Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Roadside Hymn


Texas spring wildflowers on State Highway 190
near Richland Springs, San Saba county.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Five: What Are You...

Today's Friday Five from reverendmother asks "What Are You..."

1. Wearing...
My favorite pajamas which feature a cute cocktail-themed print on the pants and a little matching margarita embroidered on the shirt topped off by a pink plaid robe and pink slippers on loan from Babs.

2. Pondering...
What came over me when I agreed to learn to play golf with St. Betty. FORE!!!

3. Reading...
Gentle Readers of QG know that I'm always reading more than one book at a time. Here's what's on my bedside table:

~ Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. I'm reading this for the RevGals book discussion next month. Not sure I like it, but I just got started. I've seen his Nooma videos which I do like.

~ A Vision of Light by Judith Merkel Riley. This is the first novel trilogy about Margaret of Ashbury, a fourteenth century Englishwoman with the gift of healing. This is a fun read, well-researched and would be a good RevGals subject for a summer book discussion. And yes, Songbird, I'll host it if the group decides to read it in June or July.

~Boomsday by Christopher Buckley. I love Chris Buckley (son of William F.). He's a great social satirist.

~ The Mercy Seller by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. I enjoyed her previous novel, The Illuminator, and this one is about the selling of indulgences. Perfect for a Reformer like moi.

4. Dreaming ...
Of Dunclutha (Gaelic for cottage by the sea)--the house on the bay we are planning to build with BIL and SIL for the extended family.

5. Eating...
Fat free plain yogurt mixed with fresh clementine slices and a toasted English muffin spread with low-fat peanut butter. Lots of strong coffee--black.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More Playing It Forward

In response to Playing It Forward Daddy, the organist at MDPC sent me the comment below and asked me to post it for her. It's longer than the usual blog comment and gives a contestant's viewpoint of my father's pipe organ contest, so I decided to make it a separate blog post. Many thanks, Kathryn, for sharing this with me!

"I am the organist at QG's church. I have many stomach turning remembrances of the "San Antonio contest," as we called it at UT. I can remember pacing the halls in First Presbyterian Church as I awaited my turn to play. The organ is a Holtkamp, which has a setterboard. You can not change pistons at the organ console. You have to walk around the pipes in the balcony and get to this contraption on the wall, and set all of your pistons. I did not like the setterboard! Holtkamp Organ Co. finally stopped making the setterboards!

QG is right about sightreading the hymns. You were given a list of a dozen hymns to practice, and you didn't know which one they would ask you to play. I still think of the "San Antonio contest" everytime I play "All Creatures of Our God and King."

Another thing is they gave you a Bach prelude and fugue to learn. One for undergraduates and one for graduates. The big Bach prelude and fugue for my Junior and Senior degree recitals were the pieces assigned by the San Antonio contest organizers.

Thanks for Mr. Hall and to QG for the vision and energy to maintain such a wonderful contest and for encouraging organ students!"

Baby Got Book (OFFICIAL)

Here's a spoof of the rap song "Baby Got Back." Hat Tip to Doris and Kevin for alerting me to this!

QG is not responsible for damage that may result from spewed beverage on the computer during the viewing of this video.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Playing It Forward Daddy

Since I missed the concert given recently by our church's organist, I bought the CD of the program so I could listen to it in the car. I'd been playing it for a couple of days before I took the time to look at the notes on the cover.

There I read among the organist's credentials an award from the pipe organ contest founded by my father and named in his honor after his death, nearly twenty years ago. I got a big lump in my throat.

Those words were like Proust's madeleine, bringing back many memories. Back in the late 1960's my father, an amateur organist himself and huge pipe organ aficianado, was concerned that young people were not studying the pipe organ and feared future churches with fine organs would not be able to find organists able to play them. So he got together others of like mind in San Antonio and organized a competition to encourage pipe organ students in Texas colleges and universities.

He raised money for the awards, wheedled a foundation to support it, and every year sent out letters to professors inviting both graduate and undergraduate students to enter. The competition began at our home church: University Presbyterian, which while small, was on the corner of Trinity University campus. Members of the church helped out on contest days by serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to the students on contest weekend. Daddy had me make many sandwiches and cookies for the meals and help with registration and set-ups. He loved nothing better than to take the "late night practice shift" the night before at the church when the students took turns practicing on the organ there so he could listen to them. The competition emphasizes sacred music. Contestants must sight-read hymns in addition to offering prepared pieces.

After 10 years or so the contest grew too large for University PC to handle, so First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio agreed to host the competition, where it continues today.

The William C. Hall Memorial Pipe Organ Competition was always be scheduled during Fiesta Week-- the week in which San Jacinto Day is celebrated (April 21). I just realized that is this week!

