Friday, December 31, 2010

Adieu, 2010

This year began with the joy and excitement of planning a wedding for Babs and P-Dubya which we celebrated with family and friends on May 1. 

A couple of months later we rejoiced with the news from Portia that she and DK were expecting their first child in early March of 2011.

Then came Patrick's tragic accident in early October and the grief and pain of his passing on December 1.

A stanza from the old hymn, In The Cross of Christ I Glory, keeps echoing in my head and it seems to sum up the meaning of this year 2010:

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that through all time abide.
Gentle Readers, regardless of the banes or blessings the New Year brings you, may you have that "peace that knows no measure" and "joys that through all time abide."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking Ahead....

It's almost like the good old days when Portia and Babs were in college and home for Christmas break: they both took off the week between Christmas and New Year's! So we have had fun doing some Mom-Daughter things.

Today I'm off to the spice store in the Heights and lunch with Babs at a trendy restaurant. This evening El Jefe and I take Portia, DK and the in-laws out to dinner at our favorite wine bar/bistro in Sugar Land. We are all eagerly anticipating the birth of our grandson in early March!

In between, I'm starting to look ahead to the New Year and decided it was time to clean up my sidebar. So down comes the link to Presbyterians Today, since I won't be writing Best of the Blogs next year. And up goes a link to the books I am planning to review--hopefully in order that the reviews will appear! 

I am hosting book tours for The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson on February 8 and for Unprotected Texts sometime in February to be determined. (A book tour means that I have accepted a copy of the book for review from the publisher and agreed to post a review on a given date.)

So far I haven't had much luck driving readership to the book blog, but I do think it is useful to have my reviews collected in one place. I would like to do more book reviewing since general blogging is really falling off everywhere.

In the new year I also take on a new position at church: Clerk of Session. It's a long story, but to make it short, after reviewing the officer roles some changes were made this month that put me in that position rather than the one I was originally assigned. 

The main charge, other than the administrative Book of Order role, is to educate the session about denominational issues and upcoming votes at presbytery. Since we vote on the NFOG in February and the Belhar Confession in May that should keep me busy!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010

Up early this morning, made breakfast tacos and clementines for breakfast washed down with lots of good coffee.

Next on the schedule is listening to Lessons and Carols from Cambridge University via KUHF in Houston. It always reminds El Jefe of the year he spent there and his part in the service reading one of the lessons: "the Lord told the faithful Abraham that in his seed would all the world be blessed."

Then off with El Jefe to see about trading in his car during the end of year sales. We'll see.

Back home for an afternoon with Portia, DK, Babs and P-Dubya getting ready for Christmas Day dinner Chez Portia (woo-hoo!) for the extended family and friends. Hope its chilly enough for DK to fire up his new firepit in the backyard!

Christmas Eve candlelight service at 5:30 at Portia and DK's new church home in Sugar Land, Christ United Methodist Church. Then off to St. Betty and the Old Marine's home for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.

A Blessed Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

They Don't Have White Christmases In Houston

SO TRUE! It's 75 degrees and we're sipping ice tea on the porch in our flip-flops. Love this!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: Legacy

There's just something about Elizabethan England that keeps me interested in books about the period. This one is a novel, Legacy by Susan Kay.

I've read a lot of books about Elizabeth I, both history and fiction, and I think this is the best historical novel I ever read about her.

Legacy won both Britain's Georgette Heyer Historical Novel Prize and the Betty Trask Prize for a first novel, and deservedly so. Kay's story is highly readable and presents Elizabeth I as multi-talented, politically shrewd, enigmatic, emotionally stunted, and conflicted. 

The deaths of her mother and stepmother, Catherine Howard, combined with the erratic and often abusive treatment she received as a child from her father who was sometimes loving, sometimes distant, sometimes threatening and never predictable are presented by Kay as the reason for Elizabeth's conflicted relationships with the three men she loved most in her life.

Robert Dudley, undoubtedly Elizabeth's strongest relationship, is introduced early in the novel as one of her nursery playmates. He continues to be her most trusted friend throughout the dangerous period between the death of her father and the death of her older sister, Queen Mary. Kay depicts Dudley as a multi-faceted character who truly loved the Queen and was frustrated by her refusal to marry him.

I won't spoil the novel for you by giving away the last chapter, but I found it quite moving, albeit fanciful.

Fans of historical fiction, particularly of the Tudor period, will enjoy Legacy.

Note: This review is also posted at my book blog, QG's Book Reviews.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sappy Christmas Song 2010: It is Finished!

By the power I invested in myself as sponsor of QG's annual Sappy Christmas Song contest, I hereby declare the Sappy Christmas Song for 2010, "Good Pastor Wendy", FINISHED!!

Huzzahs for all the contributors: Nik, Robin, ceemac, Reformed Catholic, Singing Owl, and earthchick.

All hail to two special lyricists who were not only amazingly prolific and clever but also teamed up to use the ferrets and the youth group to solve Good Pastor Wendy's Christmas crisis AND bring her true love in the New Year:
NIK and REFORMED CATHOLIC !!

~applause applause~

And now, one more time, here's the complete ballad. Grab your hanky!

