Friday, May 29, 2009

A.N. Wilson Comes To Faith

I've got a couple of A.N. Wilson books on my library shelves: Paul and Jesus. I remember thinking when I finished them that the author seemed to tip-toe up to the edge of faith in Christ and then turn, reluctantly, away.

But now he has. There's a very good article in today's Wall Street Journal about his recent conversion--Look Who's a Believer Now, by Timothy Larsen. I love his conclusion:
Next time you hear someone fume that God is the most contemptible being who never existed, keep in mind that you just might be watching the first act of a divine romantic comedy.
I wonder if Wilson plans to revise those two books (and others) to reflect his conversion? Or will he leave them unchanged as a testament to his journey in faith and write new books on these subjects reflecting his changed viewpoint. What would you do?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beatrice Blogs: Olivia, Meet the Invisible Fence

WOOF! Beatrice here.

Last weekend Portia brought Olivia over to visit. While she and QG were unpacking boxes, I invited Olivia out to see my backyard.

Unfortunately, Olivia saw more than my backyard.

Way more.

She ran right through the front gate and out into the street. I barked so QG and Portia came to see what was going on. I couldn't show them because of the Invisible Fence, but they guessed anyway.

Olivia pranced through the lot next door and chased the baby rabbits in the esplanade before being recaptured and brought inside. Now everyone has decided she has to learn about the fence, too.

Olivia, meet the Invisible Fence. Told ya so.

Cautiously yours,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Family Heirlooms And What To Do With Them

You THINK you've culled your stuff really well before moving, but after unpacking your boxes and looking for places to store the aforementioned stuff, you realize that, like the hermit crab, you brought the old house with you.

And the stuff from the old house that you brought with you that doesn't seem to fit the new house--either decoratively or physically or both--is those old family heirlooms that you can't part with but don't use either.

So what to do with, for example:
  • Great-grandmother's silver tea set?
  • My parents' antique salt cellar and pepper set that look like dolphins and everyone thinks is sugar and pepper and wonder what that is about?
  • Odd pieces of old silver serving pieces that don't match up?
  • Great-grandmother's demitasse set which features four pieces for each eensy weensy little china cups?
  • Engraved cigarette box marking the 30th wedding anniversary of my grandparents--maybe it would hold mints?
I won't use these things, but I can't possibly sell or give them away (except to another family member), either. So Portia and Babs can start thinking about where they are going to keep these things when in the fullness of time, they get full care, custody and control of the family heirlooms.

Do you have family "treasures" you never use, but can't dispose of too?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Let's Not Twitter in Worship, Part the Second

My friend Gannet Girl continues the discussion of Twittering in Worship at her place.

Check out her very thoughtful post as well as the excellent comments to it. Thanks, GG.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Let's Not Twitter in Worship, Please

I'm really going to show my age with this post, but like Martin Luther, here I stand.

The PCUSA Moderator, Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, who is an avid user of all things technological, posted about the responses to an informal quiz he linked to on Facebook which asked if it is okay to twitter during worship. Bruce gives his responses to the arguments against twittering during worship in this post and goes on to say he is going to write a post about the benefits of twittering during worship.


This reminds me of the time when El Jefe was serving as lay leader in worship and got caught BlackBerrying instead of listening to the sermon. Our daughters were mortified and rained judgment down on his head all the way home. What's the difference between responding to emails and twittering during worship? I don't see any difference. Both activities remove your focus from worship of the Almighty God to your own thoughts. Both activities remove your mind and spirit from the gathered community of faith.

And heaven knows that it is hard enough to focus on worship, anyway. We all struggle with fighting the urge to make grocery lists, fret about what we have to do at work or at home, or grieve over problems with relationships during worship. We all struggle to engage with others in our congregations. It seems to me that while twittering may be seen as journaling, or note-taking, it is primarily a tool to communicate with others who twitter. That leaves out those who don't twitter. It also puts your focus back on yourself rather than on worship of God.