Daddy would have been so tickled to know that our organist at MDPC was one of the students that he hoped the contest would encourage, and that pipe organs in the churches are not silent, but continue to ring out with the praise of God in worship-- playing forward his dream into the future.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Who Is To Blame?

A friend of mine forwarded the article below, written by her friend Andy Trekell, superintendent of the Etoile school district in northeast Texas, in which he expresses the frustration that many school officials and educators have about the legal restrictions that prevented teachers, administrators, mental health professionals and police from intervening in time to prevent the Virginia Tech tragedy. Andy gave me permission to post it here. It's worth reading and pondering how to swing the plendulum of the law back without going too far. And how far would be too far?

By Andy Trekell
Superintendent, Etoile ISD, Texas

We are inundated with the media coverage of the horrendous massacre at Virginia Tech University and the coverage and the things being said by the media and others are just about as horrendous. The media are looking for someone to blame. Whose fault is it? The university police, the teachers and professors, the counselors, the psychiatric hospital, peers of the shooter, the gun laws of Virginia, or the gun dealer? Additionally, the media will point the finger at several others before it’s all over. Granted, in hind-sight, all of the above could have done things differently and each have probably second guessed themselves over and over. Other public entities will learn from this tragedy and develop and implement more specific and detailed procedures for dealing with similar situations. But, for all intents and purposes, their plans and procedures will still be in hind-sight.

But, we have to blame someone or it just will not feel right. So back to the real question; who is to blame? I suggest that each one of us get in front of a mirror, point the finger at our reflection, drop our heads in shame, and take the blame. The problem is that our society will not tolerate intolerance. Our society has been programmed by the media, lawsuits, and laws that regulate privacy and civil rights.

If Virginia Tech University had taken the steps necessary to expel the gunman, they would have been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and lost. If the university would have divulged information about the gunman that could have brought more attention to his problems, they would have been in violation of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and would have been sued and lost. If the police would have been more assertive investigating and questioning the shooter back when…., they would have been sued for infringement on his civil rights and lost. The university even went so far as to assign him with a one-on-one teacher because he was so demonic and twisted that he couldn’t function in a regular classroom. The teacher supposedly developed signals that she could give to the teacher’s assistant in case he became violent. Why didn’t Virginia Tech expel him? Because they would have taken a media blood bath and spent thousands upon thousands of dollars in the legal proceedings and lost!

What about stiffer gun laws? Will more stringent gun laws keep criminals from getting guns? Go back to prohibition for a historical perspective. How hard is it for drug users to buy and use drugs? Making guns illegal will not take them out of the hands of those that want a gun. It’s not the gun laws or those that sell guns that are to blame. Again, look in the mirror!

The bottom line is that as a society, we have been programmed to be totally tolerant. So tolerant, we have to accept behaviors, speech, practices, ideas etc. that should not be tolerated because they are harmful to our society. They go against what is good, moral, decent and essential for a productive population and nation. We have allowed God and spirituality to be taken away from schools and other public entities. The moral standards that our country was founded on have been eroded or completely washed away by the idea that we have to totally tolerant of everyone’s beliefs. Our courts have upheld this over and over again to the point that thirty-three innocent young people were murdered in a place that should have been completely safe from anything but a natural disaster. I am not saying that anyone should be mistreated or discriminated against because of their race, national origin, culture, sex, age, or religion. I am saying that it is alright for us to not accept nor tolerate behaviors, actions etc. that are harmful to our societies ability to live safely and in harmony.

Let’s quit looking for a law, a policy or procedure, an entity or organization or a person to blame and look at our society and what we have become. We are all to blame and no amount of legislation is going to keep something like this from happening again. It will continue until our police, schools, courts and others are given the freedom to not tolerate behaviors that are counter-productive to our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tough Week All Around

This tough week was capped off by the murder-suicide at NASA yesterday. I spent a couple of anxious hours worrying about my friend Rocket Scientist who works there, and her husband who works for the same engineering firm as the man who shot himself and his employer.

Lord have mercy.

I'm posting this photo of my still-thriving hibiscus as a reminder of God's grace in the midst of tragedy. It cheered me up. Maybe it will cheer you up, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lunchus Interruptus

El Jefe and his partner, the Prince of Darkness (so-called because of his penchant for emailing in the wee hours of the morning), were having lunch yesterday when suddenly a large Mexican pot fell from a second story railing and hit POD smack on the head, felling him on the spot.

Blood streamed from his head and mouth as everyone in the restaurant jumped away in horror. Blood spattered everywhere and shards of broken pottery flew like bullets from the impact. A woman seated nearby gave El Jefe her business card in the event an eyewitness was needed.