GOOD PASTOR WENDY

Good Pastor Wendy won't come out
of her little study,
She is feeling very stressed
Her Christmas spirit's cruddy.
Bills stack up  upon her desk,
The choir master quit her.
Church finances are a tangled mess,
Down her cheek there falls a tear.
--Quotidian Grace

Yorkshire-ese Ahead!!

Ey oop Wendy, cheer oop lass,
Thon's bin in worser pickles;
t'snow's piled high so light a fire
let flames yon bills to tickle...
t'choir man he wore tone deaf
of very little merit
Off thee go and have a pint
and play with yonder ferrets

[translated:
Hello Wendy, cheer up,
things could be worse,
it's very snowy outside so get the fire on -
burn the bills.
the choir master wasn't particularly musical,
nothing to recommend anyway.
Go and have a beer
and play with those ferrets over there instead.]

 --Nik

Pastor Wendy wiped her eyes,
On her Christmas stocking,
Wondering if it could be time,
Just to head out walking.
Could there be another spot,
One less aggravating?
Could it be that she should look,
For a job less ja-aaaa-ding?
--Singing Owl

Wendy left her office cold,
headed for the Starbucks.
"Double-espresso choc-o grande,
with a shot of milk, Chuck !!"
Out the door she strode that day,
sipping on her coffee.
After Christmas, she did say,
another job I'll be seeking.
--Reformed Catholic

Pastor Wendy went downtown
Thought she'd look for presents
Ran into the youth group there
They were planning nonsense
All dressed up like reindeer they
Pranced around the food court
Singing loudly all the day:
Hallelujah Chorus!
    --Robin

From the pet store suddenly
Came the Christmas ferrets
As their cages they did flee
Absconding with some carrots.
Pastor Wendy quickly spied
The youth group chasing after
Shoppers screamed, so horrified
What a big Dis-aaa-ster!!
  -- Quotidian Grace

Pastor's Wendy's thinking
'Bout her days in D-school
All those late-life students
Thought it's fine to switch the rules.
Stops at Borders for a look
Maybe a career change?
Gets herself an L-SAT book
Knows that now she is de-ranged!
   --Robin

ALERT: YORKSHIRESE AHEAD...

Ey-oop lass and hasten quick
T' ferrets have escap-ed
Yonder youth group's in the nick
For their daft-like capers:
Forced 't ferrets into Mall -
They danced around the Yule tree.
Alas thon youth group's all locked up:
Charged with animal cru-el-ty.

[translation]
Oh gosh, best hurry
the ferrets have escaped.
The youth group have been put into prison:
they were really rather unkind to the wee ferrets
And made them dance around the Christmas tree in the mall.
Alas, the youth group have been locked up
because ferrets are sentient beings and really shouldn't be treated with such disrespect]

--Nik

Wendy thought about those kids
chasing after polecats.
Wish they had such energy
at Sunday evening youth camp.
I better go and bail them out,
then go call their parents.
So off to the precinct thus she went,
forgetting to buy presents.
--Reformed Catholic


So Wendy went back to the Manse,
turned on her computer.
Amazon, Sears and HSN,
online shopping's easier.
No ferrets running all about,
or shoppers wild expressions.
Christmas wrappings only 3 bucks,
Shipped directly to-oo them.
--Reformed Catholic

Pastor Wendy's debit card
Sadly was rejected.
Her account was overdrawn,
Her balance sheet neglected.
Christmas bonuses were naught
For Wendy or her staff
When she once asked about them,
Everyone did laugh.
--earthchick

Wendy sighed and went to bed,
"Its really time to leave now.
Stewardship is but a joke,
We're spending our reserves low.

Troubled dreams our Wendy had,

tossing all the night long.
Knowing that this Christmas Eve

May not have the he-eat on !!
--Reformed Catholic

The weeks flew by 'fore Christmas Eve,

Wendy was so busy.
Planning Advent services, 
left her in a tizzy.

Still the bills piled up each day,

Wendy was so frantic.
Will there be enough to pay,

for the food bank baskets ??
--Reformed Catholic

Alert Again: More Yorkshirese!

Hearken lass and look'ee here
And stop wit yonder gurnin'
Pop whippet oot o' bath right smart
If wants t'make some earnin's.
Off to 't track gang you 't now
And get that whippet running
One hunnert poon's in't 3'o'clock
And ye'll not lack for fu-un-ding.

[translation:
Wendy, my sweet little mince pie pay attention
And stop pulling faces.
Go and fetch the whippet from the bath quickly
If you want to make some money.
Go to the track
And make that whippet earn its keep
I suggest you put £100 on it on the race at 3pm -
It's a 'sure thing' and you'll have all the money you need.]

--Nik

Off to 't track oor Wendy went
to place a bet on't whippet.
"'Eee by 'eck a winning run
would see t' church in credit!"
But conscience is a reet rum thing:
And childer all were looking.
Lightbulb flashed inside her head -
A charity looney dooking...

