Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Unadulterated from Joan Chittister - Throw Open the Door

Throw Open the Door
Learning to open the heart requires first that we open our lives.

The home of whites that has never had a person of color at the supper table is a home that has missed an opportunity to grow. People of color who have never trusted a white have missed a chance to confirm the humanity of the human race. The man that has never worked with a woman as a peer, better yet as an executive, has deprived himself of the revelation of the other half of the world. The comfortable contemplative who has never served soup at a soup kitchen, or eaten lunch in the kitchen with the cook, or clerked in a thrift shop, or spent time in inner-city programs lives in an insulated bubble. The world they know cannot possibly give them the answers they seek. The adult who has never asked a child a question about life and really listened to the answer is doomed to go through life out of touch and essentially unlearned.

“When someone comes to the gate,” the Rule of Benedict instructs, “say ‘Benedicite.’” Say, in other words “Thanks be to God” that someone has come to add to our awareness of the world, to show us another way to think and be and live beyond our own small slice of the universe.

Openness is the door through which wisdom travels and contemplation begins. It is the pinnacle from which we learn that the world is much bigger, much broader than ourselves, that there is truth out there that is different from our own. The voice of God within us is not the only voice of God.

Openness is not gentility in the social arena. It is not polite listening to people with whom we inherently disagree. It is not political or civil or “nice.” It is not even simple hospitality. It is the munificent abandonment of the mind to new ideas, to new possibilities. Without an essential posture of openness, contemplation is not possible. God comes in every voice, behind every face, in every memory, deep in every struggle. To close off any of them is to close off the possibility of becoming new again ourselves.

–from Illuminated Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book #21 - Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. FoxFantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl does not disappoint this Dahl fan. A short chapter book about Mr. Fox and his family, three farmers in pursuit of his thievery of their poultry, this is similar to Beatrix Potter's Adventures of Peter Rabbit.

Of course Mr. Fox attempts to outfox the farmers and is quite successful in his antics. True to Dahl's style, his stories delight both young and old alike. It's a perfect book for a young child to begin in reading chapter books, as the chapters are short, and the interest is high!

I read this book while putting up peas earlier Saturday afternoon. A perfect combination!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Where are all the lonely people?

I've been thinking a LOT about our little church lately.  I've been worried. I realize it is summer, and folks are away on vacation and have this and that to do. But we have also had some folks move from our little church community, as they have gotten jobs away from our town. And we anticipate another move by a family who will be retiring and moving to be close to family. We've had this happen before, knowing that our culture and society is so highly mobile today. People don't just stay in the same place any more. And businesses and companies don't lend themselves to loyalty to their employees and vice versa.

But I'm missing more than that --- the others who are not there. The ones with children, the ones who don't know there might be a place for them in our little community. I'm missing those who have hurts we can't see  and those we can see. I want someone to come sit beside me in church.

Our little church doesn't have the big programs with a multi staffed group of folks to take on the responsibility to organize events and coordinate programs. Our little church doesn't have someone we pay to work on the church grounds to make it look beautiful. Our custodial staff are the members of the congregation who rotate and devote a bit of their time to keep the place looking tidy. Our little church works a little differently, in a good way, not necessarily better, but still in a different way.

We aren't as invisible in our little church. My little church knows my flaws, yet still loves me. It knows when I am not there. It has seen me through thick and thin, it has raised my children by my side. And my children are for the better, as they know they have been loved and nurtured in ways that only a church family can provide.

I am missing people like me.... and those NOT like me. Those who are lonely, those who are seekers, those who have a longing to know God and to have Jesus in their heart, their mind, and their soul. I'm looking for you, are you there?

I am one of those lonely people, waiting for you.
Will you join me to break bread and drink from the silver cup?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In the Good Ol' Summertime

Auntie Knickers posted on her blog about things she liked and disliked about summer. It was part of Revgalblogpal's Friday Five series. But what caught my attention the most was the video at the end, which she said her father used to sing to her. I have a soft spot in my heart for the songs I know which I believe are treasures that are slowly disappearing from our repertoire.

Before you get to the video, I will share with you what I like and dislike about summer.

1. I love the long days. My body and mind feel better during this time of year. I dislike mosquitoes.

2. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the summertime schedule. Teachers have the luxury of this to recharge their batteries as once school begins, it's like being on a hamster wheel.  I dislike the fact that our summer is so rudely interrupted by school starting in early August. What happened to the day after Labor day?

3. Listening to the crickets and cicadas - music to my ears. I dislike that our houses are sealed up so much that we don't get to hear them unless we go out into the heat, which also brings the mosquitos.

