Fickle-hearted Winter

Oh, to be back home! Here's a photo of my childhood home, taken last week.
This is what Michiganders call "lake-effect snow," buckets of fat, white flakes dumped in a matter of days. I miss the snow, but not necessarily the frigid cold temps. What I really miss are the sounds of winter: the eerie hush of a snow-laden pine forest with only the rhythmic "shmunch, shmunch" of gliding skis to break the silence - the hollow sound of car tires on an icy road - the familiar stomping of boots outside the door to let you know Dad was about to come inside. I have fond memories of praying my car would make it up the slippery driveway; timing my shifting and acceleration so as not to get stuck on the crest of the hill 10 feet in front of the garage (and not rocketing through the back wall, either!).

Winter driving pulls up a whole other set of memories: my best friend and I taking turns with near-miss accidents, calling my beau (Steve) to come pull me out of the ditch, spinning doughnuts in the parking lot, guessing where the road is during white-outs, thawing the ice in my door lock while standing in a blizzard in my cheerleading uniform, whacking a peep-hole through 1/4" of ice on the windshield (and driving that way!), bucking snow drifts after a wedding....

But Winter is a fickle woman; dad wrote to say last week's snow pictured above is nearly melted away.

Children without programs, but in the Church

From RC Sproul, Jr.:

"At present [at our church] we have roughly 250 souls under our care... roughly 45 families.... between 100 and 150 children who are members of our body. We have no programs for them. We do not have a school. We do not have Sunday School. We don’t have a scouting program. We do not have a youth group. All we have is each other.

"So here is my question. Do you know the names of all the children in your congregation? I have not studied our church directory.... I’m not a terribly good memorizer. But I know the names of our children. I know them, I believe, because they are our children. They are not a part of a set of programs of the church. They are instead a part of the church. We are one body together.

"That doesn’t mean, of course, that I decide how much TV should be watched in their homes. I don’t set the modesty standards for each child. They have parents for that. The point isn’t that it takes a village. The point is that we are to not only discern the body, but love it. How can we love that which we do not know?

"The children of [our church] are not something to be used. They are not something to be herded, or processed. They are instead the object of our love, and the recipients of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t create programs for them. Instead learn their names. Instead have a conversation with them. Instead, be the church."

Coupla good jokes

The preacher's 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head, for a moment, before starting his sermon. One day, she asked him why. "Well, Honey," he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages, "I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon." "How come He doesn't do it?" she asked.

A rabbi said to a precocious six-year-old boy, "So your mother says your prayers for you each night? Very commendable. What does she say?"The little boy replied, "Thank God he's in bed!"

Little Johnny and his family were having Sunday dinner at his Grandmother's house. Everyone was seated around the table as the food was being served. When little Johnny received his plate, he started eating right away. "Johnny wait until we say our prayer.""I don't have to," The boy replied."Of course, you do," his mother insisted. "We say a prayer, before eating, at our house." "That's our house," Johnny explained. "But this is Grandma's house and she knows how to cook."


February is Quilting Month

Calling all quilters and sewing friends! February is quilting month! Hooray!

I blush and look down with a sheepish grin. *My* quilt has been NINE years in the making. Most of those years were spent in a plastic bag in a coat closet. Now the plastic bag is hiding under my art table. Time to FINISH (gasp!) this beast. And I do mean beast. It is a KING sized patchwork quilt with 42 blocks and sashing between each - machine pieced and HAND QUILTED. Did I mention this is my first-ever quilt? No lack of ambition, just finishing skills. When it comes to crafting, I have serious "long-term project infidelity" issues. Just ask Steve. The quilt's outer border is all that remains to be quilted, then sew on the binding.

My goal: have the quilt finished by the end of February. That's 33 days from now. I even get an extra day this year. :) Do you think I'll actually complete it by then?

There's a lot of quilty fun going on at the Sew Mama Sew blog. Locally, the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show will be happening at the Hampton Convention Center Feb. 22-24. Looking forward to seeing some beautiful pieces of art! Here's an overview of what will be exhibited.


1001st post

Just for the record, that last one was our 1000th post on this blog.
What should my prize be?