[translation:
Wendy went to the track
and was going to gamble rather wantonly.
"Gosh, if the dog wins
our church money problems will be over!"
But it's a bit of a bother when one has an over-active conscience...
And the children were looking - so a bad example.
She had an idea
She'd raise the money for the church via a sponsored jump into icy cold water on New Year's day.]
--Nik


Poor addled Wendy's looking for
A good wetsuit for the ducking
Else she freezes to the core
And frigid water sucking.
Where is Santa and his sleigh
With a miracle to save her?
Throw all the kiddies' toys away
Shower her with filthy lu-u-cre!
--Quotidian Grace

4th Sunday in Advent comes round,
Wendy is there preaching.
The usual members sit in back,
at least they're not there sleeping.
Old Josh sits in his same seat,
Never misses a Sunday.
Notices that Wendy's not,
preaching in the same way.
--Reformed Catholic
 
YOU GUESSED IT! MORE YORKSHIRESE!!
From 't pulpit Wendy spied
Josh gowkin' at her queer-like;
Saw his eyes bulge further wide
at entrance of the youth tykes.
Christmas ferrets all rushed in -
Oor Wendy saw Josh sof'nin'
as tykes 'n ferrets pranced aboot
gathrin in t'off'ring.

Advent weeks flew by reet quick,
Grand crowds they'd all been gath'rin' -
Drawn in by't ferrets wondrous tricks
In't services in't evenin's.
Collection plates were fillin' fast -
So thon'on's passed round flat caps.
't ferrets proved a cunning wheeze
For building up a ti-dy stash.

[translation:
From her pulpit, Wendy noticed
Josh looking at her somewhat oddly.
His eyes then grew the size of dinner plates
as the youth group entered the church.
The Christmas ferrets then rushed in
And Josh's heart was strangely warmed
as he looked upon the charming scene of ferrets and youths working in wonderful harmony,
collecting the offering.

As is usual, Advent flew by ridiculously fast;
The church was packed with huge crowds,
desirous of seeing the wonderful performing ferrets
in the evening services.
The offerings were so multidunious they filled up the plates to optimum capacity;
to ensure all had the opportunity to give, the ferrets and youths passed around stereotyipical Yorkhire headgear amongst the gathered crowd.
Truly, the idea of using the ferrets was an ingenious one
And it appeared the church cash crisis might possibly be averted]
--NIK
 
Wendy was on top of the world,
-- pastoring's no chore now.
Chuck's attending Worship now,
they're meeting after at Starbucks.
Walking together, hand in hand.
Wendy wasn't dreaming.
Advent's ending turned out to be,
better than its begin-in-ng.
--Reformed Catholic

The Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve,
echoed with joyous singing.
Frozen Chosen no longer they --
the candles lit the ceiling.
Wendy stayed another year,
married Chuck soon after.
So this story tries to end
with happily ever after. 
--Reformed Catholic 
 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Review: Elizabeth's Women

(Note: this review is also posted on my book blog, QG's Book Reviews.)

Sitting in the waiting room of the hospital ICU and at home by the phone waiting for news of my nephew (who ultimately died of injuries suffered in an auto accident) , I did a lot of reading in October and November. However, I didn't have the concentration necessary to post any reviews during that time. 

Much of the reading was pure escapist stuff: re-reading of some old favorites and reading of medieval mystery stories. 

However one of the books I read was Elizabeth's Women by Tracy Borman. I have always had a keen interest in British history of the Tudor period and particularly the great Gloriana--Queen Elizabeth I. 

Elizabeth's Women is a well-researched history of the women who influenced and surrounded the queen. This is an unusual approach to writing about Elizabeth I because most historians and authors emphasize her relationships with the men around her whether they were her advisors, relatives, friends or "favorites" (presumed lovers).

The author writes about these women in chronological order, beginning with Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, executed by order of her father King Henry VIII, and ending with her life-long friend the Countess of Warwick who was with her on her deathbed.

Elizabeth lived her personal life surrounded by female attendants who literally were with her every waking and sleeping hour, as was the custom of the time. The most influential woman in her life was her governess, Katherine ("Kat") Champernowne Astley, who was her surrogate mother.

Borman covers Elizabeth's complicated relationships with her older sister Mary and her cousin (whom she never met!) Mary Stuart of Scotland. The experiences of  her stepmothers Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard reinforced Elizabeth's fear of loosing power and control through marriage while her close relationship with her father's last wife and widow, Katherine Parr, was fractured by the inappropriate attentions of Parr's husband the roue' Thomas Seymour.

One of the many interesting themes of the book is the evolution of Elizabeth's attitude toward the marriages of her ladies-in-waiting which became quite hostile by the end of her life. Another major theme is the conflict with her female relatives, the surviving Gray sisters and later, Arabella Stuart, who had competing claims to her throne which sometimes threatened her.

Tracy Borman's book is a great addition to any Tudorphile's library. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The 12 Doctrines of Christmas



This is a hoot! Don't miss the 5 Points of Calvinism vs. 5 Solas stanza. Hat tip to Dave Pepper.

Sappy Christmas Song 2010: Good Pastor Wendy Update

So Pastor Wendy, having resisted the temptation to bet on the whippets and make some quick cash for Christmas, righteously decides instead to engage in a "looney charity dunking" (I don't make this stuff up, folks, I just report it...). Can Santa save her from herself? Where will the Christmas cash come from? 
Resisting the temptation to bet on the whippets
Ferrets? Ferrets? Ferrets? Donde esta?

And the choir director? And the youth group? Lots of loose ends here, friends, that need to be tied up in one big sloppy sentimental stanza (or two)!!!

Good Pastor Wendy won't come out
of her little study,
She is feeling very stressed
Her Christmas spirit's cruddy.
Bills stack up  upon her desk,
The choir master quit her.
Church finances are a tangled mess,
Down her cheek there falls a tear.
--Quotidian Grace

Yorkshire-ese Ahead!!

