Monday, July 30, 2007

Artistic Expression and Faith

A few days ago, I came across a post called Of Books and Faith written by Beck at Frog and Toad are Still Friends ( The best blog name EVER to my mind.) She writes about how the Christian market is saturated with mediocre books. How few fiction authors there are who really grapple with the messiness of humanity from a Christian perspective. I agree with her whole-heartedly. The Christian life does not come with the lack of conflict and the happily-ever-after resolutions that I find in many books of this genre.

It's funny that I came across that post because I had been thinking similar thoughts about another form of Christian expression. Art. Christian art is often either poorly rendered or is just too pretty. It lacks creativity. It doesn't engage the mind. Remember when I made that long trek to Hobby Lobby for stencil supplies? That was where this idea started to form.

I spent a few minutes flipping through posters. Flip. Glowing Jesus in a meadow. Flip. Glowing Jesus surrounded by cherubs. Flip. Glowing Jesus and his glowing disciples at the Last Supper. With the exception of the Transfiguration, Jesus doesn't glow in the gospels. There is no record of any sort of radioactive material that could have caused the all the guests to light up at the Last Supper. Cherubim, not cherubs are given a mention in a book or two. There's a world of difference, you know. So there I am flipping through these posters and wondering...How come Jesus looks like a holy, western, Paul Bunyan? Couldn't the artist find a Mid-Eastern model? Surely there are skilled artists out there who can capture the humanity of Jesus. How about a tired Jesus? Or a Jesus who sweats? How about a painting of Jesus sleeping in the boat with the waves threatening impending doom? There's a message in that too. Why do we only focus on the miraculous? The calming of the storm? Somehow I think that these images would draw us closer to Him...make us more appreciative that He chose to walk upon this earth in human form.

It's not hopeless. There are some artists that I appreciate for their thoughtful contribution to this arena.

Thomas Cole was a nineteenth century landscape painter. He captured on canvas the stages of life in his four-picture series The Voyage of Life. (Scroll down on his Wikipedia page to view these paintings.) His work is skillful, reflective, and realistic. There is not another painter of realism who whose work I enjoy as much as Mr. Cole's. It takes hours to absorb the details and message of these four paintings. The kids and I studied them together about a year ago and we were all impressed by his creativity, attention to detail, and ability to speak through art. The Course of the Empire is another Cole series with a relevant message for our times.

I think the nature of modern art is a good medium for a Christian artist because one must approach it with a mind that is willing to wonder...to search for meaning. I have found two modern artists whose work I appreciate. Sally Brestin has a beautiful painting titled Aslan. There is a video on her website that explains the miracle of this work. It gives me chills every time I hear her tell the story. Ann at Genesis Project has created paintings that are representations of bringing order out of chaos. She draws on the first chapter in Genesis for inspiration. Ann paints with vivid colors and bold brush strokes. Appropriate choices for the creation story I think.

There's one more thing I would like to see. How about a photo series that captures the church of today reaching across cultural divides? Photos of middle class people worshipping in ghetto churches with the locals. Photos of blacks and whites serving together. Photos of grandmothers and grandfathers instructing the younger generations. The Church today needs to be shaken out of the comfortable slumber that it is in and see what the Church in the book of Acts really looked like... in today's terms. An artist has the power to challenge our thinking.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Putting the House To Rights (Recipes Included)

The smell of baking scones fills the kitchen. Lauren just mixed up a batch and popped them in the oven. John is emptying the dishwasher. Faith and Claire are tag teaming with the vacuum. All are working cheerfully. A bag of wintergreen Lifesavers stashed in the cupboard goes a long way toward sweetening their work ethic. They have graduated from helpless to helpful. The helpless days felt long indeed but I am surprised at the speed with which the helpful days have arrived.

While they bake and wash and vacuum, I put shoes on the shoe shelf, fold laundry and tuck it away. A quick peek out the back door reveals toys, tools, more shoes and a dog leash. I am tired of cleaning so I scoop everything up and dump it in the Mothership (our catchall basket) in the corner of the living room. All of this takes less than an hour. If I am faithful to keep on top of shopping and sorting, cleaning and cooking, it's easy instead of overwhelming. I enjoy the rhythm of daily tasks.

Now the children are gathered in the playroom playing Crash on the Game Cube with Stuart and I am alone in an orderly living room. I like the way the house feels when the beds are made and the dishes done. It's satisfying to see the fruit bowl filled with fresh fruit and the book basket stocked with fresh library books. When my counters are clean and the living room is cleared of books and toys, my mind is cleared of clutter and there's more room for thinking.

The scones are cooling on the counter. Lauren fills our dinner cart with plates, water, whipped cream, fresh peaches, butter and the scones. We sit around the table and assemble dessert. The scones are delicious. Light and flaky. We eat and share our compliments with the chef. We delight in each other's company and soak in the refreshment of the resting time that follows our chore time.
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I have had some recipe requests in the past few days. I will share them here in case more of you are interested. I write all of our recipes in the format I am using here. It makes it easy for my little bakers to follow the directions without too much help from me. We keep all of our favorites together in a binder. Each page is encased in a plastic sheet protector because we're messy cooks. This way I don't have dozens of cookbooks cluttering my kitchen.

Scones
(This is the Classic Currant Scone Recipe from The New All Purpose Joy of Cooking)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl whisk:

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Add:

6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Blend the butter into the flour using the back of a fork until the dough resembles bread crumbs.

