Wednesday, December 30, 2009
When we look back at the decade 2000-2009, we may well define it by three crises: the crisis that didn't happen, the crisis that wasn't supposed to happen, and the crisis that we don't realize is happening. We haven't learned the lessons of the first two, and our ignorance of the third may doom us to be slaves to our government, rather than the other way around.
Click here to read the rest.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Heading down stairs (wish I had closed the coat closet before taking the picture).
First, the stockings. Looks like Caitlin has already gotten into hers!
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Here's an excerpt:
Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough. . . .
Christmas is a Christian holiday - if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don't mess with the Messiah.
Christmas does not need any improvements. It is a common, ordinary experience that resists brilliant innovation. Just make some gingerbread persons and light three candles and sing softly in dim light about the poor man gathering winter fu-u-el and the radiant beams and the holly and the ivy, and you've got it. Too many people work too hard to make Christmas perfect, find the perfect gifts, get a turkey that reaches 100 percent of potential. Perfection is a goal of brilliant people, and it is unnecessary where Christmas is concerned.
You can read the entire column at the link above.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I have no problem with respecting diversity. But is it really worth "celebrating"? Doesn't it make more sense to celebrate the things that we have in common, that bind us together, and that we share rather than the things that separate us?
The older I get the more I prefer "learning" to "education." Learning is something we do for ourselves; education is something that is done to us.
If you have ever doubted that God has a sense of humor, consider the snowstorms complicating both the Global Warming Summit in Copenhagen and the Democratic-controlled Senate's effort to pass a health care bill before Christmas.
The Andy Williams Christmas album is one of the best ever recorded, right up there with the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas and Take 6's He Is Christmas. Christmas is not complete in our house without all three.
Laundry and dishes do not take a Christmas vacation.
I'm really glad our photo greeting cards say "Love always" rather than "Merry Christmas," seeing as how they probably aren't going to be delivered until January.
Our Christmas gift list has been getting smaller the last few years. It will be nice when it starts getting bigger again.
I love having kids who can cook supper.
I need to go Christmas shopping tomorrow. It's the last Saturday before Christmas. Someone tell me that it's going to put me in the Christmas spirit to get out in the snow and fight the crowds. Go ahead. I'm waiting. Tell me.
The tree is up. That may be the only decorating we do this year, and that's okay.
I have a totally amazing family.
My kids have totally amazing friends.
Sometimes I wonder if I have the beginnings of Alzheimer's. Seriously. My stupid quotient (the number of things I do wrong divided by the total number of things I do) is getting higher by the hour.
I think anger may be the most difficult emotion to deal with. When you're sad you can cry. When you're happy you can laugh. When you love someone you can show it. But you're not supposed to act on anger. You're just supposed to be nice and behave yourself and keep it all in. And when the person who has offended you is no longer around for you to talk to about the offense, what is one to do? No wonder so many of us have ulcers and insomnia and addictions and tumors and headaches and [fill in the blank with the malady or syndrome of your choice].
Christians write the best music.
Jesus came for sinners. Jesus came for me.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Peace be to you and grace from Him
Who freed us from our sin
Who loved us all, and shed His blood
That we might saved be.
Sing holy, holy to our Lord
The Lord almighty God
Who was and is, and is to come
Sing holy, holy Lord.
Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein
Rejoice on earth, ye saints below
For Christ is coming, Is coming soon
For Christ is coming soon.
E'en so Lord Jesus quickly come
And night shall be no more
They need no light, no lamp, nor sun
For Christ will be their All!
Get ready for work
Go to work (choir accompanying at high school)
Leave work early to go to church day school Christmas program practice
From program practice, drive to junior college to pick up son from his math final
Drive home, have lunch
Drive back to day school for afternoon choir practice
Stop by post office on the way back home
Teach piano lessons
Drive son to church for bell choir
Drive back home
Clean up the supper dishes, watch a Tom and Jerry cartoon with 6-year-old and do a load of laundry
Now it is almost 8:00 and I have to get back in the car and go to church for an instrumental rehearsal for the Bach cantata we are doing at church Wednesday night. I hope to get to bed by 10:00, but that is pretty iffy.
Tomorrow it's 5:00 wake up followed by early morning hours at the high school again followed by another Christmas program practice followed by the program tomorrow night. This on top of the week I've just had.
