Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Reformation Day!

I know, I know, I'm late posting book reviews, but I couldn't let this day pass without wishing you all a happy Reformation Day. I'd be a pretty poor Lutheran if I didn't! October 31, 1517, was a watershed day in the history of Christianity, and if you're a Protestant, you have much to celebrate this day. If you think of October 31 as only Halloween, read this Wikipedia article, which isn't too long, to get a basic overview of why and how the Reformation began. In honor of the day and its founder, Martin Luther, here is a rousing rendition of Luther's best-known hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," which became the "Battle Hymn of the Reformation."**



Now, I'm off to watch the Luther movie and hand out candy to the kiddies. :-)

**I'm told that the Catholic church has included this hymn in its most recent revision of their hymnal. Whatever side of the Reformation you come down on, this is a great hymn for all Christians to sing. There was a Roman Catholic at our Reformation Sunday vespers service last night, and he sang it with great gusto!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Word Watch ~ "Holpen"

"Holpen" is the archaic past participle of "help." It has Germanic, rather than Latin, roots. I first came across it when teaching "Masters in This Hall," a Christmas carol by Marin Marais and William Morris (yes, the famous one), to a group of elementary students sixteen years ago. The chorus says,

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell, sing we clear!
Holpen are all folk on earth, Born is God's son so dear:
Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell, sing we loud!
God to-day hath poor folk raised
And cast a-down the proud.


Then last week I came across it again in the good ol' King James Version of the Bible. Psalm 86:17 to be exact:

Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.


You can listen to "Masters in This Hall" on Youtube. It's rollicking fun!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Books #38 and #39


I'm not a fan of John Piper. I know that's heresy to most Christians, but there it is. I've read a few of his books and they just fell flat with me, and that was before I was Lutheran even. So I'm of the small minority of American Christians who do not rush out to buy the latest book by Piper, but when I saw that his newest title was about Christians and thinking and that Christian Audio was offering it as their free download this month, I decided to give it a try. It wouldn't cost me anything but some time.

And Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is the best Piper book I've read, though his circuitous method of exegesis still loses me. Perhaps I would have followed it better had I had the print version, but if past experiences count for anything, I doubt it would have helped. Piper, who shows his debt to Jonathan Edwards strongly in this book, makes a strong case for a Christian cultivating right thinking and against the anti-intellectualism so evident in many strains of American evangelicalism. In his chapters on relativism, he shows that not only is relativism wrong; it's evil. He spends considerable time exhorting Christians to humility in intellectual pursuits because only through humility can the mind be used in the service of God and neighbor.

In the chapter titled "All Scholarship Is for the Love of God and Man" Piper sounded downright Lutheran! Maybe that's why I liked this book more than others of his. lol The last chapter is a plea to two types of Christians: thinkers and non-thinkers. He encourages non-thinkers to honor and pray for those who do the hard work of thinking. Likewise, he encourages thinkers to use their intellectual gifts in love and humility to bless and serve others, not to show off. These two chapters, along with the three on relativism, were the best in the book, in my opinion.

The book is still available for free download from Christian Audio. Except for trying to follow the round about way Piper does exegesis, it was easy to listen to. The narrator, whose name I can't remember just now, was competent but rather bland.

Enough about Piper. I want to talk about Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows! What pure delight it was to read this book! I was in raptures throughout and laughed out loud at several points. I'm not sure why I've never read this book for myself before now. I had heard Man of the House reading it to our girls, but I must not have been paying attention. There is no other explanation. Anyone who knows me well knows I am partial to books about talking animals who wear clothes ~ A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, even Richard Scarry ~ but the attraction to this book goes well beyond that. There isn't even much of a plot until Toad takes his wild ride which is followed up by dire (and simultaneously hilarious!) events, but I loved the descriptions of the animals' lives on the river, how they boated all day during the summer and stayed snug and warm in their cozy homes all winter. The descriptions of their houses were all I could ask for. There were plenty of good eating, cozy feather beds, and enjoyable visiting back and forth. And may I just say something about the author's use of language? It was stunningly poetic at times, uproariously funny at others, and poignantly beautiful at still others, but each and every word gave the impression of having been chosen very carefully from the author's enormous lexicon. It felt as though the words poured effortlessly from Grahame's pen. Each word was smoothly perfect. That in and of itself was delight enough, but add talking animals in waistcoats and I was entranced!

I don't know if Grahame had ever read Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, but I was struck immediately (and the idea stayed with me throughout the book) that it must have been known to Grahame, especially when I read the line on p. 6 of The Wind in the Willows, "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." No wonder I enjoyed it so much! The Wind in the Willows is simply one of the very most enjoyable books I have ever read. I told you last week I would wax rhapsodic about this book!

