Monday, October 31, 2011

Ultimate Blog Challenge #31

When you spend on credit eventually the bill comes due right? Some day you are going to have to pay up. Put yourself too far behind and you can end up getting overwhelmed.

All this month I have been participating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge, which involves posting 31 blogs in 31 days. This is my third try and this time I finished. I actually did it -- 31 posts in a month!

Why did it take three tries? Well, during a Challenge like this, skipping a blog post can be like buying on credit. Skip enough and you just can't catch up.

I did better this time. Not perfectly. I still skipped some posts and had to write five today. But I wasn't so far behind that I couldn't do it!

Along the way, I met some interesting people, learned a ton about marriage, economics, law, theology, and a dozen other things and discovered some blog ideas I'll be starting to use.

So, thank you, UBC! This has been very useful and thoroughly enjoyable!

An Unusual Hallowe'en Decoration

Hallowe'en is all about the unusual, right? So how do you get a decoration that is different? Think like an 11 year old!

This Hallowe'en bear is a reading fiend!!!

I gave Jordan the Hallowe'en decorations and told him to go to town. He did simply hang some of them. He also made a "haunted backyard" with scarily decorated pumpkins on strings rigged so he can make them swing towards people.

But first, he set up the above display. He wanted to find a book with a high-sounding name like A Scholarly Analysis of Eighteenth Century Literature That Turned into the Best Book of the Eighteenth Century but after looking around he settled for Geometry and Trigonometry for Calculus.  Around the bear are all the books he's either finished reading or is planning to read. They range from Calvin and Hobbs to Star Trek books to Mozart biographies. A rather widely-read creature, I must say.

I have no idea why Jordan wanted a literary bear in a pumpkin costume as a Hallowe'en decoration. It's just random.

But it's fun!

Many ancient prayers have a lot to say to us. This one seems appropriate for Hallowe'en with it's frequent focus on darkness.  (Not that I am against trick or treating. There's plenty of candy at my house and my son has a ninja costume this year. But I like to keep my focus on God.)

Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of thy brightness.
Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of thy wisdom.
All our desire is known unto thee,
therefore perfect what thou hast begun,
and what thy Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek thy face,
turn thy face unto us and show us thy glory.
Then shall our longing be satisfied,
and our peace shall be perfect.
(Augustine, 354 - 430)

Read more at:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Hope that prayer is as meaningful for you as it is for me.

A Propitious Event

Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the sailing of the first missionaries from the U.S. to foriegn soil. They left from Salem, MA as Congregationalists and arrived in India as Baptists. Two of them, Adoniram Judson and Ann Hasseltine Judson went on to Burma.

What they accomplished there has made them folk heros to American Baptists. They were the first to bring the gospel to the Karen people. They translated the Bible. They overcame adversity with faith, persistence and ingenuity. That adversity included imprisonment in horrendous conditions, illness, the deaths of all their children and lengthy separations.

The verse that they chose to use as the text for their work was the Great Commission:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20

The ministry that I am a part of, Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park, holds up Ann and Adoniram Judson as role models. Each year their stories are told -- Adoniram's in the men's camp (called Judson) and Ann's in the women's camp (called Hasseltine).

Next year the Baptists of the Adoniram Judson Association of the The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts will host a number of activities is and around Salem, MA to commemorate the sailing and the start of U.S. based mission work. Hopefully, they will give glory to God and be an appropriate memorial to these early missionaries.

How to Cook Without a Kitchen

I needed to provide food for a large group of teens and leaders and our host church had no kitchen.

First, I looked into takeout options. Too expensive. I figured I could make baked ziti at home and keep it warm using electric warming plates, but the amount of time between leaving my house and serving dinner seemed too long for that.

Then, someone suggested I use my crock pot. OK. That'd work. But what could I make that teens would enjoy? Would baked ziti work in a slow cooker. My first thought was that I would cook the ziti on the stove top and use the crockpot for the "oven" portion of the preparation.  Then, someone mentioned checking online for a recipe so I did.

I found a blog called "A Year of Slow Cooking" that had a baked ziti recipe. I used that as the basis for my meal, modifying it somewhat and adding an extra crockpot of sauce and sausages.

