Friday, October 2, 2009

A Little Further Explanation

I posted a video last Sunday that was pretty shocking. I know it doesn't exactly go with the usual postings I have here about more pleasant things- family, gardening, my job as a church musician, or the general musings of an ordinary person.

I did receive one comment about the video, from Rose, who always seems to respond so thoughtfully, and a couple of comments from friends in person, and I wanted to respond myself. I thought what I wanted to say, in clarification of my reasons for posting it, would be a little longer than usual for the comment section, so I'll just turn it into today's post.

I try to read blogs written by ministry people from all over the country, and of many different denominational perspectives, as a way of broadening and deepening my understanding of Scripture and experience of the Christian life. It's been a tremendous blessing. What I receive at my own church is outstanding, no question, but I still think reading widely (and reading blogs is no different from reading anything else) is just part of keeping one's self sharp in ministry. So, first of all, I would encourage everyone to to do this. Don't just focus on the ones you are most aligned with. Read widely.

Once in while, as in the case of this particular video, some truth just leaps out and jars my world.

When Mark Driscoll talked about the stinking Roman sponge, like Rose, I had to spend a few days processing that new information. I thought about whether I should post the video; it was gross. Would people find it beyond offensive?

Then I thought, "I should schedule this post for Good Friday next spring, when it would really be most appropriate." I still might do that- repeat the post, I mean. I thought about compartmentalizing this new insight into the Passion of Christ into that short season, when Christians allow themselves to let their guard down for a few days (or weeks, if you reflect on Lent).

In the end, I felt that it was something that maybe others would see the way I was coming to see it: a reminder that there is a program running quietly in the background of my life, that affects everything about my life, every day of my life, through the life I will live here on Earth and on into the future eternity- that Christ allowed himself to be tortured and killed for my sake.

Shame on me for going days, or maybe, sometimes, weeks, without thinking about that. Thank you, Pastor Mark Driscoll, for making this insight available to all of us via one of the most blessed and cursed of human instruments, the internet.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to the Blog World

This evening, one of my faithful readers said, "Mom! You never write anything on your blog any more!" Not wanting to lose this reader, who may be the ONLY reader I have, I decided to post again.

First, I will give you all my lame excuses for going a month without writing:

1. I was busy. Or, at least, distracted. I was serving as general contractor for a big household make-over, involving siding, gutters, demo of a rotting back porch, rebuilding of said porch, and the very sad removal of our huge tulip tree that was deseased and threatening to fall on either the roof or the car. Although I did not do this work myself, it was surprisingly challenging to coordinate the many people who did.

2. It's hard to maintain the pretense of being a "garden blogger" when there are concrete mixers driving over your lawn and ladderjacks in your flower beds. The best I could muster up in the way of gardening was to walk around the property every evening clucking about the damage the workmen had unwittingly done.

3. Additionally, the aforementioned faithful reader moved out. I was to be the helper with this move, but within minutes of arriving at the new location I managed to fall down the rain-slicked porch steps, requiring a trip to the ER and a month of rehab on an injured rotator cuff. I don't know why, but that kind of threw me off my stride, so to speak.

All that is now behind me. The school year and choir season have resumed. There are no more excuses! It's time to get this blog going again! You can expect posts about the hymn of the week, the rehabilitation of my gardens, and the usual general musings, along with some Saturday Silliness and Sunday Strolling. I will amuse at least myself, and perhaps that one other reader.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday Silliness

Just a reminder that a wedding is a celebration!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hymn of the Week- Leaning On The Everlasting Arms

A couple of years ago we watched the excellent movie "United 93". The movie takes place on September 11, 2001, and it's director tried to stay as completely faithful to the events regarding that flight as possible, down to the exact words of the various passengers, as recorded or recollected by their relatives. As you may remember, United flight 93 was the airliner on which the passengers chose to attack the terrorists who had hijacked the plane, resulting in it crashing in a field in Pennsylvania rather than into Washington, D.C.

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie involved a very young woman calling home on her cell phone. She had just comprehended that the plane was destined to crash, one way or another, and that she was facing certain death. At her parent's home, her stepmother answered the phone. The young woman, in a panicked voice, explained to her stepmother the circumstances she was in. The older woman had already seen news coverage of the other three planes crashing, and quickly understood the situation. She drew a deep breath, and, in the calmest of voices, began to guide the younger woman through her final moments. They expressed their love for each other. Then, the stepmother, seeking to calm the panicked girl, said something like,"I have my arms around you. Do you feel them?" With that, the demeanor of the younger woman changed. She relaxed. "Yes, I feel them," she replied.

Ever since then, that scene has come to mind when we use the hymn "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms" in a worship service. When the refrain lyrics were written by A.J. Showalter in 1887, he was inspired by Deuteronomy 33:26-27: "There is none like the God of Jerusalem- he descends from the heavens in majestic splendor to help you. The eternal God is your Refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Showalter had just received word from two different friends on the same day, that their young wives had died. In writing his condolences, he had added this verse in his notes to them.

Showalter then wrote to another friend, Elisha Hoffman. Hoffman was an Evangelical Presbyterian pastor in the Cincinnati area, and associated with that denomination's publishing house. Showalter suggested that Hoffman compose a hymn based on his suggestions about this verse. Though both of these men would be considered amateur hymn writers, between them they wrote what has become a favorite standard hymn. (Hoffman also wrote another popular hymn, "I Must Tell Jesus".)

Though the tune is rousing and joyous, the reassuring message that was illustrated by the scene in "United 93" is there. Believers can "rest" in the finished work of Jesus Christ on their behalf. In times of struggle, we can relax into the everlasting arms of our Lord.

