Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sit Down

Allow me a teeny rant, please. It used to be that a standing ovation was given only at truly great and wondrous performances. A regular concert-goer should expect to give possibly ten in his whole life. I myself have only twice been so awed by a musical performance that I felt compelled to stand, and they were both when I was in college. How is that I can't recall a single performance of the past decade that has not resulted in the audience leaping to its collective feet? High school musicals, preschool Christmas pageants, the Vienna Boys Choir, Aunty Tilly playing "The Old Rugged Cross" on her musical saw at the church talent night~~they ALL receive standing ovations. It is now a meaningless gesture. Stop and think about this for a moment: If we honor Aunt Tilly and the VBC equally with a standing ovation, what is left when we as an audience really do sense that we've just witnessed something extraordinary and want to express our awe and appreciation? Or can we no longer distinguish what is truly outstanding? As much as we might enjoy Aunt Tilly's saw and love Aunt Tilly herself, we should not honor mediocrity that way. Applaud till your hands fall off if you wish to, but stay seated. Don't budge, even if you are the only one in the hall still sitting. Resist the peer pressure if you don't think in the depths of your soul that a standing O is warranted. I've done it many times and have never been mobbed afterwards. We must stem the tide of over-praising and this is as good a place to begin as any. Stand with me! Errrr . . . I should say, Sit with me! ;-)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Book #13

I first read~no, devoured~Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life by Margaret Kim Peterson two years ago and have been eager for a re-read ever since. Each of the one hundred sixty-five pages is a gem! Peterson delves into the theology of housekeeping and shows us why it matters, even in its repetition and ordinariness. In fact, it is because of those things that it matters in the first place. We are embodied creatures. On the sixth day of creation God made Adam in all his physicality and declared him "very good," and it is precisely because of our creatureliness that things like beds and lunches and clean underwear matter. We live in this world through the medium of our bodies, and our bodies demand certain things. Because we are not only bodies, these things nurture our souls as well, our whole being. Keeping House is a book about the why's of housekeeping. Our modern age has done us a great disservice by teaching us that housekeeping is mindless drudgery resulting in little to show for our efforts. This couldn't be more wrong. We are not gnostics.

What is more basic to our physical well-being than food, clothes, and shelter? The Bible is replete with passages in which God clothes us in His righteousness, feeds us with His own flesh and blood and is preparing the ultimate feast for us, and shelters us both here and now and in His kingdom to come. Peterson brings together numerous biblical passages that use imagery related to the household (the parables of Jesus, for instance) and shows how integral the idea of home is to Christian theology. Jesus has gone to prepare a home for us, and our homes here are a dim reflection of the future glorious home that awaits each Christian.

This is a book of why's, not how's. The author does not tell us how to do laundry or plan meals, but she does tell us why we should. For practical help, I like Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts. (Together, these two books make excellent wedding or shower gifts.) Nor is she another Martha Stewart: there's nary a decorating tip in the entire volume, and in fact, she specifically and intentionally removes the burden of perfection from her readers. Peterson is interested in real people with real lives and real homes that don't look like glossy magazines. That's one of the best aspects of this book.

Not only does Peterson make a sound case for the importance of housekeeping, she writes well. Her prose is lovely and draws the reader along through its sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. She gives the impression that the way she conveys her ideas is as important as the ideas themselves.

This is a book I'd take to the proverbial desert island because even there, there would be a home to make. This second reading has cemented its place as one of my very favorite books and one that I heartily recommend. It satisfies my inner housekeeper.

I want to share a few quotes, but it's hard to know where to begin. A few nuggets fairly randomly chosen:

"There has surely always been a gap between the way people keep their houses and the way they would like ideally to keep them. But many of us, I suspect, are demoralized by the task of keeping house in part because we know that our houses, no matter how well kept, will never look like the palaces in the dream house publications. And so we give up, preferring unattainable ideals to less than perfect realities.

An alternative might be humility and gratitude that in a world in which not all are decently housed, we have been given the gift of a home, plus a willingness to aspire to a more modest ideal and to work to achieve it. Instead of nurturing dissatisfaction with the shortcomings of our present home, whatever we may perceive them to be, perhaps we can turn our energies toward receiving as gifts the homes we have and to creating in them enough order and tidenss to promote convenience and peace and hospitality." (p. 44-45)

"It is this capacity of handwork to make room for joy, room for grief, room for hope and waiting and process, that makes it so valuable a practice in a world that increasingly has no room for any of these things. Many of us have less and less experience with anything that unfolds over time; we expect everything to be instantaneous and are indignant when our e-mail takes more than two seconds to arrive in its recipients' in-boxes. But life in not instantaneous. It takes time, and handwork can be a way to weave temporality and process back into our lives. As one woman says, "Any knitter knows how it feels to pick up those needles at the beginning or at the end of the day and to create something while reflecting on our daily lives--stitch by stitch, thought by thought, moment by quiet moment." (p. 80)