4. Watermelon.  I dislike the gnats, ants, and other insects who delight in being a nuisance during this time of year.

5. Vacation time with family and getting to enjoy them in the good old summertime... and for your listening pleasure....

(if you are viewing this on Facebook, you will need to click on "view original post" to see the video, if you are so inclined.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book #20 - French by Heart

My friend has a daughter whose family is over in France for a three year job stint through her husband's company. What an adventure this must be for them! Well, I am sure there are days that it does not seem to be an adventure, with the challenges of a different language and culture.  So many memories are being created for them and their extended family as they come and visit them while they are there.

French By Heart: An American Family's Adventures in La Belle FranceI happened upon a delightful blog Wonders Never Cease ( a friend had recommended it, and rightly so), and as I got to reading it, I noticed a book to the side French By Heart: An American Family's Adventures in La Belle France, and when I went to check it out, I notice they had lived in the same area as my friend's daughter. And, of course, it was the same company which had offices over there. Well, it piqued my interest to peer into what life was like over there from another perspective, as I have kept up with the other family as well.

Delightfully written, her experiences of living in France are similar to what I have heard, with the cultural and language challenges, along with having young children. It was a written documentary of their life in Clermont-Ferrand, France, approximately 4 hours away from Paris. Full of humor, with a here and there of frustrations on the vicissitudes of life, Ramsey's family eventually returns to the US in one piece, with treasured memories of friendships and experiences.

I look forward to sharing this with my dear friend, and French by Heart will head over to Clermont-Ferrand, France to share. Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your experiences and allowing us to peer into a life of a family who travels to another country and ALMOST becomes French.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Hymn - Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Our entrance hymn today at St. John's was "Come thou fount of every blessing, a popular hymn composed in the 18th century by the Methodist pastor and hymnist Robert Robinson (tune by Nettleton).

While reading up a little about the history of the hymn, I discovered that Charles Ives, an American composer, had taken this hymn and placed it in a string quartet. As I went hunting for it on Youtube, I found this lovely video of the String Quartet. Clearly one can hear the tune woven throughout his composition. So I share with you also this to enjoy:

To thine own self be true......

We didn't do a whole lot of celebrating on Father's Day. Dad didn't really want it that way. He was much more likely to just be glad for us to be together than for us to go get a card or a Father's Day gift. And, the ties and the other gifts cannot be remembered, for they were more self imposed obligatory gifts than ones that Dad expected or needed or really wanted.

I now understand what Dad meant. For when Mother's Day comes around, I want the presence of my children surrounding me with their love. I know as they have families, it might not always work out on the day, but the day really doesn't matter does it? Father's and Mother's Day can be any time.

My dad is no longer with us - he passed away 7 years ago in his sleep. What a blessing, I think, but I also think Dad hid his pains and symptoms that he knew one day would take his life away. Heart trouble, though not a diagnosis of death, was surely the culprit.

However, my dad left me many gifts, some I use, and some I treasure today.
  •  Dad had some of the corniest jokes - I heard them a million times it seems and as  a teenager I was always embarrassed by them when friends were around. But teenagers are like that.
  • We ALWAYS sat at the table to eat our meals. And... Walter Cronkite was in the background. Now some folks think - turn the tv off, but that is the way we talked about current events in our home. And Dad always had an opinion about them, but he also explained what was going on.
  • Yankee food. I didn't know it at the time, because our meals were our meals, but Boston Baked Beans, with the brown bread out of the can, and weiners were a weekly meal at our house. It wasn't until my late teens that I had southern cornbread (not Jiffy mix).  We also had creamed chipped beef on toast (I think that is a "Yankee meal"). 
  • Dad had a few quotes he would share with us... "to thine own self be true", "don't take any wooden nickels",  "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself (FDR), and others that I can't remember at the moment!
  • Dad was a depression child - born in 1929, hard times were a part of growing up. Money was something he thought of as "it comes, it goes" so he wasn't much of a saver. His phiiosophy was "I didn't have it growing up, I can't take it with me, so let's enjoy what we have now and worry about tomorrow when it comes."  If he had a windfall of money (like when he won a small amount with the lottery) - he took us all on a vacation. Could he have squirreled it away? Sure, but we would have never had a memory of that. The vacation, though, is a highlight that my children remember.
  • When it came to fashion, my father loved BRIGHT and FLASHY - no conservative outfits for him. He wanted to make a statement with a crazy tie, plaid pants with a striped shirt. Yep, that was my dad.
Best of all, he left me with a gift of thinking for myself, to always question, to be a life long learner, and to be compassionate to those less fortunate. He taught we an awareness to not always assume that things were not always what they seemed at face value, that there could be a story behind it that we don't know about by looking or seeing what we saw.

