Saturday, January 31, 2009

Seven Random Facts

Jena, at Married to the Farm, has tagged me in a meme. Here are the rules:

Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog - some random, some weird.
Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog
Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Well, here goes!

1. I don't like eggplant, brussel spouts, or butterbeans. I'll eat just about anything else.
2. I once sang a solo in San Marco Cathedral in Venice. I was there with a college choral group, and the piece we were performing had a solo part to it.
3. I sort M&Ms by color when I eat them.
4. I am a connoiseur of excellent socks. My favorites are SmartWool.
5. I met my husband while working with him on a Greek house charity event that involved rolling an empty beer keg from Bloomington to Champaign. If that isn't the dumbest idea for a charity event, I don't know what is! But romance flowered, and here we are.
6. My first career aspiration as a child was to be a professional whistler, like the one that whistled for the Andy Griffith Show, or the Lassie show. I learned to whistle when I was four, and I'm pretty good at it.
7. My first role in a musical was Bloody Mary in "South Pacific" in high school. I had to say the word "damn" on stage, and I told my parents they shouldn't bring my little sister to the show, because I didn't want her to hear me say a bad word. (They brought her anyway ;))

I know not everyone likes these tag games, but these are the people I would like to know more about, so consider yourselves tagged:







Saturday Silliness-Validation

This may not be exactly silly, but I think you'll like it anyway:

Friday, January 30, 2009


Article #1

"Remember when the tightfistedness of relatives raised during the Depression was amusing? Our grandparents' certificates of deposit and plastic couch protectors seemed downright quaint when our own home-equity and retirement portfolios were ballooning. Suddenly, though, the pot-roast-and-potatoes ethic doesn't seem quite so kooky."

I'm all about the frugal living, so here's a great article to help you save money and resources from This Old House.

Article #2:

In the shameless bragging category, here's an article about one of my sons.

Article #3:

"It is no secret that our new president emerged from a contentious political battle. The Electoral College was recorded as a landslide. But there was less than a 5% difference in the popular vote that put our new president into office. Enormous challenges face our new president. These challenges seem to threaten the very fabric of who we are. Could the dream of America be at risk? Not everyone is on board with how our new president wants to tackle the issues."

Read what my own pastor has to say about our new president.

Article #4:

"So, what's a "redeeming" film? The definition varies, but for our list below, we mean movies that include stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly. Some are "feel-good" movies that leave a smile on your face; some are a bit more uncomfortable to watch. But the redemptive element is there in all of these films."

Christianity Today's list of the 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2008. No, they are not all rated G. The reviews are pretty compelling. I haven't seen them all myself, but I think I want to!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Challenge Update

Between trying to get Abe Lincoln through the Civil War in "Team Of Rivals", and allowing the live coverage of the impeachment trial in our state Senate to distract me from my housework, I'm not getting much blogging done. I have been working on the Food Waste Reduction Challenge, though, and I thought I should post a quick update.

My family is reasonably on board with this one, especially my husband, who is notorious for eating just about anything. My daughter is a bit more selective, but has helped finish up a few of my "messes".

I thought last night's supper was a genuine success. I had the following things that needed to be used before they went south: several slices of roast beef left from Sunday dinner, four cloves of fresh garlic that were starting to shrivel, a handful of raw baby carrots that looked suspicious, about 1/4 c. uncooked brown Minute Rice, and a cup or so of uncooked barley.

I diced up the beef, garlic, and carrots, plus an onion. In a pot with some water (sorry, I don't know how much water- maybe 6 cups?) I cooked that with the rice and barley, along a can of beef broth, the last three cubes of beef bullion, and a can of stewed tomatoes in vegetable broth.

This made a beef and barley soup that was great! It was rich and thick, not quite a stew, and just the right combination of flavors. The three of us ate heartily at supper, and there were two good sized helpings left over for lunches.