I'm running out of time and will just post this without proofreading, but I have to say one last thing ~ the icing on the cake was Ernest H. Shephard's illustrations in both black and white and color. They were perfect!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} ~ Oct. 20, 2011

I totally missed last week's {phfr}. Man of the House was at a pastor's conference most of the week. He needed to be delivered to the train station 60 rural miles away on Monday and picked up on Thursday. The only problem was that our only car broke down on my way to pick him up. Thankfully, I hadn't gotten very far, so at least I wasn't stranded with nothing but cornfields and/or grain elevators in sight. But getting him home was more of an ordeal than I had anticipated, so I missed posting. Oh, well. I'm happy to be back. :-)

{Pretty}

I have lots of {pretty} to share. A parishioner who is a farmer invited us to ride his combine during the soybean harvest. We had never done anything like that, so we eagerly said yes. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.















{Happy}

This is Farmer John's dog, Mac. He is the typical happy-go-lucky farm dog.



{Funny}

There was GPS and air conditioning in the combine!





{Real}

Evidence that Man of the House really did make it home from the conference eventually!



Join the {phfr} fun at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Books #36 and #37


Terry Pratchett is one of the most imaginative authors around today, and in The Wee Free Men he lives up to his reputation. Tiffany Aching is a young witch wanna-be who must rescue her brother from the evil Queen of the Elves who attempts to rule through the use of dreams. The Wee Free Men are Pictsies (pixies, get it?) in the manner of traditional folklore. We are not talking Tinkerbell's Disney incarnation or saccharine Victorian fairies. The Pictsies, also know as the Nac Mac Feegles, are rowdy, mischievous, and very funny. They aid Tiffany in fighting the Queen and bringing her brother back. The plot moves fast and is full of the jokes, puns, and twists and turns one expects from Terry Pratchett. Despite the book being set sometime in the pre-Industrial Revolution past, Pratchett succeeds in making jibes at our modern world's sensibilities. That's one of the things I most enjoy about Pratchett: he sees modern life as it really is and is able to cut through much contemporary psychobabble with just a few words. If you like Terry Pratchett's other novels, you'll like The Wee Free Men. If he's not your cup of tea, then skip it.

One of the things I appreciated most was Tiffany herself. Though only nine years old, she is smart, capable, and resourceful, and Pratchett apparently did not find it necessary to cast her as a 21st century women's studies graduate to make her so. It is possible to be all those things without being a devotee of Gloria Steinem, and Tiffany is an excellent example of that. She just does what needs to be done~whether beating off razor-teethed German shepherds with a frying pan or thinking her way out of having to marry one of the Nac Mac Feelges~without any thought of furthering the Cause of Women's Rights Everywhere. I do get so weary of young adult fiction featuring heroines set in ages past with modern feminist mindsets.

I listened to the HarperAudio version read by Stephen Briggs. He did a great job with the accents, especially of the Wee Free Men, though I found myself wishing from time to time that he'd go a little slower. The dialect was a little difficult to follow without being able to see it.

The second book I'm reviewing is~surprise!~Gooseberry Patch's Christmas Book 13. It was in the "what's new" section of my local library, so I brought it home for a perusal. This is the first GP Christmas book I've looked at, so I can't compare it the the rest, but I can say that it's a lovely book full of beautiful pictures, a treat to look through on a gray, rainy afternoon. It's full of typical GP recipes, several of which I hope to try. There are also page after page of craft and decorating ideas. Some I liked; some I didn't. Some were easy; some weren't. I did find rather a lot of instructions that reminded me of my mother-in-law's recipe for roast duck: "Find a duck. Roast until done." Some of the ideas would be difficult to pull off without some prior experience in sewing and other crafts or at least the gumption to finagle things until they worked. The ability to picture the individual steps in your mind would be invaluable here. There were crafts and decorations included for many different styles and tastes. All in all, I spent an enjoyable hour looking through Christmas Book 13 and plan to spend more time with it before it is due back at the library.

I am nearing the finish line on The Wind in the Willows. Expect me to wax rhapsodic about it in the near future!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Word Watch ~ "Where"

As I've been reading the King James Version of the Bible during 2011 in honor of its 400th anniversary, I've been struck by so many turns of phrases and unusual words and usages. I've decided to share them, and any other interesting bits of philology I come across elsewhere, with my vast readership. I should have started in January, alas, since I have noticed so many good examples in the intervening months, but since I can't turn back the clock I'll just start here. This will be a periodic series with entries occuring as words and phrases present themselves. This isn't professional analysis; I'm just a rank amateur who thinks words and their usages and development fascinating.

~WHERE~

Usually we see "where" as an adverb, but there is a verse in the English folksong "Searching for Lambs" that uses it as a noun:

“How gloriously the sun doth shine,
How pleasant is the air.
I'd rather rest on a true love's breast
Than any other where.”

I was intrigued by the noun usage the first time I heard it almost two years ago, but then imagine my surprise when I was reading Matthew 8 a last week and ran across this: "And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."

