Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grace Glows

Serve the Lord with gladness. Ps. 100:2

Let us show the people of the world, who think our religion to be slavery,
that it is to us a delight and a joy!
Let our gladness proclaim that we serve a good Master.
-CH Spurgeon  Near the Sun

Grafted into Christ - Out of Sheer Grace

From the Heidelberg Catechism. This set contains the Apostles' Creed. 
We are worse than we think and He is better than we can imagine.

Question 20. Will all people then be saved through Christ
just as they were lost through Adam?
Answer. No. Only those are saved who by true faith are
grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings.

Question 21. What is true faith?
Answer. It is not only a certain knowledge by which I accept as true all that God
has revealed to us in the Word, but also a wholehearted trust which the Holy Spirit creates in me
through the gospel, that, not only to others, but to me also God has given the forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, out of sheer grace,
solely for the sake of Christ's saving work
Question 22. What then must a Christian believe?
Answer. All that is promised us in the gospel, a summary of which is
taught us in the articles of our universally acknowledged Christian faith.

Question 23. What are these articles?
Answer. I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church

Monday, March 28, 2011

On Child's Play

In my classroom today I had 4:1 boys to girl.  After the boys had raced dump trucks round the classroom and the girl had assembled herself in dress up - everyone ended up in the home living area around the table eating. They were serving up food; the girl was asking her friends if they wanted _____(food item).She's a first born girl-they tend to hover. .  The boys were laughing and dumping food on the plates.
Later, one boy was needing help, and the girl mimicked everything her mom (his auntie) said to him, in perfect pitch and tone.  It was adorable and the mom and I laughed over her innate mothering.
A quick conversation my daughter and I had last night over a commercial flashed in my mind.  I didn't see but the last few seconds, however, K. was sputtering mad as the told me how the young woman had exchanged two tickets to Paris for the opportunity to be pregnant.  Obviously, the commercial was for birth control; but the message was billboarding you need not stop having fun to join the drudging  ranks of Motherhood.  Tragic - really.

Anyway today, as I watched these little two year olds, this thought crossed my mind - exactly how long does it take to knock the nuture out of our little girls and the adventure out our of little boys.  Our society as a whole, is doing a terrific job of gettin' 'er done. One of life's loviest gifts, families, has been deemed by many archaic.
 Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children's games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups-playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits, so that the pretense of being grown-ups helps them grow up in earnest.  - C.S. Lewis

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Lilacs  

Those laden lilacs
                                at the lawn’s end
Came stark, spindly,
                                   and in staggered file,
Like walking wounded
                                       from the dead of winter.
We watched them waken
                                          in the brusque weather
To rot and rootbreak,
                                    to ripped branches,
And saw them shiver
                                   as the memory swept them
Of night and numbness
                                      and the taste of nothing.
Out of present pain
                                  and from past terror
Their bullet-shaped buds
                                        came quick and bursting,
As if they aimed
                             to be open with us!
But the sun suddenly
                                     settled about them,
And green and grateful
                                         the lilacs grew,
Healed in that hush,
                                     that hospital quiet.
These lacquered leaves
                                       where the light paddles
And the big blooms
                                    buzzing among them
Have kept their counsel,
                                           conveying nothing
Of their mortal message,
                                             unless one should measure
The depth and dumbness
                                            of death’s kingdom
By the pure power
                                 of this perfume.

- Richard Wilbur


Thursday, March 24, 2011

One More

Words Inside of Words

The roc's a huge, bold, hungry bird who's able
To eat an elephant. (So says the fable.)
No farmer likes to see one feasting cockily
Right in the middle of his field of broccoli.

At heart, ambassadors are always sad.
Why? Because world affairs are always bad,
So that they're always having to express
"Regret," and "grave concern," and "deep distress."

The barnacle is found in salty seas,
Clinging to rocks in crusty colonies;
And salt, which chemists call NaCl,
Is found inside the barnacle as well.

What could be sillier than for a cow
To try to cross the ocean in a scow?
With such a captain, to my way of thinking,
The wretched vessel would be sure of sinking!
No one should be entrusted with a rudder
Who has two horns and four hooves and an udder.