Here's how I did it:

Spray crockpot with cooking spray. Layer baked ziti, sauce and grated romano cheese in crockpot. Add a layer of ricotta cheese and some extra sauce on top. Add a quarter cup of water. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.

It worked really well!

I am also thrilled I found that blog. I am going to make good uise of it, and my slow cooker, in the future.

Have a good day!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Because He lives

We sang Bill Gaither's son "Because He lives" in worship this morning. One verse struck me:

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives.
But greater still the calm assurance ,
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.

Well maybe it's just because I have a certain obsession with babies. As any of my friends who have one. 

But what I was thinking of was that there have been many times in history during which people have been reluctant to have children because of their fears of war, financial hardship or persecution. This song acknowledges that times are uncertain, but reminds us that we are in God's hands no matter what and our children will be too.

The song's chorus is:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Just because He lives.

How has He made your life better? 

Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

Sometimes a bit of a hymn gets stuck in my head. Usually, it's because I have heard or sung the hymn stays.

Today's line was:

"His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me."

I didn't even know what hymn it came from, I had to look it up. Turns out that it is part of "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing," a joyous hymn that I enjoy singing.

Here's a link to it:

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
The words are by Charles Wesley and the music by Carl G. Glazer. It is in the public domain.

This hymn was there before church this morning and I don't know why. Worship turned out to be about the resurrection and the fact that if it didn't happen, we are still in our sins. Maybe God wanted to give me some personal assurance of my cleansing and salvation, so he slipped this phrase into my thoughts. I don't know. At any rate I know both that the words are true and the resurrection is real.

Does this sort of thing ever happen to you?

Saving Energy

A few posts ago I said I was going to rite about energy conservation issues now and then.  Today, I have a website to share. It has common sense ideas for little things people can do to save energy, translating to both environmental benefits and money savings. Hope you find it helpful.

Do you know of a good resource for learning about energy conservation?

Flex your power --

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dance in Peace

"Don't rest in peace, Charlie. Dance in peace... and joy"

In the midst of all the remembrances of my friend who died a few days ago, I found one with the sentence above. It seems fitting.

First of all, Charlie was never one to rest much. Even ill he kept going and going. He loved music and he loved to laugh. There are loads of pictures of him smiling. Dancing seems more like him then resting.

I also wonder if dancing is more what Heaven is about than resting. Certainly, when we believers reach Heaven, we enter into God's rest. Theologically, that means God will have completed us. We willl no longer be being worked on, created. We'll be "finished products." Does it mean that we will be in a perpetual state of rest? In some places there is mention of praising God in Heaven. The Bible talks about praising with singing, tambourines, lutes, lires and, yes, dancing! Sounds pretty active...but I think in Heaven we won't get tired.

It's just a random thought that popped into my head because of a sentence. What do you think? What will Heaven, the final version of Heaven, be like?

Oh .... and, Charlie, you will not be forgotten!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

More than their share...

I was chatting with a friend and he told me about some new people in his neighborhood.

It seems they have built new houses, which they use as vacation homes. These homes are generally empty, except for certain summer weekends. BUT the heat is on year round to protect the artwork they contain.

My friend's wife was an accountant. She had as a client an oil dealer who works on an island full of such second homes. He told her that when he started a few decades ago, he would take out his truck in the morning, drive around delivering oil, and then go back home for lunch at which time he would fill the truck for the afternoon run. Now, he goes to one home, delivers the oil and needs to return home to fill the truck right away, because it is empty.

That's right, he empties a whole truckload of oil at one house, at which no one is living.

Um, I had heard that we need to conserve oil and other fossil fuels. When I related this to another friend, he wondered aloud how people could justify that level of consumption.  I wonder that, too.

So, I think I might start to write more posts on conservation, as well as being careful of my own fuel use. I am not sure what else I can do to help. Environmental issues are close to my heart, but I am not hugely knowledgeable. Perhaps we can all share some ideas.

Have a good day!

Necessity being the mother of invention and all...

I called a friend today and suggested we get together for tea sometime. "How about I come down now?"