Whisk together, then add all at once:

1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Blend until the dry ingredients are moistened. Dump the dough out onto the counter and knead gently just until the dough sticks together. Press dough onto a ungreased baking sheet and pat into an 8 inch circle. Brush the top with 2 to 3 teaspoons of cream and sprinkle with sugar.
Use a knife or a pizza cutter to slice the circle into 8 pieces. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on rack and serve warm.

*My favorite variation is to substitute a teaspoon of orange extract for the vanilla and add about 3/4 cup chocolate chips to the dough. You could add any type of dried fruit or flavored extract that appeals to you.

Lemon/Raspberry Streusel Muffins
Mentioned in the sidebar under Around the House
(from Cookin'Up Country Breakfasts...my favorite breakfast cookbook)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine:

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a separate bowl, combine:

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup vanilla or lemon yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredient jut until moistened. Fold in raspberries. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full (I fill them right to the top.) Sprinkle the tops with the topping.

Topping

In small bowl, combine:

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter

Blend with the ingredients with the back of a fork.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. (I have found that the bottoms of the muffins are less likely to get dark if I set the muffin tin in a glass baking dish.) Let the muffins cool in the pan for at least 1o minutes before removing onto a wire rack.

Yield: About 1 dozen

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Encourage One Another

I remember my first brush with gossip . My sixth birthday. It's the first birthday that I can recall... on account of the gossip.

There we were, six or seven little girls, packed into into the playhouse that my grandfather had made. One guest had not yet arrived. We should have been playing tea party or ice cream parlor. But we were not and I didn't understand why. Instead we were huddled in a tight group tied together by whispers.

"She smells. Did you notice that she always wears the same clothes? She only goes to St. Michael's Elementary because she has a scholarship."

I didn't know any of those things. I didn't even guess at them. I didn't care. All I knew was that they were talking about a little girl who was not there to defend herself. I felt like I had been burned by the cruelness of their words. I could not stay amongst the flaming tongues and went to seek the comfort of my mother's hug and to cry at the inexplicable meaness in my playhouse. I learned that I am tender hearted on my sixth birthday. I learned the power of words on that day as well.

About a month ago, I received the Reflective Blogger's Award from my friend Lisa at The Preacher's Wife. I was so proud. Someone liked what I had written. Someone liked what I thought. I dutifully passed on the award to other bloggers but all the while I thought Finally, someone else has acknowledged what I have known all along. I have talent. I was ready to sign book deals and speak to thousands. It was only a matter of time before the reality check. You're getting mighty dressed up in those garments of pride. You can't expound on an idea for more than four paragraphs so the book thing is out. And speakers are funny and dynamic and don't say, "You know what I mean?" to drive a point home. So that's out too.

So I had to wrestle with the question, Why am I writing? I really wanted the answer to be Why, for fame and fortune, of course! But glorifying my name doesn't bring glory to the Name Above All Names so that couldn't be the final answer. The whole time I was fighting pride, I was reading other blogs and discovering women who are fighting illness or dealing with the loss of a child or are married to a husband who is in jail...The list is endless. For the most part these are not women without hope. They trust that there are jewels hidden within these burdens but they sure could use a person to come alongside and wrap them in words of encouragment. They don't want to hear Romans 8:28. They want words from the heart. I care. I thought about you and prayed for your family this morning. You matter. I'm sorry.

I might not have it in me to write books but I am a letter writer. The author of encouraging notes. Letters that get tucked in Bibles or quoted in sermons. Letters that get read and reread. I chose to reject the example of the mean girls in my playhouse. I would rather use my words for good. Words do have power, the power to cut to the quick and the power to lift one's soul. That's it. That's why I blog. To be a voice of encouragement. Here on my blog and especially in the comments section on other blogs.

A few days ago, I was given the opportunity to encourage a few people in another way. Kathy at Sunballo awarded me with the Reflective Blogger Award with these words:

I like her humor and her insights and her dedication to the Lord. You’ll find compassion and wisdom in her articles. I wish I could sit down at her breakfast table and discuss God’s Word with her and her children, to hear her perceptive ideas. Kate, you’ve encouraged me many times and I hope this encourages you to keep writing, keep praying, keep studying, keep loving those people God puts in your path!

But this time, my head didn't swell. Not one bit. I am simply glad to be able to shine the spotlight on some bloggers whom I admire.

Mary at Not Before Seven. She loves God's Word and is determined to know more of it and to share it with her three little ones. A girl after my own heart. She is a few mothering years behind me but I always come away from time spent at her blog impressed with the wisdom that I find there.

Bonnie at Ink It Blog. I "met" her this week when she left a comment here. I clicked over to her site and read Let the Dishes Wait... She wrote in such a way that I felt like I could see into Martha's thoughts. I went back for another visit and found post after post that I could relate to. She should get this award solely for creating a devotional about Montezuma's Revenge.

Kitty at kittyhox. She was the first person outside my circle of friends who stopped by for a visit. My first cyberspace friend. I love the way she skips with ease from one topic to another in a post and I follow along with her no matter where she arrives at the end. Her writing has a conversational feel to it.

Amy at Adore, Amplify and Admire. I could write more than four paragraphs about this girl. When she prays the heavens shake and mountains move. She has a servant's heart and a scholar's mind. My life is richer because I count her among my dearest real-life friends. There are not many posts on her blog in part because she is a people person and her days are busy. She may not write often but when she does I read and reread. I like that I can hear her voice as I read her words.


So here you are girls...



...go out and share this encouragement others.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What are You Wearing?

This is Faith...

...in her self-imposed uniform. A dark blue shirt and a pair of blue jean capris. She has to suck in her tummy to snap the capris but, "They're perfect, Mama! I love them."