Ey oop Wendy, cheer oop lass,
Thon's bin in worser pickles;
t'snow's piled high so light a fire
let flames yon bills to tickle...
t'choir man he wore tone deaf
of very little merit
Off thee go and have a pint
and play with yonder ferrets

[translated:
Hello Wendy, cheer up,
things could be worse,
it's very snowy outside so get the fire on -
burn the bills.
the choir master wasn't particularly musical,
nothing to recommend anyway.
Go and have a beer
and play with those ferrets over there instead.]

 --Nik

Pastor Wendy wiped her eyes,
On her Christmas stocking,
Wondering if it could be time,
Just to head out walking.
Could there be another spot,
One less aggravating?
Could it be that she should look,
For a job less ja-aaaa-ding?
--Singing Owl

Wendy left her office cold,
headed for the Starbucks.
"Double-espresso choc-o grande,
with a shot of milk, Chuck !!"
Out the door she strode that day,
sipping on her coffee.
After Christmas, she did say,
another job I'll be seeking.
--Reformed Catholic

Pastor Wendy went downtown
Thought she'd look for presents
Ran into the youth group there
They were planning nonsense
All dressed up like reindeer they
Pranced around the food court
Singing loudly all the day:
Hallelujah Chorus!
    --Robin

From the pet store suddenly
Came the Christmas ferrets
As their cages they did flee
Absconding with some carrots.
Pastor Wendy quickly spied
The youth group chasing after
Shoppers screamed, so horrified
What a big Dis-aaa-ster!!
  -- Quotidian Grace

Pastor's Wendy's thinking
'Bout her days in D-school
All those late-life students
Thought it's fine to switch the rules.
Stops at Borders for a look
Maybe a career change?
Gets herself an L-SAT book
Knows that now she is de-ranged!
   --Robin

ALERT: YORKSHIRESE AHEAD...

Ey-oop lass and hasten quick
T' ferrets have escap-ed
Yonder youth group's in the nick
For their daft-like capers:
Forced 't ferrets into Mall -
They danced around the Yule tree.
Alas thon youth group's all locked up:
Charged with animal cru-el-ty.

[translation]
Oh gosh, best hurry
the ferrets have escaped.
The youth group have been put into prison:
they were really rather unkind to the wee ferrets
And made them dance around the Christmas tree in the mall.
Alas, the youth group have been locked up
because ferrets are sentient beings and really shouldn't be treated with such disrespect]

--Nik

Wendy thought about those kids
chasing after polecats.
Wish they had such energy
at Sunday evening youth camp.
I better go and bail them out,
then go call their parents.
So off to the precinct thus she went,
forgetting to buy presents.
--Reformed Catholic


So Wendy went back to the Manse,
turned on her computer.
Amazon, Sears and HSN,
online shopping's easier.
No ferrets running all about,
or shoppers wild expressions.
Christmas wrappings only 3 bucks,
Shipped directly to-oo them.
--Reformed Catholic

Pastor Wendy's debit card
Sadly was rejected.
Her account was overdrawn,
Her balance sheet neglected.
Christmas bonuses were naught
For Wendy or her staff
When she once asked about them,
Everyone did laugh.
--earthchick

Wendy sighed and went to bed,
"Its really time to leave now.
Stewardship is but a joke,
We're spending our reserves low.

Troubled dreams our Wendy had,

tossing all the night long.
Knowing that this Christmas Eve

May not have the he-eat on !!
--Reformed Catholic

The weeks flew by 'fore Christmas Eve,

Wendy was so busy.
Planning Advent services, 
left her in a tizzy.

Still the bills piled up each day,

Wendy was so frantic.
Will there be enough to pay,

for the food bank baskets ??
--Reformed Catholic

Alert Again: More Yorkshirese!

Hearken lass and look'ee here
And stop wit yonder gurnin'
Pop whippet oot o' bath right smart
If wants t'make some earnin's.
Off to 't track gang you 't now
And get that whippet running
One hunnert poon's in't 3'o'clock
And ye'll not lack for fu-un-ding.

[translation:
Wendy, my sweet little mince pie pay attention
And stop pulling faces.
Go and fetch the whippet from the bath quickly
If you want to make some money.
Go to the track
And make that whippet earn its keep
I suggest you put £100 on it on the race at 3pm -
It's a 'sure thing' and you'll have all the money you need.]

--Nik

Off to 't track oor Wendy went
to place a bet on't whippet.
"'Eee by 'eck a winning run
would see t' church in credit!"
But conscience is a reet rum thing:
And childer all were looking.
Lightbulb flashed inside her head -
A charity looney dooking...

[translation:
Wendy went to the track
and was going to gamble rather wantonly.
"Gosh, if the dog wins
our church money problems will be over!"
But it's a bit of a bother when one has an over-active conscience...
And the children were looking - so a bad example.
She had an idea
She'd raise the money for the church via a sponsored jump into icy cold water on New Year's day.]
--Nik


Poor addled Wendy's looking for
A good wetsuit for the ducking
Else she freezes to the core
And frigid water sucking.
Where is Santa and his sleigh
With a miracle to save her?
Throw all the kiddies' toys away
Shower her with filthy lu-u-cre!
--Quotidian Grace

4th Sunday in Advent comes round,
Wendy is there preaching.
The usual members sit in back,
at least they're not there sleeping.
Old Josh sits in his same seat,
Never misses a Sunday.
Notices that Wendy's not,
preaching in the same way.
--Reformed Catholic

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sappy Christmas Song 2010: Good Pastor Wendy Update

Over the weekend Reformed Catholic added two new stanzas to our 2010 Sappy Christmas Song, Good Pastor Wendy.