Usually, those carrots would have sat in the fridge until they were relegated to the compost heap. The roast was very good meat, but what was left had a couple of streaks of gristle that kept it from being good for sandwiches, so that might have been wasted, too. I'm pretty pleased that we made such good use of this food.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

We Haven't Got Everything We're Going to Get!

I saw this quote today on Justin Taylor's blog, and it just blew me away. What refreshment leading into Sunday! Now, I'm expecting a wonderful surprise tomorrow!

"Possibly one of the most devastating things that can happen to us as Christians is that we cease to expect anything to happen. I am not sure but that this is not one of our greatest troubles today. We come to our services and they are orderly, they are nice ‒ we come, we go ‒ and sometimes they are timed almost to the minute, and there it is. But that is not Christianity, my friend. Where is the Lord of glory? Where is the one sitting by the well? Are we expecting him? Do we anticipate this? Are we open to it? Are we aware that we are ever facing this glorious possibility of having the greatest surprise of our life?

"Or let me put it like this. You may feel and say ‒ as many do ‒ ‘I was converted and became a Christian. I’ve grown ‒ yes, I’ve grown in knowledge, I’ve been reading books, I’ve been listening to sermons, but I’ve arrived now at a sort of peak and all I do is maintain that. For the rest of my life I will just go on like this.’

"Now, my friend, you must get rid of that attitude; you must get rid of it once and for ever. That is ‘religion’, it is not Christianity. This is Christianity: the Lord appears! Suddenly, in the midst of the drudgery and the routine and the sameness and the dullness and the drabness, unexpectedly, surprisingly, he meets with you and he says something to you that changes the whole of your life and your outlook and lifts you to a level that you had never conceived could be possible for you. Oh, if we get nothing else from this story, I hope we will get this. Do not let the devil persuade you that you have got all you are going to get, still less that you received all you were ever going to receive when you were converted. That has been a popular teaching, even among evangelicals. You get everything at your conversion, it is said, including baptism with the Spirit, and nothing further, ever. Oh, do not believe it; it is not true. It is not true to the teaching of the Scriptures, it is not true in the experience of the saints running down the centuries. There is always this glorious possibility of meeting with him in a new and a dynamic way."

Living Water: Studies in John 4--56 previously unpublished sermons by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Saturday Silliness-The Number Four

Friday, January 23, 2009


Article #1:

"I was at the store the other day and was watching an old lady, cane in hand, slowly make her way across the atrium area to a door for a department store. When she reached the door, a man swung it open so hard that it would have knocked the old lady over if she hadn’t been just out of reach, then he continued on his way without even giving the old lady a glance. Several other people stepped to the side and used the other door as the old woman struggled to open it and quickly went on their way without stopping to offer and help. There was an opportunity for at least 5 people to help, but none of them did and the thing is, I don’t think that any of them even realized that they hadn’t helped. They had been so busy and focused on what they were doing and where they were going that they had simply failed to recognize that someone could use a helping hand."

Free Microloan's article on ways we could make the world a better place by focusing on small gestures as we go about our day. The article includes in interesting story about Joshua Bell playing in a Metro station.

Article #2:

One of several videos I've seen about the long term effects of plastic use.

Article #3

"Don’t get me wrong, the call to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ is a joy. Yesterday I pronounced a godly young couple husband and wife. This morning I baptized a brother in Christ. Nothing is more thrilling than opening the Word of God to the people of Christ week-by-week. But it provoked my spirit this morning to preach the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday emphasis this morning."

Read "Why I Hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday" by Russel Moore

Article #4:

"An atheist drive to persuade people that God doesn't exist is catching on in a surprising fashion -- on the sides of buses in a growing number of countries around the world."

Read more here.

And if all that was just too serious, here's something that's just kind of fun:

Article #5

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shifting From Self-Focus To Christ-Focus In Worship

Every week, before we enter the Sanctuary, the choir prays together for the congregation. We pray that our members will truly worship; that the message Pastor Randy has been led to give will be listened to, remembered, and acted upon; that the music we have rehearsed so carefully will be pleasing to God, and lead the congregation's thoughts toward Him; that all thoughts will turn from self and toward the Lord.