"Embracing--rather than resisting--the daily necessity of feeding a household can be a way of embracing the privilege of participating with God in this aspect of providential care. Feeding a household is not an acheivement that, once accomplished, can be checked off and set aside to make room for other pursuits. Feeding a household is an act of faithfulness, one that requires daily energy and attention and whose pleasures and rewards are experienced in the course of that faithfulness rather than only at the end." (p. 127-128)

Keeping House is akin to Edith Schaeffer's Hidden Art of Homemaking~~real homemaking for real people.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Family Culture II

Let's continue with quotations from books and movies that my family often uses in conversation. The list continues to grow, although at a slower pace, as we think of more so that we are now on page 7! You might think that we never say anything to each other that is not a reference to something else, but we do, we do.

Try to guess which book or movie these are from:

I recall it with perfect clarity.

This here's science. (pronounced "scance")

A good driver doesn't need brakes.

Taters, precious, what’s taters?

There are so many responsibilities on a person's mind when she's keeping house.

Les incompetents

When I drink whiskey, I drink whiskey, and when I drink water, I drink water.

Keep your knees opened and closed.

We'll all be ruined!

It's a particular morning thing. It has to be done in the morning.

Clang! Look it up!

I’m going inside. All this fresh air’s getting in my lungs.

What a lot of correspondence you have, my dear.

We could have been killed, or worse~expelled.

I want you to write a theme.

He has no idea of Latin verbs.

After all, passing tests is what school is all about.

A clunkin' great bill

My Africa project employs my whole time.

Oh, little Arthur! He was a charming baby.

What do you want a book for when we've got this perfectly nice telly!

Please, sir, may I have some more?

As you wish.

It occurs to me that I ought to give an answer key for my first post on this topic. Here 'tis:

The proprieties must be observed at all times. (The Quiet Man)

There’s more to him than meets the eye. (The Lord of the Rings)

Is this a kissing book? (The Princess Bride)

Constant viligance! (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

I need two kinds of ice cream. I'm recuperating. (Meet Me in St. Louis)

What does MRCVS mean to you? (All Creatures Great and Small)

Don’t want anymore corpses. Get a reputation. (Bleak House)

Cyril never has any money. (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

No lickin', no larnin'. (The Teacher's Funeral)

Great doctrinal import (Pride and Prejudice)

Things are boiling up nicely. (Bleak House)

Things are not very good around here. (A Baby Sister for Frances)

They’ll be safe with me; I’ve got twelve guns in my room. (Meet Me in St. Louis)

I want some PTA! (One of the Ramona books. I can't remember which one.)

It's a pome. I'm quotin'! (The Teacher's Funeral)

You shall not pass! (The Lord of the Rings, of course.)

Difficulty distinguishing sounds (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

If I had ever learnt, I would be a true proficient. (Pride and Prejudice)

Don’t give any of your startling speeches. (Anne of Green Gables)

The spirits! (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

How did you do? :-)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Book #12

I am addicted to taking Communion. I need it for the health of my soul. For years I have had the great blessing of attending churches where weekly communion was the norm. As a Calvinist, the Lord's Supper was important to me as a visible reminder of what Christ has done for me by taking my sins upon Himself. My faith in His redemption of me was strengthened each week. As a Lutheran, those benefits are still mine, but now I also understand that Christ's body and blood are physically present in the bread and wine. Communion is a vehicle by which God imparts His forgiving grace to me. Cavinist or Lutheran, why would I not want the blessing of participating in this feast each Lord's Day? Alack and alas, the two churches where Man of the House is serving as interim pastor offer the Lord's Supper only twice a month. I sorely miss it the weeks when it's not offered, but the bright side is that on Communion Sundays, I get to take it twice!

The Blessings of Weekly Communion by Kenneth Wieting, a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, has written a valuable book explaining . . . well . . . the blessings of weekly Communion, how pastors can educate their congregations to desire it, and the history of it in the Church. In fact, the first two-thirds of the book is chiefly about the practices of the Church regarding this sacrament from the earliest days in the book of Acts to now. I was fascinated to learn how some of the abuses in the Church before the Reformation regarding the Lord's Supper came to be, how Luther saw the right understanding of it to be second in importance only to the recovery of the doctrine of justification by faith, and how the early Lutherans and Reformed Christians tried to hash out their differences but were unable to.