If the uniform is clean, it's on her body. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of mama who does laundry daily, so, yes, she can wear it every day. Unless she sleeps in it. I love the nights she goes to bed in this getup because I get to see her in something different in the morning. Maybe even something purple. She looks beautiful in purple. She is one of my most creative children. Perhaps this is because she doesn't waste an ounce of mental energy deciding what to wear.

I have two more children who dress predictably. We read a science book a few years ago that showed how dark colors absorb heat and light colors reflect it. Hot-blooded Lauren took this to heart. She dresses in khaki shorts and a white t-shirt.

"How 'bout if you wear your black shirt with those shorts? Black looks so good with your hair. Or the coral one? It highlights your skin tones."

"I'll be hot! Dark colors make me hot!" End of discussion.

John goes for comfort. I bought him a soft pair of blue and white plaid flannel pants at the local thrift store last fall. He put them on in October and he's still wearing them. We have this conversation every time we are getting ready to leave the house:

"Hey Bud, you need to get changed. We're leaving in a few minutes.

"Why? I like these pants."

'I know hon, but they look like pajamas. You can't leave the house wearing pajamas." And he goes grumbling off to dig through his drawers to find something acceptable... and comfy. It usually takes him a few tries.

So the other day, I was at the far end of the house in the clothes room. I sorted the uniforms into their drawers. Look at these clothes. Why do they just wear the same things day after day? They don't wear most of what's in here. Don't they realize how good they would look in these things?

That thought was followed by this one. Look at what you wear. Day after day, you put on the same old stuff...pride, impatience, worry... You have other stuff in your closet you know. Peace, humility, gentleness. You should pull those out more often. They're a perfect fit and you're stunning in them.

Tomorrow when the kids all suit up in the uniforms, I'll check to see what I'm wearing.

(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday

What's in your freezer?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Bookend Book


Kathy of Sumballo has given us a tough assignment this week. We are to study the design of a Bible passage. Please do take a minute and visit her blog to view this lesson.She can pack more into a few paragraphs than I could in a whole book. It probably wouldn't be so tough if I would just pick a short passage and follow directions. (Some of you know me well enough not to expect that.) I had started writing a post of the structure of the gospel of John so that's what I'll post for this assignment.

We came to the last chapter in Luke last week. I was sad to say goodbye. I don't like coming to the end of a book in the Bible because then I need to make a decision about where to go next. We took a vote at the kitchen table. Acts or John? Acts seemed to be the more logical choice for its author and timeline continuity but we chose John. We wanted to see Jesus in a different light. Luke focuses on the humanity of Jesus and John on His divinity.

The gospel of John scares me. Standard wisdom is to tell one new to Bible reading to start with John. For the life of me, I can't figure out why this is good advice. It has such depth that the first time or two that I read through it, I felt like I was drowning in theology. I am beginning to see more this time through but not without the help of printed commentary. Usually, I read through an online commentary and take quick notes before I read the chapter out loud to the children. I found, with John, that I was copying the commentary verbatim and resorted to printing it out in its entirety. We are reading through ten or eleven verses at a time. More than that and my head starts to spin.

Unlike the Barrel of Monkeys links that we find in Luke, John appears to be a Bookend Book. (I discovered this without the help of the commentary. I love when God shows me extra stuff.) People and events are introduced in the beginning of the book and reappear at the end to bring the gospel to a close. Here are some examples:

1. The book begins by presenting Jesus as the Word...the eternal, divine God. The last sentence testifies that there are not enough words to capture Jesus' sojourn on the earth. Of course. He's God and cannot be confined to the printed page!

2. Simon, son of John, is given the name Cephas, meaning stone, in the first chapter. He is a stone, buffeted about throughout the book. In the last chapter he is reinstated and by the grace of God he goes on to become a rock, a leader in establishing the church.

3. Nicodemus sits with Jesus on a rooftop under a nighttime sky in chapter three. We see him again in chapter 19 assisting Joseph of Arimathea in taking Jesus' body from the cross and placing it in a tomb.

4. Jesus points Nicodemus to the story of the bronze snake in Numbers 21:4-9 (This snake is Sin on a Stick according to my Lauren) and in John 19 it is Jesus Himself who is lifted up on the cross.

5. He performs his first miracle at the request of a woman. His mother, Mary. Even the miracle, changing water into wine, points to the New Covenant that is brought about by his death and resurrection. At the end of the book there is another first. The first person that He reveals his resurrected self to is another woman. Another Mary.

I am sure that I have missed some bookends. Get out your Bibles and see if you can find any more in The Bookend Book and post a comment below. I'm looking forward to learning from you.

Kathy instructs us to find the very center of the text and see if we find anything of importance there. I thought this was so interesting because after I made the discovery about the bookends, I found myself asking, I wonder if there is anything significant in the middle? I do not have a definitive answer to this question but I wonder if the center of this book is found in chapter 12. Jesus says, Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! Then a voice came from heaven, I have glorified it, and will glorify it again...You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light...Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may be sons of light. These verses reflect back to the opening words in John1:9, The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

It will take us weeks and weeks to make our way through this book. As I learn more, I'll write another post or two.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy



Here. Take a look at my Daytimer. Flip back to 2003-2004. See the activities listed? We were new in town so there's not much to show you... K-1 choir director with a short hiatus to birth a baby...our fifth. Oh, that's right...I almost forgot the Purpose Driven Life Bible study. And then there was VBS in July. Yeah, the baby was under the weather but we did just fine.