Though we pray for these things, the congregation has responsibility for their experience, too. The attitudes that come in the door with them will, to a great degree, determine how much or how little they feel the presence of the Lord, each Sunday morning.

"We can settle into a routine of activities at church and in our small groups and Bible studies, with little expectation of anything new. The familiar becomes the predictable, and everything from here on out will be more of the same. We dip our teaspoon into the vast ocean of the living God. Holding that teaspoon in our hand, we say, “This is God.” We pour it out into our lives, and we say, “This is the Christian Experience.” Do our lives reflect the power, wonder, glory, love, and holiness of the living God? Do we downplay people’s expectations of knowing Jesus Christ?

"So what is the proof that the Spirit is being poured out on us? The voice of the church rings with prophetic clarity. The people of God are no longer passive, intimidated, unresponsive, uncertain. They are no longer preoccupied with self, convenience, comfort. They are no longer complaining, whining, griping. Instead, they become outspoken in God’s praises and gospel truth, “declaring the wonders of God” (Acts 2:11). To turn us from self-exaltation to Christ-exaltation, from self-focus to Christ-focus, is a true mark of God’s presence in our midst."

BobKauflin , reflecting on Ray Ortlund's "When God Comes To Church" . I encourage you to read the whole article.

Where are your thoughts on Sunday morning? Are they focused on you? Or are they focused on Christ?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another Soft Landing

"The “miracle on the Hudson” and the “miracle in the White House” are not unrelated. God has been merciful to us as a nation. Our racial sins deserved judgment a thousand times over. God does not owe America anything. We owe him everything. And instead of destruction, he has given us another soft landing. We are not dead at the bottom of the Hudson. "

John Piper

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Favorite Part of the Speech

"For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate."

That was my favorite part of the speech.

Inauguration Day

Monday, January 19, 2009

Taking On The Food Waste Reduction Challenge

I've signed up for The Food Waste Reduction Challenge being sponsored by The Crunchy Chicken blog. Here's the funny thing: I had decided to go easy on the challenges this year, especially if they were things that involved other household members having to get on board with me to do them. Just because I'm interested in something, doesn't mean I should be twisting their arms to do it too.

But right after the holidays I had begun thinking about how I could get back to some of my old habits of frugal cooking, both to save money, and to show my daughter how to do some of it before she moves out. She's a good cook in her own right, but it's been a while since she saw me serve some of the very basic cheap meals I used to make when I was feeding the whole hungry tribe. She might benefit from a review, and I would like to save money towards some home improvements, etc. So, this challenge just kind of dovetails with some thinking I'd already been doing.

The main purpose of the challenge is to make sure you don't let things spoil, or wind up throwing food out. Crunchy has some statistics on her blog that I had seen before that are kind of appalling. If you click on the button in my sidebar you can read the article. Americans throw out so much food it's ridiculous! We are so fortunate that we can generally afford to do this, but isn't it just kind of immoral, in a way, when there are hungry people in the world? If we were more careful, and spent less on food, we could be giving more to those less fortunate, even those right here in town. Our church has a food pantry, and makes deliveries to hungry people all the time. I could give more to that, if I spent less on our own food.

Even though the challenge doesn't start officially until February, I'm ready to get going on it. Today, I went through my big pantry cabinet and made a list of every single thing in there, including the approximate amount of each item. How did we wind up with three open boxes of graham crackers? Or that can of beets? (Now that one will be a tough sell. Why did I buy it?)

I also looked through the fridge and found a few strange orphans in the very back- a big jar with one large pickle, several yogurts that have been there a while because they were too hard to see behind other things. I did some rearranging. Fortunately, nothing's too spoiled to use, if I get busy.