Our heroine finds herself in dire straits indeed as the song lurches toward a denouement: Her debit card is overdrawn, the heat in the church has been turned off and there's no cash for the traditional Christmas Baskets for the poor. What would Good King Wencelas do????

Add your stanza in the comments.....

Good Pastor Wendy won't come out
of her little study,
She is feeling very stressed
Her Christmas spirit's cruddy.
Bills stack up  upon her desk,
The choir master quit her.
Church finances are a tangled mess,
Down her cheek there falls a tear.
--Quotidian Grace

ALERT: YORKSHIRESE AHEAD!!

Ey oop Wendy, cheer oop lass,
Thon's bin in worser pickles;
t'snow's piled high so light a fire
let flames yon bills to tickle...
t'choir man he wore tone deaf
of very little merit
Off thee go and have a pint
and play with yonder ferrets

[translated:
Hello Wendy, cheer up,
things could be worse,
it's very snowy outside so get the fire on -
burn the bills.
the choir master wasn't particularly musical,
nothing to recommend anyway.
Go and have a beer
and play with those ferrets over there instead.]
--Nik

Pastor Wendy wiped her eyes,
On her Christmas stocking,
Wondering if it could be time,
Just to head out walking.
Could there be another spot,
One less aggravating?
Could it be that she should look,
For a job less ja-aaaa-ding?
--Singing Owl

Wendy left her office cold,
headed for the Starbucks.
"Double-espresso choc-o grande,
with a shot of milk, Chuck !!"
Out the door she strode that day,
sipping on her coffee.
After Christmas, she did say,
another job I'll be seeking.
--Reformed Catholic

Pastor Wendy went downtown
Thought she'd look for presents
Ran into the youth group there
They were planning nonsense
All dressed up like reindeer they
Pranced around the food court
Singing loudly all the day:
Hallelujah Chorus!
    --Robin

From the pet store suddenly
Came the Christmas ferrets
As their cages they did flee
Absconding with some carrots.
Pastor Wendy quickly spied
The youth group chasing after
Shoppers screamed, so horrified
What a big Dis-aaa-ster!!
  -- Quotidian Grace

Pastor's Wendy's thinking
'Bout her days in D-school
All those late-life students
Thought it's fine to switch the rules.
Stops at Borders for a look
Maybe a career change?
Gets herself an L-SAT book
Knows that now she is de-ranged!
   --Robin

ALERT: YORKSHIRESE AHEAD...

Ey-oop lass and hasten quick
T' ferrets have escap-ed
Yonder youth group's in the nick
For their daft-like capers:
Forced 't ferrets into Mall -
They danced around the Yule tree.
Alas thon youth group's all locked up:
Charged with animal cru-el-ty.

[translation]
Oh gosh, best hurry
the ferrets have escaped.
The youth group have been put into prison:
they were really rather unkind to the wee ferrets
And made them dance around the Christmas tree in the mall.
Alas, the youth group have been locked up
because ferrets are sentient beings and really shouldn't be treated with such disrespect]

--Nik

Wendy thought about those kids
chasing after polecats.
Wish they had such energy
at Sunday evening youth camp.
I better go and bail them out,
then go call their parents.
So off to the precinct thus she went,
forgetting to buy presents.
--Reformed Catholic

So Wendy went back to the Manse,
turned on her computer.
Amazon, Sears and HSN,
online shopping's easier.
No ferrets running all about,
or shoppers wild expressions.
Christmas wrappings only 3 bucks,
Shipped directly to-oo them.
--Reformed Catholic

Pastor Wendy's debit card
Sadly was rejected.
Her account was overdrawn,
Her balance sheet neglected.
Christmas bonuses were naught
For Wendy or her staff
When she once asked about them,
Everyone did laugh.
--earthchick

Wendy sighed and went to bed,

"Its really time to leave now.

Stewardship is but a joke,

We're spending our reserves low.

Troubled dreams our Wendy had,

tossing all the night long.

May not have the he-eat on !!
--Reformed Catholic

The weeks flew by 'fore Christmas Eve,

Wendy was so busy.

Planning Advent services, 
left her in a tizzy.

Still the bills piled up each day,

Wendy was so frantic.

Will there be enough to pay,

for the food bank baskets ??
--Reformed Catholic

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sappy Christmas Song 2010: Good Pastor Wendy Update

 So, QG's Gentle Readers have been quite busy adding stanzas to our Sappy Christmas Song, "Good Pastor Wendy", which is set to the tune of Good King Wenceslas. Our heroine must deal with a bankrupt church and a youth group held in custody by the sheriff for cruelty to the Christmas Ferrets. In her despair she entertains the idea of becoming (the horror!) a lawyer. 