I was delighted with the idea -- company is always fun. After we'd hung up, I realized I had nothing in the house to serve a guest. Normally, this isn't a problem. I always have the ingredients for some kind of cookie on hand and several recipes are the quick and easy type. The difficulty today was that my oven is broken. I can't open it. The service man is coming on Monday, but until then, no baking. So....

I looked around, gathered up some odds and ends, and made this:

Over low heat melt around 3/4 of a stick of butter. Add a 12 ounce bag of Hershey's cinnamon chips. Once they have melted add about two teaspoons of granulated sugar, a tablespoon of brown sugar and two tablespoons of milk.

In a large bowl, combine a few handfuls of stick-type pretzels somewhat broken up, about two cups of o-shaped oat cereal, about two cups rice Chex and about a half cup of raisens.

Pour the melted mixture over the crunchy stuff and stir until well coated. Spread into a 13x 9 pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until firm. Break into pieces and serve.

As you can see, all measurements are approximate. Also almost any plain crunchy things will probably work.

I was very pleased that my guest and my son seemed to enjoy my creation. I liked it pretty well myself.

Have you ever tried a food experiment with whatever was around? How did it go?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What is it About Chocolate?

All you need is love. But a little 

chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.

I am, admittedly, enthralled by chocolate. I don't go a day without it. I am even planning a unit study on chocolate for the kids. It won't be just recipes, we'll look at the history of chocolate, the geography of chocolate-producing countries and the botany of cacoa plants. We'll also talk about fair-trade chocolate and modern day slavery. But sampling chocolate will be part of it. Definitely.

That's a ways off, though. For now, I am going to content myself with some jokes and quotes and a quick and easy chocolate recipe.

chocolate cakeThe problem: How to get 2 pounds of chocolate home from the store in a hot car. The solution: Eat it in the parking lot.

chocolate cakeMy therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M's and a chocolate cake. I feel better already. - Dave Barry

chocolate cakeEating chocolate can have significant influences on mood, generally leading to an increase in pleasant feelings and a reduction in tension. - Peter Rogers, Ph.D., Institute of Food Research

chocolate cakeThe Greek term theobroma (Latin name for cacao) means literally food of the gods. Chocolate has also been called the food of the devil, but the theological basis of this claim is obscure.

chocolate cakeDon't wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. Chocolate isn't like premarital sex. It will not make you pregnant. And it always feels good. - Lora Brody, Growing Up on the Chocolate Diet

chocolate cakePut "eat chocolate" at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you'll get one thing done.

  Quick and easy chocolate recipe. Not reallly fudge, but it reminds people of the Chocolate-Marshmallow version of that yummy candy. 

Melt two 12 oz bags of dark or semisweet chocolate chips slowly over low heat. A double boiler works well. Remove from heat. Add one bag of mini-marshmallows, stirring until they are well coated. Pour mixture into a greased 9x4 loaf pan and refrigerate for two hours. Cut into squares and try not to eat all at once. 

       Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world's perfect food.   
  - Michael Levine, nutrition researcher



                   Arvind Balaraman                                                                    Salvatore Vuono                                      

Grant Cochrane 

Faith Showing

When I was  a teenager, a common rhetorical question was "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

At the time, many people were convinced that The USSR was going to conquer the US and make  Christianity illegal. Maybe now the question needs updating.  How about "If people looked at your Facebook page, minus the line about religious beliefs,  could they tell you are a Christian?" Or maybe not. There are still, or perhaps again, plenty of people who think that our faith is going to be made illegal for one reason or another.

Either way, I have found the question a useful one to reflect on. Can people tell I am a Christian? Does it show in my daily life, my words and and my actions? As I post and like and reply am I  treating others as I would want to be treated? Giving a good impression of Christ? Refraining from things that dishonor Him? Do my photos show me doing what is right? Even when I an not intentionally taking a stand for Jesus does my faith show through? It should if it is real.

It's not about being constantly "religious" in what I say. And I don't want my page or my blog to  be depressing! I love Billy Joel but I never liked his line "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints." Real saints do plenty of laughing! It's about living a life that portrays Christ.

As I said, I have found this a useful tool for watching my life and helping me to grow.