Then I sat down and, using the list, came up with some dishes that could be made without having to go to the store for more ingredients. It's a little bit of a strange mixture of things, but we really could eat pretty well for almost two weeks with out grocery shopping at all! After that, there would be a few items needed to complete ingredients for a few more dishes. I'd like to eat it all up, until the cabinets and fridge are basically bare, and then start from scratch to restock with a better mix of things. I'll keep you posted on how this goes.

So, look out, family! You may be seeing some "Dinner Surprises" coming your way! Keep the groaning to a minimum please.

He's Seeing The Promised Land

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Stroll- January 18, 2009

This is the view we had through our front storm-door Friday morning. It was -18F, and the windchill was -38F. The frost-flowers were the only thing blooming.

We haven't had nearly as much snow as some other areas of the state, but the four inches we did get blew around quite a bit.

Today, when I went for my Sunday stroll, it was a very pleasant 21F, with bright sun and no wind to speak of. Clouds have since moved in. I'm glad that I got out there to enjoy the sunlight while it lasted!

Over the last few days, the animals have found someplace warm to hide from the weather. This rabbit trail was the only sign of activity I saw, and it was freshly made. Someone finally thought it was warm enough to come out and forage.

To see who else had cabin fever, visit Aisling at The Quiet Country House.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Article #1:

Do you remember that when Snoopy would sit on his doghouse, typing his novel, it always started, "It was a dark and stormy night..."? The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, inviting contestants to submit the worst examples of writing they can find, among other competitions, had this example of rewriting famous quotes:

"The 2006 runner-up, Stuart Vasepuru from Scotland, played with one of the most famous pieces of dialogue from the Clint Eastwood movie "Dirty Harry"-

"I know what you're thinking, punk,"hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' And to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement, but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' Well, do you, punk?"

Article #2:

A lot of people would agree that there is a tremendous amount of conflict in the world (and always has been) because of religion. I certainly agree with that. Here's Tim Keller's take on why that is:

Article #3:

At The Wonder of Creation blogger Dean Ohlman writes: "Wendell Berry is one who in his writing has taken me further than anyone else in understanding that one cannot really have or understand “community” if the natural world around us is not included in that community—deliberately included, not by necessity or by accident. Berry writes: “Without a complex knowledge of one’s place, and without the faithfulness to one’s place on which such knowledge depends, it is inevitable that the place will be used carelessly, and eventually destroyed.” Wendell Berry, “The Regional Motive” in A Continuous Harmony (1972), p. 67"

He goes on to describe the importance of a sense of place in his life, and points the reader to a few Berry articles that might be of interest.

Article #4:

"I don’t think I spend much more time reading than some of you. My calendar is full, my honey-do list is long, my kids are hyper, and my boss is active (or is it the other way around?). My running shoes are muddy, my weight bench is dusty, and my 10-foot front yard needs to be mowed at least twice a year."

I have made a vow to read more this year, but I have to retrain myself to find the precious time to do it. Tony Reinke has a great article on how to carve out reading time.

Article #5

Here's something I know we'll all want to try:

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

Article #6:

"The news was dire. A huge fire had broken out in the foothills of Montecito, which we can see from our porch. The Santa Ana winds, blowing uncharacteristically late in the season – and particularly ferociously – combined with unseasonably hot temperatures, and my town was in flames, my street under evacuation. Those winds change direction unpredictably; there was no way to know if we'd be OK. Ryan had corralled the cat and the dog, and wanted to know what to take from the house. I said I'd let him know."

What would you save if disaster was imminent? How would you feel if you lost everything? Shannon Kelley muses on the meaning, or lack thereof, of our belongings.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Swearing on a Stack of Bibles

The Wall Street Journal has a very nice interactive article about the Bibles used by the various presidents when they have been sworn in, including information about which verses the Presidents chose to have the Bible opened to, if any. It's an interesting trivia tidbit, and gives surprising insights into each man. Some were not especially religious, not using a Bible or prayer book, or, if they did, having it closed. Others appear to have known their Bibles well. Some chose to have more than one Bible, which seemed a little odd to me, but there was usually some symbolism to be observed in that choice. Barak Obama has asked to use the Bible President Lincoln used, which is being brought over from the Smithsonian for him.