Now look. Here are the pages for 2004-2005. A busy year...Choir director, adult and children's Sunday school teachers, substitute children's church leader, marriage discipleship leaders and yes, VBS again. A fun year. We made a bunch of friends as we served alongside them. No. I don't really remember fitting in much prayer time and Bible study that year.

Let's hurry on to 2005-2006. I'll talk fast. There's much ground to cover and I don't want to waste your time... ChoirDirectorSundaySchoolTeachersDeacon. Squeeze in a job loss and a search for new employment. ChurchCampCounselor. "Bye honey. We'll join you when the house sells." VBSDanielBibleStudyPrayerTeamSubstituteChildren'sChurchLeaderWomensMinistry. Whew! Pack the moving van; we're on our way.

November 2006. We arrived in Smallville with our sleeves rolled up. Ready to make a difference. But no one needed our services. Sunday school classes had teachers. Retired couples (the majority here) don't need marriage discipleship. VBS teachers? No thanks. We've got it covered. Prayer ministry? We don't do that here.

I'll take that planner from you. I don't have anything to show you for 2007.

It's been quiet this year. No activities. Just me and God. We walk together around the neighborhood and talk while we go. Turns out one and One equals a prayer ministry. We visit over his Word and a cup of coffee while the kids play in the backyard. He sends me work. Small jobs like tending to the hearts of the Grandkids Three, praying with the widow across the street, and grieving with a grandmother whose grandbaby just died. I've learned how to be a better friend to my neighbors because I've learned to be better friend to my God.

Yesterday, a pastor stopped by and wanted to know, "What are your gifts? Where could we put you and your husband to work? We really need someone to head up the children's department."

You know what? I didn't jump at the chance.

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(To see what others have to say about this quote visit Loni at Finding Joy in the Morning. Take some time and look around her blog. She has quite a story to tell.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Errands

We had two errands to run this afternoon. 1. Drive to The Land Flowing with Milk and Honey to drop Lauren and John off at art class and 2. Continue north to The Outer Reaches of the Earth to pick up stencil creme and repositionable stencil adhesive.

I recently finished painting Faith and Claire's room a bright, cheery Extra White. I decided to paint the words A friend loves at all times over their window in blue and green to add a touch of color. Smallville does not carry stencil creme as it is not necessary for survival, nor does the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey because it is neither milk nor honey. We keep our UPS man hopping but ordering paint via the internet will not bring the hoped-for green to my mailbox. I know. I've tried. I just unpacked a carton of Leprechaun Green but it had olive tones to it rather than the true green I was after. Hence the need to travel to The Outer Reaches of the Earth where the really good stores are.

After delivering the oldest two to their class, we drove out of town and turned north onto the four-lane highway. Cotton fields and garbage cribs dotted the landscape. Each residence in the county sports some type of garbage holding device at the end of the driveway. Some of these containers are made of wood or wire but many of them are literal cribs. While I was comtemplating how these cribs create a unique scenic impression, we came upon four fire trucks, three police cars, and several pickup trucks lining the southbound lanes. I looked but did not see any reason for all these vehicles. I continued on my way north speculating whether the emergency congregation was necessary or whether it was it just a drill to see how quickly they could rondevous at this particular destination. Three more fire trucks, two pickup trucks with blinking lights and two additional police cars came screaming and speeding past me on the southbound lanes.

We have a lot of accidents around here. My neighbor blames the hill people for many of these crashes. The roads that crisscross the hills are dirt paths just wide enough to allow a single vehicle to wind around the countryside. Its no wonder the Clampetts get confused with four lane navigation. They lurch down out of the hills, come to the first two lanes of the divided highway and turn in the direction of their destination. Destination is the deciding factor in whether they turn north or south into the southbound lanes. The Clampetts often do not realize that there are two additional lanes just a few feet from the open window that supports their elbow. It is not uncommon to see a car heading north in the far left southbound lane. Stuart witnessed this just last week. Cars were diving off the road all over the place to get out of Jed's way.

So this is what I figure, one of those pickups must have been heading north in the southbound lane. Because this is dangerous, he was pulled over. Then maybe the officer discovered meth... or explosives...or waaay too many shotguns in the back of the pickup and called out every available emergency worker in the county. And they all came because emergency workers are good in an emergency. I don't know any of this for sure but the speculating made the miles go by faster.

We drove and drove and finally pulled into the Hobby Lobby parking lot. You have to understand that this is the first time that I have been shopping in eons. I was completely overwhelmed when I walked in the door. So many things to look at. I wanted to inspect every item because wonderous household decorations might have been invented since the last time I ventured out. I wanted to take my time deciding which one or two impulse items to add to my cart. I wanted to come to an understanding as to why the shelves were stocked with Christmas decorations. It is only July, after all. As I was wandering around with three kids in tow, picking up and putting back, Charlie got to thinking and decided that he wanted to go to Disney World. Right. Then. So I hurriedly (and distractedly) made my purchases while listening to a rhythmic, chanting chorus of, "Let's go to Disney World. I want to go to Disney World. Let's drive to Disney World. I hate home."

When we got back to the car, I learned that my watch and the clock in the car were out of sync and that the speedier clock displayed the correct time. I had fifteen minutes to make a forty-five minute trip back to pick up the kids. Charlie continued his chant but I couldn't hear most of the words as our air conditioning has been going by degrees and now we drive with the windows rolled down. I also couldn't hear and didn't notice that my turn signal was blinking. The wind roared, Charlie chanted and the right turn signal blinked for thirty endless miles.

