Thursday, April 30, 2009

BSD Wrapped Up for the Year

Today was our last meeting of our Bible Study Discussion (BSD) groups at church for the year as we completed the Revealing God study. This was the first time the program used a "theme" study instead of a "book" study, and it definitely took some getting used to. The study was based on J.I. Packer's book Knowing God. It was certainly worth it!

It was a tough year, full of distractions for everyone:
  • Hurricane Ike--yikes! The church was closed due to lack of power for a couple of weeks and some people were out of their homes for six to eight weeks before electricity was restored and debris cleared.
  • The financial meltdown that threatened jobs and savings.
  • Powerful thunderstorms that flooded the Houston area this Monday, bringing more water than we saw from Ike. Ten inches fell in a few hours in the area around the church. Many who live near there had their homes flooded.
It took our groups longer than usual to bond with each other because of the early disruptions, but in the fullness of time they did. And just like every year, we all said we had the best group ever!

I'm looking forward to our study next year of 3 letters of Paul--Galatians, Philippians and Romans. I'm a big Paul fan. Being a BSD leader has taken me out of my comfort zone in some ways--all of them good--and helped me grow spiritually. What a blessing!

Blogging will probably be sporadic between now and the day of the big move (May 15). We close on our new house Monday and I'll be in full throwing out, packing and setting up mode.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Excellent Post About Defeat of Amendment B

Here's the best post I've seen so far about the defeat of Amendment B (which would have permitted the ordination of non-celibate homosexual persons in the PCUSA): Where Do We Go From Here. Blogger Mark Time gives excellent words of advice to all sides.

Like Mark, I pray we could take a season off from voting on this issue before addressing it again. That seems unlikely, though.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gonzo Religious Journalism

There's been a spate of books recently that, while hard to classify, probably are best termed gonzo religious journalism.

I'm thinking of a couple that I reviewed recently--My Jesus Year and The Year of Living Biblically. A blogger friend recently emailed me about another book in this relatively new genre -- The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. I haven't read this last one yet, but it's on my list.

The premise in these books is that the author spends time exploring the practices of a religion that is unfamiliar to him (so far all the gonzo religious authors I've seen are male) and then writes about his experiences, observations and conclusions. Interestingly, the author usually ends up more sympathetic to the practices and beliefs of the religion he explores than when he began. According to the reviews I've read of the Unlikely Disciple, this is what happened in that book as well.

If I were to take up a new career as a Gonzo Religious Journalist, I would have to go undercover at Lakewood Church. That would involve getting some big Texas hair, learning how to sing praise songs and building a library of Osteen books--including the Osteen Bible. Don't hold your breath.

So if you were going to become a Gonzo Religious Author, what would be your topic?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Draft Report

El Jefe has been following the NFL draft faithfully the past two days and reports that Our Favorite Longhorn, Chris Ogbonnaya, was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams!

Congratulations to Chris--I know he must be thrilled. Guess we'll be following the Rams this fall. Hope they'll be better than the Texans.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Beatrice Blogs: Buda Weiner Dog Races

Woof! I wanna go! I can beat Copper. He's got NUTHIN.

Mom says we can't go this year because we're moving, but maybe next year. We could take Olivia,too. She would be all about the outfits. She might win Miss Congeniality.

Not me. I'm all about WINNING the race!

Thinking about my training strategy,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Think I'll pass

My friends at suggesting I might like to pre-order the new Dan Brown (remember The Da Vinci Code?) book.

Apparently details of the plot or theme of this new opus are being tightly guarded by the media-savvy Mr. Brown. It may be about the Masons. Or Not. Or the Catholic Church again. Or not.


Think I'll pass.....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

For Want of $120

Last night El Jefe was going through some cabinets sorting through old family memorabilia deciding what to keep and what to toss as we prepare to move. He found an old scrapbook of his mother's that had mementos she saved from her senior year in high school.