Security guards immediately called 911 and POD was taken off on a stretcher, a neck brace in place around his head, to the ER. His wife later reported that after extensive testing he was sent home with 6 stitches in his head, a massive headache, and a vow to stay home from the office for the day.

El Jefe was still shaken by the incident last night. What a close call for POD and for him, and after the events at Virginia adds to the general feeling of tension. We're very grateful to God this morning that POD has no permanent injury and that El Jefe was spared.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Living Into" My Last Nerve

For the past week I've been reviewing applications for our presbytery's Vision Intitiatives Grants. I keep coming across the phrase "live into" as in: " live into the vision"; or "living into the faith", etc., in the applications.

Who came up with that particular bit of PresbySpeak? And When? And Why?

It's working on my last nerve. I'm getting out the red pencil. Just so you know.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Holocaust Survivor Hero at Virginia Tech

Among the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre was 76 year old professor Liviu Lebrescu. He saved the lives of many of his students by barricading the door to his classroom while they escaped through the windows before he was shot to death himself.
Professor Lebrescu was a Holocaust survivor.

Because of my post on Sunday about Holocaust Remembrance Day, this information really got to me. Doubtless everyone who has heard about the Virginia Tech tragedy relates to it in some way.

Christ have mercy, God have mercy.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cahill Disappoints With Mysteries of the Middle Ages

I've been a fan of most of Thomas Cahill's Hinges of History series particularly How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gifts of the Jews and Desire of the Everlasting Hills.
However, I was not a fan of Sailing the Wine Dark Sea (about the ancient Greeks) which is his penultimate work in the series. Bogging down after reading the first 100 pages, I gave it away to Portia, my classical civilization scholar. So I was hopeful and excited when I saw that his latest work was about the European Middle Ages--which is a period of history that has always intrigued me.

I finished reading Mysteries of the Middle Ages this weekend, and found that while it wasn't as unreadable as Sailing the Wine Dark Sea it is not nearly as well-written as his two best books in the series--The Gifts of the Jews and Desire of the Everlasting Hills. Both of those books focused on a single theme throughout, giving the ideas presented by Cahill a powerful impact.

Not so with Mysteries, which tries to cover too many themes and muddles them up. The subtitle hints at the problem: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe. All in just 317 pages, including vivid illustrations and excluding the notes. I never did figure out what Cahill meant by the term "cults of Catholic Europe". The Cathars? The Lollards? The Franciscans? The Dominicans? Maybe he didn't write the subtitle.

It's quite a jump between the first chapter that discusses Alexandria, Egypt as the "prelude" to the medieval period in Europe and the last chapter, called a "postlude" in which Cahill states that Mysteries is about the "often overlooked and belittled Catholic contribution to Western Civilization" and decries the present-day "priestly pedophilia crisis" in the Catholic Church and calling for a return to optional celibacy in its priesthood as in the days of the early middle ages. The conclusion of the book doesn't seem to relate to the rest of it.

The book is too small to be a coffee table art book, but it is produced in that style. The first page of each chapter is printed in a faux-illuminated script font. There are numerous full color illustrations of medieval art and graphs and charts included that are designed in medieval style. It is a beautifully designed and published book.

There are some interesting things in Mysteries. The chapters about Hildegard of Bingen and Queen Eleanor of Aquitane were particularly lively. If you're not familiar with these two historical figures, this is a good introduction to them and to their stories. Four of the chapters focus on Italian cities: Rome, Padua, Florence and Ravenna. Cahill is an unabashed Italophile.

I don't think the book succeeds in making the case that feminism, modern science and art derive from Catholic Europe in the Middle Ages, except in a very broad sense because he doesn't fully develop his theses.

On the whole, I can't recommend this book unless you are a die-hard Thomas Cahill fan.

UPDATE: Denis Hancock emailed me to point out that comments were not enaabled on this post. My bad! I must have inadvertently turned them off. Comments are enabled now!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lest We Forget

When Portia and Babs were little girls, we lived near Rice University in Houston. There was a wonderful toy store in the Rice Village area called World Toy and Gift. It was owned by an elderly woman who was a Holocaust survivor. Miss Rose had a number tattooed on her arm from a concentration camp that was visible to the children whenever she rang up our purchases on the cash register.

My daughters noticed it and asked her about it. She explained to them what it was and told them her story of surviving the camps, losing most of her family in the Holocaust, and coming to America. You can imagine the questions that flowed from that conversation once we got into the car and drove home. That conversation was repeated after each time the girls came with me into that store and greeted Miss Rose.