We hurriedly scooped up Lauren and John and zipped into Wal-Mart to pick up a quick snack because we were starving and Charlie had added extreme hunger to his whiny chant. Back in the car, Lauren passed out snacks and five of us opened flavored water bottles simultaneously. No one noticed that the label explained this was not ordinary water. No, it was sparkling water and the hasty opening of the bottles created an EXPLOSION of sparkling cherry water all over the car. We ticked off the remaining miles in wet clothing and sticky puddles.

When we finally parked the car in the driveway, the odometer shocked me. We covered One hundred and eleven miles on this art class/stencil creme excursion. One hundred and eleven miles is a long, far way to go for 1.5 ounces of paint and a 4 oz. bottle of glue. Don't you think?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Monkey Monday



This is Fuzzy. He is a good little monkey. Except when you squeeze his belly. Then he screams like a girl. On Monday morning, when Mama was in a fog, the children entertained themselves by styling monkey makeovers.





Samurai Fuzzy


Yeti Fuzzy


Mohawk Fuzzy

Mowhawk Side View

Electrified Fuzzy

The Crew

What do your kids do when you can't keep it all together?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Peter and Jonah

I am so excited about a weekly feature on Kathy's blog, Sumballo. She is writing a post or two every week that provide tools for in-depth Bible study. This week, she teaches about pericope. It is a Greek word (pa-RIH-kōp-ee) that means “cutting around.” (I will be teaching the kids this word at the breakfast table this morning.) Interested? Stop by her site for more information.

We've taken to callling them the Barrel of Monkeys books, Luke and Acts that is. You see, you cannot look at an event written in either of these books without looking at what comes before and aft. They all hook together like one long chain. To help my little ones understand this concept, I put it in kid terms, "Kind of like the way the monkeys hook together in the Barrel of Monkeys game."

Their eyes lit up. They know about these monkeys. "Ooohhh!"

And now each meal begins with the request, "Read the Monkey Book, Mama."

I made some interesting discoveries this week in the second monkey book, the book of Acts. In Acts 10:9 Peter goes up to a roof top to pray and as he is praying, a sheet full of all kinds of animals, clean and unclean to the Jewish mind, is lowered down in front of him.

"Get up , Peter. Kill and eat."

I love Peter's response. It is eight years after the Pentecost and his first response is still to say "Surely not, Lord." Surely not. Surely you will not wash my feet. Surely you will not suffer and die.

He says, "Surely not." but when we look at the preceding link, Acts 9:43, we find out that Peter is staying in Joppa at the home of a tanner. A tanner. An unclean profession if there ever was one. Peter is already pushing the limits. He is already living on the edge. God has brought him this far, to a tanner's house in Joppa, and now He's ready to push Peter's envelope a little further.

God has prepared Peter for this task and he has also prepared the hearts of those whom Peter will be meeting. In the final link, we arrive at the house of Cornelius. This man is an Italian centurion who had volunteered for duty, a Gentile living in Caesarea, a predominately Gentile city. Three strikes against him. Three strikes that Peter ignores in favor of obedience. Peter goes to Cornelius' house, he shares an eye-witness account of the death and resurrection of his Lord and he sticks around. Because he stays, Peter witnesses the power of the Holy Spirit come upon these Gentiles in the identical manner that He came upon the Jews during the Pentecost. This shocks the Jewish believers in the room, shocks them and blesses them at the same time. A new era is ushured in in Cornelius' living room.

I am reminded of another man who was called from Joppa to deliver a message to the Assyrians, to plead with them to turn from their wickedness. He does the turning instead. Jonah turns his back on God and rushes in the opposite direction. God resorts to drastic measures to exact obedience from this reluctant messenger. Again, the hearts of the people are prepared to hear the message. Repent. But Jonah does not stick around to see the results. He climbs a hill overlooking the city and watches for its destruction. He is not at all interested in seeing restoration come to this city of Gentiles. He chooses bitterness over blessing.

As I am reading these days, reading the Bible and blogs and newspapers, I am continually faced with the fact that not all people think like I do. Not all people live like I do. Unlike Peter, Jonah was unwilling to accept the fact that God offers mercy to those unlike himself. Peter gradually worked his way out of his comfort zone to be able to interact with the Caesareans. I need to be doing the same.

(My guess is that the pericope for this story of Peter and Cornelius begins in Acts 10:1 and ends with Acts 11:18)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Leadership


There was music as I drifted between sleep and wake, distant notes. The room was dark and the covers offered the perfect weight. I snuggled down deeper into them and Stuart scooted across the great divide of the king-sized bed to pull me close. Sleep claimed us until the notes interrupted again.

Stuart stirred. "Hon, it's time. It's time to get up and get ready for church. Hon?"

"Uh-uh. I don't want to get up."

"Do you want to sleep in and go to Sunday School?"

"Uh-huh."

Stuart hit the snooze button and we slept, warm and cozy, for another little while.

The moment of reckoning could not be delayed forever and I wrestled my way from under the covers in search of the shower and a cup of coffee.

A fog of sleepiness still laid claim to my brain in Sunday school.

"We didn't see ya'll in the first service."

"I know. " Stuart replied. " We had a long day yesterday so we slept in. We'll be at the second service."

We will? You only mentioned Sunday School; you didn't say anything about church. I just want to go home and climb back in bed.

But there we were, all in a row, singing old hymns and listening to words on doubt and faith. The last bits of fog drifted away, and in that moment, I discovered that this was right where I wanted to be.




**Visit Christine at Fruit in Season for her perspective on the valleys that are part of marriage and to view other participants responses to the marriage challenge.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Frugality

I've been tagged by Meg at No Shadow of Turning to share five things that I like about Jesus. (It's actually called 5 Things I Dig About Jesus but I don't use the word dig unless I'm in the garden so in not using the word dig I have now written it thrice.)

