Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 2008 Reading and Re-reading

Mary Slessor: The Barefoot Missionary, by Elizabeth Robertson. I previously did not know much about this remarkable Scotswoman, instrumental in part of what is now Nigeria. May look for other books about her. Anybody got one? (This book was one Deb picked up at a museum shop on her trip to Scotland, so I don’t think it’s widely available.)

Re-read (for umpteenth time) the book from which I get my blog title, Telling Secrets, by Fredrick Buechner, after recommending to someone else. Ever do that, re-read something you’ve recommended (or written), through someone else’s eyes, trying to see how it might “read,” to them?

A Tangled Web, by L.M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables and lots of other stuff. Had not read this one before. Wouldn’t classify it with her best. Emily is my girl. And I like Jane of Lantern Hill… and The Blue Castle! Hope you don’t think I’m childish. Although it could be I am… (and this particular book is more for adults than children.)

Re-read, in preparation for returning it to the library, Ruby Slippers, by Jonalyn Grace Fincher. Very good. I appreciate her call for a “roomier definition” of femininity. So I returned the book, then logged onto Amazon and bought a copy for myself.

Muslims, Christians, and Jesus, by Carl Medearis. After conning him out of a complimentary copy so I could read it before promoting it in our ezine (though I ended up using text in my blurb which I could have simply pulled from the website) I had to do so! Good stuff. Carl just points everybody to Jesus, trying to keep religion (especially his own) out of the way. He’s been in and out of Lebanon for years, tells great stories about the place.

Books like this one are rather common now, though – I was just perusing a 20-page annotated bibliography on books published since 9/11 about the Muslim world - and that was primarily the ones the composer of the list would recommend. I’m more keen to read Carl’s next book when it comes out. It’s supposed to be called “Tea with the Hezbollah” and details a series of meetings he and another writer (whose name is more well known) set up with leading “terrorists” to build relationships with them (which is something I heartily approve of).

Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day, by James Emery White. I borrowed this from a friend who received a free copy from her seminary, Gordon-Conwell (of which White was president for a brief period). Initially I was disappointed; should have known from the cover copy (“As the modern era transitions into postmodern turbulence…”) that it was going to be a bit too reactionary for my taste. (See Douglas Adams quote, here.) Personally, I see so many ways that postmodernism is better than modernism! But that was really only the first 75 pages and the conclusion. Between, it contained a lot of good thinking about developing a deeper life. I’ll probably include some of that in a different posting.

Also read: Um, lots of stuff that would qualify as slightly superior trash. If I were just reading to relax, it might be OK, but since I often find myself reading to be taken miles away (you know, ‘there is no frigate like a book’) and give many hours to such journeys, I think I would do better to raise my standards a bit. After all, good books can take me away as well as bad ones. I am going to try to be a bit more selective what I put in my head this next season.

See other posts about reading, here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Advice from a C&E Pagan

Guess I'm a lapsed pagan. In my youth I was fairly superstitious, developed rituals, and had a friend who thought she might be a witch. Now it's all sort of gone by the wayside for me. Oh, I am still afraid of the dark and I hold onto the pagan holidays of Christmas and Easter, but in other respects I'm pretty nominal.

So maybe my advice about good ol' Halloween is not to be regarded. But this is my blog, so I'll give it anyway.

This Friday night, if you plan to stay home to give out candy to the neighborhood children (a grand Halloween tradition), watch the 1944 movie Arsenic and Old Lace starring Cary Grant. It's a scream.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

City on a Hill

When I lecture on The Expansion of the World Christian Movement (as I did half a dozen times this fall) I usually draw a couple of sly parallels between the Roman Empire - particularly at the time of its "fall" - and today's America.

Christians in Rome considered the resources, influence, and power with which their empire had been endowed sure signs that God was with them and had in fact raised them up and blessed them to be a light to the nations. As time went on they found this dream turned to ashes, and themselves citizens in a state that no longer represented (and exported) their values, but something else entirely.