How about you? What useful tools do you have for meditating on your faith and spiritual growth?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Letting them know

"You say we are friends. Once in a while, remind me. Just tell me, 'I like hanging out with you.' Or, 'You fill this niche in my life. I am glad you are the one to do it.' Or even -- dare I ask it?--'I love you.' It will mean the world to me. I will try to do the same for you." 

Is there a friend of yours out there whom you haven't told lately that they are important to you? I know it's often said that wee would tell the people we love what they mean to us. Now's as good a time as any to act on that advice.

So who do you need to talk to?

"Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."
~~Mother Theresa

                                                                             Image by vorakorn kanokpipat

Talking to Pavers

A while back I was responsible for having some paving done at a building. Other people helped me choose and hire the contractor, but I was the one who kept tabs on the progress and checked in with the workers every day. I'd ask how things were going, take them water and keep an eye on things. No big deal.

Apparently, though, at least one person thought I was either brave or foolish. See, the men who worked for this contractor would generally be considered tough-looking and their language was a bit salty.

Still, I never gave a second thought to it. I mean, they were working for me right? Anyway, when they were talking to me they spoke very respectfully, even calling me "ma'am".

Looks can be deceiving. I really don't think I was in danger. But somebody did and says they never would have gone out to talk to them.

Well, then they would have missed the explanation as to why we couldn't drive on the lot for a couple extra days, and a few friendly conversations as well.

How do we get past looks as a way of determining whether to speak to someone or not?

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Perfect love casts out fear."

My son heard a mission speaker from Africa a few days ago.

The man, my son says, talked about living there being "fear 24/7" for Christians. The missionary talked passionately about believers being in constant danger of being robbed, beaten and murdered. He explained that the police don't take action against criminals and the fire fighters can be bribed to watch your house burn. At one point he looked directly at Jordan and said, "You know what I'm talking about." My son, who doesn't quite get the idea of rhetorical questions yet, responded "Well, I've been in Africa." The speaker was a bit taken aback but finished his talk, emphasizing that the fear was why missionaries were needed.

My son has indeed been in Africa, visiting missionaries in a city where some people think that white people are automatically rich and target them for theft. Also,  the police are minimally effective. Our friends have a night guard and lock their compound at night. They don't walk out after dark and they take other sensible precautions to protect their family and property. But one thing they don't do is live in fear. They explained that 99% of the people we would meet were happy we were there and wished us well.  (Actually, we never met anyone who seemed even unfriendly, unless you count the safari ants who attacked us in the rainforest.) Our friends love their neighbors and enjoy the company of those they work with.

Africa is vast and the speaker my son heard was from a different country. Perhaps he encounters more hostilty than my friends do. I can't help thinking, though, that his perceptions are colored by his fear while my friends' is influenced by their love and faith.

The group my son heard this speaker with is planning a trip to Africa to visit this mission speaker. I think we'll skip this one. I don't really want my son infected by this type of fear.

I hope he gets to go to Burma with me in a couple of years. Oh, I'll be concerned about the germs and nervous about how to interact with people, but I won't be going with people terrified about crime. And I am absolutely sure we will meet amazing friends.

What has your experience been in other cultures?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Field Trips

Want to get the most out of National Historical Parks, and any staffed state and local parks? Go when the rangers are bored. In other words, when other people don't go.

This is a real advantage to homeschoolers. You can choose a nice day off season, go during the school day and learn a ton. Rangers who would otherwise be stuck with paperwork and routine maintenance may well latch on to you and share their consiserable knowledge and enthusiasm.

Jordan and I had an experience like that yesterday. We attended a "canceled" hike. Neither we nor the the ranger had heard about the cancellation, so there we were. The ranger offered to take Jordan on guided tour of a trail, and we agreed. We heard about symbiosis, lichens, sassafras tea, and a host of other stuff. And we had a great time!

We have enjoyed such things before. A ranger went with us on a "self-guided" tour of historic New Bedford on a gray November day, we had a spontaneous lesson on the Revolutionary War at Minuteman National Park.  We have yet to meet a Ranger we didn't like or one that wasn't willing to talk with us.

What have been your experiences with parks?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It's a kind of blah and rainy here, so I thought a bit of fun was in order. A friend of mine sent me these a while back, and they are good for a laugh. Enjoy!