If a carp is in your carport, go find out
Whether the living room is full of trout
And eels and salamanders, and if there's
A snapping turtle paddling up the stairs.
If that's what's going on, your house (beyond
A doubt) is at the bottom of a pond.

Some snakes are nice to handle, but an asp
Is not the kind to take within your grasp.
That is what Cleopatra did, I fear,
And, as you know, she is no longer here.

by Richard Wilbur

Fun stuff!

Fun with words

Whenever I am re-reading Phantom - I think about words and meanings.
A few months ago - I picked up a book of  Richard Wilbur's poems. He has a few poems that are written in a really interesting Anglo- Saxon format - Lilacs and Junk.  The layout is beautiful and aids in the reading of them.

This poem is shaped and organized in as an eye catcher - and, it definately compliments the reading of Phantom Tollbooth  with flavor.


If the alphabet began to disappear,
Some words would soon look raggedy and queer
While others would entirely fade away.
And since it is by words that we construe
The world, the world would start to vanish too . . .

What if there were no letter A?
Cows would eat HY instead of HAY.
What's HY? It's an unheard-of diet,
And cows are happy not to try it.

In the word DUMB the letter B is mute,
But elsewhere its importance is acute.
If it were absent, say, from BAT and BALL,
There'd be no big or little leagues at all.

If there were no such thing as C,
Whole symphonies would be off-key,
And under every nut tree you'd
See HIPMUNKS gathering winter food.

If D did not exist, some creatures might
Wish, like the dodo bird, to fade from sight.
For instance, any self-respecting DUCK
Would rather be extinct than be an UCK.

The lordly ELEPHANT is one whom we
Would have no name for if there were no E,
And how it would offend him were we to
Greet him as "Bud," or "Big Boy," or "Hey, you!"
The ELEPHANT is thick-skinned, but I'll bet
That that's a thing he never would forget.

Hail, letter F! If it were not for you,
Our raincoats would be merely WATERPROO,
And that is such a stupid word, I doubt
That it would help to keep the water out.

If G did not exist, the color GREEN
Would have to vanish from the rural scene.
Would oak trees, then, be blue, and pastures pink?
We would turn green at such a sight, I think.

In H can be too scared to speak, almost.
In gloomy words like GHASTLY, GHOUL, and GHOST,
The sound of H can simply not be heard.
But how it loves to say a cheerful word

Without the letter I, there'd be
No word for your IDENTITY,
And so you'd find it very tough
To tell yourself from other stuff.
Sometimes, perhaps, you'd think yourself
A jam jar on the pantry shelf.
Sometimes you'd make a ticking sound
And slowly move your hands around.
Sometimes you'd lie down like a rug,
Expecting to be vacuumed. Ugh!
Surely, my friends, you now see why
We need to keep the letter I.

If, all at once, there were no letter J,
A cloud of big blue birds might fly away,
And though they'd been an angry, raucous crew,
I think that I would miss them, wouldn't you?

Is K unnecessary? "Heavens, no!
It's in my name!" exclaims the ESKIMO.
"And if there were no K, my little craft,
The KAYAK, would be scuttled fore and aft."

It would be bitter, if there were no L,
To bid the LEMON or the LOON farewell,
And if the LLAMA, with its two-L name,
Should leave us, it would be a double shame,
But certainly it would be triply sad
If LOLLIPOPS no longer could be had.

M is a letter, but it alternates
As a Roman numeral often found in dates.
If M should vanish, we would lose, my dears,
MINCE PIE, MARSHMALLOWS, and a thousand years.

No N? In such a state of things,
Birds would have WIGS instead of WINGS,
And though a wig might suit the owl,
Who is a staid and judgelike fowl,
Most birds would rather fly than wear
A mat of artificial hair.
What would our proud bald eagle say
If he were offered a toupee?
I think it would be better, then,
For us to keep the letter N.

What if there were no letter O?
You couldn't COME, you couldn't GO,
You couldn't ROVE, you couldn't ROAM,
And yet you couldn't stay at HOME!
Where would you be had heaven not sent you
The letter O to orient you?