Full Disclosure Statement: I have a Facebook account (much to the chagrin of my kids who couldn't believe us oldsters had discovered this) and a Twitter account. While I do find Facebook useful, I confess that Twitter is not interesting to me. My observation is that most tweets are banal and often snarky. (Not yours, Bruce.)

With all due respect to our Moderator, I can't imagine encouraging twittering during worship any more than I can imagine encouraging emailing or playing games on the cellphone. You can include me among those who would say "thou shalt not twitter during worship."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Change of Address

Here's Portia's thoughts (and a few more photos) on our Change of Address.

Bending a Habit

El Jefe and I found ourselves bending the habit of going to church over the last couple of months. My bout with bronchitis, his excessive work schedule, and planning to pack up and move overwhelmed us and we didn't make the time to go.

It's all to easy to bend--and then break--the habit of church-going. Even for folks like us who have attended consistently for most of our lives. The temptation to stay home, read the paper, and not make the effort is all too alluring. How much more difficult must it be for someone who never had the habit of regular church attendance to establish it?

This Sunday I went back (El Jefe stayed home and worked) and it did me a world of good to re-join the choir, sing in worship and re-connect with my church. Next Sunday El Jefe will come, too, and we'll work on straightening out that bent habit.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


From the Department of Sacred Food Relics, QG's Houston Bureau of Religious Oddities is proud to report that a Cheesus was found in a bag of Cheetos sold in a local convenience store.

Here's the story from a local TV station.

A quick search of You Tube revealed this is just one of many recent Cheesuses found in the past couple of years, including one previous Houston sighting. So what is Frito-Lay trying to tell us?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Moving Update

Here's a quick look at our new place. We have worked through a lot of boxes--with the help of my wonderful SIL, Portia and DK.

Muchas, muchas gracias!

Today I'm still unpacking and working with getting things set up.

Crisis: There's not enough room in the master closet for my shoes! Calling for a closet organizer now...

We love all the outdoor living spaces and the brick and stonework.

A plumber damaged the phone and satellite feeds so now I'm waiting on repairmen. One step forward, one step back!

Beatrice is anxious and wonders when she is going "home". She does like all the grass in the back yard, but misses chasing the pool dragon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

QG on Hiatus Until Next Week

The packers arrive tomorrow. The movers arrive the next day. We'll be spending the weekend sorting it all out.

Good-bye to our old house--we'll take our memories with us. So many memories after more than 20 years!

Hello to the new house where we hope to make many more precious memories.

I'll be back next week.

Good News, Bad News

El Jefe and his law firm are suddenly wildly busy as the nation's debt markets are springing back to life. They are just overwhelmed with debt deals and other market offerings for their corporate clients. This signals (hopefully!) the beginning of recovery for our economy just as the slowing of the debt markets last summer signaled the coming bust.


The bad news is that El Jefe is wildly busy, overworked and stressed just as he needs to take off tomorrow and Friday for personal business--i.e. our move.

I'll try to keep my focus on the good news while he blackberries and phones during all the confusion....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Review: Dreamers of the Day

Last week I finished the latest Mary Doria Russell book, Dreamers of the Day.

I loved her previous books, The Sparrow and Children of God (which my friend zorra calls "Jesuits in Space") and Thread of Grace. Russell is an excellent writer. All of her books reveal a fascination with Christianity, although she does not profess to be a believer.

I enjoyed reading Dreamers of the Day and it is a credit to the author's skill that it wasn't until I finished it that I realized it is a seriously flawed novel that doesn't measure up to her previous work.

The novel is written in the first person using the voice of the protagonist, Agnes Shanklin, now deceased and speaking posthumously. Her story is that of a woman who lived up to the narrow expectations and demands of her mother but comes into her own in middle age after the death of her entire family from the Spanish influenza epidemic of the early 1920's.

