needy is just."

From Chuck Colson:

"If Blagojevich is guilty, the best thing that could happen to him is to be tried and convicted. He's going to have to reach rock bottom -- just as I did -- before he will be able to escape his own prison of pride, self-delusion and self-righteousness. But that's a transformation we can never accomplish on our own. I can vouch for the fact that human pride is simply too strong.

"Lewis was right: Pride is a spiritual cancer. And the only cure, for any of us, is to stop looking down and to look up. The cure can only be brought about in someone who has come to realize that the will and power to do good and not evil comes from God alone."

Colson's essay, written, of course, by a man who was sent to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, is very worthwhile reading.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Abbie over at Farmer's Daughter has a meme going with Christmas cookie recipes. I don't usually do a lot of extra baking at this time of year, because my work schedule is so crazy, but we usually do get the Buckeyes made. We make a big project of it, and then take some to neighbors and friends, keeping plenty for treats around the holiday time when we have a houseful of family visiting. They disappear pretty quickly!

Here's our recipe:

3 lbs. powdered sugar
1/2 bar of paraffin
2 lbs. chunky style peanut butter
3 T. vanilla
1 lb. butter or margarine
2 12 oz. packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix peanut butter and room-temperature butter together well
Add the vanilla, and cream together
Gradually mix in the powdered sugar
Roll into balls. ( I try to keep them about 1 inch in diameter)

Melt chocolate chips and paraffin together in a double boiler.
Using toothpicks, dip the peanut butter balls 2/3 of the way into the chocolate.
Place on wax paper to harden.

In the end, these should look just like the buckeyes you find in the woods. I think that's one reason we like them so well.


Saturday Silliness-Cooking Up Your Dream Omelet

Chef Cooks 'Dream Omelet' From Recipe That Came To Him In A Dream

Monday, December 8, 2008

Another Thankful Post

I meant to write a post about how thankful I am for my husband back during November, and somehow got distracted and didn't do it. And yes, that's a classic case of taking someone for granted if I ever heard one!

This is shaping up to be a busy day, and I can't spend much time writing, but I didn't want to go any longer with out expressing my thankfulness for my husband, to whom I've been married 31 years. Lots of years, lots of kids, lots of pow-wows about money, disciplining children, where to go on vacation, whether to stop and ask directions, what color to paint the kitchen. We haven't lived an eventful life by some people's standards, but there are a million "uneventful" events that come along in 31 years, and it takes a lot of commitment to get through all of them. We have that commitment.

I'll just give you a couple of examples from the last two days.

First: Although he really of prefers contemporary style worship, which he could attend at the same time my traditional service is going on, he comes to the service I am in as a show of support. We can't sit together; I'm up on the platform and he's down in the pews, but he knows how the service went, what was sung, what was said in prayer- in other words, we worshipped together, and we experienced life together. So, I'm thankful that he will sacrifice his own preference to do that with me.

Second: When, yesterday, I had one of those typical run-ins with someone who thought I should be doing things differently, he gave me a big hug and said, "I still love you!". Which, of course, was exactly what I needed!

Third: This morning he left for work before I did, as usual. Pretty soon I got a call from him. He wanted me to be aware that we had had some freezing rain, and it was a glaze of ice out there. I should be careful walking to the crossing, and give the cars plenty of time to stop. (He often jokes that he has a wife that stops traffic!) It was really nice of him to do that. I could easily have gone down just stepping out onto our front stoop.

It's the little things like that that are more meaningful than grand gestures, in my opinion. I'm thankful for 31 years with someone who knows that.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Stroll- December 7, 2008

Today is busy with extra seasonal obligations (all fun!!), so I took my stroll pictures yesterday. We were having a "snow globe" sort of snow, with giant flakes whirling down, sometimes with great intensity, other times gently.

I like to leave the sedum and chrysanthemum plants for "winter interest".

I did NOT mean to leave the asters and hollyhocks, but, because of a foot injury I didn't get the gardens cleared out the way I would have liked before the cold set in. I'm sure those reckless self-seeders will have planted their progeny everywhere by next spring, and I'll be weeding them out as fast as I can. Still, even my neglect was made attractive by the snow.
It's been unusually bitterly cold for early December, with wind chills down around zero most days this week. I look at it as a positive- fewer insect pests next summer!
To see where others were strolling this week, visit Aisling at The Quiet Country House.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Filling In Potholes

As I mentioned a few days ago, I'm reading through the Old Testament book of Isaiah as preparation for Christmas. If you have heard Handel's "Messiah", it can be fun to come across the many scripture verses referenced from this book in the oratorio. There are also so many beautiful passages about how God forgives his wayward people and provides them with their Messiah. But those come later in the book, and first you have to read through some hard-to-hear passages where Isaiah predicts the political and military fall of Jerusalem, and the horrors of war and forced exile to Babylon. It's tempting to sort of skim over all that. When I first started reading the Bible years ago, I would do that. Who wants to read the depressing stuff?

Nowadays, I recognize how important it is to process the whole story. Isaiah was writing before the bad times, which if course is what makes him a prophet. He was living in Jerusalem, and most of his ministry occurred during the reign of good King Hezekiah. It was a time of prosperity (for most people), and the king was a follower of God and tried to serve his people well.

But, what Isaiah, and his contemporaries Micah, Amos, and Hosea, were sensing was that the country was teetering on the brink. The wealthy were making their money at the expense of the poor. There was a pretense of religiosity, but it was practiced as a mish-mash of Judaism and other local religions. The king was naively aligning the country with enemies who were poised to take advantage of them. The judicial system was corrupt. There was a culture of profligate spending, feasting, and partying.