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.


Leaning, leaning,
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

O, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O, how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Elisha Albright Hoffman (1839-1929)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Forty Years Ago

Here's what I remember of July 20, 1969:

My parents invited my grandparents over for the evening to watch the moon landing, because we had a better TV. My grandfather came reluctantly. It was always his contention that the space program was a waste of the tax-payer's money. However, my grandmother talked him into coming.

We all, parents, grandparents, sisters, and myself, gathered in the family room. Of course, watching space launches and capsule reentries always meant waiting through a lot of NASA rigamarole that I didn't understand, and there was a long lead-up to the actual event. We filled the time with hopping up and down to make popcorn and other snacks. Eventually, we could see the actual live footage from the lunar module itself as it eased down, down, down to the surface of the brightly sunlit, but lifeless, moon. Just thinking about the transmission of the images, coming from 3,000+ miles away, through the airless void of space and the layers of the atmosphere I had learned about in school, had us marveling and exclaiming to each other.

We perhaps had not realized we were holding our breath until the module was safely down, unscathed. It could have crashed, but it didn't. The video transmission could have fritzed out, but it didn't.

And then, a fuzzy image of a bulky figure could be seen descending slowly down a little ladder. He put his foot down, causing a small puff of dust, and his muffled voice, coming from the moon, said, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

I remember that the astronauts behaved a little like kids as they muddled about in their awkward suits on the surface of the moon. I remember recognizing the joy and excitement in their voices, seeing them playfully bound around in the lower gravity. They made footprints in the moon dust, just as I did in winter when there was a fresh snow. I remember thinking that it was both exciting and sad that their footprints would never go away, never be muted by rain or wind.

At one point, late in the evening, I got up from where I was sitting cross legged on the floor, and went out the door into our backyard. I looked up at the moon in the sky. Alone, I stood there, staring, knowing that the distance was too great, but wishing none-the-less that I could somehow see something on the face of the moon. Somewhere up there, gamboling like children, were two men who were the very first humans to set foot on any heavenly orb but our own. I stood there a long time.

It was a long evening, and, unlike the adults in the room, I was less concerned about lifting off the moon and reconnecting for the journey home. The dangers were a little beyond me.

I went to bed thinking about the serious, scientific astronauts frisking like children. I thought about the footprints. Though I understood it but dimly, the universe had shifted just a bit that night.

Friday, July 17, 2009

An Older Chapter in the "Worship Wars"

"I Sing the Mighty Power of God"
"O God, Our Help in Ages Past"
"Joy to the World, The Lord Has Come"
"Alas, And Did My Saviour Bleed"
"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"
"At the Cross"
"We're Marching to Zion"

What do all these wonderful old traditional hymns have in common? They are all written by an eighteenth century English pastor named Isaac Watts. This is but a very abbreviated list. If you have any familiarity with traditional hymnody, you would recognize dozens of his contributions to the world of Christian worship!

Though we think of these hymns as traditional, or tried and true, songs of the church, it might surprise you to know that Watts was a cutting-edge, and much maligned, creator of contemporary worship in his day and time. Here is a short biographical video produced by Mars Hill Church of Seattle, that gives you a sense of his role in the history of Christian music.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

For Tough Times

Unbelief says:

Some other time, but not now;
some other place, but not here;
some other people, but not us.

Faith says:

Anything He did elsewhere He will do here;
anything He did any other time He is willing to do now;
anything He ever did for any other people He is willing to do for us!

With our

Feet on the ground,
and our head cool,
but with our hearts ablaze with the love of God,
we walk out in this fullness of the Spirit, if we will yield and obey.


HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Silliness

A friend of mine posted this on FaceBook, titled "Are Women Just Born This Way?".

HT: Kellie

Friday, June 19, 2009


Article #1:

Here's a short interview with a pastor who is revitalizing a dying church in a place where people "don't do God".

Andrew Baughen – St. James Clerkenwell from Mars Hill Church on Vimeo.

Article #2:

If you are interested in the Christian debate about Global Warming you might like Dean Ohlman's excellent article.

Article #3:

Finally, here's a wonderful post from local blogger, Rose, about volunteering with her grandchildren. What a great idea!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Stroll-June 14, 2009

Yesterday my husband finished removing the tough roots of an old yew hedge, in anticipation of workmen coming this week to tear off our old porch and rebuild a new one. He's not a very big guy, and I think he pried them out by sheer force of will. Fortunately, my dire warnings that he was going to kill himself doing this did not come true. The workmen could have removed them for us, but doing it ourselves was going to save $150 dollars. But only because he didn't wind up in the emergency room!

I wanted to really savor my stroll around the back yard today, because I know it will be a mess most of the rest of the summer from all the construction. I was glad to see there are a few things that had bloomed for the first time within the last twenty-four hours.
These are the first hollyhocks of the season. I love hollyhocks! Some are growing from seeds my sister gave me; others are from seeds I scavenged from a stand of hollyhocks that are self-sown on drainage district property, along a ditch. I had driven by those several times, admiring them. One day in the fall I just pulled over and took some seed pods and put them in my pocket. I just couldn't help myself!

Purple loosestrife has started to bloom. Now, before you call the police, let me tell you I know they're invasive and no longer available to plant. This is the last of a very old planting of them. They have gradually died out in my garden. I think the fact that they are much loved by Japanese beetles has a lot to do with that. I'm not too worried that my particular plant is causing any problems. I don't think it ever has a chance to set seed, since it is so thoroughly eaten down by the beetles each summer.