I don't know how much longer I can keep this up. The house is falling apart and I am exhausted. Why does December have to be this way?
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Spaséñiye, sodélal yesí posredé ziemlí, Bózhe. Allilúiya.
Cпасение coдeлaл еси посреде земли, Боже. Аллилуия.
Salvation is created in the midst of the earth. O God, Our God, Alleluia.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Text of the poem:
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and he is mild;
He became a little child.
I, a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Voters' meeting at church (to which I didn't go because of the next item)
Nursing home performance with my community children's choir
Staff Christmas Party
Dress rehearsal for next weekend's children's choir concert
Evening concert at the high school I play for
Two daytime concerts and one evening concert at the the junior high I play for
Chamber orchestra practice for the Bach cantata that my church choir will be performing for midweek Advent service next week, plus an extended adult choir practice for Advent/Christmas
Yay, I think it's a normal Friday!
Full dress rehearsal for children's community choir concerts on Sunday
Daughter has Tae Kwon Do evaluation
Son has chess tournament
Sunday School Christmas program
Two performances with the community children's choir
I realize that Christmas is coming, and there are certain things, like Sunday School programs and staff parties and special church services, that are to be expected this time of year. I'm not complaining about those--they're part of the joy of the season! But I find myself wondering: all these secular school and community groups that I play for--groups that may sing Christmas songs here and there but are careful to balance them with other traditions and to point out that they are singing them for the sake of art and not faith--why do they all have their big winter concerts in December, right before Christmas? Why not in January, in the lull when people don't have so many things vying for their attention? Why now?
I suppose the choir directors would say they need to do it now because they would lose ground with their singers over the Christmas ("winter") holiday. But I'm not so sure. The school break is only two weeks. They could revisit the music for a couple of weeks when the students return and have a very fine performance. And having the winter concert in January rather than December would address all the nervousness that secular institutions feel about being seen as embracing Christmas too much.
And best of all, it would make my life a little less crazy and my Advent preparation a bit more peaceful and reflective. But seeing as how I'm not the one who designed the schedule, I should probably bid you all farewell until next week. In the meantime may you breathe deeply and slowly of the Christ Child's grace!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Here's another--several stanzas of "On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry" accompanied by piano, synthesizer and guitar. The sound quality is a little better here. The little voice you hear humming along is Evan. :-)
My husband says that next time I want to do a recording in church I should go to the other side of the sanctuary to get a more balanced, representative mix of the instruments and congregation. He's so smart. I guess that's why he's the Cantor and I'm not.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Why do I like the movie so much? Mostly because of what it has to say about vocation and being thankful in all circumstances. The message is one I can always benefit from hearing.
Here's an interesting analysis from Joe Carter of the First Things blog that compares and contrasts the main character of Life, George Bailey, with the main character of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and concludes that the movie--its American icon status notwithstanding--is way more countercultural than the book in celebrating a character that chooses service over self-actualization:
"The Fountainhead of Bedford Falls"
(HT: Gene Veith)
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
We have been living in our current home for almost 10 years, so I have been driving this same route equally as long. And for all of that time, or as much of it as I can remember, this house has been lavishly decorated for Christmas. And the decorations are of the sort that I actually like--not those big plastic/inflatable monstrosities, just lots and lots of lights in many colors. It's unusual to see the back of a house decorated so extensively, but no doubt the owners realized that more people see the back of their house than the front. So for years they have provided those driving by with quite an impressive display.
That is, until last year. Last year Christmas came and went, but the lights never went up, and I assumed that the house had changed hands and that the new owners weren't continuing the tradition. Too bad, I thought. I will miss that daily dose of holiday cheer.
But lo and behold, last week the decorations were back! And they are identical to those we have seen on this house for years, so my assumption is that the house did not change owners after all (although I suppose it is possible the previous owner left the light display behind). Which leaves me to wonder:
What happened? Why were there no lights last year?
The possibilities are endless. Was there an extended illness? Cancer, maybe? Chemotherapy treatments? Was there a job loss? Was there a serious injury, a divorce or a death? Did someone deploy to Iraq?
Maybe there was a joyous event, like the birth of a new baby.
Or maybe they were just tired.