Communion Exhortation - 12/16/07

Our Lord asks us to do this in remembrance of Him. I have spent some time this past week listening to people share memories of loved ones that have left us here and gone to glory. We are separated from them, and so cling to memories. The remembering is part of what ties us to heaven. What was it that led God to send us the Christ? He remembered His covenant with us. As He remembered us, He calls us to remember Him. Memories define the relationship b/t those who are separated for a time. God renews and refreshes us in our relationship with Him as we remember. And one of the things we remember is that the separation is only temporary.

Poem of the day

Here is an interesting, more modern poem. I gather it is written from Adam's perspective upon waking up, and before naming Eve, Eve (see lines 9-10). I like how it portrays the need for re-union, after being torn apart (rib taken). God tends to divide in order to create/re-order (Genesis 1:4-7; Isaiah 64:1; Matthew 26:26; 27:51), which brings multiplied fruit. Since the world has not been completely put back together (consummated), we still feel this need in us, the fierceness of creation. Note that part of Adam wants things back how they were, but God is now calling for a different sort of union, more glorious...

adam thinking
by Lucille Clifton

stolen from my bone
is it any wonder
i hunger to tunnel back
inside desperate
to reconnect the rib and clay
and to be whole again

some need is in me
struggling to roar through my
mouth into a name
this creation is so fierce
i would rather have been born

Verses of the day

John 10:27-28
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

John 11:25
"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die."


Communion Exhortation - 12/9/07

[After the death of a congregation member:]

As we gather at the Table to proclaim the Lord’s death, another death crowds to mind. Our Father created this world so that the physical would have a profound effect on us. We know and are assured that M______ is with the Lord in paradise today. We know he is fully healed. Why not put away grief? We grieve and painfully miss M______ b/c he isn’t here physically. God meant for the physical to weigh heavily upon us, and that is why He gives us physical signs of our salvation. He intends for us every Sunday to take bread, hear the words “This is My body,” and then eat and swallow. At the last day, death will be swallowed up forever. As we proclaim the Lord’s death by swallowing the bread and wine, we proclaim that death itself will be swallowed up forever one day.


Crafts with Kids

If you were hoping this post would be loaded with creative and new craft ideas for kids, sorry.

In fact, it is the opposite. It is a cry for help - my 3 oldest children are the craft kings. Every day they ask for another craft/art project to do. They have made models of the USS Monitor to no end, drawings of every possible variation of castle/knight/dragon, fleets of spaceships, paper snowflakes to fill a dump truck, and Perler beads by the bucketful. I usually can whip up a crafty idea in a manner of minutes, but my creative gas tank is on E. Any ideas? We have a large collection of toilet paper and paper towel tubes...

Tolkien reads "One Ring"

Courtesy of George Grant

Tolkien reads the Ents

Tolkien on elves, dwarves and The Hobbit

Poem of the day

O captain! my Captain!
by Walt Whitman, upon the death of Abraham Lincoln
The ship is America, come through the Civil War
Her captain is Lincoln, who dies as the ship comes through the storm...

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart! 5
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills; 10
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck, 15
You’ve fallen cold and dead.


My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; 20
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Communion exhortation - 12/2/07

Text: Luke 1:5-25 - Gabriel coming to Zachariah

Suddenly, Gabriel stood there, in front of Zachariah. The priest was troubled and afraid. This happened to everyone in Scripture to whom an angel or Jesus himself came, and the question this morning is, has it come upon you? It is all right to be troubled or scared because you experience the presence of Christ. I would be disturbed if I had never been disturbed by Him. Who can stand when He appears? He comes to purify us.

But He purifies us because He favors us. It’s scary, and it hurts, but it happens because He favors us with His grace. He has taken away our reproach, and took it Himself on the cross. The guarantee of this is the Spirit dwelling with us. We are assured of His favor in the bread and wine, which the Spirit empowers to feed us with Christ. He has given us His own Son – broken body, shed blood – how couldn’t He give us all He has, after that?

Verses of the day

Psalm 19:7-10
The law of Yahweh is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of Yahweh is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of Yahweh are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of Yahweh is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of Yahweh are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.