The church and state (intertwined at this point) were plagued by both external pressures and corruption within. Roman Christians were horrified. As the greatness of their empire was threatened, they wondered if it was all over for Christendom.

Well, it wasn't, of course. Yes, there was a lot of brutality, a lot of suffering. But the fifth century also saw the biggest expansion of Christianity that would come for the next thousand years, and this time without the resources that had seemed so integral to its expansion to date. One of the points I try to illustrate throughout my talk is that neither suffering nor prosperity has a corner on the market for producing the best conditions for Christianity to flourish. God seems to use either.

"Has anyone written a book comparing America and Rome?" someone asked, as I kept alluding to similarities.

I did not know the answer - I didn't get this from one source I could point to and say, that's it. Any of you know someone who has written about this? I think a lot of it was from my "History of Christianity" professor in college. But as I looked through my background files I did find a printout of this article, which covers some of that territory. Here's a taste...
Theology for an Age of Terror: Augustine's words after the 'barbarian' destruction of Rome have a remarkably contemporary ring.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Not Again...

Some things just keep coming back around. This week I've been running into this again. It's just so darn frustrating.

I am also feeling sorry for myself that so little of my regular interaction is with people who really get me, "my kind" of people. Soul mates, life-long friends. I have quite a few, but they aren't part of my daily life, so - with so many of the other kinds of relationships requiring so much energy - I don't reach out much to the people with whom I feel a true connection. Small touches like through blogging and social networking help a lot; so would the phone, if I could manage to pick it up! The people I'm physically around, though, day in and day out, at work, church, home? They are not "best friend" material, for me, at least I don't think so. But they are decent comrades. I don't have much to complain about.

A few of them, while still not "like me," are ones with whom I've been through enough that it's almost as good. Those relationships are sort of like my friendship with E., whom I met in junior high; we're not much alike, but have been friends so long she's more like a sister or cousin. We've spent so much time together that the differences are never dissonant. We have a deep sense of sympathy for one another. I think we're going to take a vacation together next year.

So I have a couple of those kind of relationships in my daily life: people I really care about and love enough to be their advocate and champion, enjoy spending time together, etc. even though we don't really "get" each other that much. We love each other; we're willing to work at it, and not just because we "have to," we really like and care about each other. Even if I long for friends with whom I have deep, natural chemistry, I'm blessed with some friendships that are nearly as fruitful. "A lot of times I don't 'get' you, but I love you!" they say to me, I say to them.

I did have an enemy, I'll confess - and the situation was serious enough that there seemed no fixing it; it was probably my largest cause of stress this last year or so. Maybe the fact that he was suddenly and mercifully removed from my life is part of my current level of disappointment, strangely - things are so much better now that I notice the other disappointments, more?

I guess being understood, truly, and appreciated as well, is a rare thing for everyone - working at it, and navigating the hurt feelings, frustrations, disappointments, etc. is much more the norm - so why do I feel so let down?

On a lighter note, SM (a coworker) and I were chatting one day about the scan/fax/copy machine, with which he was having some trouble. "Why can't it read my mind?" he said. It took only a moment for both of us to realize that it was one office machine we wouldn't want to be able to do that. (Just imagine the fax machine sending out your actual thoughts to everyone you know! At least on a blog there's some editing!)

As Buechner says in Telling Secrets, being "known" is simultaneously the object of our greatest longing and our greatest fear.

But think of this, what a blessing it is to have a relationship with someone who actually CAN read our minds - and still embrace us warmly - and still protect us - and pull us out of our slumps - and able to walk alongside and help untangle any mess! His perspective is completely trustworthy (he's never wrong), his approach, his tone, exactly what they ought to be. Where could I find all that in any other friend?

So, we'll wrap up this little counseling session on loneliness with a trip back to the Psalms...

Psalm 147

1 Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

4 He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.

5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Bible as One Book

National Geographic gave this picture an honorable mention in its list of "Best Science Images of 2008."