The first day lilly! This one came from my brother-in-law's garden.
This was the first week of bloom for the oak leaf hydrangeas.

Finally a plant I know the real name of: penstemon "Husker Red", developed, I believe, at Nebraska State University. I planted them because I'm trying to gradually shift to prairie natives throughout my garden, or, at least, go that direction when I plant new things. The goal is to make the garden tolerant of our climate and welcoming to our particular birds and butterflies. I like the wine red of the stems and early foliage on these.
To see who else is strolling today, visit The Quiet Country House.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saturday Silliness

God texts the ten commandments

1. no1 b4 me. srsly.
2. dnt wrshp pix/idols
3. no omg’s
4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)
5. pos ok - ur m&d r cool
6. dnt kill ppl
7. :-X only w/ m8
8. dnt steal
9. dnt lie re: bf
10. dnt ogle ur bf’s m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.

M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl.
ttyl, JHWH.

ps. wwjd?


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hymn of the Week- "Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending"

I've always loved to study music history; it was one of my favorite classes at the University of Illinois, where I got my degree in Music Education.

I also love to study the sources of the music we use in church, both old and new, and find out a little about what specifically inspired the composers and lyricists in each case.

I thought it might be interesting to post about music that will be used in an upcoming service, so that those attending will perhaps enjoy the piece more. If you are reading this from a distance, maybe you'll also find some of this background interesting. Even if you're not a church attender, it can be fascinating to have a peek into the historical roots of some of our most influential musicians and poets, and perhaps gain insight into what Christians are reflecting on, whether you agree with it or not. This research is really for my own benefit, but I'll just put it out there anyway. I can't promise that I'll post something weekly, but I'm going to shoot for that as a goal.

This Sunday, the topic of the sermon is The Second Coming of Christ, as it is described in Luke's Gospel, chapter 17, verses 20-37. It's a subject that is endlessly debated, and I have no intention of going into the theology of it here. However, I, and the planning committee I meet with, was responsible for coming up with the music for the service that would support that sermon.

One hymn the congregation will sing is "Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending". Though it's words are attributed to the great hymn writer Charles Wesley, it was actually based on a poem written by an eighteenth century land surveyor from Reading, England, named John Cennick. He eventually became a Moravian preacher. However, Wesley and two others, Martin Madan and a London cobbler named Thomas Olivers, adapted it for use in the Methodist movement.

Don't you love that? A surveyor, a cobbler, and one of the most famous hymn writers of that time, all contributing to this hymn! It's great poetry, too, based primarily on the first chapter of Revelation.

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand, thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of His train;
Halleluiah! Halleluiah!
God appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold Him,
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing
Shall the true Messiah see.

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture,
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, Amen! Let all adore Thee,
High on Thy eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
Halleluiah! Halleluiah!
Everlasting God come down!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday Silliness

This was titled "Jesus Saves"
No disrespect intended:)
HT: Fail Blog

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Fifth Sunday Family Gathering

Our church has kind of a unique arrangement for our multiple services. We have an 8:15am contemporary style service, followed by Sunday School at 9:30am (with a coffee time in between), and then we have two 10:45 am services, one contemporary and one traditional. That means that Pastor Randy preaches three times each Sunday, and that at 10:45 we "share" him. He preaches early in the 10:45 contemporary service, and then walks to the other side of the building to give his sermon in the traditional service.

Three years ago, when we first started doing this I, with my gift of encouragement, predicted disaster. I was wrong, thank goodness. Though there are challenges for the staff in this schedule, it has worked out pretty well, and our attendance has grown steadily. All three services are well attended.

One thing we all wanted to prevent, since we are an almost 145 year-old congregation, and have many multi-generational families, was the development of three "congregations" that had no sense of connection with each other. One way we did that was to keep our very strong Sunday School system untouched. Most people can remain connected through those classes even if they attend different services.

Another thing we did was institute our Fifth Sunday Family Gatherings. Four times a year, when there is a fifth Sunday in a month, we scrap our usual schedule and meet for a joint service. Sheer numbers means we have to meet in the room that is used for the contemporary service, as we won't all squeeze into the sanctuary. Unfortunately, this means we can't use the pipe organ, but when we plan this service we work very hard to make sure the music is a blend of old and new, and that we use worship elements that feel accessible to every age group. We use musicians from both "sides". We use those services to highlight "family" celebrations: welcoming new members, giving the children entering fourth grade their first Bibles, hearing from the youth about their mission trip, and recognizing those who are graduating from high school or college. These are things the whole congregation likes to unite in celebrating.

This past week was the Sunday we met together, and we recognized the graduates. No, graduating from school is not a particularly "spiritual" thing, but we want to offer encouragement and prayer for those who are moving on to a new stage in their lives. That thought led me to choose a fairly contemporary choral piece for the choir, "Be Strong, and Take Courage", by Basil Chaisson. Before singing it, four of the choir members read these verses:

"Yes I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5, NLT)

"I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowlege and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation-the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ-for this will bring much praise and glory to God." (Phil. 1:9-11, NLT)

"So we keep on praying for you, asking God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thess. 1:11-12, NLT)

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." (Jer. 29:11, NLT)

It was meaningful to the choir to give this benediction to the graduates on this special Sunday, the Fifth Sunday Family Gathering.

And then, being Baptists, we just had to follow that with a potluck!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Are You Incurable?