Poem of the day

by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


Communion Exhortation - 11/25/07

Text: Matthew 1:1-17
Joseph took Mary in, knowing this was not his baby. As we gather around the table, we ought to remember that what we do is not so much our doing as it is God’s. We are not here to focus on our guilt, our sin, our unworthiness, nor on our sincerity, our repentance, our piety. We are here to receive a gift that we had no part in creating. We are here to feed upon Christ, to revel in this gift to us. God made promises to our fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, and He has kept them in Jesus Christ.

At the same time, every gift is a responsibility, and the gift of Jesus is no exception. When Joseph agreed to take Mary as his wife, it brought great responsibility. Here we act out a sign of what we are called to do within. We must receive Jesus with gratitude, in faith. In faith means we believe Jesus was sent by God to save us from our sins, and that He has done that on the cross.

Poem of the day

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

-- J R R Tolkien

It isn't complicated

[On the meaning of sin in 2 Pet 2:7 and 3:17-18]
"One of the things that Christians today have to learn how to do is "keep it simple." We don't know the course of rationalization that led to Lot living where he did, but it had to have been complex, akin to what a lot of Christians today are doing on similar subjects. We know that God destroyed Sodom, and we know why. What we don't is how many long term, committed relationships there were in Sodom. Neither should we care. Growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus is directly related to the avoidance of wickedness. Sad to say, this assertion is now officially controversial in some Christian quarters."

by Douglas Wilson


Communion exhortation - 11/18/07

I've gotten out of the habit of sending these out; I really do consider them one of the most important things I do Sunday mornings, so we'll see if I can catch up giving you all of them without overwhelming you...

Text: Deuteronomy 26:1-11 - Thanksgiving sermon
When the Israelite brought their first fruit of grain or wine or oil before the Lord, they presented it to Him as a sign of His keeping His Word. They confessed their need for that promise, and rejoiced in its fulfillment and blessings.

That is what we do now, with Christ as the first fruit. We present our first fruit of the harvest, Christ, to God as a sign of His keeping His Word. We confess our need for Him, proclaiming His death till He comes. And we rejoice in covenant promises fulfilled, and continual blessings given.

When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish, He gave thanks to God and broke the loaves. When Jesus broke bread at Passover, instituting a new Passover, He also gave thanks to God before He broke the bread. Some parts of the Church call the Lord’s Supper Eucharist, which is simply Greek for “thanksgiving.” Every Sunday we have a eucharist, a thanksgiving at this table. We give thanks for Jesus Christ by remembering His death, commemorating it, and participating in it.

So let us translate into new covenant language the thanksgiving speech from our text this morning
“My father Adam fell into sin and was about to perish. Satan has bruised his heel over many generations, mistreated us, afflicted us, and laid hard bondage on us. But we cried out to the Lord God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and looked on our affliction. 8 So the Lord brought us out of our sin with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. At the cross of Christ the sun went dark, the veil was torn from the top, and many godly saints were raised and showed themselves in the city. 9 Through Christ, God has brought us to this place and has given us all that we have. We have brought the best to Him of all He has given, and we rejoice in our Provider and Savior, the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Word, Water, Bread, Wine. The Spirit and the gifts of God, for those with whom Christ sides, the people of God.

Verses of the day

Psalm 16:8, 11
"I have set Yahweh always before me;
because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken....
You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


"Hana in the Time of the Tulips"

"...and tulips in those days were as precious as gold."
Tulipomania (1634-1637) is the background for this charming book about little Hana who aims to get her merchant father's attentions away from tulips and back to their usual fun and games in the family gardens.
The story in this book is adorable and remarkable - not only is the Semper Augustus a feature, but Rembrandt himself plays a role as friend and painting instructor to little Hana. But to my artist's eyes, the paintings make this book worth the $51 it's selling for on Amazon. They reflect the style and mood of the great Dutch and Flemish masters of the period in style, lighting, content, and composition. Detailed full-page paintings are complemented by small inkwash sketches, adding vivacity to every page. These are pictures my children can sit and /look/ at, not just skim past - the kind of art I want those little eyes to devour. "Hana" is another great book to help our kids understand their Dutch heritage; a similar book for preschool/K-1 aged kids is "The Great Tulip Trade" featuring another young girl and her father. For older elementary kid interested in the golden era of Dutch art and tulips I recommend "Dutch Color" by Douglas Jones.
And yes, my own Holland (MI) tulip bulbs are carefully planted in our backyard, awaiting the spring sunshine.