There is no way of knowing, but my gut tells me there is a story there. And as I look from that house to the next, and the next, and the next, and I think about how many houses I drive by every day, I can't begin to imagine the complicated stories playing out in each of them. It boggles my mind to think of how many people there are in this world and of the various trials they are facing. Really, it's a wonder any lights get hung at all! If we were outside decorators (we're not), you can bet our lights would not be going up this year.
But thanks be to God that there is a Light that doesn't need me to hang it up, plug it in, or turn it on. It is the Light of Christ, the Light that shoots like a laser through the darkest darkness, the Light that shines no matter the season, the Light that had no beginning and has no end. It is the Light we await this Advent, the Light that became flesh and entered our time-space continuum a little over two thousand years ago, the Light that suffered, died and rose, ascended into heaven, and promises to come again. It is the Star of Bethlehem, the radiant beams from the face of the Holy Child, the Light that shines from the throne of God and wraps itself with perfect love around His saints.
Whether or not you hang lights on your house this season, may you bask in the Light of Him who is Light, as that Light shines to you and through you for all to see.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Evan does not take well to having his stories picked for him. He likes to pick his own. So I typically make a "deal" with him: I'll pick one and then you can pick one. Today after we read about George Washington he picked another story from the same book (the Children's Book of Virtues, edited by Bill Bennett). This one was the tale of St. George and the Dragon.
Tonight, wanting to show off what we had done in "school" today I asked Evan to tell his dad what he had learned and he quickly answered "the 8th commandment" and with a little help recited the same. Then I asked him to tell his dad what story we had read. He couldn't quite remember, so I prompted him: "It was about our first president. Remember? What was his name?"
His eyes lighting up, Evan turned to his dad with a smile and announced, "We read about Saint George Washington!"
Friday, November 27, 2009
First stop: electronics, to replace our current television (see previous post). The television that had drawn us to the store was there for the taking, but we ended up getting a slightly larger and higher resolution set, also for a very good price. A bit more than we intended to spend, but hey, we've had a hard year, you know? Call it our Christmas gift to ourselves.
Next stop: appliances. We have also been needing a new refrigerator and had seen one in the Black Friday ad for $599--a Samsung side-by-side, 25 cu. feet, black, with through-the-door water and ice, regularly $999. Compared to the rest of the store, the appliance department was pretty quiet--just a few other customers besides us. But no salesmen to take our order! Finally one arrived, only to inform us that the inventory/delivery system had crashed and he would have to take hand orders. We bought the refrigerator but so did a bunch of other people across the country as well as the nice lady in line ahead of us. We'll find out later if we were high enough in the queue to actually get one of the units before the inventory ran out. Sigh. Wish us luck.
(Update: Best Buy just called. We have our fridge! Or will when it's delivered later this week.)
Here's the checkout area as we were leaving the store at about 6:30 a.m.--thank goodness we didn't have to deal with this crowd since we had already paid for our items in appliances.
But by this time the coffee was starting to wear off, and fatigue was setting in, and my dearest and I found ourselves strangers in a strange land, lost in a blur of cords and cardboard and styrofoam and a heretofore unknown tongue: " . . . connect one end of the coaxial cable to the RF-out jack above the HDMI2 saturation plug next to the RF-in video input contrast source, tightening the VGA connectors and being careful not to drop the whole stupid mess on the floor . . . . and if you need help, be sure to call the customer service number in the manual, which will not connect you to our customer service at all but instead to some other pathetic outfit that is going to have a long, miserable year because their number was incorrectly printed in our 2009 manual . . . . "
I did have to laugh when the "initial setup screen" came on:
I think the writers of the setup instructions were no more familiar with English than we were with HDTV-ese. I guess maybe the exclamation points are an effort to remind us of how we felt when we first got home? You know, before we opened the box?
It took several hours, but finally . . . finally, we ended up with this.
And the frosting on the cake? The Huskers won!
I don't think we will make Black Friday shopping an annual event, but would I do it again? Yes. It was worth it, more for the refrigerator (40% off is not typical!) than for the television (we could have probably gotten a comparable deal next week). And notwithstanding some of the Black Friday horror stories of the last few years, it wasn't unpleasant at all. The store was well-prepared for the crowd and we saw no one behaving badly. In fact, there was an odd sort of cameraderie among the shoppers as we shared the insanity of it all and pulled for each other to get the deals we had come for. And the best part? My husband and I had more silly fun together than we have had in a while.