The following are excerpts from a letter from a governor named Pliny to the Roman emperor Trajan on the growth of Christianity less than one hundred years after the crucifixion of Christ:

I have never been present at any of the Christians’ trials, and I am unaware of the methods and limits used in our investigation and torture. Do we show any regard to age or gender? If a Christian repents of his religion, do we still punish him or pardon him?
Currently, I am proceeding thus—I question them as to their religion; if they state they are Christian, I repeat the questioning, adding the threat of capital punishment. If they still persist, I order them to be executed. I do not believe that their stubbornness should go unpunished.
I recently questioned a group of Christians who, after interrogation, denied their faith. From this event, I could see more than ever the importance of extracting the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female prisoners. But I was able to discover nothing except depraved and excessive superstition.
I therefore thought it wise to consult you before continuing with this matter. The matter is well worth referring to you, especially considering the numbers endangered. This contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has also spread throughout the villages.
Nevertheless it still seems possible to check and cure it.


This is worth pondering; I hope and pray I would be found "incurable".

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Stroll- May 31, 2009

I didn't post a Sunday Stroll last week, but that doesn't mean I wasn't running- er, strolling! It's important to take time to stroll with a 22-month-old, so that you can be reminded of how thrilling it is to stand on the water-main cover, or drop gravel down the storm sewer grate, or giggle at each bit of cottonwood "fluff" that floats past on the the breeze. Every so often she would stop in her tracks and lift her face to the sky and say, "feelthewind?" or "hearthebird?". And, suddenly, I did feel the wind, or hear the bird. Miraculous!

But this weekend I was on my own to notice things. We have a woodpecker living on our block, now. I can hear it, but haven't yet seen it. I couldn't help thinking about how fast it hammers on the tree trunks, or how strong it's beak and skull must be to take that pounding. It's really one of the wonders of the universe, don't you think?

And, while we were gone, everything decided to burst into bloom. It was all out there for our enjoyment today.

If you go for a stroll, be sure to stop and feelthewind, and hearthebird. Oh, and throw some more gravel in the sewer grate for me will you?

To see what other strollers are noticing, visit The Quiet Country House.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Put Him First

Excellent points from Ray Ortlund:

"If our functional purpose in church is to connect with one another and build community, that's what we'll get -- one another. And we'll end up angry. Only Jesus gives us rest. If we will put him first and come to him first, we'll have something to give one another.

If our functional purpose in church is outreach and mercy and justice and all those good missional things, we'll end up exhausted and empty. Only Jesus gives us rest. If we will put him first and come to him first, we'll be renewed for endless mission."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why We Sing

"And the duty of singing praises to God, seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections. "

Jonathan Edwards

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Silliness

I know this may only appeal to ministry geeks, but it cracked me up. I'm dedicating this Saturday Silliness to my son Matt, who actually learned Koine Greek on his own in high school. Which prompted some eye rolling among his fellow youth group members, as you may well imagine.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Stroll- May 17, 2009

After a week of intense storms, we're having a perfect May Sunday. It's graduation weekend at the University of Illinois, as well as prom weekend for my family's high school. Those events, celebrated by several generations of my family, are forever associated with "iris time" in local gardens.

All of my irises are pass-alongs from family members. My grandmother, who was an ace gardener, made sure that when we moved to this house we would have all the beautiful flowers we wanted from her divisions. Forsythia, iris, lambs-ears, jonquils- all unnamed but much loved, have flourished in my flower beds. Now, I'm ready to share with my children as they get their own homes.

These beautiful lavender iris are from Grandma H. I've divided them and sent some on to my sisters. There are also some pale beige-y ones that you can just see in the left corner of the picture. They are not a very pretty color, I'll admit, but they have sentimental value to me, so I keep growing them. No one wants to take divisions of them, though!

These royal purple iris are from my sister's garden. She got them from a neighbor. Who needs garden stores? These are very tall and stately, and my very favorites.

Finally, there are some shorter gold and brown iris that contrast wonderfully with the purple. These are also Grandma's, and she told me they came from her mother-in-law's garden, so they are a cultivar that goes back to the late nineteenth century. It's just fun to think about the way all that gardening knowledge is passed down in the family.
To see who else is strolling, and what else is blooming, visit The Quiet Country House.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Stroll-May 10, 2009

It's "almost" time in my garden. The peonies are almost blooming.

The irises are sooooo close!

The serviceberries are forming, and almost ready to be feasted on by the birds.

The climbing rose is covered with hundreds of small buds. It will be a treat to see in a week or two.

I had a wonderful Mother's day, with half my children here for lunch (Robin, Grant, and Grant's wife Traci). The other two sons live elsewhere, but we had nice visits on the phone.

To see who else is strolling on Mother's Day, pop over to The Quiet Country House.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday Silliness

Yep, all creation does praise His Name!

Monday, May 4, 2009

How Can the Church Ride the Crest of the Wave?

We had a very interesting discussion in staff meeting last week about how best to communicate with the congregation. I'm sure a lot of people in the congregation have no idea how much we think about this! We've been analyzing the use of the newsletter that gets mailed monthly, how information is accessed on our website, whether folks are picking up the Weekly Happenings on Sunday mornings, etc.

As the congregation has grown, it's been an ongoing quest to find the perfect way to communicate with a congregation that ranges the full spectrum of ages. A church that has been planted in the last 30 years or so would probably have far fewer problems in this area. Such a church would have very few members that were not tech savvy enough to use online communication easily. In our case, we must respect the fact that our most elderly members are not necessarily using computers at all (although I'm actually proud of our retirees, many of whom are pretty with it when it comes to computers- after all, this community is the home of HAL!).