I hope that the gifts my father gave me are ones that I can live up to and pass on to my children, and to others. My gift to him, even today, is to be thankful to who he was and how he shaped me to be who I am today.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Gallavanting with Mom

Yesterday was filled with going to and fro with Mom. She is on a Nicholas Sparks reading kick, so if any of you want to read his book in this town, you might find the library's supply of his books a little low. She is the type of reader when she finds an author that suits her liking, we have a run on them. Problem is I can't keep up with what she has read and not read. But yesterday, we went to the library, so she did get a few more books - Debbie Macomber books keep her quite happy too.

The morning started off with her 3 month check up at the doctor, plus follow up post hospital stay, which she does not remember (is that a blessing? For her, yes). It was a good appointment, with his encouragement for her to move around more. She was adamant she WAS moving around a lot in the house by getting up and going to the bathroom. True.

Library visit, as mentioned above, and then to get her haircut. She has found the MAN to cut her hair, who makes her feel like a queen, and if it makes her feel that good, then it is worth the money she spends, though I think it is on the pricey side. And, they are good to her and treat her like royalty. When I get to be her age, I want to be treated like that too. (I hope my children hear that?).

Decisions decisions as to where to get a bite to eat lunch, so we went to the country club (where my husband is golf pro) and ate our sandwich and had a gorgeous view of the golf course. We sat and watched the grass grow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Evelyn Underhill

Today the Episcopal Church observes Evelyn Underhill on their calendar. I haven't read any of her books, but I did find some quotes from her that I like. As I was looking for an image for her, I found this wonderful icon, created by Suzanne Schleck, whose work was displayed on the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts.

Underhill lived from 1875-1941 and was a prolific writer. Initially an agnostic, she became attracted to Catholocism, and eventually became involved in the Anglican tradition.
She contended that contemplative prayer was not strictly for nuns and monks, but for any person who desired to practice it. She was a spiritual director and leader of many workshops.

Here are some of her quotes from various writings:

God is always coming to you in the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that sacrament.

God is much in the difficult home problems as in the times of quiet and prayer.

Try to arrange things so that you can have a reasonable bit of quiet every day.

For more information about Evelyn Underhill go here:

(permission given to use image by Suzanne Schleck.) 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book #19 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A NovelExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel- by Jonathan Safran. I'm counting this book, though I did not finish it til the end. I read 2/3 of the way through and found it wasn't the book for me. I tried to like this book. There were aspects I did like about this book, which centered around a nine year old boy whose father was killed in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  Just wasn't my cup of tea.

Book #18 - The Double Comfort Safari Club

The Double Comfort Safari Club (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency)The Double Comfort Safari Club (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency) oooh how I like The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books. I'm not sure why because nothing really surprising happens, but I love the way the characters talk to each other. And I always feel like I am right there with them while the story is being told. I believe I have read all of the Detective Agency books - I read another one last week which I will post soon. They are a pleasure to read.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What we sang at church today

We all know the story prompt "What we did on summer vacation" - well, this is "What we sang in church today". Many of you know we are in small church, but in that church are some folks with big hearts and voices. Today we sang as the entrance hymn "Praise my soul, the King of Heaven", which is one of my favorites, the the Episcopal church has a lovely accompaniment and descant to go along with the hymn singing. And I think our little church did quite well with it today.

However, we are not St. Paul's Cathedral in London - and this video is of the same hymn sung (albeit a different descant). We did not sing it at the same tempo as this one is sung more slowly, but for those of you who have sung in a cathedral understand that hymns usually are sung more slowly due to the nature of the large space, and to allow the sound to travel throughout the physical space.

However, without further comment, I share with you this video for your listening pleasure.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book #17 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 100th Anniversary Edition (Books of Wonder) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum was a free Kindle download and also on the top 100 chapter books (I would link to the original list, but School Library Journal has redesigned their website and I cannot locate it now) for children. It's one of my goals this summer to read a few more of these books so I can try and flesh out the books from children literature that are popular that I somehow missed the first time around (in my childhood). Of course some of the books on the list were not around while I was growing up, but I guess you could say I'm still growing up since I continue to enjoy children's literature. This was a quick read and one can certainly see the similarities to the movie  which I grew up watching yearly (no DVDs and VHS to watch it over and over again). Of course it was a long time before I could watch it in its entirety since that Wicked Witch was way too scary and I had to leave the room whenever she came into the picture.

It was also interesting to see the differences in the story and the movie as the movie did leave some of the story line out, but isn't that the case with all movies? Oh yeah, there were no ruby slippers, only silver. I always loved the ruby ones in the movie and still dream one day of having a pair. Wonder what it will take to get a pair? Hopefully not a tornado!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Holy Boredom

The last couple of days I have felt restless and bored. Yesterday, I could say it bordered on stir-crazy, but that is probably stretching it. The week of the beach is over, a little lull in the action (thank you), so yesterday I will consider it a day where I felt boredom settling into my system.