He decided to take some of the mementos out of the scrapbook to save because the pages were falling apart. There he found a couple of letters from colleges to his mother. One of them, Drake University in Iowa, offered her a half tuition scholarship in the amount of $120.

"Wow," he exclaimed. "Imagine that. Only $120 stood between Mom and a college education. She never said anything about that." He speculated that her favorite teacher, who recognized her superior academic ability and encouraged her to go to college, had arranged the offer.

It seems such a small amount to us today. But it was the depths of the depression and the family was just getting by. More importantly, none of them had a high school education or could understand why you would want any education after that--especially for a woman. She was able to persuade her father to let her take a business course after high school to learn some accounting and secretarial skills.

So it was not to be for my mother-in-law, but she passed on her love of learning to her children and grandchildren. She passed away before any of her grandchildren finished their educations, but she is surely proud that 3 granddaughters finished college, one has a master's degree and another a law degree. And that her grandson is a physician.

El Jefe established a scholarship at his college in honor of his parents this year so that the want of $120 (or a whole lot more in today's money) would not stand between an able student and a good education. That would make her proudest of all.

Monday, April 20, 2009

10 Things To Toss--HT to Jan Edmiston

I loved Jan Edmiston's post at A Church for Starving Artists today: 10 Things to Toss.

Since I'm in the process of tossing the accumulated detrius of 20 years in the same house with a growing family, I have tossed way more than 10 things! Jan's post was inspired by a feature in the Washington Post about the 10 Things the World Should Toss. She went on to ask what 10 Things (or pick your number) the Church should toss. I'm saving Jan's question about the church for a post on Thursday at PresbyBloggers, so stay tuned.

However, today here is my list of the 10 Things I Tossed in the context of downsizing:

1. Multiple sets of dinnerware
2. Giant pots
3. Table size photo frames (photos saved nicely now digitally, thank you!)
4. All the oriental style "accent" pieces
5. Books that will never be read again--too many to count
6. Mismatched glassware
7. Mismatched place mats
8. Odd size serving pieces
9. Decorative pillows
10. Bedding sets not in use

What have you tossed lately? Didn't it feel good to get rid of it?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Texas History Review for the Guv

Memo to Governor Rick Perry--

The state of Texas did NOT negotiate the right to secede from the Union when it joined the United States. And I believe the issue of secession in general was settled at Appomattox, if memory serves.

Texas WAS given the right to divide itself into up to 5 states by the Joint Resolution admitting us to the United States in 1845. This was given in the context of the pre-Civil War struggles on slavery. The idea at the time was that, if divided, areas above the Missouri Compromise line would be free states and those below would be either slave or free based on popular vote. Read this from the state historical archives, if you don't believe me.

Technically, Texas still has the right to sub-divide. Practically, although it might be nice to have 10 Senators instead of 2, I doubt proud Texans across the state would stand for it.

Here endeth the lesson.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

No Porto Me Telefono

We're moving from one house to another in the same town. There is less than 5 miles between the old and the new house. But the current phone/internet provider can't provide service in the new location.

I really wanted to keep our old phone number--"port it over"--in telecommunicationspeak. You can do it with cell phones and sometimes with land lines.

There are two providers for landlines and internet for the new house area. To make a long story short, the only way I can keep the old number is by paying for something called "switch call forwarding." This means the call to the number is received by the old phone company and forwarded to a new phone number at the new location.

But here's the catch. Apparently the FCC (in its infinite wisdom) decreed that you can't just pay for the switch. No. You have to pay for long-distance access, too. In vain did I point out that this would never be a long-distance call. Doesn't matter. Regs are regs. This would cost as much as a second phone line.

So we're getting a new phone number.

More better living through government!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party and Taxes

BFF Dorothy sent me this photo from today's Sugar Land Tea Party. I would SO have been there with her if not for the recuperation. Dang.

In principle, I am happy to pay taxes to the federal government. In practice, El Jefe and I filed our 120 page horrendously complicated tax return today.