Here's the explanatory text:

A colorful rainbow brings to light the interconnected nature of one of the world's most familiar books.

The Bible's 1,189 chapters are plotted along the horizontal axis at the bottom of the image, with each bar's length determined by the number of verses.

The arcs above the graph show the 63,779 cross-references between each chapter. [Meaning, I believe, places where one book quotes or cites another. mks].

"It almost looks like one monolithic volume," said Carnegie Mellon's Chris Harrison, who - along with Christoph Romhild of North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hamburg, Germany - won an honorable mention for illustrations in the 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

(Image courtesy Chris Harrison, Carnegie Mellon University; Christoph Romhild, North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church/Science)

Source here. First saw this on Matt's blog, here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

File This Under "Situations Best Avoided"

(I found this photo on someone else's site when I was putting together this week's edition of Missions Catalyst. Hmmm... not sure what the original source may have been; they didn't say).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Place, Patriotism, Politics (and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency)

Note: Yes, I edited this one. I think when I wrote it I was fed up with simplistic politics. I feel more generous now, so I've removed the potentially offensive bit. 1-12-09

When my book club met recently to discuss The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency I enjoyed hearing from my friend S., whose roots are in Kansas but who spent much of her adult life in Texas (a place she never cared for much, she mentions). For all her down-to-earth Midwesterner-ness, S. has traveled the world. She’s been many more places than I have. All 50 of the United States, for example. And at least six continents, now that she made it to Antarctica. I may not share her love of travel but I love to hear her stories. And one of the themes in our book which S. pointed out was that of patriotism and “home.” S. has a strong sense of roots, of home.

I may not be a huge patriot, but I have fond feelings towards my homeland - particularly, Mom and Mount Rainier and blackberry brambles and Puget Sound. And, like S., I can appreciate these sentiments from Obed Ramotswe (the late father of our hero, Precious):
“Why should I want to go to Zululand? Why should I ever want anything but to live in Botswana, and to marry a Tswana girl? I said to him that Zululand sounded fine, but that every man has a map in his heart of his own country, and that the heart will never allow you to forget this map. I told him that in Botswana we did not have the green hills that he had in his place, nor the sea, but we had the Kalahari and land that stretched farther than one could imagine. I told him that if a man is born in a dry place, then although he may dream of rain, he does not want too much, that that he will not mind the sun that beats down and down. So I never went with him to Zululand and I never saw the sea, ever. But that has not made me unhappy, not once.” (TNOLDA, p. 18)
And how about this sly dig on politics:
“…The British ran our country, to protect us from the Boers (or that is what they said.) There was a Commissioner down in Mafikent, over the border into South Africa, and he would come up the road and ask to speak to the chiefs. He would say, ‘You do this thing; you do that thing.’ And all the chiefs obeyed him because they knew that if they did not he would have them deposed. But some of them were clever, and while the British said, ‘You do this,’ they would say, ‘Yes, yes, sir, I will do that’ and all the time, behind their backs, they did the other thing or they just pretend to do something. So for many years, nothing at all happened. It was a good system of government, because most people want nothing to happen. That is the problem with governments these days. They want to do things all the time; they are always very busy thinking of what things they can do next. That is not what people want. People want to be left alone to look after their cattle.” (TNOLDA, pp. 20-21)
Do you think that’s true? I suppose it depends. I found myself wondering, reading the (much less palatable) voter’s guide this afternoon, what things really should be legislated, and what things shouldn’t? How much government would I choose to have? How much (or how little) would I consider dangerous or disastrous, should the balance of the electorate choose differently than I do?

Well, if I do not know what is best, at least I can pray for and try to love my fellow American taxpayers (an amusing way to think of ourselves, I think) and, as possible, the many others with whom we share this planet.