To add insult to injury her credit card is rejected when she tries to shop online having given up on shopping in the mall (what with the youth group's troubles with the Christmas ferrets). And there will be no Christmas bonus this year.

Thanks to Robin, Nik, Reformed Catholic, earthchick and Moi for their contributions to this immortal ballad!!! If you have more, add them in the comments....

Good Pastor Wendy won't come out
of her little study,
She is feeling very stressed
Her Christmas spirit's cruddy.
Bills stack up  upon her desk,
The choir master quit her.
Church finances are a tangled mess,
Down her cheek there falls a tear.
--Quotidian Grace

Ey oop Wendy, cheer oop lass,
Thon's bin in worser pickles;
t'snow's piled high so light a fire
let flames yon bills to tickle...
t'choir man he wore tone deaf
of very little merit
Off thee go and have a pint
and play with yonder ferrets

[translated:
Hello Wendy, cheer up,
things could be worse,
it's very snowy outside so get the fire on -
burn the bills.
the choir master wasn't particularly musical,
nothing to recommend anyway.
Go and have a beer
and play with those ferrets over there instead.]

--Nik

Pastor Wendy wiped her eyes,
On her Christmas stocking,
Wondering if it could be time,
Just to head out walking.
Could there be another spot,
One less aggravating?
Could it be that she should look,
For a job less ja-aaaa-ding?
--Singing Owl

Wendy left her office cold,
headed for the Starbucks.
"Double-espresso choc-o grande,
with a shot of milk, Chuck !!"
Out the door she strode that day,
sipping on her coffee.
After Christmas, she did say,
another job I'll be seeking.
--Reformed Catholic

Pastor Wendy went downtown
Thought she'd look for presents
Ran into the youth group there
They were planning nonsense
All dressed up like reindeer they
Pranced around the food court
Singing loudly all the day:
Hallelujah Chorus!
    --Robin

From the pet store suddenly
Came the Christmas ferrets
As their cages they did flee
Absconding with some carrots.
Pastor Wendy quickly spied
The youth group chasing after
Shoppers screamed, so horrified
What a big Dis-aaa-ster!!
  -- Quotidian Grace

Pastor's Wendy's thinking
'Bout her days in D-school
All those late-life students
Thought it's fine to switch the rules.
Stops at Borders for a look
Maybe a career change?
Gets herself an L-SAT book
Knows that now she is de-ranged!
   --Robin

ALERT: YORKSHIRESE AHEAD...


Ey-oop lass and hasten quick
T' ferrets have escap-ed
Yonder youth group's in the nick
For their daft-like capers:
Forced 't ferrets into Mall -
They danced around the Yule tree.
Alas thon youth group's all locked up:
Charged with animal cru-el-ty.

[translation]
Oh gosh, best hurry
the ferrets have escaped.
The youth group have been put into prison:
they were really rather unkind to the wee ferrets
And made them dance around the Christmas tree in the mall.
Alas, the youth group have been locked up
because ferrets are sentient beings and really shouldn't be treated with such disrespect]

--Nik

Wendy thought about those kids
chasing after polecats.
Wish they had such energy
at Sunday evening youth camp.
I better go and bail them out,
then go call their parents.
So off to the precinct thus she went,
forgetting to buy presents.
--Reformed Catholic

So Wendy went back to the Manse,
turned on her computer.
Amazon, Sears and HSN,
online shopping's easier.
No ferrets running all about,
or shoppers wild expressions.
Christmas wrappings only 3 bucks,
Shipped directly to-oo them.
--Reformed Catholic

Pastor Wendy's debit card
Sadly was rejected.
Her account was overdrawn,
Her balance sheet neglected.
Christmas bonuses were naught
For Wendy or her staff
When she once asked about them,
Everyone did laugh.
--earthchick

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Children's Moment in Memorial Service

Patrick's memorial service Saturday was a wonderful affirming celebration of his life and faith, attended by a very large gathering of friends and family.

I'd like to share with my Gentle Readers the special Children's Moment that was included in the service. My RevGal/Pal friends may want to make a note of this for future reference.

Annie and her cousins and young friends of the family were called forward to the front of the sanctuary to join Father Bob, the Episcopal priest at the church school she attends.

He lit a candle and explained to the children that the flame represented Patrick's life. Then he blew out the candle and pointed out the smoke that wafted overhead from it, saying that represented his spirit that lived on. After distributing candles to each of the children, he lit his candle once again saying that Patrick's spirit now shone before his Lord in heaven. 

Father Bob then lit the candle of each child gathered in front of him and told them the burning candles represented their lives. Then he led them in a procession down the center aisle as they all sang "This Little Light of Mine/I'm gonna let it shine." After they sang the song, he dismissed them to go back and sit with their families.