How strange that the banana's slippery PEEL,
Without its P, would be a slippery EEL!
It makes you think! However, it is not
Profound enough to think about a lot.

What if the letter Q should be destroyed?
Millions of Us would then be unemployed.
For Q and U belong like tick and tock,
Except, of course, in places like IRAQ.

What if there were no R? Your boat, I fear,
Would have no RUDDER, and so you couldn't steer.
How helplessly you'd drift then, and be borne
Through churning seas, and swept around the Horn!
But happily you couldn't come to grief
On ROCKS, or run aground upon a REEF.

What if the letter S were missing?
COBRAS would have no way of hissing,
And all their kin would have to take
The name of ERPENT or of NAKE.

At breakfast time the useful letter T
Preserves us all from eating SHREDDED WHEA.

Without the letter U you couldn't say,
"I think I'd like to visit URUGUAY,"
And so you'd stay forever in North Platte,
New Paltz, or Scranton, or some place like that.

Were there no V, would geese still fly
In V FORMATION in the sky,
Calling it something else instead,
Like "angle," "wedge," or "arrowhead"?
Perhaps. Or they might take the shape
Of smoke rings or of ticker tape,
Or spell out words like HERE WE GO
Or NUTS TO YOU. You never know.

What if there were no letter W?
The WEREWOLF would no longer trouble you,
And you'd be free of many evils
But then there'd be (alas!) no sweet
WATERMELONS for you to eat.

The letter X will never disappear:
The more you cross it out, the more it's here.
But if it vanished, treasure maps would not
Have anything with which to mark the spot,
And treasure isles would ring with the despair
Of puzzled pirates digging everywhere.

Lacking the letter Y, I guess
We'd have no way of saying YES,
Or even saying MAYBE, and so
There'd be no answer left but NO.
How horrible! Who wants to live
A life so very negative,
Refusing presents, RASPBERRY ice,
Fudge cake, and everything that's nice?

Because they're always BUZZING, honeybees
Could not be with us if there were no Zs,
And many Zs are needed, furthermore,
When people feel the need to SNOOZE and snore.
Long live the Z, then! Not for any money
Would I give up such things as sleep and honey.

Good heavens! It would be an awful mess
If everything dissolved to nothingness!
Be careful then, my friends, and do not let
Anything happen to the alphabet.

by Richard Wilbur

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Lord is Near

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God will guard your heart and keep your mind in Christ Jesus. -Paul

Anxious, now there's a familiar word.  I don't know that all women have the corner on it- but I have often perfected, performed, and lived in it - or something akin to that.  I spend a good deal of my life being taught that God is in deed, trustworthy and He calls me to be  not anxious. I am thankful for  God's faithfulness and patience in this area with me, is long suffering and loving.  I am humbled when God's reminds me and shows me His grace and that I have grown.  I am reminded of this now because it is our crunch time of year, when many things start, finish, wrap up, and ramp up and on and on- it is also, a season that has often been accompanied by my being overwhelmed and anxious.  However, this year, I have felt God's hand of grace holding me, and the fretty-mess business is much diminished. Focusing on God  doing the holding changes my perspective.  It's like a Daddy holding onto a little crawler.  The crawler is holding on - but really, if Daddy lets go, the baby is going down.  But Our Father never lets go of us - even when we're a mess - holding on like it is all up to us.
In Philippians, Paul again and again calls us to joy. Paul may be martyred yet he encourages the believers to be joyful even in the face of uncertainty and in their significant struggles.
How is this possible?  He says - Rejoice in the Lord.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever  is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. 

What could be safer than abiding in the strong, just arms of a loving Father? He is the centerfuge of truth, goodness and beauty, therefore it is Him that we are to think on.

 AW Towzer in Knowledge of the Holy:

The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long...The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him - and of her.

We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.

O God of Bethel, by whose hand 
Thy people still are fed
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Hast all our fathers led!