This is so wrong on so many levels. The tax code is insane and as are the spending and bailouts of the past couple of years. Both the previous and the current administrations and Congress are to blame.

The accountants provided a helpful two page summary of this magnum opus. I noted that our Domestic Production Activities deduction increased 50% over last year. Pray tell, what does that mean? Did I cook 50 % more? Buy 50% more stuff for the house? What?

It is in fact time for change.

P.S. I am feeling better this evening. Many thanks for the prayers, good wishes and to John Edward Harris for the "cyber anointing"!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Antibiotic City

Well it's official. I'm sick.

The doc says I'm on the verge of pneumonia and gave me an antibiotic shot, an RX for more antibiotics, a second inhaler and a medrol pack to start on Thursday if I'm not feeling a lot better.

I sure hope I don't need the medrol. I need to feel better by Thursday. So much to do as we get ready for our move next month.

So if you don't hear from me for a couple of days, you'll know why.

Department of Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover

Here's one for all us women of a certain age: Susan Boyles wows the crowd and the judges at Britian's Got Talent (their version of American Idol).

The You Tube embed was disabled so I can't put it here. But go to the link and watch.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Missing Easter

I totally missed Easter yesterday. I've been fighting allergies and a chronic cough for the last three weeks and woke up yesterday with a fever and feeling really, really lousy. El Jefe went off to church and brunch with family and friends while Beatrice and Olivia kept me company on the bed. (Olivia was having an extended sleep-over with Bea.)

Although I'm feeling better this morning, I'm calling Dr. Mickey because this has gone on too long.

Funny story from El Jefe: During worship a big thunderstorm came through the area, and just as the pastor mentioned the word "thunder" in his sermon a big clap of the same echoed throughout the sanctuary to the gasps of the congregation. The pastor quipped, "we've got a guy in the back with a big sheet of metal providing our sound effects" !

Hope you all had a blessed Easter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Recital Report

We're back!

Babs and I had a grand time visiting Catherine and her sister who came from San Antonio to hear her recital. I'm so proud of both of my nieces and it was a blessing to be reminded that they have become wonderful young women.

The recital was awesome--Catherine's voice just gave me chills up and down my neck several times. The event is part of her degree requirement so she had to choose songs in several different languages, styles and from different time periods. In homage to her Scots ancestors she did one song in deep Robbie Burns Scots dialect. One of her teachers introduced herself to me after the recital and told me Catherine displayed vocal maturity and musicianship far beyond her 24 years.

Babs and I enjoyed Cincinnati, which was much hillier (is that a word?) than we expected. We stayed on the campus of the U of Cincinnati which is quite attractive, full of traditional red brick buildings. The weather couldn't have been more perfect and all the spring flowers were blooming.

Today El Jefe and I are off to the bay after Good Friday service. Doc and Queenie are here for the weekend and we want to see them. We're coming back tomorrow for Easter.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Recital

Babs and I will be winging our way East this afternoon. We're off to Cincinnati to attend Catherine's master's recital at the conservatory on Wednesday. I'm going to represent my sister, Music Mary, who couldn't get away from her duties as music minister at her church during Holy Week.

We've never been to Cincinnati. My mother was born there, but her family moved to Chicago when she was very young so she had little memory of the town. The weather there looks pretty chilly, so we'll get to wear our winter duds one more time.

QG will be closed until Friday. See you then.

Monday, April 06, 2009

A Bookish "Nudge"

El Jefe and I are getting ready in earnest for our move. We spent Saturday going through 5 large bookshelves in our family room upstairs, filling 10 Whole Foods tote bags full of books to give away in the process.

Actually, we didn't quite finish because we ran out of bags! And yes, we are keeping as many to move to the new house as we chose for the discard pile.

I just didn't have the patience to drag them to Half Price books and wait and wait and wait for an offer. Also, my experience is the more books you try to sell them at once, the lower the offer.