Check it out:
'I Do Solemnly Swear..."

So let's play pretend, as my kids used to say. If you were elected president, what document would you choose to use for swearing in? If you would use a holy book, what verse, if any, would you choose to lay your hand on?

I think that if I were a person who did not practice a religion, I might choose to lay my hand on a copy of the U.S. Constitution. I think that would be more meaningful to me than using nothing at all, though there are several presidents who did not swear on anything.

Since I am a practicing Christian, I would use a Bible. I think I would use the nice Revised Standard Version Bible my husband got for me the first year that we were married, special because it was a gift from him, even though I have since changed to using a more recent translation. I think I would have it open to Micah 6:8: "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

What would you do at your pretend inauguration?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Acting In The Opposite Spirit

"Many Christians struggle with a sense of powerlessness over the darkness in their lives. Yet Jesus has given us, His followers, authority over all the power of the enemy, promising that we would win as we engaged Satan in battle. His Word states that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. But we will have no power nor authority against the devil, either in prayer or evangelism, if we are not moving in the opposite spirit and attitude to him in any given situation.

"...I believe God allows Satan's attacks, first of all, to destroy his works through our obedience. Satan comes in darkness, but our obedience to the Holy Spirit turns the light on. We often hear about the speed of light, but a friend of mine named Campbell McAlpine likes to talk about the speed of darkness. The darkness flees just ahead of light: about 186,000 miles per second. So just turn on the light!"- Loren Cunningham, "Making Jesus Lord" pp.103-105

In the last few months, I've been thinking a lot about this quote, and the principle that Loren Cunningham often lifts up in his ministry, of "acting in the opposite spirit".

I first heard this principle voiced when my son Paul was serving in Youth With A Mission. Before they can go to the mission field, the young people in that organization go through a time of intensive character training, and this is a key component of it. Of course, Cunningham did not just dream this principle up on his own. It is thoroughly supported by the Bible, and was a key element of the teaching and example of the life of Jesus. Weakness becomes strength; the poor are rich; the meek inherit the earth; to gain your life, you must lose it; crowns are conferred not so that they may be worn, but so that they may be thrown at the feet of Jesus. Christianity is the religion of paradoxes.

Put into practice, it looks something like this:

When you are surrounded by a spirit of greed, or tempted to be greedy yourself: give, to the point of sacrifice.

When the spirit of slander or false witness is present: speak the absolute unvarnished truth.

When the spirit of fear is gripping you: act with fearlessness, even if you do not feel fearless.

When the office is full of politics and backbiting: become a humble servant to all of them equally.

When there is a drive to claw your way to the top: purposely accept the position at the bottom rung.

There are many other examples, and I'm sure if you think about it, you are daily in situations where you , or those around you, are acting in a way that is directed by spiritual darkness. To defeat that darkness, you must act- not just think, but act- in the complete opposite manner.

In the month or so prior to Christmas, there was a good bit of discussion about how to avoid consumerism, and the pressure to buy more and bigger gifts to express one's love to family members. Those who chose giving instead recieving, or giving to those who were unable to reciprocate, were acting in the opposite spirit.

When the president elect insists on inviting involvement in his inauguation by those who may disagree with his policies, he's acting in the opposite spirit of partisan divisiveness. When the outgoing president invites the newly elected one into his home, and praises him in public, he is doing the same.

Light splashes over us. Darkness flees at 186,000 miles per second. The Kingdom's territory is expanded.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I just realized that yesterday was my 300th post, since starting the blog mid-summer of 2006. I pretty much just post whatever comes to mind, so I suppose it is a kind of public journal, which is fine, because I am a "what you see is what you get" type of person, with no big secrets.