Our vows, our prayers we now present
Before Thy throne of grace:
God of our father! be the God
Of their succeeding race.
- Philip Doddridge

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On Silence

"Isn't it lovely?" she sighed, "It's my favorite program- fifteen minutes of silence- and after that theres a half hour of quiet and then an interlude of lull.  Why did you know there are almost as many kinds of stillness as there are sounds?  But, sadly enough, nobody pays attention to them these days." -Norton Juster The Phantom Tollbooth, p.151
This book is a favorite of mine, classic. I never get tired of picking it up and re-reading it. This quote goes on to talk about the loveliest types of silence. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Churchill on Bartlett

While perusing my "new" copy of John Bartlett's Familiar Quotations - I had to stop, laugh and ascent to this....
It is good for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is an admirable work and I studied it intently.  The quotations when engraved on the memory give you good thoughts.  They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more.
-Winston Churchill
Two thoughts - So true!  and  However did this quote make the cut?  :-)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Self Help - good ideas - good laughs!

I picked up a book this week: "How to Avoid Housework" - my first thought - oh, I could write this book! The subtitle: "Tips, hints and secrets on how to have a spotless home by organizing for everlasting efficiency; decorating for camouflage; building and remodeling to save time and money." - Well, maybe not!

Three things that made this book a bargain (it was less than a buck) and worth the hour and a half it took to read:
  1. Sidebar Quotes - comic relief to lessen the dread.
    • People who live in glass houses have to wash their windows all the time. - Art Buchwald
    • The best things in life aren't things. - Art Buchwald
    • Housework is like cleaning fish. No matter how often you do it - it still stinks. - Thelma Harper of "Mama's Family"
    • There are two types of dirt: the dark kind attracted to light objects and the light kind attracted to dark objects.-Ely Slick
    • Homes are built to live in, more than to look on. -Francis Bacon
    • Housework can kill you if you do it right. - Erma Bombeck
    • Don't let reading material swamp the bedside. Only one thing can be read at a time..                           
  2. The parallel of the "Barbie" Syndrome to the "House Beautiful" Syndrome.
Decorating Magazines also perpetrate the spotless-house myth. There are never newspapers, magazines, or mail strewn about, no bulging closets, no dirty dishes in the sink. Comparing our less-than-perfect surroundings with those of "House Beautiful" is like comparing our less-than-perfect bodies with those we see in Vogue.
We know that comparing ourselves to to itty bitty barbies is ludicrous; however, there are very few women I know who do not feel the pressure of keeping the perfect house while trying to enjoy a balanced, full life... maybe that's a little - well - unrealistic...  - maybe the house is a balance too - sometimes clean - sometimes not so much.

     3. What a lovely thing to say...
Few of us feel comfortable in ... monuments to housekeeping - "places where the furnishings flourish but the spirit surely wilts." 
I had a next door neighbor whose apartment was far from a paragon of order.  It seemed permanently littered with books, projects, and other paraphernalia.  There was also always a game or a puzzle set up somewhere, the the coffeepot was always on.  It was set up more to accommodate her friends than to impress them-the kind of place you could drop by, plop down, and feel perfectly at home.  I mourned when she moved and I hope she never discovered domestic perfection. - Witold Rybezynski Home, a Short History of an Idea

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book finds

Sing, Sing! Children, sing!
Fresh and free as a bird a-wing;
     Of Maytime and playtime,
     Of work and sleep,
     Of flowers and hours
     When our dreams are deep;
Sing of laughter, of hope and mirth,
Of home and heaven, and God's sweet earth,-
     Songs of today
     Or from far away,
     With the simple art
     Of the childlike heart;
Songs that dance and songs that dream,
Songs out of history's mighty stream.
Sing of tomorrow, of what we shall do,
And of what we shall be when our dreams come true!
   - Introductory Music, Ginn and Company, 1923, p.3
Poetry with Music - Nice.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lives of Balance

I found a prayer book while scavenging at Goodwill this week. It  caught my eye because as I flipped through it, there were prayers from Anne Bradstreet, John Donne, Peter Marshall and many other spiritual giants; I love those. However, the prayer that kept returning is unclaimed.  This funny little prayer not only  leaves me chuckling, but brings me back to Center-God is in and through all and in Him all things hold together.  He calls us to lives of balance.