Hmmm. Some of this sounds familiar, doesn't it? Isaiah sums it up this way: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (v. 5:20)

So, one thing I've been thinking about this past week is, what might I be thinking is true, but is in reality false? What do we think nowadays is good, that might really be bad? How much are we like those people in Isaiah's day, living like there's no tomorrow, ignoring the few voices that are saying, "Hey! Listen up! If you don't get back to right living, things are going to come crashing down on you!" It's definitely worth thinking about carefully.

Fortunately, as I progress through Isaiah, I know I will get to read once again about the restoration of those people (eventually, after a generation has passed), when they come to their senses and return to their love for, and obedience to, God. I will get to read about the promise of the coming of Jesus. All that will mean more, if I take time to read the hard part.

Prophesy of Isaiah- Marc Chagall

Thursday, December 4, 2008

On Faith Informing Art-Marilynne Robinson

"You have to have a certain detachment in order to see beauty for yourself rather than something that has been put in quotation marks to be understood as “beauty.” Think about Dutch painting, where sunlight is falling on a basin of water and a woman is standing there in the clothes that she would wear when she wakes up in the morning—that beauty is a casual glimpse of something very ordinary. Or a painting like Rembrandt’s Carcass of Beef, where a simple piece of meat caught his eye because there was something mysterious about it. You also get that in Edward Hopper: Look at the sunlight! or Look at the human being! These are instances of genius. Cultures cherish artists because they are people who can say, Look at that. And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight falling on it...

"Ordinary things have always seemed numinous to me. One Calvinist notion deeply implanted in me is that there are two sides to your encounter with the world. You don’t simply perceive something that is statically present, but in fact there is a visionary quality to all experience. It means something because it is addressed to you. This is the individualism that you find in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. You can draw from perception the same way a mystic would draw from a vision. "

Marilynne Robinson. An excellent interview of a contemporary literary genius. I recommend the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Lemonade Award

I opened my laptop to a very pleasant surprise this morning. I have received the Lemonade Award from the superheroes over at the Green Phone Booth. Thank you, ladies!

Apparently this award is to be given to those who are positive, or show gratitude; in other words, they know how to make lemonade out of lemons. This cracks me up, because I don't think of myself as terribly positive (though I am grateful), so I think it's more a reflection of the old adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". Thus the occasional silence.

The rules for this award are that you post the graphic for it, write a post that links back to the giver, and then pass it on to up to ten others. Leave a comment on the blogs that get the award, so they know what's happened. I will award it to:

Jena, at Married To The Farm, one of the Great Lakes APLS. She and her husband are farming a heritage farm in Michigan, and they just had their barn burn down Nov. 23. So far, no self-pity on her blog, just the acknowledgement that their neighbors were very helpful, their livestock survived, and she is busy trying to research what sort of barn they should have when they rebuild.
Mel, at The Good Life, also a Great Lakes APLS. Blogging about thankfulness while dealing with two preschool aged boys and a family passing the flu around couldn't have been easy. She is an interesting read as she and her husband have recently become foster parents.

Abbie, at Farmer's Daughter, a New England APLS blogger. Abbie knows her stuff about the environment, since she teaches AP Environmental Science courses at a high school. What I like is that she doesn't run around yelling "The sky is falling!", but instead gives very factual background for her decisions to live the way she does. She surely knows about some very scary stuff, but her approach is to teach the next generation of citizen leaders how to tackle the problems. It's also interesting to read about her family's heritage farm and farm stand selling their produce.

These three bloggers all have great, positive attitudes. I'm pleased to have a chance to pass the award on to them!

On Generosity

C. S. Lewis: “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Road Work Ahead

One of my favorite Advent verses is Isaiah 40:3-5:

A voice of one calling:
"In the desert prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain."

It's a picture from real life, when every ancient Middle Eastern king would send his royal road crew ahead of him to fix a smooth road for his royal retinue in that rocky, hilly, rugged landscape. I think that's what this reading plan below will help me do with the rough spots in my spiritual landscape, as I prepare to celebrate the coming of the King of Kings.

"And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

I'm planning to start a year long reading plan on January 1 that will take me through the whole Bible, but I was looking for a "warm-up" plan for the Advent season, and I found the one below. I'm excited about it; Isaiah is my favorite Old Testament book, with some of the most uplifting and poetic literature found anywhere. The plan is only 22 days long (to suit the shortest possible Advent season), so it's good for the hectic holiday times, when you might have a couple of days where it's hard to squeeze it in. Although, as I always remind myself, if you have time to read the front page of a newspaper, you have time to do a daily Bible reading.

Anyway, if anyone would like to join me, here it is:

December 1- Isaiah 1-5
December 2- Isaiah 6-8
December 3- Isaiah 9-12
December 4- Isaiah 13-17
December 5- Isaiah 18-21
December 6- Isaiah 22-23
December 7- Isaiah 24-25
December 8- Isaiah 26-27
December 9- Isaiah 28-29
December 10- Isaiah 30-33
December 11- Isaiah 34-35
December 12- Isaiah 36-39
December 13- Isaiah 40-42
December 14- Isaiah 43-45
December 15- Isaiah 46-48
December 16- Isaiah 49-51
December 17- Isaiah 52-53
December 18- Isaiah 54-55
December 19- Isaiah 56-57
December 20- Isaiah 58-60
December 21- Isaiah 61-64
December 22- Isaiah 65-66