Obed’s daughter, our hero Mma Ramotswe, says,
“I love all the people whom God made, but I especially know how to love the people who live in this place. They are my people, my brothers and sisters. It is my duty to help them to solve the mysteries in their lives. That is what I am called to do.” (TNOLDA, p. 4)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Corneal Reshaping - Post #5: Final Chapter

When last I wrote on this topic, I was quite optimistic. My second pair of "ZWave" CRT lenses worked quite well. Well, not quite well enough. I was seeing nicely at the end of the first week but still getting double vision and blurriness at night. I hoped it would go away, but the eyeball topo maps (a rather cool technology) suggested otherwise: Like the first pair, these were slipping up while I slept and not centering over my corneas.

The doctor gave me a third pair, these from a different company. They were worse.

I decided to play it safe and go back to glasses for the weekend, hoping I'd have more reliable vision for my trip to Pueblo and back. Sadly, the lenses had made me farsighted. So when the guys at the Pueblo church turned down the lights for my PowerPoint, I could hardly read my 28 pages of speaking notes. Uh oh...

Apparently my corneas are too irrepressible, unshapable!

Today's verdict, after an appointment with the doctor: I'll have to go back to (regular, daytime) hard lenses. Darn it. In a day or two I should be fully back to my usual level of nearsightedness and able to bop around town confidently in my trusty old glasses while waiting for a fresh pair of old-fashioned contacts (and a hefty refund check) to arrive by the end of the week.

I still think corneal reshaping is a great idea and would recommend it to others, even if it didn't work for me. And as I said in a recent discussion with a friend...

Truly, it is amazing what they can do these days! In other times (or places) I'd just be blind(-ish). Or go through my life with "weak eyes" like Leah in the book of Genesis.

(Though, in that story, you'd think Jacob could have used some corrective lenses as well, eh? His night vision was apparently not what it could have been.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Helpful Guide to People of the Northwest

The great [Pemco Insurance Co.] advertising campaign that makes me laugh has added to its list of Northwest people profiles. Learn about the characteristics and characters of my tribe here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Are We Afraid of?

Image: William Holman Hunt, "The Light of the World"

I didn’t know whether to laugh, or cry. I had asked the members of a small group I’m part of, “What are some of the reasons we keep God at arm’s length, that when he says “I stand at the door and knock,” we try to keep him out? What keeps us from really surrendering our lives to God?”

Fear, pride, shame, guilt – such things can maintain such a hold over us. But several specifically stated, “I’m afraid if I really surrendered my life to God he’d ask me to be a missionary.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. As a mission mobilizer I sometimes feel I have the greatest job in the world – inviting people to give up their small ambitions and connect with God’s global plans! But how often is that message simply not connecting with people? Is there a barrier of acceptance based on a (possibly false) sense of what it’s going to cost? How many of my friends hear the word "missions" and translate it "misery"? How many believe, if you say to God, “Here am I, send me” he’s going to send you someplace terrible to do something that doesn't fit who you are, at all?

Some people also hold missionaries, or at least certain kind of missionaries, in such high esteem there is no danger that they would ever consider themselves able to join them. Sometimes our “positive” messages about missionaries paint pictures of missionaries as being happy and effective because they are more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. That may not be helpful either.

So, I guess we in the mobilization biz, mobilizing and equipping Christians for the completion of the Great Commission, have our work cut out for us. I don’t want to be naïve about this. I think we need to recognize the real barriers that keep people from giving themselves to God’s kingdom.

I repeated the story of that conversation with my small group to others a few times to get their reactions and as I did, my perspective changed a bit. You know, nothing worth doing really comes without cost, hard work, and often significant risk. Think of marriage, having children, building friendships – building a career, investing money, or giving yourself to a church or other form of intentional community. It’s a big risk. It’s not going to be easy. It may, at times, make you miserable. Being a missionary (or really giving yourself to one of the other ways one can make a difference for the kingdom) is no different. I wrote about this in my post Counting the Cost.