(A paraprosdokian (from Greek "παρα-", meaning "beyond" and "προσδοκία", meaning "expectation") is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part.)

Ø I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

Ø Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

Ø I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

Ø Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

Ø The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.

Ø Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

Ø If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.

Ø We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

Ø War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

Ø Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Ø The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Ø Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

Ø To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

Ø A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

Ø How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

Ø Some people are like Slinkies ... not really good for anything, but you can't help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.

Ø Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.

Ø I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks.

Ø A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it.

Ø Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "If an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR".

Ø I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

Ø Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Ø Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America ?

Ø Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

Ø A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

Ø You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

Ø The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

Ø Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.

Ø A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

Ø Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.

Ø Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

Ø I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.

Ø Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

Ø There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.

Ø I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

Ø When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

Ø You're never too old to learn something stupid.

Ø To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

Ø Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Ø Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

Ø A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
Ø Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Are there many more out there?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Are you running from God?

I have a friend, a pastor who describes God as relentless. That is how he experienced God's call to ministry. I have heard similar stories from others.

At church on Sunday, the pastor quoted the poem below, which is on that same theme. God pursuing us.  It is a piece that had a profound impact on the author of The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkein's faith. It's not an easy one to underestand, but it is speaking to me now. Perhaps it will speak to you also. 

The Hound of Heaven


Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
  I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
  Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
                  Up vistaed hopes I sped;
                  And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
                  But with unhurrying chase,
                  And unperturbèd pace,
                Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
                  They beat--and a Voice beat
                  More instant than the Feet--
                "All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

                  I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
  Trellised with intertwining charities
(For, though I knew His love Who followed,
                  Yet was I sore adread
Lest having Him, I must have naught beside);
But if one little casement parted wide,
  The gust of His approach would clash it to.
  Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
  And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clanged bars;
                  Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o' the moon.
I said to dawn, Be sudden; to eve, Be soon;
  With thy young skyey blossoms heap me over
                  From this tremendous Lover!
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
  I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
  Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
  Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
                  But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
                The long savannahs of the blue;
                    Or whether, Thunder-driven,
                  They clanged his chariot 'thwart a heaven
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o' their feet--
                  Still with unhurrying chase,
                  And unperturbèd pace,
                Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
                  Came on the following Feet,
                  And a Voice above their beat--
                "Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me."

I sought no more that after which I strayed
                In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children's eyes
                Seems something, something that replies;
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But, just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
                With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
"Come then, ye other children, Nature's--share
With me," said I, "your delicate fellowship;
                Let me greet you lip to lip,
                Let me twine with you caresses,
              With our Lady-Mother's vagrant tresses'
                With her in her wind-walled palace,
                Underneath her azured daïs,
                Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
                    From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring."
                    So it was done;
I in their delicate fellowship was one--
Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies.
                  I knew all the swift importings
                  On the wilful face of skies;
                  I knew how the clouds arise
                  Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings;
                    All that's born or dies
                  Rose and drooped with--made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine--
                  With them joyed and was bereaven.
                  I was heavy with the even,
                  When she lit her glimmering tapers
                  Round the day's dead sanctities.
                  I laughed in the morning's eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
                  Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
                    I laid my own to beat,
                    And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's gray cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
                These things and I; in sound I speak--
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
                  Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
                  The breasts of her tenderness;
Never did any milk of hers once bless
                    My thirsting mouth.
                    Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
                    With unperturbèd pace,
                  Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
                    And past those noisèd Feet
                    A voice comes yet more fleet--
"Lo naught contents thee, who content'st not Me."

Naked I wait Thy love's uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
                    And smitten me to my knee;
                I am defenseless utterly.
                I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
                I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amid the dust o' the mounded years--
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
                Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist;
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
                Ah! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
                Ah! must--
                Designer infinite!--
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust;
And now my heart is a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
                From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
                Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mist confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again.
                But not ere him who summoneth
                I first have seen, enwound
With blooming robes, purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man's heart or life it be which yields
                Thee harvest, must Thy harvest fields
                Be dunged with rotten death?