I hope your Friday after Thanksgiving was as rewarding as mine and that you, too, got to spend it laughing with someone you love.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
A few months ago our television fell off its stand (I know you're wondering how that happened, but let's not go there). The picture has looked like this ever since. We don't watch a lot of television, so we weren't motivated to replace it right away. But several times over the past few months we have considered watching a movie only to reconsider after remembering our unit's current resemblance to a bowl of Fruit Loops. We also use the TV for educational purposes--instructional videos for French and history--and we have continued to watch those in spite of the decidedly hallucinogenic element. But I have been procrastinating showing several historical movies I would like the kids to see. The Salem witchcraft trials are disturbing enough in realistic hues--I don't think I'm ready to see Giles Corey under a pile of pink, blue, and yellow rocks.
Ultimately, though, we might go on like this indefinitely if not for the premiere of the final season of Lost, which will take place on February 2. We have very few things that we do for pure recreation, but this is one, and we have waited almost a year for it. Of course February is several months away, but we have seen ads for 32-inch LCD HD television sets for as low as $248 on Black Friday. We're not picky--that will do for our needs--and we're thinking the deals may not get much better, so a little before 5:00 a.m. Friday morning the hubby and I will drag ourselves out of bed, throw back some coffee, and join the ranks of the Desperately Seeking Bargains. With any luck we'll be home with our new acquisition in time to go back to bed for a few hours before breakfast.
So . . . any Black Friday pros out there who want to offer some shopping advice to us inexperienced newbies? Things to do and not do? Ways of increasing the likelihood of success? Pitfalls to avoid? We're all ears!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Let me assure you, these were not the best of circumstances.
There is a famous poem, frequently anthologized, by the Imagist poet William Carlos Williams. Here it is quoted in its entirety:
The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
I have a red wheelbarrow. And so much has depended on it for so long that sometimes I worry it is about to give out. I know that many of you reading have prayed often for my wheelbarrow--not to mention those noisy, fussy chickens that are always hanging around it--over this past year. Believe me when I say that your prayers have carried it through in ways you can't begin to know and I can't begin to share--at least not here. For that I thank you sincerely as I likewise pray that the wheelbarrows of each of your lives are never loaded beyond what they can rightly bear.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
My father-in-law died earlier this year. It hasn't even been nine months yet. But here my husband is again, not only attending, but officiating at, the funeral of a parent.
My husband says the James Taylor song "Letter in the Mail" has been running through his head this morning.
Goodbye, Mom and Dad, and rest in peace. Thank you for the greatest earthly gift anyone has ever given me, your son, my husband.
Lanell & Ed, 2007
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Lutherans and the Worship Wars
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
5:00 Alarm. Snooze for 10 minutes, then up and at 'em. Sick 6-year-old hears me and calls; spend 15 minutes tending to him. Make coffee. Check email. Pour coffee. More email, blogs, headlines, Facebook. Cake for breakfast. Shower and get ready for work. Chat with husband on way out the door.
7:00 Drive to work. Listen to Don Wade and Roma interviewing Bill Kristol, then New Testament on tape, Matthew 12 & 13. Arrive at school, accompany freshman girls' chorus, have interesting discussion with choir and orchestra teachers about writing, English teaching, Strunk & White, George Orwell, and the TV series Glee (which I have not seen but which, from my colleagues' description, is no friend to music education or traditional values).
9:30. Leave work early to get home to sick child. Drive to junior college to pick up Trevor from math. Listen to Mancow and Cassidy interviewing the guy who wrote the article about the new series V being an allegory on the Obama administration. He says the former director has been fired and the show is going on hiatus to be retooled despite excellent ratings for the pilot. Hmmm, wonder why?
10:00 Pick up Trevor, who smilingly tells of his statistics teacher ranting against universal health care, the Great Society and the New Deal. ☺ Yes, there are some bright spots in academia. Discuss career/college options with Trevor on the drive home. Get home, check on Evan. 102 fever, Caitlin has given Motrin. No kindergarten today, student is still sick. Help Evan move to rec room sofa and watch Tom and Jerry DVD with him while checking email. DVD over, time to start lunch.
11:45 Lunch (fish sandwich) with Evan and Caitlin (Trevor is deep into chess study). Load and start dishwasher. Watch last 15 minutes of The Young and the Restless while tidying up bedroom. Wish Eric Braeden had not had a contract dispute and left the show. Pick up house, gather dirty clothes, fold towels, move socks to dryer, start another load. Call 5:30 piano student to see if she can come earlier since 4:00 student cancelled.