!!!!

I was shocked! I have read the KJV many times in my younger days, but that particular usage never stood out to me until now. I was probably too young to notice or care before now. Oh, the folly of youth! Do you know of other instances in which "where" is used as a noun?


P.S. I'm still reading (and loving!) The Wind in the Willows and listening to (and enjoying!) The Wee Free Men. Reviews coming ASAP!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} ~ October 6, 2011

Joining Like Mother, Like Daughter again . . .

{Pretty}

Girl of the House and I made this banner using scrapbooking supplies and ribbon a few years ago. In our old house we hung it on a fireplace, but here we hung it from the bookshelves. It's pretty there, don't you think?



{Happy}

This utility sink makes me inordinately and ridiculously happy. I've never had one before, but I have wished for one many times. It's so much better to wash out paint brushes here than in the kitchen sink or to empty the mop bucket here instead of outside. It's truly the little things in life that make us happy!



{Funny}

This tree ~ I don't know what to say about this tree! I'm not even sure a tree like this should be allowed. But I can vouch for its existence. It lives in my neighborhood a few blocks from my house. Doesn't it look like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book? And just how did it get that way??? It's at least thirty feet tall!!





{Real}

Girl of the House woke up Monday with the stomach bug that's going around these parts. It lasted three loooooong days, and now she has to catch up on her on-line classes, alas and alack. Generic Pepto-Bismal and Sambucol are her best friends during such times.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

From My Commonplace Book

"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances."~~Martha Washington

"The task of scholarship is in fact a lowly role which demands tremendous dedication. My own personal feeling is that young men with a gift of conceptualization and perception need to be encouraged to really believe that God can be served in the solitude of one's study surrounded by the fruits of scholarly labor."~~Robert Mounce

"Don't be too easily convinced that God really wants you to do all sorts of work you needn't do. Each must do his duty 'in that state of life to which God has called him.' Remember that a belief in the virtues of doing for doing's sake is characteristically feminine, characteristically American, and characteristically modern: so that three veils may divide you from the correct view! There can be intemperance in work just as in drink. What feels like zeal may be only fidgets or even the flattering of one's self-importance. As MacDonald says, 'In holy things may be unholy greed!' And by doing what 'one's station and its duties' does not demand, one can make oneself less fit for the duties it does demand and so commit some injustice. Just you give Mary a chance as well as Martha!"~~C.S. Lewis

"True education is a kind of neverending story~ a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness."~~J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Books #35


Whew! I finally finished Augestine's Confessions at long last. That was the longest 200-page book I think I've ever read. The more I read ancient literature the more I realize I do not have a natural affinity for it (unlike my beloved). I'm not saying it was boring exactly or unworthy to be read. Parts of it did drag, but it was worth reading and I'm glad I did; however, I don't think I will again for a long time.

Why am I glad I read it? Because it's a classic not just of Christian literature but of Western literature. Augustine's influence on the Western church, and consequently Western civilization, is enormous. I have gained a better understanding of the man and his influence through his Confessions. I value the perspective gained from reading books written by minds from dramatically different ages and places; as C.S. Lewis said, reading old books is a corrective for historical myopia. Sometimes it's a chore to digest such correctives, but just like we need to eat our vegetables, we need to read old books. I realize that many people hold Confessions near and dear to their hearts, but I am not one of those, alas.

I was amused that Augustine makes many of the same complaints about his world as we do about ours. As a teacher, he laments the lack of diligence and respect and the love of idleness shown by his students. We hear (and I have made) that grievance in our own times. He complains~no doubt rightly~about the violence of the circuses and gladiator fights. Who hasn't heard many criticims of today's violent movies and video games? The Young Augustine chases after the celebrity actors of his day, wishing to be one of them. If the newspaper tabloids of today don't attest to millions of Americans who wish they were rich and famous, then I don't know what does. As the Preacher says, "There's nothing new under the sun." If we hold romantic ideas about how people of times past were more noble, more learned, and all around more righteous, reading a book like this will surely cure us of that notion.

One of the most interesting aspects of Augustine's life was his long, slow conversion to Christ. Although taught the Christian faith as a child by his devout mother Monica, Augustine turned from the Truth as a young man and sought to fill the void with various philosophies. For years he wandered in the dark, but all the while God was drawing Augustine to Him. He slowly chiseled away at Augustine's intellectual objections to the Christian faith until he was won. Such a drawn out coversion was a reminder to me to be patient with other people's objections and to take them seriously. What may seem like ages to me is a short time to God. I wish to see instant change, but God is sometimes content to move at a slower pace. I need to leave that to Him.

All in all, I'm glad I read Augustine's Confessions, but I'm glad it's finally over. I'm going to treat myself for the next few weeks by reading something less laborious. Maybe I can make some progress catching up that way too. :-)

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