                  Now of that long pursuit
                  Comes on at hand the bruit;
                That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
                  "And is thy earth so marred,
                  Shattered in shard on shard?
                Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
                Strange, piteous, futile thing,
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught," He said,
"And human love needs human meriting,
                How hast thou merited--
Of all man's clotted clay rhe dingiest clot?
                Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee
                Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
                Not for thy harms.
But just that thou might'st seek it in my arms.
                All which thy child's mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for the at home;
                Rise, clasp My hand, and come!"

  Halts by me that footfall;
  Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstreched caressingly?
  "Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
  I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."
Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

Is God hounding you? Will you let Him catch you?

Sunday, October 16, 2011


As communities become more online oriented how do you include the outliers?

More and more stuff is happening on online. Virtual meetings, group video chats, yahoo groups, Facebook forums, etc. are becoming more important to who groups are and how they work. But there are still people who aren't part of that. Some people don't like social networking or feel overwhelmed by it or don't know how to use it. Among youths, some lack parental pernission or have very limited access because internet is not available at home and many sites are blocked at school. How do we include these people in our ministy and community?

Well, we write, we phone, we meet. But as a ministry or groups idenity becomes more online oriented, how can we ensure that we are intentional about this and some people don't get left behind?

Would love your thoughts on this.

Have a blessed day!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Church culture

A friend of mine and I were planning a multi-denominational youth event which was to take place at her Catholic church. We were talking about the dinner and I suggested we cook baked ziti. “Melinda,” she said, “we do not have a Protestant church kitchen. We’ll have to order pizza.”

Wait.  Catholics and Protestants have different kinds of kitchens in their church buildings? It had never occurred to me. But, as I thought about it, I realized that denominations do have cultures. I’d never really noticed it before.

This isn’t about theological and moral views or forms of worship. It’s about styles of fellowship. They aren’t better or worse than each other, just different.

One example:

I am a Baptist. We fellowship over food. Potluck meals, often featuring a wide variety of casseroles, are common. Ham and bean suppers and other types of church dinners abound. One thing you will never see at one of these or any other church event: alcohol. We also use grape juice when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It’s not that Baptists don’t drink these days. Plenty do. Just not at church events. Historically, most Baptists were part of the Temperance Movement and that influences us to this day.

I also enjoy participating in events with an Episcopal Church. They sponsor a lecture series that meets in a function room at a bar. The bartender knows us by name. Often, the speaker has a drink in hand while he or she talks. This church also has a homebrew ministry. They meet to learn how to brew beer at home. For communion, real wine is used. Many Episcopal churches have wine and cheese events as their primary form of fellowship.  My own reaction to these functions would not be “How awful that they serve alcohol!” but “Where’s the food?” As noted above, Baptists like to eat. (And my weight attests to the fact that I am a good Baptist in that regard.)

That’s just one of many examples of different styles of fellowship among denominations. I am sure there is plenty of overlap, too.  And lot’s of variance amongst churches of particular denominations.

I don’t know why I am giving this thought now. Perhaps because I am trying to bring youth from different churches together. It’s an interesting thing to reflect on.

What is the culture of your church? How do you enjoy each other’s company?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Feel the Winds of God Today

This hymn has come to mind because of the death of an old friend. (His memorial concert is tonight.)  I love the words! They are quite invigorating to the soul.

I feel the winds of God today; today my sail I lift,
Though heavy, oft with drenching spray, and torn with many a rift;
If hope but light the water’s crest, and Christ my bark will use,
I’ll seek the seas at His behest, and brave another cruise.

It is the wind of God that dries my vain regretful tears,
Until with braver thoughts shall rise the purer, brighter years;
If cast on shores of selfish ease or pleasure I should be;
Lord, let me feel Thy freshening breeze, and I’ll put back to sea.

If ever I forget Thy love and how that love was shown,
Lift high the blood red flag above; it bears Thy Name alone.
Great Pilot of my onward way, Thou wilt not let me drift;
I feel the winds of God today, today my sail I lift.
(Words, Jesse Adams, 1906. Music, traditional English melody, In the public domain.)

Here's a link to the tune. It is reminiscent of a sea shanty.

In what ways are you feeling the winds of God today? In what ways do you need to?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Younger Friends -- More than tech support!