12:50 Turn on Fox News. Hillary's giving a speech at the Berlin Wall celebration. Turn it off. Maybe a nap? First Caitlin needs help with a math problem. Check on Evan. Playing quietly with drawing board--Motrin must be kicking in. Still thinking about that nap. Lie down & hope.
1:10 No nap. Evan's calling. Go see what he needs. He wants "Troll Attack" book he got for his birthday. Can't find book. Instead help him to start putting together castle Lego set he got for birthday. Help Caitlin with another math problem.
1:30 Lego set only halfway done, but need to leave to take Caitlin to day school for junior high choir, after school choir, and Mentor Night. Drop off Caitlin, go to allergist to get shot. Darn--meant to listen to last 10 minutes of Rush's show. Too late now. At doctor's office, push button to ride elevator but change mind and take stairs. Might be the only exercise I get all day. After shot, stop by Trader Joe's to pick up a few things on the way home. Business is brisk today! Stop at coffee bar for free sample. Do a little shopping, go back for another free sample. Do a little more shopping, resist urge to go back for a third free sample. Check out and head home. On the way listen to Roe Conn interview Pete Roskam about health care.*
3:00 Home. Check on Evan. Yay, Trevor helped him finish putting together Lego set. He is still doing okay, playing with his DS. Put away groceries, wash some dishes, take socks out of dryer and switch wet clothes over. Go outside to check mail--wow, it's getting cooler! Work on blog post and read & answer email. Teach piano students--only two since other two cancelled today.
6:00 No time to cook, must take Trevor to church for Mentor Night (high school youth mentoring Confirmation students). Drive through Taco Bell and get supper for everyone. Only $10.85! Drop off Trevor and food. Go back home and eat supper with Evan. More Tom & Jerry and computer time over a glass of Charles Shaw Shiraz. Glad I stopped at Trader Joe's!
8:30 Fever's up, time for more Motrin, stories, prayers. Feel better, honey. Chat with husband and teenagers, who have returned home from church. Get ready for bed. Sit in bed with husband watching the premier episode of V online. Yay, we can watch the next installment tomorrow night! Toward the end of the show, Evan calls. What's the matter, honey? Lonely. Promise to go back and lie down with him in 10 minutes when show is over.
11:00 Fall asleep with Evan while listening to Trevor practice the third movement of the second Rachmaninoff piano concerto.
Sometimes I wonder why I don't get more done. Looking back over this day there's so much that wasn't there (like piano practicing, personal reading, and more involvement in my teenagers' studies). But then I look at everything I did do. It was a lot. And not every day is like this. For example, tomorrow and Wednesday there are no classes at the high school. Yay! Two mornings at home! Maybe we'll start that new readaloud . . .
*All of these shows are broadcast on the Chicago talk station, WLS. I do like WLS, but one of the reasons I am listening to it so much these days is that the antenna on my van is broken (car wash) and it is one of the few stations I can get.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
It was kind of a thrown together thing. I didn't get invitations in the mail in time so had to resort to emailing and phoning the guests. I didn't reserve the fellowship hall until a few weeks ago, but luckily it was still available. I didn't have a particular theme in mind but just went to the party store looking for some generic decorations. (Evan is not much into any certain character or trademark.) The one thing I knew I wanted was a pinata, per Evan's request.
We ended up with a pirate party, and what a blast it was! I haven't been to such a fun kids' birthday party in a long time. Who needs Chuck E. Cheese?
The festivities began with a little sword play.
En garde! (Do pirates say that?)
It appears there's not a great deal of difference between boys of 6 and those of 17. At least not when it comes to swords.
Uh-oh! Man down!
Or is he just playing possum?
Next, the egg relay race.
Even the mommies faced off.
Of course, what is an old-fashioned birthday party without a rollicking round of musical chairs? Accompaniment was courtesy of the Cantor, who provided music determined by the participants as they took turns calling out a number between 331 and 924. (Anyone out there wanna guess what the numbers signified?)
The game begins!
Down to three!
Finally . . . what is a pirate party without a treasure chest?
After the smaller pirates took their shots, some bigger ones had a turn.