So perhaps it's only natural that we are afraid. And yet I am saddened by how often we let our fears stop us. My friend C. wrote in a recent Facebook conversation, “Fear has the potential to stop us from doing some of the most amazing things of our life. It's when I am pursuing something BIG, something of God, that I am the most plagued by fear.”

Me too.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Frank Laubach, on What to Do When the Money's Gone

I almost never get to the part of my Perspectives lecture where I can tell this story, but I think I'll rearrange things a bit and fit it in for the classes I teach Sunday and Monday. (I wrote an article on Frank Laubach about a decade ago for the long-defunct Vox Magazine.) Maybe I'll put it in a newsletter as well.

* * *

Frank Laubach was a missionary to the Philippines starting in 1915. In the beginning it was slow going; he was mostly frustrated and unsuccessful with the harsh Muslim people he was targeting. Honestly, he did not like them. But God broke through and melted his heart toward them, and one of the changes which came after that point was a renewed focus on learning their language.

In doing so he discovered that many of the Moros could not read. As a result, they were victimized by and powerless in the hands of surrounding communities. Laubach wanted to do something for them. Using his own language-learning flash cards as a basis, he started teaching, developed a dictionary, and soon even started circulating a newspaper in the people's language. This raised the status of their language and equipped them to better connect with and compete in the outside world. He had hit on a need.

Before long Laubach was being constantly sought by Moros to teach them to read. He started hiring assistants from among the Moros as the demand grew and grew. He set up a language and literacy program, and trained his staff to be reading teachers.

At that point, though, something terrible happened back home. Yes, it was the Great Depression. With that, his funding dried up. There was nothing to do but fire his staff and close down the program; he couldn't afford to keep it going. Or so he thought.

He called a meeting to tell everybody the bad news.

Here’s what Laubach writes about that day in his journal:
"Kakai Dagalangit, a tall chieftain with fierce black eyes, stood up. He has 13 wives and all he has to do is look at them and they behave. He looked at me with those fierce eyes and said, 'This campaign shall not stop. It’s our only hope.'

"Then he looked at those teachers with his fierce eyes and said, 'I’ll make everybody who knows how to read teach somebody else, or I’ll kill him.'

"Everybody taught. Nobody died. Everybody liked it. I did not like the motto 'teach or die' and so changed it to 'Each One Teach One.'" *
What seemed to be a tragedy was a blessing in disguise. Using simple, reproducible methods that didn’t rely on money from back home made all the difference. Many more learned how to read than would have the other way.

The one-on-one teaching style had other advantages. It was great for building trust and sharing the gospel, too. Laubach’s methods have been used around the world to bring the blessing of literacy to millions - 60 million, to date - equipping oppressed people to stand up for themselves and take care of their families, and brightening the future of whole communities.

* Sorry, couldn't find my original notes to identify the source of this exact quote, but looking online I see the story also told and with more detail in Majorie Medary's book, Each One Teach One - Frank Laubach, Friend to Millions.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Acedia and Me Too

Caption: I haven't read this book; have you?

I've been waiting in mild anticipation for the copy of Kathleen Norris' new book - on which I'd placed a hold through my local library - to come in. Well, it finally did, but I never made it to the library to pick it up - what, all of half a mile from my house - so I lost my place in line and won't get the book. Ironically, the subject of her book is apathy.

Missed the debate last night. In fact, have not seen any of them, at least, not more than bits and pieces. I did watch the conventions earlier this year. Well, the convention of my party of choice anyway. (I meant to follow the other one as well, but with two conventions right after the Olympics, that was just too much TV for me...)

Two of my friends - avid supporters of one party's candidates - are reporting problems with their physical health due to their political zeal. Have to admit, even though it's an interesting year and I like talking about politics and trends and ideas (maybe especially with my friends who are really into it), I'm having a hard time taking this seriously and really caring about what happens or does not happen in Washington or even America. I'm just not that personally invested.

One significant benefit: It's not difficult for me to hold civil conversations about these things! I don't feel I really have anything to lose by listening, discussing, considering the various angles. And if I'm not especially interested in politics, I'm certainly interested in good conversations, and in the essential "interestingness" - and the image of God - in each person I'm talking to.