Here's a little example from my area of ministry. My choir consists of members ranging in age from 14 to 82. Now, the 82 year old is the retired dean of the U of I college of engineering, so he actually knows the developers of, say, Mosaic, and he's a proud technology whiz. I have several people who live in the country and are still using dial-up. I have a couple of retirees who check e-mail only occasionally- it's still not the main way they communicate. I have young 20-somethings who do everything online. Some of us are even FaceBook friends!

When I need to communicate quickly with this group (say, we're cancelling rehearsal due to snow) I use e-mail, and then also call about half of them, because I'm not sure they'll check their e-mail on time. If it's something that isn't immediate, I still send out a postcard by snail-mail. We are a classic example of the transition our whole society is in with communication.

It's even more glaringly disparate when you view the whole congregation. What about the shut-ins? What about the families from other churches who send their children to our AWANA program? If we push everything to our website, or use e-mail alerts for informing people about deaths in our church family, we are bound to miss someone. If we rely on paper, there are people who don't read those publications. And then there's cost. We're paying a web administrator, but we're also paying a lot in postage. So much to think about.

I saw this video on several ministry blogs today, and I thought it was very thought provoking in light of our staff discussions. No matter how you look at it, how we serve our people, how we reach the wider community with the unchanging Truth of the Gospel, is going to change radically in the next couple of years.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009


I fixed these links as of 8:30am Saturday!

Article #1:

We had the Ebertfest here in C-U last week, and the town had it's annual influx of film afficionados. The city of Urbana honored Roger Ebert by placing a plaque on the sidewalk in front of his childhood home. In response, he wrote a marvelous article about the influence Urbana, and the university, had on his life. I am shamelessly proud to post this; I agree with him wholeheartedly that there is no better place to live.

Article #2:

Not really an article, but if you have an interest in sacred music, Soli Deo Gloria"s website is an interesting place to visit. They are a group of highly competent professional musicians who promote the performance of existing sacred music, and the comissioning of new sacred music on an international level. The short video clips are quite informative about the state of contemporary sacred music (poor), and the importance of promoting sacred works as a way for people to connect with God.

Article #3:

This was an interesting post about, well, thinking.

Article # 4:

I'm not a pastor, but reading blogs by pastors and theologians is still very helpful to me in my position as Music Coordinator. It's all about working with people!

I liked this post from Indiana pastor Rob Harrison about the difference between "doing" pastoral work and "being" a pastor. What Math Class Taught Me About Pastoral Ministry

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Are You Friend or Foe?"

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man stading in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, "Are you friend or foe?"

"Neither one," he replied. "I am the commander of the Lord's army."

At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. "I am at your command," Joshua said. "What do you wnat your servant to do?"

(Joshua 5:13-14, NLT)

I was reading along this week and found this incident again- one of my favorites. I would so like something like this to happen to me! I want to see the guy with the sword.

It's such a great reminder. God isn't on anyone's side but His own!

Then, of course, Joshua leads the people into the "battle" of Jericho, where they clearly did not take the city by their own force. God wanted it to fall, so it fell. They really couldn't claim that victory as their own in any way. Love it!

Monday, April 27, 2009

For a Rainy Day

From one of my favorite Ned Rorem art songs, "Rain In Spring":

There fell a beautiful clear rain,
with no admixture of fog or snow,
and this was, and no other thing,
the very sign of the start of spring.

Not the longing for a lover;
nor the sentiment of starting over;
just that clear and refreshing rain,
falling without haste or strain.

I was so struck by that poetry, set by Rorem to a calm, contemplative melody, and had it on the program for my junior recital when I was in college. It's perfect for today.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Who Controls The Conversation In Your Head?

"Since no one is more influential in my life than me, and because no one talks to me more than I do, what I say to myself about myself is very important. The little kingdom, being more dominated by my internal conversation than by God's revelation, does not encourage a humble and accurate view of self."- Paul Tripp, "The Quest For More: Living For Something Bigger Than Yourself"

This is so true, isn't it? Our internal conversation, when controlled by self, elevates and defends self. It proves the old saying "The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is self."

When, on the other hand, the internal conversation is controlled by the Accuser, it demeans and destroys self- that very self which God lovingly created.

I thought of all that today as I read this:

"Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God's laws, and it never will. That's why those who are under control of the sinful nature can never please God.

"But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you."

Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verses 9-11 (NLT)

Life and peace are ours if we let the Spirit of Christ control our minds.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Expanding On Yesterday's Sermon Topic

Luke 14:27-"...if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple."

Forget the "prosperity gospel".

(HT:Desiring God)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Stroll-April 10, 2009

Despite a steady drizzle, everything outside looked so fresh and green, and I had to go out for a damp stroll around my yard, and record what spring was offering us today. Above are the lily-of-the-valley that have sprung up in only the last four or five days, and are already developing flower buds. These were originally transplants from my grandmother's place. She gave me strict planting instructions: put them in the bed that is surrounded by concrete sidewalks and the house; if they escape, you will never see the end of them in the lawn! I took her at her word, and have been able to confine them and enjoy them for years, though, if I'm not vigilant, they will actually try to advance toward the lawn by way of the sidewalk cracks!

We had a remarkably long, cold winter, with some long spells of single-digit temperatures, and unfortunately that means that there were no forsythia blooms this year, and possibly we won't get our pink cloud of crab apple blossoms, either. I also noticed as I worked yesterday that we've lost two rose bushes.

That means we'll just have to enjoy the other, more subtle blooms and foliage that go with April, such as the soft, pale green of the oak leaf hydrangeas.