This meme is all over Blogville these days and this is what I have noticed. When I read through these lists, one thing on each list grabs my attention. One. I think this is how we are. We read many words and savor a few. So, because I am not a rule follower (It's so much more interesting to think outside the lines) consider yourself tagged if you have not been tagged already and I will not write about five things that I like about Jesus. I will write about one. And maybe this one thing will go with you as you go about your day. It goes like this...

"Do you think...?" The words came out all in a rush after the words about abuse and alcohol and a lifetime of hardship, a ten year old lifetime. "Do you think that a kid will grow up to be like her Momma and Daddy?"

Stuart was gone this week and Grandkid One stayed for dinner. The children dawdled over their sandwiches and I ate quickly so that I could read a few verses of Luke and we talked about them while they finished their meal. Somehow, this reading and discussing made Grandkid One feel like it was safe, here in my kitchen, to share her story and ask this question, "Do you think...?"

We've been in Luke for weeks and weeks now because we are thorough readers. Slow reading is good for the digestion and in this pokey trip through Luke, I have discovered something. Jesus didn't waste a thing. Words, touch, and minutes, he used, to their best possible advantage. He didn't waste a single opportunity to ask everyone...everyone...sinners and Sadduccees alike....Who do you think I am? It made no difference to him if they came to him in earnestness or hostility. Who do you think I am? was a question they all needed to wrestle with. Baskets of leftovers rested in the arms of the disciples to prove a point. Even human weakness and sin were pressed into service to further His kingdom and accomplish His plan.

This frugality was on my mind when Grandkid One asked me, "Do you think that a child will grow up to be like her Momma and Daddy?"

"Sweetie, this is what I think. I think it is possible for a child to grow up to be like her momma and her daddy but just because it's possible doesn't mean that you necessarily will. You are a wise girl. You see and can explain the difference between our home and yours. You know what a healthy life looks like and you know to look to Jesus for wisdom. Honey, I promise you, if you put your life in His hands, he can take all these messy pieces...all these things that don't seem right and don't seem fair... and put them to good use. I know because this is what he has done with my messy things."

And it's true. My Jesus doesn't waste a thing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Curse of the Threes

The number of fire ant bites on my right hand?
The number of daylilies I had dug up prior to digging into the one where the fire ants had hidden their nest?
The number of fleas we've taken off the dog this afternoon?
The number of flea baths this dog has had in the last two weeks?
The number of times Charlie has wet the floor today?
The number of hours until Stuart finds out that I backed the Suburban into a large pole?
The number of days that Stuart has been in Canada?
The number of minutes we have talked on the phone?
The number of rags used to clean up a container of spilled soup?
The number of children who claimed they knew nothing about the soup?
The number of times Grandkid Three was in timeout?
The number of hours the Grandkids Three were here today?

Yes. The answer to all of these is THREE. (Except for the soup. Five kids claimed no knowledge of the spilled soup.)


(See the comments below for Stephanie's list of threes. Her list is much more significant than mine.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Letter to the Head Honchos

Dear Head Honchos of Food Prices and Packaging,

Because I purchase two carts of groceries a week, and send my husband after the things we forget or can't stuff in the carts, I consider myself an expert on this topic of food. I have noticed a trend, a correlation if you will. Prices go up, packages get smaller. And also, I have ingredient issues.

When I was a kid, my mom used coupons and filled two carts with groceries every week and the store owed her money. The packages were bigger. I think one box of Kraft Dinner fed our family of eleven. Now if we want to eat Kraft Spirals (and we do want to because they're tasty) it takes four boxes to feed seven of us, and if I use coupons, somehow, I end up paying more. I concede. You marketing gurus are way smarter than me.

About milk. Do you work with OPEC to set the price for a gallon of milk or does the price just come to ya'll when you're filling your gas tanks?

Barilla Plus Pasta. This hit the shelves a little more than a year ago. Awesome stuff. Noodles made with more than vitamin deprived white flour. Fiber, flax seed, chick peas all in a sixteen ounce box. Well, at least it used to be. Now I settle for the fourteen and a half ounces that you offer me. Did you notice that you neglected to reduce the price when you started putting less noodles in the box? Was this your plan all along? Get me hooked on the useful sized box and then reduce the contents to where I have to buy two boxes (for the price of two) in order to make a decent tuna noodle casserole.

100% Natural Prego Italian Sauce Flavored with Meat. Where's the beef? I see beef mentioned on the ingredient list right between corn syrup and vegetable oil but I can't find it in the jar. I asked my daughter to look for me, maybe I was missing it. Nope. "You mean there's supposed to be meat in this, Mama?"

So, I have some theories about this, how you can put meat on the label but not actually in the jar. Maybe you add beef extract? Essence of beef? Or perhaps, the smell of the meat that you stew for Chunky Campbells Vegetable Beef soup wafts over and fills the spaghetti jar with its aroma? At any rate, I have a beef about having to add meat supplements to your meat flavored sauce. And, by the way, is the sauce now in the smaller sized jars because of the smaller packages of Barilla?

And the half gallon of ice-cream we used to buy? Don't even get me started. You know what I'm talking about, you and your 1.75 quarts.

I'd put this in letter format and mail it off to you but you know, the cost of a stamp went up to forty-one cents last week. It's decision time. Food? Stamps? Food? Stamps? Heeey....do ya'll have connections with the post office too?

Sincerely,

The Small Scribbler

P.S. If anybody would like to add an item to this letter feel free.





Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Live Now

She came gently, in no time at all, because she knew what she was doing. She always does. And as she was changing worlds, from water to air, she let out a scream as if to say, "What on earth took you so long, lady?"

We leaned back, all of us did, to put some distance between us and the shriek. "Goodness, that child has a set of lungs on her! I don't know that I've heard such a noise from a newborn."

She still bellows, my Claire, and she's always in a hurry. Yesterday she said, "Has it been two hours yet?"

"Why?" "What are you waiting for?"

"In two hours, it's media time."

And five minutes later she said, "Hey Mom! How many more minutes?"

"How many more minutes until when?"

"Mom! I really want to watch my movie!"

"Why don't you ask me how many more minutes 'til Now. If you ask me how many more minutes 'til Now you won't have to wait at all. Now is... now. If you look for Later you miss the Now"

"Mom! How many more minutes? How many more 'til it's time?"

And so it is...with Claire...and me.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Grandkids Three: Take Two

The Grandkids Three are back. Ringing the door bell. Swimming in the pool. Looking for snacks.

My heart has been under construction. Thoughts of inconvenience and disruption are being dismantled to make room for love. Real love.

I've been thinking about those days when I was six, and seven, and ten. My mind scans through the list of grownups that I knew and searches for those who knew best how to love an awkward, shy child.

Susie comes to mind. She was my first and best babysitter. She led my siblings and I on expeditions into the woods. We walked on paths we had not discovered before and swung from vines hanging from the trees. She taught us how a gentle touch would make a Johnny Jump Up spring open. She bent my thumbs around an acorn top and taught me to blow across it just so. Six or seven of us piled into her blue Volkswagon beetle. She drove us around the back country roads and we laughed and laughed. I remember that blue Bug and the blue sky and the sunshine of that day. She gave us her time and attention. She loved without expectation.

Sister Eleanor Grace was my sixth grade teacher. She had a big heart, a big personality and a big laugh. She loved history. So did I and this made her my friend. She was loud and I was quiet but she did not scare me. She was a great story teller and an encourager. If you did something well, she couldn't bear to keep it to herself. She would beam and shower praise and share the news with the whole class. She loved with enthusiasm.

Aunt Mary was quiet. She didn't play with us. She brought us argyle socks, Fun Pads with mazes and dot-to-dot pages, and Avon perfume. She watched me spin around and around in the living room and did not say, "Stop that, child! You'll make yourself sick." I sat on the couch next to her and she asked me questions about what I liked...what I was learning. There's a difference between the Uh-huh kind of listening and real listening. Aunt Mary loved with real listening.

In light of these memories, it's Take Two with the Grandkids Three. I play in the pool with them. I take them into consideration when filling the grocery cart. Grandkid One tells me every day, "My momma and my daddy ain't married no more. " Sadness and shame creep into her voice every time she tells me. I tell her I'm sorry...and I am.

Grandkid Three dashes about and bellows in his deep voice and crashes into things. I've stocked up on band-aids. We visit in the kitchen while I wrap another band-aid around the cut on his toe. "Thank you Miss Sharon," he smiles up at me.

I smile back down. "You're welcome."

Last night we visited with Grandkids Two and Three over gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. I showed them the hummingbirds dueling at the feeder outside the window.

Grandkid Two looked out the window and then around the room. "Ya'll are rich," she said in the unguarded way of little ones.

Grandkid Three nodded his head in agreement, "Yeah! Rich!"

"Why do you say that?"

"You've got a HUGE house with LOTS and LOTS of rooms and a pool. It's FUN here. Fun. Fun."

And they are right. We are rich but not in the way that they think. It seems to me that love is best when it's an action verb. Love that listens and serves and cares. A lesson learned in life's laboratory from the Grandkids Three.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Time Travel

The melody of the dulcimers and banjo called to us and drew us up onto the front porch. We watched the performers for a few minutes...hesitant to join in.

"Does anyone want to give it a try?" A man in early American garb held out one of the dulcimers.

John was the only daring one of the five. He took the instrument and laid it awkwardly across his lap. He fumbled to move his fingers to the correct places on the numbered dulcimer.

"Slide the dulcimer down toward your knees. Hold the pick tightly but run it lightly across the strings."

John rearranged his fingers around the pick and adjusted the instrument. After a few times through the numbered song, he had it...even the rhythm. The man with the banjo taught him to play a D chord. John played the chord. The banjo and a second dulcimer played In the Sweet By and By.

The girls watched for a few more minutes and before we knew it Lauren was dressed in a skirt, a long shirt, and a colonial cap. Stuart moved his colonial girl and his 21st century girls across the porch to watch a basket weaver. Soon, reeds were spread out on the table and the girls were busy weaving small Market baskets.

John continued to strum his chord. The girls wove to the sounds of Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me. The instuments continued to sing but the music faded into the background. Basket weaving is hard work!

Charlie sat on Stuart's lap and took a turn with the dulcimer. John moved to the other end of the porch and sewed a leather pouch.

The roof covered us with shade. Cool air blew through the breezeway and ruffled our hair. We drank in the breeze and the quiet. Our small group talked of world travel, family, and hobbies. An hour later, the girls finished their baskets and John hung the pouch around his neck by its leather strings. We made plans to meet our costumed friends again so the girls can sew handles onto their baskets.

We moved across the lawn and over a bridge into the 21st century. Swings and slides beckoned to the children. Stuart and I kept an eye on them and watched the people. We saw parents talking on their cell phones. A whole row of parents. They did not connect with each other. They smiled and stormed and gestured to invisible beings.