Truly this was the most meaningful way I have ever seen of including young children in a memorial service.
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in their heavenly Father's realm. Rev. 21: 4

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sappy Christmas Song 2010: Good Pastor Wendy

Thanks to Nik, Singing Owl and Reformed Catholic for their contributions to "Good Pastor Wendy", the 2010 Sappy Christmas song. Remember, it is set to the tune of Good King Wenceslas. And here's the song so far:

Good Pastor Wendy won't come out
of her little study,
She is feeling very stressed
Her Christmas spirit's cruddy.
Bills stack up  upon her desk,
The choir master quit her.
Church finances are a tangled mess,
Down her cheek there falls a tear.
--QG

Ey oop Wendy, cheer oop lass,
Thon's bin in worser pickles;
t'snow's piled high so light a fire
let flames yon bills to tickle...
t'choir man he wore tone deaf
of very little merit
Off thee go and have a pint
and play with yonder ferrets

[translated from the Yorkshire-ese
Hello Wendy, cheer up,
things could be worse,
it's very snowy outside so get the fire on -
burn the bills.
the choir master wasn't particularly musical,
nothing to recommend anyway.
Go and have a beer
and play with those ferrets over there instead.]
--Nik

Pastor Wendy wiped her eyes,
On her Christmas stocking,
Wondering if it could be time,
Just to head out walking.
Could there be another spot,
One less aggravating?
Could it be that she should look,
For a job less ja-aaaa-ding?
--Singing Owl

Wendy left her office cold,
headed for the Starbucks.
"Double-espresso choc-o grande,
with a shot of milk, Chuck !!"
Out the door she strode that day,
sipping on her coffee.
After Christmas, she did say,
another job I'll be seeking.

What kind of job will Pastor Wendy be seeking? Will it relieve her stress or add to it? Will another accent make an appearance in the song or no? What's with the Christmas ferrets? Only you have the answer...add your verse in the comments!! For more information see this post.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Book Review: Paul Among The People

Sarah Ruden, a research fellow at the Yale Divinity School, is a scholar of ancient Greek and has translated four books of classical literature, including the Aeneid, into modern English.

In Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time, she uses her own translations of Greek literature from the time of Paul as well as her own translations of his epistles to explain the cultural context within which those writings would have been heard and interpreted by Paul's contemporaries.

Although Ruden is an academic, the book is not a dull treatise, but a fairly lively presentation of the man she calls "the greatest theological genius of all time" in his own time and place.

Pau's views on pleasure, homosexuality, women, relationship with the state and slavery have been--and still are--the subject of dispute within the Christian community around the world. Ruden uses her knowledge of ancient Greek and the literature of Paul's day to illuminate his views on these subjects.

Anyone reading this book looking for support for their progressive/liberal or evangelical/conservative interpretation of these controversial topics will be disappointed. Her conclusions challenge both sides of the church because she demonstrates that the premises underlying the lenses through which twenty-first century Christians are viewing these issues are quite different from those of the first century.

I do not have much background in ancient classical literature and found that sometimes it was hard to follow Ruden's extensive translations, even though she uses colloquial rather than academic language. Also--be warned--some of the selections included, particularly in the chapter on homosexuality, are quite graphic. Personally, I would have preferred to read a summary or description rather than the "real thing." 

Paul Among the People is a creative, innovative approach to understanding Paul in the ancient cultural context. Ministers, educators, academics and other church professionals will find it interesting but I would not recommend it for the average layperson.

(This review is also posted on my book blog, QG's Book Reviews.)

Monday, December 06, 2010

QG's Fifth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest Commences!

It's that time of year again, Gentle Readers!! Yes, I know you hoped I would forget but tradition trumps all. It's time to begin QG's Fifth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest.

~applause applause~

The contest is inspired by the Bulwer-Lytton Bad Fiction Contest and its motto: "where w.w.w. means wretched writers welcome!"

Each year my Gentle Readers are invited to contribute their own deathless lyrics in a group effort to create the sappiest, most sentimental and generally execrable Christmas Song of the year. Think Christmas Shoes, only worse!!!

Here are the rules of the contest:
  • QG posts a beginning stanza. If your muse is with you, add a stanza or lines of your own in the comments.
  • QG will post updates as the 2009 Sappy Christmas Song evolves and you may continue adding verses in the comments.
  • When, in the sole judgment of QG, the Song seems complete, or QG gets tired of it, the entire song will be posted and prizes will be awarded. The prizes will be inspired by the contributions--so be creative!
And AWAAAYYY we GO!

This year's Sappy Christmas Song will be sung to the tune of Good King Wenceslas. Here's a link to the music to help you along.

And here is the first stanza of the 2010 Sappy Christmas Song:

Good Pastor Wendy won't come out
of her little study,
She is feeling very stressed
Her Christmas spirit's cruddy.
Bills stack up  upon her desk,
The choir master quit her.
Church finances are a tangled mess,

Down her cheek there falls a tear.

Now it's up to you! Add a stanza or a few lines in the comments and I will post periodic updates!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Announcing the Fifth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest

For the fifth year, QG will host the Sappy Christmas Song Contest, beginning this Monday, December 6!

If you are not familiar with the contest, here are some links to the past immortal compositions created in the contest:


I will post the guidelines for the contest and the first stanza to get the sappy song ball rolling on Monday morning!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Presbyterians Today: Blogs By and For Unsung Heros of the Church

The December Best of the Blogs column in Presbyterians Today highlights several blogs written by some of the "unsung heroes" of the church: Sunday School teachers, church secretaries and pastor spouses. You can read it online here.

This is my last Best of the Blogs column for PT. Over the past year I found it increasingly difficult to find active blogs that were written by or for Presbyterians that I had not previously highlighted. More and more bloggers are using Facebook and Twitter rather than writing posts for their blogs. So I let the editor know that I would not be continuing to write this feature next year.