The Japanese spurge is blooming, and smells heavenly

Wrapped around the foot of the crab apple is a skirt of violets.

The peonies are not only robust, but have far and away outgrown the cages I use for them.

This is a clump of Moonbeam coreopsis, something that also seems to have sprung up over night. I love that soft, feathery foliage.
In the shade garden, chartreuse hostas are proliferating. These were also pass-along plants from a friend, so I can't tell you their name, despite scouring hosta sites to try to identify them.

It would hardly be April without daffodils. I need to remember to divide these poor things next fall; they're looking pretty crowded!

I have a favorite green glade, where the maple and Ye Olde Yew compete for space, and purple wintercreeper is sending out it's new bright leaves. I keep this groundcover trimmed at about four feet up the tree or it would climb to the top, I think! I saw that way of pruning it in a couple of English gardening books, and liked the effect. I think English gardeners value mature plantings and contrasting greens perhaps a bit more than most American gardeners, while we tend to go for color more. I'm glad I have this little spot near the patio.
There is also a "view" that appeals to me through an opening in this area. It would be even more striking on a sunny day. I'll try to remember to capture that on film sometime soon.
That's the end of my stroll; I needed to get back in out of the rain.
To see who else is strolling, visit Aisling at The Quiet Country House.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Okay. I'm Back. I Think.

Well, that was certainly a longer blog hiatus than I had planned on. Just to update you, if I had been blogging over the last month it would have been something like this:

Today I laid on the couch and coughed.

Today I laid on the couch and coughed, and also watched a little HGTV.

Today I slept on the couch, even though HGTV was on in the background.

And so on, for about three weeks, until I finally got over pneumonia. Then the posts would have suddenly switched to this:


That would have been good for about another two weeks.

Now, Easter is over (and everything went well, which just proves that panicking works!), and I am back in my regular routine again, meaning I will be conjuring up blog posts while I stand at the crossing or do my yard work. I'm not guaranteeing anything interesting, mind you, but you know that's the way this blog goes anyway.

So if any of you are still stopping by, thanks for hanging in there with me, and let's get some conversation going!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday Silliness

I'm dedicating this one, with highest respect, to the guys who came to our house a couple of Christmas Eves ago and rodded out our sewer so that we could have Christmas dinner at our house the next day.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Article #1:

Some of you who live in my area may remember Brant Hansen, a U of I grad who was a radio host for a local Christian radio station, WBGL. Brant was also a member of Koinonia Christian Cooperative House at the Baptist Student Foundation, where my sons lived in college. Anyway, he is now in Texas, and has his own radio show on a Christian station down there. As you may see, if you read his post "Can Jesus and Christian Radio Coexist", he is not you average bland CCM guy, and he likes to push the buttons of the Bible Belt establishment.

Article #2:

Someone else is rocking the boat. Check out this article and video about a New England pastor who's efforts to be obedent to the Gospel have raised a firestorm of community anger.

Article #3:

Speaking of anger, Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" wonders "is it really about the AIG bonuses??"

Article #4:

In important reporting on the "slippery slope" issues, Ryan T. Anderson writes:

"President Bush was, in fact, the first president in history to fund embryonic stem cell research. The compromise Bush reached, however, put restrictions in place that prevented the further destruction of human embryos. It is these restrictions protecting human life that Obama has lifted."

As Lenin said "There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring, So Far

I'm trying to enjoy the spring weather as best I can, and be done with whining about having walking pneumonia, so yesterday I headed outside with my camera. It shouldn't contradict medical orders too much to take photos, should it?

The above picture is of a squirrel's nest in a hollow spot in our tulip poplar. Living as it does just a few feet from our front window, this critter has been endlessly entertaining over the years. I don't know if we see the same one all the time, or if we are seeing a succession of squirrels. I looked online, and found that they live for 7-8 years, so I think we've had this one for a while, which explains it's complete unconcern for us and our (now deceased) cats. I'd love to know if it's male or female! Are there babies up in the tree? Is that the reason for the major housecleaning it is apparently undertaking, judging by all the junk it has tossed out of it's hole? I learned that the nests are called "dreys", and they usually make two or three in the same tree. When one gets too flea-ridden, they change nests for a few weeks. I guess that's one way to deal with a dirty house!
Here are the daffodils, heroically pushing up through the heavy mulch of leaves that should have been removed last week by the gardener. Poor things! But I suppose they have to do this in the wild.

A previous owner of this house planted these tulips, which now come up through the oak-leaf hydrangeas as a spring underplanting. I love it! I couldn't have planned this if I tried. They bloom before the hydrangeas leaf out, giving a nice shot of color to that spot, and then their dying leaves are hidden by the shrubs. I'll try to remember to post a picture of them in bloom.

Finally, I've got snow drops blooming all through the Japanese spurge. Again, they will do their thing and then be hidden by the groundcover when blooming is done.
I hope your spring is going well, and you take time to enjoy all the signs of life bursting out around us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Concert Opportunity

I promise I will post something original soon! In fact I have three posts in the works, but haven't finished them just yet.

Still, I thought I would pass on a clip that was sent to me by Babara Hedlund of the little 6-year-old girl, Emily Bear, from Rockford, IL, who will be playing with the C-U Symphony on April 11th. If you can get over to Krannert and buy a ticket, I think you would be delighted by her.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Not Doing Much Walking

Thursday I finally went to the doctor, and was diagnosed with walking pneumonia, which I am re-naming "laying on the couch in sweatpants" pneumonia. I was sent home with over $100 worth of medicine, and I'm trying to follow orders, but everyone says this lasts a month or so. I am not a happy camper right now! Tomorrow, for the first time in the five years I've been the music director, I'm going to miss church due to sickness. Hopefully that will help me get over this sooner so we can go into Holy Week full speed ahead.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Taking a Little Break

I'm on my annual unplanned vacation-from-everything-while-battling-bronchitis blog hiatus. Be back soon, I hope!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Displaced Humility

"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert -- himself."