Recently I started putting funny things on Saturday, and calling it "Saturday Sillies". I think it's important not to take yourself too seriously. I wonder, do my readers like the Saturday Sillies? If they give you a grin, I'll keep posting them. Otherwise, I may just enjoy them myself and not post them.

I've also been posting lists of articles that I found interesting and/or provocative in collections called "Shuffle". A couple of people have said they enjoy these lists. What do you think? Should I keep doing them?

I want to keep posting "Sunday Strolls" as a record of our weather, and the plants in our yard. The rest of the time I plan to write original posts ranging from musings about my job with the church, my family, book reviews, environmental issues, etc. That's mostly what I think about, so that's going to be what I write about. I don't feel compelled to write every day, but it's getting to be a habit, and it's unusual if I miss more than a day or two a week.

I really appreciate the blog friends I've made, and it's kind of humbling to think that there are apparently quite a few folks who read regularly without commenting. I hope more of you will consider coming out of hiding and getting involved in the conversations here!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Stroll-January 11, 2009

We're receiving another dusting of snow, over a layer of very dangerous black ice. I think every one I spoke to at church this morning had a sliding into the ditch story, or a falling on the ice story, if not on themselves, on someone near and dear to them. Many of our oldest members wisely stayed in.

It is beautiful, though. I haven't strolled the last two Sundays, feeling that the drab gray-brown we've been living with isn't very photogenic. Today, those colors seemed the perfect foil for the pure white of the snow.
To see who else is strolling today, visit Aisling at The Quiet Country House.

This One Had Me Bawling My Eyes Out

Oh, to get to worship like this!!

HT:Ray Ortlund

Friday, January 9, 2009


Article #1:

A clip in which the Surgeon General of New York, Dr. Daines, explains why he thinks there should be an obesity tax.

Article #2:

"Your mailbox has probably already been cluttered with the panic messages. Giving is drastically down! Our needs are dramatically up! Please dig deep! Whatever you gave last time, would you please consider doubling it this time around?
I have an alternative suggestion: When you get the next request like that, trash it. "

Joel Beltz, writing in World Magazine, gives helpful advice on how to deal with the onslaught of mail from charitable organizations.

HT:Glenn Penner

Article #3:

Blogger Arduous wrote last year about her culinary attempts in joining the Slow Food Movement. No one I know can see the humor in their own situation like Arduous can. I laughed 'til I cried.

Article #4:
Article 5:

What does the number 50,000,000 mean to you? Justin Taylor posts a visual for you.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The 2009 Science Book Challenge

Over on The Blogging Bookworm today there was information on how to participate in the 2009 Science Book Challenge. I'm going to do this one, because I realized I already have several books on my reading list that will qualify, and this might help me to prioritize reading them. Besides, I really liked the button!

I've been reading "Team of Rivals", and was reminded that Abe Lincoln, with less than one year's worth of formal schooling, wound up being a lawyer, state and federal legislator, and one of our greatest presidents. It's made me realize once again the value of reading for self-education. I also know that my artsy-fartsy mind could stand to dwell on some factual information. This will be a good challenge for me!

Here are the rules:

The 2009 Science-Book Challenge:

1. Read at least three nonfiction books in 2009 related somehow to the theme "Nature's Wonders". Your books should have something to do with science, scientists, how science operates, or science's relationship with its surrounding culture. Your books might be popularizations of science, they might be histories, they might be biographies, they might be anthologies; they can be recent titles or older books. We take a very broad view of what makes for interesting and informative science reading.

2. After you've read a book, write a short note about it, giving your opinion of the book. What goes in the note? The things you would tell a friend if you wanted to convince your friend to read it--or avoid it. Naturally, you can read some of the existing Book Notes for ideas. You might like to read our Book-note ratings for ideas about how to evaluate your books.