We ran a gauntlet of politicians. When we came out on the other side, the children each had a blue hand with a giant index finger pointing skyward. Number One fans of Brian Mulvaney. Glow sticks twinkled about their ankles and Vote for Lloyd Prescott stickers stuck to their shirts. They fanned themselves with fans that made them Number One fans of Gene Buckle. We looked both patriotic and indecisive.

A radio personality blared from the stage. Many hands flew over many ears to muffle the sound. The children kept time to a folk group's fiddles and violins with their blue fingers. Then the stage changed bands. The music lost it's spell and we wandered to another play area. More kids. More cell phones. We found a quiet spot and watched the fireworks.

The crowds swept us along to our car and then would not let us leave the parking lot. Horns honked. Fingers drummed. A TV screen flashed colors in the car ahead of us.

One day. Two extremes. We've gained the world but have lost each other in the process. I want the quiet and the interaction that we found on the front porch.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Nathan

I am fascinated by the geneologies in the Bible. Perhaps this stems from the fact that I can only trace my roots to my great grandparents. They fled famine in Ireland and military conscription in Hungary. I do not know the origins of my maiden name. It seems to be a truncated version of a longer name. Was it English or Scottish?

Jesus' geneology winds its way through the Old Testament and is laid out for us in Matthew and Luke's gospels.

Matthew starts with Abraham and ends with Joseph. This is the geneology that names Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba by name. This is the geneology that lists Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah. The Jews remembered God's promise to David and looked for the Messiah to come from this line of kings. This was the geneology that gave Jesus his pedigree. His credentials. His name.

In the seventh chapter of 2nd Samuel, Nathan delivered God's promise to David, "...I will raise up you offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." These were the words the Jews held onto with hope. Four chapters later David and Bathsheba sinned. Chapter twelve details the showdown between David and Nathan. Remember Nathan.

Luke's geneology starts with Mary's father and works backward to Abraham and back even farther to Adam. The two geneologies trace the same path from Abraham to David. After David, for the most part, they part ways. The words Nathan, the son of David absorbed my whole attention. Nathan. Jesus physically descended from David but it wasn't through Solomon. It was through Solomon's brother, Nathan. I would have to imagine that this Nathan was named after the prophet. Perhaps David chose this name to express gratitude. Nathan dared to confront him in his sin. Obedience was restored to David's life through that confrontation.

Nathan. While all eyes were on King David's successors, the DNA that would create Jesus' physical body was being passed from generation to generation in the shadows. The lesser men and women carried this honor. This speaks of intentional humility. God planned the humble birth of his son long before there was no room at the inn.

It does not matter that I know little of my own geneology. It does make a difference to my faith to know the geneology of Jesus. When I wade into the names that make up Jesus' lineage, I am again left in awe of the deliberate way that He chose to interact with humanity.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Potholes

We were driving home on the back roads between The Land Flowing With Milk and Honey (where the Wal-Mart is) and Smallville. The Suburban dipped and swayed through the tight curves and potholes. Lots of potholes. Asphalt sprayed the car’s undercarriage. “Tink. Tink. Tink.”

The children were oblivious to the dipping and swaying but the noise caught their attention. They looked out the windows. “Hey Mama, didn’t they just fill those potholes two weeks ago? Why did they have to fill them again?”

Good question, kids. Instead of hiring the Fix It and Forget It Construction Company, our county employs Larry, Darryl and Darryl to maintain our roads. Larry drives the pickup. Darryl shovels a bit of asphalt off the back and the other Darryl tamps it down into the hole. Week after week they fill the same holes. Week after week our wheels grind away their efforts.

Potholes. We all have them. Places in our lives that just can’t seem to stay filled up. Holes that consume great quantities of love or money or power or recognition. Deep…cavernous…greedy… potholes.

Small Scribbles has seen more traffic in the last few days than my five or so regular readers. I’ve been able to hang a few more comments underneath some of my posts. The notes are sweet and uplifting because that is the nature of my readers. If I believed all of the head-swelling words in these notes I would be headed for Random House Publishing with a portfolio under my arm. But I know that I am a mediocre writer at best. (See Bub and Pie if you don’t believe me.) Some of my sentences are stale. Some ideas go round and round without packing a good punch. I haven’t a clue about commas. I am sure some readers have noticed this but have refrained from zinging off the comment, “Where did you get your degree in commas? At the Acme School of Punctuation?”

Comments are wholly unsatisfying. I smile when I read one. I am thrilled over the encouragement and then promptly check my e-mail for the next one. Like those holes that need constant repair my need for praise appears to be insatiable.

I realize that on the scale of famous people I am not even a blip on the radar screen but God used my hunger for praise to show me how the truly famous stars and leaders can go awry. If they hear only how awesome they are, if no one offers them constructive criticism, if they are not grounded in God’s Truth, if they believe their own press then they are on a collision course with self destruction. Sympathy followed on the heels of this revelation.

I was chewing on these thoughts when I came across a quote from Katie Haseltine. As the wife of Dan Haseltine, she lives in the shadow of fame. She says this:

I think all of us would stand here and say the God we know today is SO different from who we would have said we knew two or three years ago. We knew God, but we didn't know Him as our sole provider. And we didn't know Him as the only thing in this world that would be fulfilling and satisfying.

Wise words. Funny how fifteen minutes spent reading the affections of man still leaves me thirsty but fifteen minutes in the Psalms can satisfy that thirst and fill me with good things. Proof positive that if I love the Lord and fear Him he will fulfill my desires. All I have to do is remember that He is my desire.

Note: This post was not written to discourage your kind words. Please keep them coming. I enjoy this connection with real life friends and those met on the blogging journey.