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, chapter three, "The Suicide of Thought."

HT:Ray Ortlund

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday Silliness-"Rod Blagojevitch, Author"

Here's the News Gazette's Thursday editorial take on our ex-governor:

David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin probably have nothing to fear from the most recently proclaimed political author, Rod Blagojevich. The former Illinois governor, who could be indicted by federal officials any day now, probably will be devoting more time to staying out of prison than writing the great American novel.

And you thought that Rod Blagojevich's only talent was talking about himself.

It turns out that he likes to write about himself too. At least that's the plan. Phoenix Books, a Beverly Hills-based publisher, reportedly has offered the former Illinois governor a "six-figure book deal." And the governor has taken it, promising to complete a book with the working title "The Governor" this year.

Not clear yet is whether it will be fiction or nonfiction. Knowing Blagojevich, we'd suggest it will be fiction even if it isn't labeled as such.

"It's the insider's view of not only Chicago politics, but politics in general," said Michael Viner, president of Phoenix Books. "How the horses are traded, the options that are looked at."
Obviously, it won't address a governor's chief responsibility: governing. Blagojevich had little interest in that.

There were some people in high places who didn't want the governor to write this book and worked to try to squash a book deal," Blagojevich's agent, Glenn Selig, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

We have no doubt that a lot of people – in low places, high places and everywhere in between – don't want Blagojevich to write a book. It's not that they fear anything. It's just that they want Blagojevich to go away. But like his pal, Roland Burris, he won't. At least not until after his anticipated federal trial.

The ex-governor better not suffer from writer's block. There likely isn't much time before he'll need to begin planning his defense. In any case, he'd be advised to be a better defendant and a better author than he was a governor.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Article #1:

Christopher Cannucciari decided to video his great-grandmother as she cooked some of the meals her family ate during the Great Depression. The results were so interesting, he created a website for others to learn her cheap and simple cooking tricks. This is lots of fun, and you get to meet a wonderful lady to boot.

Article #2:

Yet another way to try to grasp how much we are getting into with the bailouts: "What Does A Trillion Dollars Look Like?"

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Follow Up On Our Green Remodel

As I wrote two weeks ago, we've been in the middle of a bathroom remodel. I loaded a picture of the "before" bathroom, and then really couldn't post it; it was just too awful! But I will show you some of the rubble that was hauled out.
Remodelling, is very difficult to do in a "green" way, though we did the best we could. We reused two mirrors in the new bathroom. We recycled every bit of cardboard, plastic and metal we could. It's truly amazing how much cardboard there was from the packing for the new elements. I purchased low-VOC paint from Home Depot that I was very pleased with, and thankful not to have that intense paint smell in the house during a week when we had to keep the house closed up tight.
Still, a lot of stuff went to the landfill: old ceramic flooring with it's cement sub-floor, some rotted wood sub-flooring (so glad we found that and could get it repaired!), wall tile and sheet rock, and the dilapidated cabinet. A lot of heat energy was lost from the house on those cold days as the remodellers ran in and out to their truck and to the back yard, where they were sawing things.
There are a lot of things I love about the "new" bathroom, but I think my favorite is the Solatube skylight. All day long the bathroom is bathed in warm light, even on the cloudiest days, and it is unnecessary to turn on a light in there at all if the sun is up.
I also am kind of amazed by the new water-saver toilet. We had one from the first generation of water-savers and it... didn't really do the job, if you know what I mean. This one is tremendously better. I did a little rough calculating and I think it should pay for itself in reduced water bills within about 15 months. Toilets are relatively inexpensive. If you can possibly do it, I would encourage you to think about replacing your current one with one of the new ones, for both financial and environmental reasons.
I learned another interesting thing during this process. It is not recommended that a Formica-type laminate counter top be used in a bathroom any more. The glues used to make them have been reformulated to make them safer, and they don't stand up to the warm, steamy environment of a bathroom. That meant I had to look at solid surface counters. I had some crazy luck- there was a pre-drilled granite counter top that was on sale so cheap (and included the sinks) that it cost less than other more plebeian choices. This was a sort of embarrassment of riches!
In the end, we wound up with this:
Our daughter, currently the main user of this bathroom, says it looks like it belongs in someone else's house, because it's "so trendy". Of course, ten years from now it will be passe and outdated, but we're not exactly slaves to fashion, so this is probably how it will look until Mike and I can't live in a house with stairs anymore. Fortunately, I'm pretty happy with it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wintley Phipps-Amazing Grace

One of my choir members, Hilary S., sent me this over the weekend, and I thought you'd love it as much as I did:

Friday, February 27, 2009

Eyes Open, Conscience Engaged

When there is a news story that someone wants to bury, typically the information is released on Friday afternoon, as was this one, found in the LA Times.

"Reporting from Washington -- Taking another step into the abortion debate, the Obama administration today will move to rescind a controversial rule that allows healthcare workers to deny abortion counseling or other family planning services if doing so would violate their moral beliefs, according to administration officials...

"Last month without official ceremony, Obama overturned a controversial ban on U.S. funding for international aid groups that provide abortion services.