Give us Lord, a bit o' sun,
A bit o' work and a bit o' fun;
Give us all in the struggle and sputter
Our daily bread and a bit o' butter.
                 -On an Old Inn in Lancaster, England

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Total Depravity, Irresistible Grace

Holy Sonnet XIV: Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God

by John Donne

Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labor to admit you, but O, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
but is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy.
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor even chaste, except you ravish me.

Eldridge in Epic  presents the idea that the reason everyone loves a great romance is because we are following God's design.  God created our heart with a happily ever after hole that only He can fill.  Marriage, love and romance are just glimpses and shadows of life's real fairytale ending.
But am betrothed unto your enemy.
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor even chaste, except you ravish me.
Our Bridegroom searches us out, and captures us, over and over again.  Wonders of Wonders.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing  her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless...This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. - Paul

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Story

Nature was not generated by a computer but by a Person.  It is personal in nature.  If it seems quirky, it's quirky in the way Mozart's the Magic Flute  and VanGogh's Irises are quirky.  It reflects personality... We are made relational to the core.  We are made, as it says in Genesis, in the image of God or, better, in the image of the Trinity: "Let us make man in our image." (1:26 emphasis added)... Meister Eckhart had it right when he said that we are born out of the laughter of the Trinity.
From the heart of the universe come our beating hearts.  From this fellowship spring all of our longings for a friend, a family, a fellowship-for someplace to belong.... Something preceded us.  Something good,  We'd much rather be included in something grand than have to create the meaning of our lives.  To know that life, ulitmately, doesn't rest on our shoulders, but invites us up to it.   - John Eldridge, Epic, Excerpts from Act One:Eternal Love
Great little book, our Pastor introduced several weeks ago. This book really is less than a two hour read and that, is if you are high-lighting.  But it is packed with lines that makes your heart nod in affirmation of the truth.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Don't you love that!

Maybe a month ago, I was sitting in a poetry class and the instructor gave a quote that I hit me.  Why? First, it had to do with poetry; second, it had to do with theology; and third, it had to do with music, and specifically church music, which is a topic I have been grappling with.  So I jotted what I could, down in my journal, maybe 40 % - a bit of a mess.  I later listened to the audio of the class and was able to jot  the quote down in its entirely. But, I didn't realize I had missed something. This is the great part ...  The book arrived yesterday, I love those little yellow packages that present as presents, after a long day, on the stoop of the door.  As I was reading I found the quote at the end of the very first chapter.  There is something about  good typeset that lends itself to beauty - doing for the eyes, what the words do for the ears, and these combined with truth sink in a delightful way straight to the soul. Don't you love that!  So here is the quote - in -as close as I can get it - typeset. It is even better when read aloud slowly.

To Theology, Mother of the Sciences, Poetry should be her wisest, eldest, and yet ever loveliest yougest daughter, the first of her handmaidens, enjoying the first-born's share of her love.  To return to Corinna's appeal with a wider application-
     O let thy children lean aslant
        Against the tender Mother's knee,
     And into her face, and want
        To know what magic there can be
     In words that urge some eyes to dance,
        While others in a holy trance
    Look up to heaven; be such praise!
Why linger?  I must haste, or lose the Delphic bays.

Rejecting Poetry, how coarse and cheap is the kind of appeal nowadays offered in congregational worship?
Oh, for the pearly gates of Heaven,
         Oh, for the golden floor!
But surely, surely, Oh for anything more poetical!

That sort of stuff may satisfy, but it does not cure; may ease like an opiate, but cannot heal.
                                       When half-gods go
                                           The Gods arrive.

I hope, Gentlemen, to examine with you, next time, this opposition of the poet as an individual and as a citizen; reconciling them if we can; anyhow convinced it is worth trying in these perilous days.
The Poet as Citizen & Other Papers, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Macmillian, 1935. p. 23,24

Beautiful, thoughtful, and gives an answer to several things: one being why the old, poetic hymns resonate so deeply with the spirit. It is nice to have words to express that feeling that returns again and again since childhood.