So my intention was to take them to the local church-sponsored Thrift Shop. But when I saw how many there were and that they are all in great condition, I hesitated.

That's when I felt that holy nudge again. Wouldn't it be great to donate them to the neighborhood library branch that just recently re-opened after being closed several months to repair Hurricane Ike damage?

I called the library. No answer. I called again and the woman who answered told me not only would they love to have the books, but today the library was having a book sale to raise money to help pay for the repairs on the building. Would I please hurry over with the donation?

When we got there, two high school boys helped load the books on a couple of carts. Both of them commented that the books were really great.

Then one of them spotted a copy of C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity (don't worry I have another copy at home!) and said, "Wow! C.S. Lewis! He's really a wonderful writer. What a great book!"

~cue theology of nudgment music~

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday Crawfish!

It's high crawfish season down here in southeast Texas, and we're grateful for the blessing of mudbugs--especially in the form of the already picked and cleaned tails!

A couple of weeks ago I remembered a favorite crawfish recipe from the past and made it down at the bay house. What a hit it was!

Fair warning--this is not for dieters, but for a night when you feel like splurging. I made it with reduced fat Velveeta and no-fat half and half and it still tasted plenty rich. I'm sharing the recipe below.

What's your favorite crawfish recipe?

Crawfish Fettucini

1 stick butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped, with tops
1 each, chopped: green bell pepper and yellow onion
4 ribs celery, chopped
2 TBL minced garlic
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
2 pounds crawfish tails (the ones from Louisiana--not China!)
1 (12 oz) package egg noodles
1 lb. box hot Mexican Velveeta, cubed
1 pint half and half
1 to 3 TBL Cajun seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in medium pot. Add green onions, bell pepper, celery, onion and garlic. Cook on low for 20 minutes or until reaches desired tenderness. Stir in flour and blend well. Add water, then crawfish tails.

Continue to cook on low heat.

Boil egg noodles in a large pot. Drain. Return noodles to pot with crawfish and veggies and add cheese. Stir well. Pour mixture into a large casserole dish.

Heat 15 minutes. Remove and let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8, depending...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Book Review: A. Lincoln

A. Lincoln by Ronald C. White is a fascinating biography of the greatest American president and is appropriately published in this 200th year since his birth.

The first half of the book is devoted to Lincoln's early life on the western frontier and his emergence as a self-educated lawyer and political leader in Illinois. The second half covers his rise to national prominence and his terms in office until his assasination. White focuses on Lincoln's public life and work rather than on his private life and family. Unlike many recent biographies, White portrays Mary Lincoln in a very sympathetic light.

One of the major themes of the book is the development of Lincoln's spiritual life and thought as he struggled with doubt and Christian belief throughout his life. This is not surprising, given the fact that the author is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and was dean and professor of American Religious History at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

My PresbyReaders will be interested to learn how Lincoln was influenced by the Old School Presbyterian minister Dr. Phineas Gurley, the pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington where Abraham and Mary Lincoln rented a pew and regularly attended worship services (although Lincoln himself never formally became a member of the church).

According to White, Lincoln "had chosen to attend rational nonpolitical Old School congregations over experiential, antislavery New School congregations in both Springfield and Washington." White traces the development of Lincoln's belief in a God of providence who guides men and nations during this time and links it to Gurley's sermons.

Lincoln's belief is evidenced in a fascinating fragment that was not published until many years after his death. Found by his secretary John Hay, it is known as A Meditation on the Divine Will. Although I have read several biographies of the Great Emancipator over the years, I don't recall another that gave as much emphasis on Lincoln's spiritual development as to the development of his political opinions and his mastery of military strategy.

A. Lincoln is a superb portrait of a complex, great and good man. Kudos to Dr. White!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Portia's 100th Post

There's still time to hurry over to Portia's blog and participate in her reader give-away celebrating her 100th post!

And no, it's not an April Fool's Day prank....