That is not necessarily something I consider useless - boredom, that is - as I try to look upon it as a time where our weary bodies can find refreshment of reorganizing, finding opportunities both within ourselves to regroup.

When this happens, I occasionally think - things are too quiet - what bomb is going to lower down upon me. But, if I can, I am going to allow this time of feeling bored be a time of rejuventation, of taking care of simple tasks which "have to wait until there is more time". And while those simple tasks (and believe me, if I think it is a big task, I will run away and hide) are being completed, perhaps I can find a time to find in it the sacred mystery of finding the holy in the ordinary.

So with that, I think I will take a small task, complete it (oh for a "P" on the MBTI can be so challenging) and move on, finding boredom as a good time, a thankful time, and a time to fill with the quotidian aspects of life. Amen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book #16 Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A NovelMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson was one of my beach reads. Pettigrew, a retired British major and widower, lives in a small town in England. He meets a widowed woman, Mrs. Ali, originally from Pakistani descent and a relationship develops. Of course this causes a stir in their small community. In addition, Pettigrew's brother passes away, and the brothers have each inherited a valuable gun, both of which are part of a pair. Tension develops as to who actually inherits the gun of the deceased brother along with what to do with the gun becomes part of the plot, and it thickens quite well.

Very enjoyable read!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book #15 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is a book on the top 100 chapter books chosen by blog readers as the best. This particular book was ranked #2, so since I am a fan of her adult books, I knew this was long overdue on my "to be read" list.

Glad I read it - written in the 60s, there was the definite feeling of "good vs. evil" and the fear of the concerns of the day with communism.

This has no reflection on the quality or value of this book, however, I am not a fan of this genre of traveling to different planets, dimensions, that sort of thing. It has a little science fiction and fantasy, so that had some impact on what I thought of the book. Don't get me wrong. L'Engle is definitely and excellent writer, as I have read many of her adult books and cherished them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Book #14 - Listening Below the Noise

Listening Below the Noise: The Transformative Power of SilenceListening Below the Noise: The Transformative Power of Silence was a book I had started before going to the beach. It was on my Kindle, so I didn't intentionally bring it. But I intentionally finished it while I had a good bit of time.

Leclaire's account of her experience throughout the years of her intentionally chosen days of silence allowed me to view her time spent in the real world, her home, with her family, while choosing times where she would be silent. Two Mondays out of the month, she decided to make those her silent days - not so much that her world was silent, but she chose to be silent in her world.

It's not an easy experience - she comes up against her family who does not understand her choice to do this. Frustration that others have during this time are all a part of her experience. However, her choice last throughout the years, even during the times she comes to the conclusion that she is going to stop, she plows through it with keeping the silence, even though she really sees no reason to continue.

The author also shares times where silence can be abusive, as those who have not chosen silence, but when others choose silence and isolation for them. Examples include those who have been placed in solitary confinement, those who choose silence as a form to abuse others close to them.

However, the majority of her book addresses the importance of having time in one's life to experience silence at some level. At the end she shares ways of going about the silence in our noise filled world.

How do you make quiet time or periods of silence for yourself?

Week at the Beach

I return from a week at the beach feeling some refreshment and renewal. It offered me a time to rest, read, contemplate, and bask in the beauty of the waves, wind, rain, and heat. And... humidity.

Our place was an older home, which seems to feel right to me. There is the element of nostalgia of a time where simplicity seemed to be a part of what going to the beach offered. Slowing down to a pace where nothing was on the agenda -- there was no "what are we going to do today?"  Ah. . . bliss.

So... what did we do?

1. Ate pineapple sandwiches on white bread. Yeah, I know. But it brought back memories.
2. Completed a puzzle on a porch - with no air conditioning. Did I mention there was a breeze and the sound and sight of the ocean?
3. Sat outside in the evening and watched a four year old blow bubbles.
4. Took an outside shower where I could see all, but no one could see all of me (I hope!)
5. Read and completed several books.
6. Bought shrimp by the side of the road, came home, boiled and ate it. Devoured it.
7. Took naps. Daily.
8. Pirated wifi a few times, it was hit and miss.
9. Took turns praying from 100 Graces: Mealtime Blessings at mealtime.
10. ate a conch cake...  yum.
11. Saw a Portuguese man of war. It's about the size of my hand or smaller.  Didn't know what it was until I posted it on Facebook to inquire of its identity. 

It was a good week and it's good to be home.