I was listening to a speaker the other day. She talked about having friends across the age spectrum. She said that her older friends were valuable for their wisdom and experience and she needed her younger friends to help her with her phone. Really, that's it? The woman was  about my age, perhaps a bit younger, and was referring to 20-somethings -- and that was her primary audience that day as well.

Of course, the speaker may have been exagerating a bit, but it reminded me of  something that Bret and Alex Harris said in their book Do Hard Things which was written to encourage teenagers to defy expectations and accomplish big stuff. They reminded us that people get what they expect and what society currently expects of teens is that they are going to be technologically savvy and be sexually active. According to the Harrises adolescents are both of those things these days. They hope their peers will do more.

I have a lot of younger friends. I occasionally will ask a question about my phone or computer, but I have found that they are far more valuable for other things. Besides, for those types of questions, I could just call tech support.

I can't speak for this woman's friends, but I know that mine often have brilliant ideas on a lot of subjects, from  updates to registration forms to topics for events. I have known them to recruit their peers for something and then keep them organized and on track. As I have listened to them on political, economic and social topics I have learned a great deal. If we implemented some of their ideas the world would be a better place. But we have to hear them first, which means talking to them about more than how to access our voice mail.

Younger people often think they can change the world. I remember a professer telling my class in college that he wasn't going to tell us we couldn't because some of us actually would. Energy, enthusiasm and perserverance can lead to great things at any age.

So I encourage you to feel free to ask about that strange app on your computer if you need to, but then change the subject and find out what a young friend has to say on a topic close to your heart or theirs.

Who are your younger friends? What have they added to your life?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Purposely Single

I read an article by a woman who is single by choice. She spent a great deal of the article defending her decision to remain unmarried. I don’t think she should have to do that. There are many people out there who have stayed single because they feel that in that way they can offer the most good to the world – and, with that attitude they generally accomplish a great deal. Sometimes, a person is called by God to be unmarried all their lives for a specific purpose or purposes. I am not talking only about nuns and monks, although they certainly would count in this category and certainly help a great many people. These people should be respected and supported in their decision without having to constantly explain themselves. This woman, though, did feel she needed to defend her choice and she did a good job of it.

She spoke eloquently of her fulfilling job, the time and money she gives to charity, and the children she adores who consider her an aunt. She also spoke of her great social life, which is rich with friends. She lives alone with her dog who is definitely not a substitute child. This appears to be the best life for her. But she still gets the question, “Are you married yet?"

One thing she said did give me pause. “I often have a boyfriend.” I suppose I risk sounding judgmental here, but I am really more curious. Why have a boyfriend if you plan not to marry? If you aren’t trying to get to know someone to see if they will make a good life partner, what is the purpose of the relationship? ( I suppose she might be seeking the physical aspects of that type of relationship but I didn't get the impression that that was the primary reason for them.) If anyone has insight, let me know.

But more broadly, does anyone have any experiences to share about being purposely single? How can friends, family and the wider community support you in that choice?

Have a blessed day!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gather Us In

Because it is Columbus Day, the camp my region of our denomination runs held a reunion. Lot's of CYCers were there, but I was wishing for more. This song, one of our favorites came to mind.

Gather Us In   
Marty Haugen 
© 1982 GIA Publications 

Verse 1 
Here in this place new light is streaming, 
Now is the darkness vanished away, 
See in this space our fears and our dreamings 
Brought here to You in the light of this day. 

Chorus 1 
Gather us in the lost and forsaken, 
Gather us in the blind and the lame; 
Call to us now and we shall awaken, 
We shall arise at the sound of our name. 

Verse 2 
We are the young our lives are a mystery, 
we are the old who yearn for your face. 
We have been sung throughout all of history, 
Called to be light to the whole human race. 

Chorus 2
Gather us in the rich and the haughty 
Gather us in the proud and the strong, 
Give us a heart so meek and so lowly, 
Give us the courage to enter the song. 

Verse 3 
Here we will take the wine and the water, 
Here we will take the bread of new birth, 
Here you shall call your sons and your daughters, 
Call us anew to be salt for the earth. 