The last third of the book lays out the benefits of taking the sacrament, how the liturgy surrounding the sacrament lays the foundation for it, and why a recovery of weekly Communion should be desired and sought. Written by an LCMS pastor, the book is, not unexpectedly, heavily Lutheran in flavor and emphasis. Not everyone will be interested in the specific history of the Lutheran church in America, and not everyone will agree with the Lutheran doctrine expounded therein. I will say this: Pr. Wieting does a better job than most Lutherans I have heard in representing fairly and accurately the Reformed position. I spent nearly fifteen years in the Reformed camp, so I think I have enough background to say that what usually passes for Lutheran analysis of Reformed doctrine is too often inadequate. I challenge my Lutheran friends to do a better job in understanding their Reformed brothers. Pr. Wieting was more insightful than most.

The writing itself is competent though not stellar. Wieting is, after all, a pastor, not a writer. It was occasionally a wee bit redundant, and there was a tad too much detail from time to time for my taste~too many charts laying out minute statistics, for example. Still, this book would be excellent for use in educating a congregation. There are also study questions at the end of each chapter.

The best quote from the book (found on p. 184):

"The forgiveness of sins must never become the grand 'of course' in the Christian life. Of course we have forgiveness of sins, so now let's get on with more important matters. The very name of God in the flesh, 'Jesus,' was given because He would save His people from their sins. God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men's sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:21)." Good stuff!

What are you reading this week? I'd love to read all about it! :-)

Friday, March 18, 2011

On My Mind~~Cute and Fuzzy Edition

For some reason I don't fully understand~~it's probably because we are softies when it comes to cats~~Man of the House, Girl of the House, and I have been trying to domesticate a stray cat. Feral cat would probably be a better term. This kitty was born in our neighbor's yard and often wanders over here to see what she can see. She likes to sit in our front window and watch us, and she will even let us pet her through the open window. Of course, we have to feed her! But she won't come in or let us get too close when we are on the same side of the window as she is. Man of the House has dubbed her Nausicaa after the princess in Homer's Odyssey who meets Odysseus when he's washed on shore after a shipwreck and he's lost all his clothes. Nausicaa (pronounced with four syllables!) has just become of marriageable age. So has this cat, so to speak. What we will do with her if she really does adopt us I do not know, but we can't resist getting to know her. She's adorable and very appreciative!

Cat of the House, our permanent, long-term cat, loves to watch the birds at our feeder. Sometimes he'll hang by his front paws from the windowsill to get a better look at all those delectable birdies that are out of his reach. Oh, the longing expressions and the licking of chops that go on!

You can read other "On My Mind" entries at Rhonda's blog.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~Book #11

Events conspired against me getting my planned book, The Blessings of Weekly Communion by Ken Wieting, finished this week. I had volunteered to be a test administrator for our local homeschool support group's standardized testing this week. That in itself would not have hindered me from completing my book, but Girl of the House caught that nasty stomach-bug-followed-by-upper-respiratory-gunk that seems to be going around these parts. She has been sick all week. Man of the House wasn't 100% either. All those convergences greatly reduced my reading time, alas. So I will keep plugging away and give a full report next week.

All was not a total loss, however. I listened to another P.G. Wodehouse book, How Right You Are, Jeeves, which was a bright spot in a rather dreary week. (Did I mention the rain and dark clouds which descended early on and stayed for almost the entire week? No? No doubt you have heard about the rain and flooding on the east coast. Thankfully, no flooding occured here, but there was plenty of rain!) Wodehouse is a comic genius, and the narrator, Ian Carmichael, is spot on in his voicing of each character. Sometimes I forget that I'm hearing just one actor; Carmichael is that good.

But it's back to my serious book this week. I'm halfway through already, so barring anymore unforeseen hindrances, I should be able to finish it. I plan to read books of a theological and/or devotional nature in observance of Lent, so expect to see rather serious titles added to my list from now through Easter.

What have you been reading? Share below:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Family Culture

Every family has its own culture. That culture is based on shared experiences such as dinnertime rituals, vacations, holiday traditions, and sometimes trials and tribulations. Those experiences give families their own language and inside jokes and references. Just as many families have done, our family language has borrowed extensively from books and movies. Last week I began making a list of the lines we've borrowed and that are now an everyday part of our family culture. The list is six pages long and I'm still adding to it as we think of new ones! I thought it would be fun to share some of those from time to time. I'll give some below, and you try to guess the source. Some are more obvious than others, and I don't guarantee that I have the quotes exactly correct, but they should be recognizable. Feel free to leave your guesses in the comments. The prize is the knowledge of a job well done. :-)

Here we go:

The proprieties must be observed at all times.