"The move by the Department of Health and Human Services to throw out the conscience rule is being made equally quietly as most of Washington focuses on the president's blockbuster budget plan."

Read the whole story. This original ruling was supported most strongly by Catholic physicians, pharmacists, and hospitals, who do not want to be forced to counsel women that abortion is an option, or fill prescriptions for the morning after pill.

Just fulfilling my role as a member of the loyal opposition.


Article #1:

I liked my blog-friend Rose's essay on farming and family life in Central Illinois.

Article #2:

There was much discussion this week about the need for dialog about race in the U.S., so this article was interesting to me:

"The real fights within the black community — our internal culture wars — have been over which face we show white America. The legendary battle of ideas between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois at the dawn of the 20th century was also a battle over masks: should we seem humble and modest or prideful and outraged? This “mask war” was vicious because group masks are mutually exclusive; each nullifies the other. Can’t be humble and outraged at the same time. One mask had to die so that the other might live. So the battle between Washington and Du Bois was winner-take-all. One man emerged the leader of his race; the other became a symbol of Uncle Tomism. "

This is an fascinating editorial by Shelby Steele that revisits the life of Booker T. Washington, and a debate that I, as a white person, never knew existed.

Article #3:

Finally, I'm having a great time reading the blog posts by Slate's David Plotz, Blogging the Bible. Plotz, attending a bat mizvah for a relative, picked up a Hebrew Bible (Genesis through the Chronicles), and, while thumbing through it, discovered stories he had never learned about in Hebrew school. He decided to actually read the Hebrew Bible, and blog about what he found there. The perspective is Jewish, and refreshing because it is just an ordinary person's gut response to what he reads. Always thought-provoking.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's An Award!!

Judy at My Freezer Is Full has been kind enough to give me an award! This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.
The rules for this award are as follows:
1. Accept the award, post it on your blog, together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2. Pass the award to another (up to) 15 blogs that are worthy of the acknowledgement. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
There a so many wonderful bloggers out there, and I learn from them every day. There are two that stand out to me for this award, though.
Nan, at Letters From a Hill Farm
Rose, at Prairie Rose's Garden

Monday, February 23, 2009

Our Own Stimulus Package-A Green Bathroom Remodel

Today my main bathroom is being completely gutted. Over the course of the next week, it will be transformed from a very dilapidated and dated original 1961 bathroom into something I'm actually not embarrassed to have a guest see.

I know that right now most people are pulling in their horns financially and building projects are few and far between. We did think hard before committing to the project. Our reasoning went something like this:

1. We've been planning and saving for this project for a long time, and unless something major is encountered, we should be able to complete it for cash.

2. It's not frivolous. That bathroom was truly in bad condition, with sinks and a tub that were so pitted they could not be kept clean, a water-inefficient toilet, a vanity cabinet with the veneer peeling off, medicine cabinets that wouldn't shut all the way, and an old Formica counter top that had been scrubbed so many times the finish was completely worn off. And don't even get me started on the dated colors, etc. I really don't think our home would sell at all without redoing it. We aren't planning to sell, but it's always wise to keep a house, which for most people is a one of their largest assets, in marketable condition.

3. We can keep two terrific remodelers in work, add some sales tax into our local coffers, and help keep our lumber yard, hardware store, and housewares store in business.

4. If we do our research, we could make this room more energy and water-use efficient, as well. For instance, it's a windowless room in the middle of our upstairs. My research led me to plan the instalation of a Solatube sky-light, which will bring daylight in, reducing the need for electric lighting in both the bathroom and, when the door is open, the hallway. We are also getting one of the most water-efficient toilets available (which I found on sale at a bargain-basement price!), as well as a more efficient showerhead and faucets. Even the exhaust fan will be more efficient and much more quiet.

We are also trying to send as little to the landfill as possible. We are reusing the two mirrors- they are really good ones, and new high quality mirrors are expensive. We simply removed them from the front of the old medicine cabinets, and will remount them with a frame around them. The current faucets will be used by a local mission that refurbishes substandard housing because they are only about five years old and in great condition (but won't fit in the pre-drilled holes in the new counter top). All metal items will be taken to a scrap metal yard to be recycled, and we may even get a few bucks for our trouble. All plastic will go into the recycling bin. The old shower curtain will become a drop cloth for painting. The faded old towels will be given to the homeless shelter for the men to use when they shower.

I plan to post on this project again as it finishes, to let you know how these sustainable changes go. Hopefully, I can give you a good idea that you might be able to use if you are undertaking a project like this yourself. I might even get brave enough to post "before and after" photos!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I haven't had a lot of time for reading and posting this week, but here are two things you might find interesting:

Article #1:

This is why I love high school and college sports, despite my disinterest in professional sports.

Article #2:

Bill Mounce posts an absolutely wonderful article on the importance of guarding one's speech, even in e-mail and blogging.

Happy "Real" Birthday, Robin!

When Robin was little, she sometimes had a joint birthday party with her brother, whose special day was only four days earlier. This was confusing to her. She would ask, "Is this my real birthday or my fake birthday?" If it was her real one, she was pretty darned excited, because when you're the fourth kid in the family, you can sometimes get lost in the shuffle.

So today, I just want to make sure she gets a little recognition on her real birthday:

Everyone looks up to you (and not just because you're so tall.) You have that natural something that makes school boards come and beg you to be their band teacher (even when you didn't apply for the job!), their favorite aunt (so willing to be led all over the house by the finger), and lifelong buddy (with good friends you've kept since middle school).

You make us all better for knowing you, Robin. Thanks for being our very best daughter!
Happy birthday!