3. Don't worry if you find that you've read a book someone else has also read; we welcome multiple notes on one title.

4. Get your book note to us and we'll post it with the other notes in our Book Note section. Use the book-note form or the comment form to get in touch with us.

Tell other people about the Science-Book Challenge:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Illiteracy, Both Biblical and Cultural

"Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can't name even five of the Ten Commandments. . . .

"According to 82 percent of Americans, 'God helps those who help themselves,' is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better--by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one's family. . . .

"A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble."

HT-Ray Ortlund

I don't necessarily expect everyone to know the Bible inside out, especially in a pluralistic society. But knowing at least a little about Joan of Arc and Ben Franklin doesn't seem to be too much to ask of the average high school graduate. Or does it? Am I a complete nerd, or should this be common knowledge? How about knowing the Judeo-Christian foundation of our legal system? What do you think?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Book Review-"Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Over the past year, several friends have highly recommended "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time". I finally finished it this week, and I agree with them; it's a very inspiring read.

Greg Mortenson is a son of missionaries who spent a good part of his childhood in Africa. After a tour of duty in the military, he was pursuing his hobby of mountaineering in the Karakoram Mountains of Pakistan in 1993 when an aborted climb landed him in an extremely remote mountain village. The relationships he developed there, and his recognition of the deep desire the villagers had for an educated future for their children, ignited a passion in him for building a school for the village. Single-handedly, and against tremendous odds, he raised the funds, located the materials, and oversaw the labor of the villagers themselves to bring the first educational opportunity to their children. When word of this accomplishment got out in the surrounding area, other village leaders came to him to beg that he would help them do the same.

Eventually he formed the Central Asia Institute, a foundation set up to continue building schools in the most remote and politically fragile areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the Taliban attempts to deny access to education for girls, and where radical madrassas train boys in the most extreme form of Islam. Mortenson's schools are open to girls as well as boys, and offer a standard secular education. Many who have followed the progress of the Central Asia Institute recognize it as the best hope for opening the area to peaceful relations with the West, as well as offering opportunities for these remote villagers to raise up teachers, medical workers, and leaders from their own ranks.

Mortenson's work in a region of the world that is currently in conflict with the U.S. has drawn the attention of Congressional leaders. He has been asked to brief Congress on conditions in the Afghan-Pakistan border area. He has put a human face on the people of Central Asia, and championed their desire to find ways to raise themselves up and interact peacefully with the West.

Reading the book is a terrific way to gain an understanding of a part of the world that may be daily in the news, but remains a mystery to most Americans. The ruggedness of the terrain, the misunderstandings of culture, the differences between the various strains of Islam, and the challenges the West faces in dealing with the emergence of radical Islam are all explored in "Three Cups of Tea". Mortenson was in that part of the world when 9-11 occurred. He was captured and held by the Taliban at one point, and feared for his life. Yet, his love for the ordinary villagers caught in the maelstrom of war shines through in his work for them.

I came way with two thoughts: first, that the fruit of his efforts is only now beginning to ripen, as the first students of his schools reach adulthood and go on to higher education, leaving their villages for further training, and having interaction with the wider world. We will see the snowball effect of this as we move into the future. Secondly, as horrifying as 9-11 was, and perpetrated by those bent on evil, this one good has come from it: the attention on Mortenson's work that resulted has brought his organization the recognition and funding it deserves, and has lead to a burst of school building that will be, in my opinion, impossible to be erased by the Taliban, no matter how much they may try to eliminate the CAI schools. It is possible that the ultimate effect of binLaden's attack on the U.S. will be the cultural and political opening of Central Asia to the rest of the world. It will be fascinating to watch.

I highly recommend this book, giving it five stars.

If you'd like to learn more about CAI and it's work, you can go to If you order the book through that site, or through Amazon, a portion of the cost will go toward Mortenson's work.

For more great book reviews, head over to The Blogging Bookworm.