Sure, I'll vote, and I know how I'll vote. Sure, I agree that who is the next president is something that matters. But, sorry, politics is not my calling. There are just so many other domains of society, and so many ways to change the world. I feel a bit guilty but I can't get passionate about this stuff.

I don't think I'm apathetic across the board - there are lots of things I care fiercely about or value highly or which can bring me to tears, even if the political process is not one of them. So that makes me ask, what am I doing with those passions? Am I being faithful to my calling, am I communicating graciously and compassionately, am I enlisting others while still holding even these things with open hands and maintaining perspective?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Seeds Bearing Fruit

The book our small group is reading suggests that truth comes to us in “seed” form, and has not done its work unless it is planted and grows to bear fruit in our life.

“What is one book, or class, or teaching that has really influenced you?” asks Lisa, one of our leaders. What are the things that put down their roots and break up the hard soil within us, penetrating our souls, then grow up to make the connection to the light and life outside of us which we so desperately need? What seeds have borne fruit in our lives?

She offered as an example the big hit of a few years back, Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God. Everybody grumbled about the repetition and simplicity of it – remember all those fill-in-the-blank questions? – but you couldn’t come away from it without having gotten the point, which is to continually be asking, “Where is God at work and how can I be part of it?” Lisa thinks that way now.

So here’s the essay question. What is one (or more) book, or class, or teaching that has really influenced you? Particularly, I think, what has influenced your view of God, the world, and yourself?

I’m sure there are many that shape us in more ambiguous ways. I wrote last spring about the steady diet of a certain kind of children’s lit I consumed as a child, and wondered if I learned the wrong lessons about personal power and responsibility. (I never doubted I could change the world. That may be why I have a hard time being content with the mediocrity and failure that characterize so much of life between the bright spots!)

But one small thing that’s made a big difference in my life on that front is the little booklet My Heart Christ’s Home. Someone – Tim Snow, the youth pastor? – sent it home with my mom for me, after we’d visited his church. I was just 13 years old, standing on the outside of the world of faith and grace, looking in. It offered me a picture that I wanted to move toward, a picture of how friendship with God might be possible and how it could unfold. And of course seeing that seed bearing fruit in the lives of others in that church was what really made the difference.

What else? The Perspectives program, of course, a decade later; and in my late 20’s a (now out of print) mentoring program from Kingdom Building Ministries called The Laborer’s Network and featuring teaching by Tim Elmore.

What about the last decade or so? So many books, classes, sermon series, Bible studies - many of which seemed rich and meaningful. But has anything shaped me as much as these?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Monet, Money, and the Snobbery Within

Caption: Monet, "Bathers at La Grenouillère," 1869

I saw this painting at the National Gallery in London... and liked it so much I bought a postcard of it that is among the images on the wall of my bedroom.

Still, strangely enough, I felt a dash of scorn when I saw a print hanging in a hotel room in which I stayed recently. "I've seen the real thing!" I thought. Yeah, and I didn't spring for the poster - I got a postcard!

Who's to say the person who picked out the hotel "art" had not been to London, as well? Or, does it matter? Isn't art for everybody?

It's likely I would never have been most of the places I have been if I had a different kind of job. It's because the ministry account (generously endowed by my supporters) pays for plane tickets that I make it to Europe, Asia, Africa. So why do I feel superior to those who have seen less of the world? There's no room for boasting, is there?

I've also found a good bit of scorn and snobbery in my heart lately toward those who live beyond their means. So much of the news coverage about this credit crisis - and especially the soundbites coming from our political candidates - makes it sound like "ordinary Americans" have a "right" to spend money they do not have, and that it's a real hardship to have this taken away. (A friend wrote about this here.)

I turn up my nose: with no mortgage, school debt, or car payments - with good health (and, in spite of my griping about its expense and inadequacy, health insurance as well) : no, this does not affect me, at least not directly. I've never had much trouble living within my means.