There’s more to him than meets the eye.

Is this a kissing book?

Constant viligance!

I need two kinds of ice cream. I'm recuperating.

What does MRCVS mean to you?

Don’t want anymore corpses. Get a reputation.

Cyril never has any money.

No lickin', no larnin'.

Great doctrinal import

Things are boiling up nicely.

Things are not very good around here.

They’ll be safe with me; I’ve got twelve guns in my room.

I want some PTA!

It's a pome. I'm quotin'!

You shall not pass!

Difficulty distinguishing sounds

If I had ever learnt, I would be a true proficient.

Don’t give any of your startling speeches.

The spirits!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Book #10

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved pioneer stories. I read my copies of the Little House series until they were falling apart. I still have them. When my girls were little, we read Little House and many other pioneer stories, including the Kirsten series from American Girl and Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. When Girl 2 came home from a library sale with Journey Cake by Isabel McLennan McMeekin I was intrigued. When several years later I still hadn't read it, I thought it would be a good candidate for this reading challenge, and I wasn't disappointed. Journey Cake was 226 pages of pure delight!

The story revolves around the five children of the Shadrow family whose mother has recently died (alas) and whose father has gone ahead to the Kentucky wilderness to begin a new life for his family. When summer arrives, the children are to travel from their old home in North Carolina to meet their father in Kentucky, accompanied by their freed slave woman and her husband, who is still a slave. The year is 1793. They face toil, discouragement, and danger along the way, but they are also helped along by the good folks of Piney Settlement, where they partake in a pioneer wedding and meet Johnny Appleseed.

My favorite chapters of the book are those in which the Shadrows spend a few days at Piney Settlement, a cluster of three or four houses in the woods of Kentucky. It is here that we see the warm hospitality of wilderness folk and witness the women keeping house with ingenuity and creativity in primitive circumstances. I adore books in which housekeeping is a prominent feature, and I suppose that's why I enjoyed these chapters most. I am fascinated by housekeeping without modern conveniences, though I'm very glad to have them myself! It's interesting how everyone~men, women, and children alike~all assume the importance of tending to the home. Indeed, in the circumstances of Piney Settlement, it was absolutely necessary to the survival of the family.

Last week I wrote that while I liked The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, I didn't love it. It was just . . . lacking in magic and good writing. Journey Cake is much superior. The language, while being suitable for children, was much more sophisticated and lyrical. Compare these two paragraphs chosen randomly. The first is from The Penderwicks:

"Batty had never had a hero outside her own family. She had always figured that her father and Rosalind were enough heroes for anyone. But as she bounced crazily up and down on Skye's shoulder during that wild run to safety, a new hero came into her life. She watched Jeffrey work that bull as though trained from birth as a toreador. This way and that he went--darting, weaving, spinning, jumping--always heading away from Skye and Batty. And the bull followed, frantic to rid himself of this exasperating intruder."

Now from Journey Cake:

"Tim Smith shouted with laughter and apologized handsomely. Soon the children and Juba were laughing with him and bidding him an affectionate farewell. His rough brown hand lingered for a moment over Kate's and he made a pretty speech of thanks to her for mending his leggings. His tone was so warm and friendly that she blushed like a wild rose and looked up into his face admiringly with sweet and womanly candor. He was a handsome man, her heart told her, young and strong and kindly, a man who would make a girl a fine brave husband perhaps somehwere in a day not too far off. She would be sixteen before long. Most girls were married at that age . . . Maybe there would come a day."

Do you see what I mean? I'm becoming persuaded that this time period~Journey Cake was written in 1942~is a golden age of American children's literature. Johnny Tremain and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch are other examples that spring to mind. Though written for children, the authors of this period seem to think enough of children to write lovely, lyrical prose that tells the story clearly but expects something of the reader. So different than The Penderwicks.

So I heartily endorse this book. If you are looking for something new to add to your children's reading lists, or if you love children's literature as I do, you could not do better than to give Journey Cake a try.

Here's Mr. Linky. I'd love to know what you are reading!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Three Guesses What This Is

As I've mentioned before, last summer Man of the House was accepted as a minister in The American Association of Lutheran Churches. Though he has served in campus ministry and as an elder in a Reformed baptist-type church, this is his first time in a liturgical tradition (which we are loving, by the way). So I have to get used to seeing odd things about the house, such as this:

Know what it is? A jar of palm ashes for use on Ash Wednesday. Man of the House needs to experiment with the proportion of oil to ashes before then. The joys of being a novice . . .

Catching Up

Lake Michigan--gorgeous! It really has been two months since I last made a blog post!  This summer has been full of traveling, gardening...

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