Chorus 3 
Give us to drink the wine of compassion, 
Give us to eat the bread that is you; 
Nourish us well and teach us to fashion, 
lives that are holy and hearts that are true. 

Verse 4 
Not in the dark of buildings confining, 
Not in some heaven light years away, 
But here in this place the new light is shining, 
Now is the Kingdom, now is the day. 

Chorus 4 
Gather us in and hold us forever, 
Gather us in and make us your own; 
Gather us in all peoples together, 
fire of love in our flesh and our bones. 

I pray that someday, God gathers us all in.

Have a blessed day!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Prayers for self-discipline

Because I feel I need them right now....

Heavenly Father come close; come quickly.
My heart cries out; my raised hands are my morning prayers.
Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips.
Police my mind; arrest my dreams of evil or thoughts of bad company.
Shield me from those who do wrong— don’t let them lure me with their schemes.
May the Just One be my warden; correct me and set me straight,
Don’t let sin imprison my soul.
Dear Lord, I only have eyes for You.
Since I’ve run for dear life to You, safeguard my heart.
Help me to talk the talk,
and also walk the walk,
just like Your Son, Jesus, in whose name I come.
~~ Adaptation/Paraphrase of Psalm 141

Dear Lord
Thank you for teaching me
the lesson of divine discipline.
Help me remember the worth of self-control
and not just the rewards.
Help me discipline my life and my heart.
Give me the personal willpower
to make a lifelong commitment.
Give me your supernatural power
to make lifestyle changes.
Give me the persuasive power of Godly people
to make life changing choices.
Help me persevere in divine discipline.
Help me practice the disciplines of life -
spiritual, physical and mental.
Help me use divine discipline
to change the world.
Thank you oh Lord,
for a disciplined life
that's possible with you.
In your precious name I pray
Prayer from Rhonda Harrington Kelley's book Divine Discipline.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Watched Pot....

I was cooking soup today. It seemed to take forever to come to a boil. Which reminded me....

I have a friend who used to reply, "Yes it does" whenever someone said "A watched pot never boils." If people looked surprised he'd say, "I tested it."

What he had done was take two pots of equal size and made of the same metal. He measured the same amount of water into each and put them over the same level of heat. Then he watched one but not the other. "The watched one not only boiled, it boiled at the same time as the other one."

OK. So why do that? (Except to get a laugh-- he did get a few over the years.) I mean everyone knows that a watched pot will boil. Everyone knows that the saying is just a figurative way of saying we need to be patient and we might as well occupy ourselves with something else when we are waiting for something to happen. So why prove the saying wrong?

Are there things in the world that "everyone knows" but that need to be proved anyway? Might there be exercises like this that might prove something that "everyone knows" to be wrong?

On the other hand, are there more significant studies that have been done that really shouldn't have been needed to be done. One book I read noted that a study had proven breast milk was better for babies than formula. "Why", he asked, "would such a study be needed?" Whether he was right about that specific study or not are there others we wouldn't need  if we were more in tune with nature?

Or maybe with God's way of doing things? Are there things that we test when we should trust?

Just wondering a you have any thoughts on this?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Ancient Prayer

Perhaps because I am part Irish, I have always liked this prayer. Also, we have been discussing the Trinity in Sunday School so this caught my attention today. I thought I would share it. Maybe, it will resonate with someone else as well. Let me know if it does with you. Have a blessed day!

The Breastplate of St Patrick

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay
His ear to hearken to my need
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.
I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, the One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation;
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word,
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Keeping Up

I almost didn't write a post today.

I schooled. I worked. I parented.  So, it got late and I thought I might put it off till tomorrow.

But, I am also a half day behind in a Bible read-through I am participating in (well, leading, actually) and I know that if I let it go further, it could be fatal to my intention to finish. Catching up can be a lot harder than keeping up in the first place.

It's the same with the Ultimate Blog Challenge. If I let myself get behind out of laziness then if there is a real need to skip a day or two I might get too far behind to get back on track.

So, I am writing now, even though I didn't have a topic and have very little time. I think I will be glad I did in the end. Besides, it'll strengthen my self-discipline muscle.

How are you keeping up with the things in your life that need regular attention?