The fact that my IRAs are worth less and less all the time, even though I keep putting money in them, may in fact be connected to the state of the economy... but as my practical mother points out, buying shares when things are going down - assuming they later go up - means you get more for your money. I find this some consolation!

I am as susceptible to foolishness as anybody, so why should I look down on those who find themselves overextended, financially?

How easy it is to find our priorities and perspective askew. Today I'm meditating on Jesus' sermon on the mount. He says...

Matthew 6:24-34 (New International Version)

24"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Do Not Worry
25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?

28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Road Trip Report

Entering Glenwood Canyon, I was momentarily startled to realize the river was flowing West, not East or South - but we'd crossed the continental divide a while back.

S. and I were prepared to be nonplussed by the "fall colors," as around here this consists primarily of aspen trees going from green, to gold. What's the big deal about that? Well, it was beautiful anyway, even to a couple of snobs who grew up on the coasts. In some places (as in this photo) there were other kinds of foliage as well, hence more color.

I spoke Sunday night at a church in Glenwood Springs (Perspectives Lesson 6 - missions history). We spent the night with friends, enjoyed a leisurely morning, and then drove back across the passes and into the mountains further North - the Fraser Valley - where I spoke at another church on Monday night.

That part of the state seems to be the worst hit by the pine beetle infestation, now a major concern in Colorado. Acres of forest land, though still glowing with swaths of those golden aspens, were also covered with dead, brown pines. Many have been taken out, but it could be a dangerous year for lightening strikes and forest fires.

Next up, a trip south to Pueblo, where I teach the same material on October 12.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

September Reading and Re-reading

Huntingtower, by John Buchan - 1922 novel about a retired grocer who gets sucked into adventure; romantic in the old-fashioned sense of the word. You can get the text-version online here. The Scots dialect was tough reading in places, but it was fun.

Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home, by Jonalyn Grace Fincher - I wrote a bit about this Christian non-fiction book about what really constitutes masculinity and femininity (and what just gets in the way) here. I found this really balanced, helpful - and freeing.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith - My book club is reading this "cosy" novel - set in Botswana, Africa - for an October 11 meeting (want to come? ladies only). As I picked it up I realized I had started, previously, with the second book, and hadn't read this one at all. This one may be the best.

Passage, by Connie Willis - Novel about a social scientist exploring - at great personal risk, as it happens - what really underlies "near death experiences." Bit disturbing. Well done though. Think I still like her shorter works better.

Point Me to Skies: The Amazing Story of Joan Wales, by Roger Clements - Another biography of a missionary woman in China - this one a teammate of some members of the Broomfield clan, whose matriarch was dear Amelia, HT's kid sister. A pretty good read, but maybe not stellar. And, darn it, the brand-new copy I borrowed still had a split spine by the time I returned it; Monarch Press needs to work on their production standards.

Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show - Science fiction short stories, some by OSC (a favorite writer), others by his students and friends, basically- worth the read.

Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth, by Dutch Sheets - My small group is reading this. It is a bit too long and heady for a group of our sort (our motto: "No homework!") so we're looking for some ways to pick up the pace. I've enjoyed the book - it's challenged my assumptions and habits - but it is getting a bit repetitive at this point.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling - I do like HP. And this one may be my favorite; can't decide! Do you have a favorite?

On The Road with the Archangel, by Fredrick Buechner - one of my favorite books, ever. I could read Buechner all day long. This one is not deep, or challenging, just a beautifully written recount of the story of Tobit, from the Bible (Apocrypha). Buechner has a new book of essays and reflections out, and I placed a hold at the library for it.

Previous posts on this topic: Reading

Corneal Reshaping - Post #4: Take Two

My dream about vision-correction-while-you-sleep continues. Picked up my new, better-than-ever nighttime lenses this afternoon.

If all goes well... I'll have 20/20 daytime vision (or close) within the week.