A number of years later we moved to Sugar Land. The liquor store in the closest strip shopping center to our house was owned and run by another woman who was a Holocaust survivor. My girls were older now. I deliberately brought them into the store with me when I made purchases there so they could meet her. This woman spoke at their elementary school and at schools in the area about her experiences. She also had a number tatooed on her arm.

Miss Rose died, and World Toy and Gift is now closed. The woman who owned the liquor store retired and closed her business a few years ago. I don't know whether or not she is still alive. The generation that survived the Holocaust is dwindling rapidly. But Portia and Babs remember that they met Holocaust survivors and heard their stories. And they will tell their children about these women and their stories so my grandchildren will know and remember, too.

There is a Holocaust Museum in Houston that preserves the stories of Houston area residents who were and are survivors for those who haven't had the privilege of meeting them in person. And for posterity.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It really happened. Lest we forget.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Snow and Bluebonnets

Sign of the Apocalypse? Thanks to my brother W for sharing this picture from Easter weekend in the Texas Hill Country.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

In Which QG is Not Delivered From Temptation

It started innocently enough. This afternoon after returning from a presbytery meeting I decided to stop at the new Coldwater Creek store to look for a black dress and jacket that I learned last night I needed to wear for my church choir's spring concert next week.

They had just the thing. But then I thought: I should get another jacket to go with it so that I could wear the dress somewhere else. I wouldn't wear that outfit anywhere but singing in a concert because it is a decidedly Puritan look. There was a cute black-and-white print one and a white on white embroidered one. Couldn't decide so I bought both.

A year ago I bought a pair of gaucho pants made out of this same black fabric. So then I said to myself, "if I bought the shell that matches then I could wear them with one of the two jackets." So I did.

Did I mention there was a sale? There WAS! Another pair of summer pants and top jumped into the bag and came home with me.

It's not my fault. I really didn't have the right kind of outfit for the concert. And my resistance was low after that committee meeting.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Meet Me at PGF?

Presbyterian Global Fellowship is having a big confab in Houston August 16-18. Yeah, I know. August is not exactly the month recommended by the Chamber of Commerce for visiting Houston. But the meeting is downtown at the George R. Brown Convention Center which is fully air-conditioned. Plus downtown has an intricate tunnel network underground that is also fully a/c'd so you can walk all over without sweltering.

It would be a great time for a Presbyblogger meeting among those attending! Here's the conference website with all the information about the conference and how to register. The speakers and events look really interesting.

I'm planning to go, so let me know if you decide to attend and I'll organize a Presbyblogger Lunch or Dinner for all of us. You can leave word in the comments below or email me directly by clicking on the "about me" link on the sidebar which takes you to my email link.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hallelujah Nuns

No, this is NOT how our choir did it on Easter Sunday. Watch until the end or you'll miss the fancy footwork!

Hat tip: Judye H., MDPC Choir Mom.

Progressive Madness

Lately I've found myself juggling four different pairs of glasses: one pair of trendy super-cute frames with progressive lenses for the in-denial over 40 presbyoptics like me; one pair of not so cute but more practical progressive lenses; one pair of glasses for "mid-range" computer work that are WAY better for reading than either of the progressives; and a pair of sunglasses with progressive lenses that require at least 5 minutes of adjustment time.

It's driving me CRAZY. It's making my purse weigh a ton. Maybe I'd be better off with contacts and reading glasses.

Truly, there must be a better way. Today I'm off to my optometrist to seek it. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: So here's the new plan: soft contacts with some adjustment in strength on one eye for reading (but not monovision) plus prescription reading glasses keyed to the contacts. Love the contacts so far!! Hooray!! One pair of glasses is so much better than 4.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Johnny Hart, "BC" Creator 1931-2007

Johnny Hart, the beloved cartoonist who created "BC", joined the Church Triumphant on Holy Saturday at the age of 76. Hart was a devout Presbyterian whose Christmas and Easter cartoons reflected his faith. The Easter cartoon pictured above was controversial with some who saw it as depicting Christianity replacing Judaism, but Hart said that it was meant to be a tribute to both faiths. I loved it because to me it showed Judaism as the foundation of Christianity.