The plot is divided into three parts: Agnes' life in the American MidWest; her trip to Egypt following the death of all of her family; and her life after her own death. I was interested in the first section which described the devastating effects of the Spanish flu, because my own grandmother died in one of these epidemics leaving my father (age 7) and his younger siblings.

The longest section is the second one and is the core of the book. Here Agnes meets many famous politicians and notables of the twentieth century in Cairo, including Winston and Clementine Churchill, Lady Gertrude Bell, and T. E. Lawrence ( Lawrence of Arabia). She falls in love with a handsome, married German Jewish spy and has a brief affair.

Agnes' deceased sister was married to a missionary and they were posted to the Middle East before returning to the US. Her sister was acquainted with Lawrence and that is the connection the author used to introduce Agnes to this group of Europeans whose plans for the area continue to affect all of us today.

Russell's depiction of life after death in the third section reflects her own agnosticism, which is also the view of her character, Agnes. Agnes is immediately reunited with her beloved dachshund, Rosie, but never with any of her family or friends. Instead she is hanging out in the afterlife with Napoleon, St. Francis of Assisi and other random famous people who appear and disappear from the scene for reasons unknown.

Although I enjoyed reading the book, the plot demands significant suspension of disbelief and seems more like three different tales that have been cobbled together. At times the author's extensive historical research dominated the narrative instead of informing it. Agnes, like Russell's protagonists in her previous novels, is a spiritual seeker who is never satisfied and never finds belief.

My favorite character in Dreamers is Rosie the dachshund. Russell modeled the character Rosie after her own dachsie, Annie Fannie Sweet Feet, and claimed on her website that Dreamers “includes the finest portrait of a 16-pound black and tan longhaired dachshund in modern American literature.” I certainly agree! Maybe I'll read the second part of Dreamers to Beatrice so she can enjoy the adventures of Rosie in Egypt.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Weirdness

For all you pastors out there who fret about how or whether to recognize Mother's Day in Sunday worship, here's a cautionary tale: "Millerville Baptist Axes Mothers Day".*

In the same spirit, daughter Portia posted a photo of the Worst Mother's Day Cake Ever. **

* satire alert
** alas, no satire alert

Friday, May 08, 2009

Random Dots of Moving Madness

  • Sealed tile and grout
  • Second coat on El Jefe's fancy garage floor
  • Installed hardware on new dresser
  • Arranged installation of grill
  • Third coat on El Jefe's fancy garage floor
  • Shopping Trip with SIL (yippee!!) for cabinet hardware and sideboard
  • More tossing and packing, especially freezer and fridge
  • Portia and Babs claim more stuff
Countdown to Move--One Week Away

UPDATE: check Portia's blog to see the progress on Portia and DK's new house, which is only a mile away from our new one!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Beatrice Blogs: My New Car Trick


Beatrice here.

I've got a new trick! Last night when El Jefe took me for a ride in the car to our new house I figured out how to make the car window go up and down! I did it several times just to show him it wasn't a mistake!

Yours for technologically-savvy pups,


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

LBJ and the Holocaust

In the midst of the gazillion details involved in moving to the new house, Mike and I took last night off to attend the Houston Holocaust Museum benefit dinner.

The program featured Senator John McCain, who was given the LBJ Award for Moral Courage by the Holocaust Museum Association. He gave a good acceptance speech, but the interesting thing is what I learned about LBJ at the dinner.

I wondered why an award for moral courage was named for LBJ by a Jewish group like this. Then I learned at the dinner that when he was a young congressman from Texas before WWII, he helped a Jewish constituent from Austin bring 42 Jews out of Eastern Europe, saving their lives.

Apparently he gave the constituent 42 signed US Visas with blank names and told him to go and bring as many out as he could. This was in violation of US immigration policy at the time, which restricted Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. Some of those who were rescued came to the US through Cuba and Mexico, with LBJ's assistance.

What a good story.