Verses of the day

Psalm 14:2, 7
"Yahweh looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.... Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When Yahweh restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad."


Mr Norton is Slow

I just took Norton Anti-virus off my computer, having installed Avast anti-virus in its place first. The difference in computer running speed is amazing. No more 3 minute wait while Norton scans every last computer function.

Verse of the day

Mark 10:45
"The Son of Man [Jesus, speaking of Himself] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”


Verses of the day

Mark 8:19-21
"'When I [Jesus] broke the five laves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?' They said to him, 'Twelve.' 'And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?' And they said to him, 'Seven.' And he said to them, 'Do you not yet understand?'"

Anybody out there get it?

Mark 9:35
Jesus - "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."


Poem of the day

See here for background of the poem (World War I)

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Verses of the day

Mark 7:18-23
"'Whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him'... thus He declared all foods clean. And He said, 'What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of he heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.'"


Communion exhortation - 1/6/08

Text: Matthew 2:1-18
If you hadn’t noticed before, our time of Communion follows immediately after our offering, and there is a connection. Part of the relationship we have with the Lord is one of giving and receiving. He gives us life and all that comes with it, we receive all these gifts that come with life, and thank Him, and sacrifice back some to Him. What we give back to Him, during our offering, He transforms and gives back again. Some of the OT offerings were given back to the worshiper to enjoy and eat before the Lord. So as we bring our offerings forward, our focus turns to the Table, where God gives back. We receive it and thank Him, and go to sacrifice back our lives to Him, as our spiritual act of worship. Melchizedek God’s priest, gave to Abraham, Abraham gave to his concubines’ children who went east, the magi come from the east to give to the seed of Abraham. Jesus, the seed of Abraham gave His life for us, symbolizing it with bread and wine. His Father gave Him His life back. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Jesus gave us the Spirit and all His gifts with Him.

We present back to Him what He has given us to steward. Have you been stingy, holding your resources close, or have you been multiplying your investments wisely? What can you give Him? You. And everything that is you. May your soul bless the Lord, and all that is within you. This is communion. Sharing what we have with Him.

Of course, OUR sharing is a drop in the ocean the other way, of God’s sharing with us Himself, His Son, and all the benefits of Christ our new covenant head. Standing in Him, His life, obedience, death and resurrection are ours. He has pleased the Father for us, and in Christ, the Father is pleased with us. We are sobered, remembering the sacrifice it took to get to this place. That travail of body and soul is also ours, as we suffer under modern Pharaohs of disease, disaster and dysfunctional leaders, who tyrannize, kill and persecute us. But we also rejoice with exceedingly great joy, knowing our salvation draws near, of which we already have a foretaste. This joy was the Father’s intent all along, that our joy may be full. His joy is ours. His satisfaction over His enemies is ours. So we don’t steal your joy at this Table, dwelling on your sin, except to say that the death of Christ paid for them. The main ways we know this are through Word, Water, Bread, Wine. The gifts of God for the people of God.

Call to confession - 1/6/08

Coloassians 3:5-11
Identifying distinctions and differences can lead to stinginess. If I know you are x and I am y, then I automatically think I have less obligation to you as my brother in Christ. I’ll just stick closer with my fellow y’s and we will all be happier. But Christ is all in all, and in Him there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave or free, circumcised or not. Because of this we don’t use such differences as a justification to wrong or shortchange each other.

It is easy to identify differences b/t us on some things, and this isn’t a bad thing, in itself. As we are renewed together into the Triune image of our Creator, we remain different persons. But in our differences, we come to one like-minded intent – the glory and enjoyment of God forever.

It is also easy to find differences between us and the world, or even the worldly church, and become stingy toward them. This would lead to Joseph and Mary slamming the door in the face of the wise men, not wanting to contaminate their home with those eastern philosophies. Such a stinginess leads us to condemn too quickly as wrong, something that is not clearly wrong in Scripture. It is difficult to hold open arms to the world - to receive them as they come to Christ – while also keeping ourselves pure from the world. We either become worldly or close ourselves off from the world. But this is our calling: generosity to the world, and remaining pure from the world.

This reminds us of our need to confess our sins…

Poem of the day

DEATH be not proud
by John Donne

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Verses for the day

Mark 5:18-20
"As [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, 'Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.' And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled."