The funny pages will not be the same without Johnny Hart. I know I'm not the only one among my family and friends who clipped his Easter and Christmas strips and displayed them on my refrigerator or bulletin board. May the Holy Spirit comfort his family and friends with the knowledge that he is now with Christ.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Jesus Christ is Risen Today

Here's a quiet version of my favorite Easter Hymn that we sang with trumpets and tympani in worship this morning. He is risen indeed!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Maundy Thursday at New Church

Here are some random thoughts about our first Maundy Thursday service we attended at new church:
  • It took place in the chapel which is a lovely worship space, crammed full of people who overflowed into the hallway.
  • The music was beautiful and not intrusive, but worshipful. There was a violin/piano duet for gathering music, two traditional hymns and a harpist playing during communion.
  • It was nice to see one of the women associate pastors leading the service and communion, though it was opened by the senior pastor. She gave a fine message about how our lives have darkness and light intertwined much like the experience of Holy Week.
  • Prayers of thanksgiving for the members who passed away in the preceding year were offered and each name was read. This is apparently a tradition here. I liked that.
  • Communion wafers were used because it of the intinction. I much prefer tortilla or pita slices which also don't leave crumbs in the cup.
  • We were asked to exit in silence and folks remained silent in the parking lot. Very nice.
  • Spiritual mojo level: UP.
We're going back for the noon Good Friday service today.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ms. Black Thumb

For me, gardening is the triumph of hope over experience. While both of my brothers are master gardeners, I have a black thumb.

Every spring I was inspired with visions of creating a lovely garden full of flowering plants. By mid-summer, I admit defeat as my new additions turn up their toes in the heat.

So I decided to take up Survival of the Fittest Gardening: buy native plants, put them in the ground following the instructions on the little tags, and wish them well.

But this week I am full of hope again. St. Betty told me about a new type of rose that can tolerate and thrive in the heat and humidity of southeast Texas and don't require a lot of attention. They're called "knockout roses" and are perfect for the Survival of the Fittest Gardener. St. Betty has several beautiful specimens in her yard. So she took me to her favorite nursery where I bought a passel of gorgeous double red knockout rose bushes. They are now planted in my front yard and look amazing!

I thought about posting pictures of them but decided, given my history as a Black Thumb, that, as the Bible says, "pride goeth before a fall." If they're still with me by August I'll show them to you.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Images of Calvary

Christianity Today posted a very nice slideshow of contemporary Christian artists' images of Calvary. Check it out here.

Hat tip: Presbyweb.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Beat the Clock

El Jefe and I missed Palm Sunday services for the first time I can remember. We were traveling home that morning after attending an out-of-town wedding.

Yesterday I discovered that our church posts podcasts of all the sermons on its website! I'm going to listen to it when I drive into town this morning to attend some meetings at presbytery. I wish the whole service was available, because the music we rehearsed in choir practice was amazing.

Then it occurred to me that listening to a podcast is similar to listening to a sermon from the choir loft. For years I've watched the back of the preacher's head as he/she delivered the sermon. The first time I sang in worship at our new church I saw there was a worship screen mounted in the rear of the sanctuary in a loft area that faced the choir. All the words to the hymns, prayers, responses etc were projected on it. I was so excited because I assumed that it would also project the pastor giving the sermon.

WRONG! A GIANT old-fashioned clock complete with a second hand fills the screen during the sermon. No doubt the purpose is to keep the pastor from getting so Spirit-filled that the service runs overtime and the congregation is late for lunch.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Tudors Trashified Is On Your Computer!

Purechristianithink left a comment on my post below pointing out that you can actually watch episodes 1 and 2 of The Tudors on your computer through this link.

Thanks, PCIT! Now inquiring minds who want to know what this is all about, but don't have Showtime available, can see it, too!

~scurries off to watch Episode 2~

The Tudors Trashified

It's all Babs' fault.

She alerted me to a new series, "The Tudors", that premiered on Showtime last night. She thinks it will be our new guilty TV secret. Beneath the respectable sounding title promised to be an uber-trashy modern take on Henry VIII and his court. We're both English history buffs, so I watched it last night.

Ads for the series tipped-off the theme of the series:

"Ladies lose their heads for Henry."
"King of hearts with a powerful sword." (~groan~)
"This lady's not waiting any more!"

Last night's first episode proved to be as anticipated. The actor portraying Henry VIII doesn't resemble any of the famous Holbein portraits. And he's too short for the part--Henry's exceptional height was one of his most noted attributes. The script lacks historical credibility because of its modern sensibility. I seriously doubt that Cardinal Wolsey ever used the word "pan-European" in promoting a peace treaty to the King. I fancy myself something of a Tudor era expert and I question the historical veracity of a couple of the incidents in this episode, but I'll have to research it to see if I'm correct. Not that I think the producers are as interested in historical accuracy as they are in bodice ripping!

The first episode had several nude sex scenes and a bloody murder, earning the R rating. Don't let the children watch this one.

UPDATE: Babs called to opine that the reason the actor portraying Henry VIII isn't believable is because he's playing him as a metrosexual. So true.