Friday, January 2, 2009

German Potato Soup

I mentioned on Facebook that I was making potato soup for dinner, thinking, "Wow, what a boring status report.". Then two friends wanted to know the recipe! So here it is:

Combine in a sauce pan:
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (I use redskins, and I don't peel them)
1 onion, diced
1 t. salt
dash pepper
3 1/2 c. water (I don't really measure that, just put enough in to cover everything)
Cook until the potatoes are tender
Heat in a smaller sauce pan:
1T butter
1T flour
Allow butter and flour to brown, stirring constantly
3 c. liquid from the potatoes (I just use 3 ladles full)
Cook and stir until smooth. Add into the potatoes and onions and heat through.

Very easy. This makes 4-5 big bowls full, but it's easy to double if you want more, which I did for years (actually, I think I tripled it for a while!). It really only takes about a 1/2 hour altogether.

Mel, you can do this. Really.


I'm going to start a new label category called "shuffle". When I find interesting articles that I think might get people thinking, I'll collect the links and post a list of them from time to time. They will be a real mixture of subjects, so the term "shuffle" reminds me of the setting on an i-pod where you don't know what might come up next, Vivaldi or the Bare Naked Ladies.

I'm not going to avoid controversy either. These will be articles that made me think, and I hope they will make you think, too. That doesn't mean that I agree with the writers, only that I thought the discussion was worthwhile.

Article #1:

"Gracious, self-forgetful humility should be one of the primary things that distinguishes Christian believers from the many other types of moral, decent people in the world. But I think it is fair to say that humility, which is a key differentiating mark of the Christian, is largely missing in the church. Nonbelievers, detecting the stench of sanctimony, turn away."

Tim Keller gives one of the clearest definitions of humility I've read, and discusses why we struggle to attain humility, and how important it is for the church to re-emphasize it if we are to have a voice in the culture we live in.
The Advent of Humility by Tim Keller


Article #2:

"Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do."
As An Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God, by Matthew Parris


Article #3:

"If you are anything like me, you are about to embark on a post-holiday, welcome the New Year, pre-spring cleaning purge. My key to surviving it without a bulging garbage can is to be organized. If you give everything a place, you are more likely to reuse instead of lose it."

A seasonally timely article on how to deal with clutter in a way that doesn't just fill the landfill.
Reuse It or Lose It, by Green Bean

Article #4:

"The pastor giving the reflection, not a homily, began by saying, "We are gathered here to honor tradition." I bit my lip, hard. "We are gathered here to sing beloved songs and hear well-known stories." Bit it harder. We were not there to celebrate and contemplate the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity...evidently."

Interesting reflections of an Orthodox Christian blogger who had an opportunity to visit another church on Christmas Eve, and discusses the difference between worshipping and attending a concert. Whispers On Earth

Article #5:

"Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed. "

Scary, scary article on the Israeli-Hamas showdown, and the Palestinian Christians that are caught in the middle, along with insights into the West's bungling in regards to Iran. Believe it or not, crucifixion is now back as a form of punishment. If this doesn't promt you to pray for wisdom for our new president, I don't know what would. Caroline Glick's column in the Jerusalem Post


Article #6:

Here's a video I saw on the blog of a friend who is in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia. If children are our future, this is worth looking at.

HT: Kathy

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Quick Explanation

You may have noticed that for the last week I have dabbled with putting ads on this blog. Several people had suggested this to me. I felt uncomfortable about it, not because I think it's wrong to make a little income off of blogging, but because I felt it subverted the philosophy of the blog, which was that I would be writing what was on my heart, and directing readers to the writing of others that I thought was of value. It would not have changed the way I wrote, but it might not have been obvious to new readers that that was the case.

Anyway, I gave it a try, briefly, and found that I still felt uncomfortable. So I took them off, with the exception of the widget for I kept that. I figured that if I read, liked, and reviewed on this blog, books that you might like to read, that would be an easy way for you to access them. That's why it's located under the reading list, instead of in a more obvious place on the layout.