Poem of the Day

A Poison Tree
by William Blake.

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water'd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with my smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree

Scripture for the day

Mark 3:33-35
"[Jesus] answered them, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.'"



Okay, so the 12th day of Christmas and Epiphany got left in the dust for a bit there.
Anyway, we're waiting for the arrival of the true wise men, the in-laws, for our big holiday finale...

Twelfth Night

On the 12th day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, 12 drummers drumming...

representing the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.

"The Twelfth Night is January 5th, the last day of the Christmas Season before Epiphany (January 6th). In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day. Twelfth Night often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. French and English celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King's Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi, and ale or wine (a King's Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA). In some cultures, the King's Cake was part of the celebration of the day of Epiphany." (source)

An unrelated, lesser-known Christmas song:
(click here to play music)
Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
And usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with afright,
But hear the angel's warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be,
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.

This night of wonder, night of joy,
was born the Christ, our brother;
he comes, not mighty to destroy,
to bid us love each other.
How could he quit his kingly state
for such a world of greed and hate?
What deep humiliation
secured the world's salvation!

Come, dearest child, into our hearts,
and leave your crib behind you!
Let this be where the new life starts
for all who seek and find you.
To you the honor, thanks, and praise,
for all your gifts this time of grace;
come, conquer and deliver
this world, and us, forever.

Spring Surprises

I know January seems early to think of Spring arriving, but hearing the robins sing each morning makes it hard to get stuck in the winter doldrums. Today we had an exceptionally warm day and took advantage to play outside for awhile.

I hope it's not too late to plant spring bulbs - I put in a few tulips my sister-in-law gave me last summer. While digging in the dirt and cleaning out old flowerpots, I found basil seedlings sprouting! What a fun surprise! I gently dug them out and repotted them. They're living indoors with us now, and I hope to have a great crop of basil in a couple months!

Poem of the day

Ode on a Grecian Urn
by John Keats

THOU still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape 5
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 10

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 15
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair! 20

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearièd,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love! 25
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 30

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore, 35
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return. 40

O Attic shape! fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 45
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'


Poem of the day

I felt a funeral in my brain
by Emily Dickenson

I felt a funeral in my brain,
And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
That sense was breaking through.

And when they all were seated,
A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
My mind was going numb.

And then I heard them lift a box,
And creak across my soul
With those same boots of lead, again.
Then space began to toll

As all the heavens were a bell,
And Being but an ear,
And I and silence some strange race,
Wrecked, solitary, here.


Spinning on Walking Wheel

I have been experimenting this afternoon with my "new" spinning wheel - it's a great wheel, or walking wheel, that I brought out of storage at my parents' house. My best guess is that it dates to the late 1700's or early 1800's. After replacing some missing parts, it is now up and running, er, walking, whatever. At least the wheel is; the operator has a bit of learning to do yet! I managed to spin about 10 yards of what is essentially super fine thread this afternoon. Not sure how that will work out for knitting eventually, but it's wool that's been twisted, so I call it a success. I'm finding out that the wheel is as tempermental as its spinner can be, which isn't necessarily a good combination.

Here's an idea of what a walking wheel looks like:

My biggest problem is the main drive band doesn't grab at the large wheel and occaisionally falls off. It's very frustrating to hold tension on 2 yards of spun wool with one hand and try to put the drive band around the 45" diameter wheel with the other! My other issues center around a spindle that slides around and basic operator error.

On the 11th day of Christmas...

...my True Love gave to me, 11 pipers piping...

representing the eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James (Luke 6:14-16).

For our unrelated, lesser-known Christmas song, we turn to the Epiphany theme, which is January 6, and traditionally celebrates the arrival of the Magi from the east:

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.


O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.


Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshipping God on high.


Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.


Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Sounds through the earth and skies.


Poem of the day

I Sit and Think
by JRR Tolkien

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall never see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

Verses of the day

Psalm 4:7

You [O Lord] have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.


On the tenth day of Christmas...

...my True Love gave to me, ten lords a-leaping...
representing the ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God's name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet. (Exodus 20:1-17)

An unrelated, lesser-known Christmas song, and another reason for Christmas trees (those ornament balls are symbols of fruit, you know):
Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

Watch it sung!

1. The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

2. His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

3. For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

4. I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

5. This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

By the way, your tree isn't down yet, is it? In the middle of the 12 days!?

Poem of the day

William Shakespeare - All the world's a stage (from As You Like It 2/7)

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Verses for the day

Matthew 8:11
[Jesus, marveling at the Gentile centurion's faith]
I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

(Compare with Romans 9:30-32; Matt 22:1-14)

Matthew 10:34-38
[Jesus, sending the disciples out to preach, bracing them for the conflict and division that will ensue]
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother -in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 12:6
[Jesus speaking to the Pharisees of Himself]
I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.


It's still Christmas...

On the Ninth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me...

nine ladies dancing, representing the nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

An unrelated, lesser-known Christmas song
(click for music)

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown:

O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a blossom,
As white as lily flow'r,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To be our dear Saviour: Refrain

The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To do poor sinners good: Refrain

The holly bears a prickle,
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
On Christmas Day in the morn: Refrain

The holly bears a bark,
As bitter as the gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
For to redeem us all: Refrain

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown: Refrain

Poem of the Day

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

They brought me rubies from the mine,
And held them to the sun;
I said, they are drops of frozen wine
From Eden's vats that run.
I looked again,--I thought them hearts
Of friends to friends unknown;
Tides that should warm each neighbouring life
Are locked in sparkling stone.
But fire to thaw that ruddy snow,
To break enchanted ice,
And give love's scarlet tides to flow,--
When shall that sun arise?

Education standards

Listening to a homeschool talk this morning, I realized there are two kinds of homeschoolers:

1. Those who homeschool because they REJECT an objective academic standard of education.
2. Those who homeschool because they accept that standard, and find homeschooling the best MEANS to meeting the standard.

I suppose there could be a mix of the two, which involves allowing for different childrens' talents, abilities, etc.

We lean toward #2 above, while not accepting uncritically the secular academic institutions' standards, accreditations, etc.

Verses of the day

Matthew 6:7-13
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray then like this:
'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."


Highly recommended

Get this book and read it as soon as you get it.
I can't remember a book that has opened the Scriptures to me as comprehensively. Along with that, it has driven me TO the Scriptures, to actually go open a Bible and read, which few books do, these days. Here is a sample:

"Just as God brought animals to Adam to teach him about society and his kingly task[Gen 2:19-20], so also He brought an animal to Adam to teach him about holiness and his preistly task [Genesis 3:1].... With God's permission (cf. Job 1,2), Satan used the dragon to challenge Adam and Eve.... What should Adam have done? He should have led Eve away from the serpent to the Tree of Life.... He would have taken the fruit and given it to her (as Jesus, the New Adam, feeds His Bride)....

"Instead,... Adam and Eve... were disqualified from guarding the Garden, and new cherubic guardians were set up in their stead (Genesis 3:24).

"During the Old Covenant, God set aside men to fulfill the office of priest in a special way. These men led others to the door of the Garden (Tabernacle, Temple, etc), but not inside.... These exclusions pointedly reminded the people that access to the Garden had been lost due to sin, and only the work of the Messiah would give them renewed access."
(pg 137-38).

And that isn't a highlight; the whole book is like that. Many in my denomination have been influenced by this guy, and now that I've finally read something by him (!), I know why.

On the eighth day of Christmas...

...my True Love gave to me, 8 maids a-milking...
representing the eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)

An unrelated, lesser-known Christmas carol:
Click hear to hear the melody

1. On Christmas night true Christians sing
To hear what news the angel bring
News of great joy, cause of great mirth
Good tidings of the Saviour's birth
Good tidings of the Saviour's birth

2. Angels with joy sing in the air,
No music may with theirs compare;
While prisoners in their chains rejoice
To hear the echoes of that voice.

3. So how on earth can men be sad,
When Jesus comes to make us glad;
From sin and hell to set us free,
And buy for us our liberty?

4. Let sin depart, while we His grace,
And glory see in Jesus' face;
For so shall we sure comforts find
When thus this day we bear in mind.

5. And from the darkness we have light,
Which makes the Angels sing this night:
"Glory to God, His peace to men,
Both now and evermore." Amen.

Poem of the Day

Annabel Lee
Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Scripture of the day

Matthew 2:10
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.