My thanks to the staff at Presbyterians Today for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the magazine for the past couple of years. I don't know whether Best of the Blogs feature will be continued, but if it is, then I wish all the best to whoever takes it over.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Patrick Is Home


This is how I will always remember Patrick: the devoted father and avid outdoorsman. He passed away this afternoon from the injuries he sustained in the auto accident October 11. It's comforting to remember him as he was just a few short weeks ago.

I remember when Patrick was engaged to our niece Carol and first met her grandfather (El Jefe's father "Dutch"). Dutch quickly took a liking to this gentle young man, declaring that he took good care of his car and "any man who takes good care of his care will take good care of his wife!" So Patrick had Dutch's full approval. And he proved to be a loving husband to our precious niece.

And Patrick was wonderful with Dutch in his declining years--always patient and gentle, he treated him with respect and spent time with him. Patrick was in his element hunting and fishing and spending time outdoors. He passed this great love of God's world to his daughter Annie, as you can see.

Godspeed, Patrick! You are home safe now, moored in God's loving arms.

Note: For those friends and family in Houston, Patrick's memorial service will be this Saturday at 3 pm at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church.

(see also Averill's tribute to Patrick on her blog Odi et Amo)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blogging Hiatus

QG will be on hiatus for a few days while we join the family in watching, waiting and praying for our nephew Patrick, now in hospice care.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bless Friday

Our church has been encouraging the congregation to turn Black Friday into Bless Friday by engaging in community service rather than going shopping. Today's Houston Chronicle has a nice story describing the initiative, here.

The church website had several different opportunities for service that ranged from serving meals at a homeless shelter to bagging beans and rice for the church's Hispanic ministry food pantry. Or you could create your own project.
Last Sunday the Outreach Ministry  also distributed $20,000 during the worship services in envelopes ranging from $1 to $1,000. The idea was to pass the money along as a blessing to others and then report back. The idea was that each family took one envelope and then decided what to do with it.

Babs and I went forward and I was given an envelope with $200 in it. Babs got $10 in $2 bills so she gave hers to me and told me to use it together. 

El Jefe and I weren't sure at first how to use the money. Then last night it came to me--we will pass the money along to the Caring Bridge website in honor of our nephew, Patrick. 

That website is truly a blessing for families coping with extended illnesses or traumatic accidents such as Patrick's. I've followed a couple of other people on Caring Bridge in the past and often thought how helpful it would have been for my brother and his family during the years they coped with his daughter's cancer treatments.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankfulness With a Heavy Heart

Last night my sister-in-law called to let us know that her daughter's husband, Patrick, will be transferred from the ICU to hospice care when an appropriate placement can be arranged. That will probably be the first of next week.

Traumatic brain injury from the Columbus Day car accident coupled with subsequent strokes and other complications combined to make the doctors' recommendation that it is time to say goodbye to him.

We'll have Thanksgiving with a heavy heart, but with gratefulness nonetheless for the grace that abounds when family, friends and acquaintances support our precious niece Carol and her five year old daughter Annie and our family as well as Patrick's family.

The picture here is one drawn by my niece, M.E., in her preschool class the Thanksgiving after she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. The kids were asked to draw what they were grateful for and M.E.'s teacher wrote the message for her on the picture.

My brother (her father) emailed this to me last week as a reminder about what we should be truly thankful for. What a timely reminder! M.E. passed away in 1999 at the age of 9 after battling cancer for 4 years. Yet she had a mature faith that continues to inspire us and comforts me today as we have another Thanksgiving anticipating loss.

Paul tells in his first letter to the Thessalonians:
"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." 1Thess.4:13-15
This Thanksgiving, like M.E., we are thankful for Jesus and the promise of eternal life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Bake-a-Thon Chez QG


 Portia, Babs and I conducted a Sunday afternoon Thanksgiving Bake-a-Thon at our house yesterday. 

The stated purpose was to get pies ready for Turkey Day when we expect 16 guests--both family and friends--to join us for dinner and the UT-A&M game.

 The QG family are UT fans but will be vastly outnumbered by the Aggies in the group and this looks like the Aggies' year, too. Oh, well!

We baked pumpkin and Heath pecan pies (that's pecan pies with Heath toffee bits and chocolate chips), shown above. Photo from my IPhone is not so good, but you get the idea. I still have two pie crusts in the refrigerator for 2 plain pecan pies which I can easily do tomorrow or Wednesday. Some people just have to go with tradition!

We also got a head start on Christmas baking by trying out a couple of new recipes--just to see if they are worthy. That's our story and we're sticking to it.

Here are the scrumptious cookies Portia baked--a shortbread type cookie layered with apricot jam and topped with chocolate ganache, from the latest Martha Stewart Holiday cookie magazine. We agreed it was fiddly, but tasty and worthy or special occasions like Christmas.

 I had a recipe from Ina Garten for a cranberry-apple cake that I wanted to try. We thought it would be more cobblerish than cakey, but were wrong. Babs whipped up some orange-flavored whipped cream to top it with and it was a huge hit! So expect to see this one repeated Christmas.

What's cooking at your house? Are you planning to try something new for Thanksgiving Day or stick to the tried-at-true favorites?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Fantasy Book Tour

So everyone and his sister are out on book tours, haven't you noticed? They're hawking their books, but denying they are running for President. Hah! Of course they are.

QG reads lots of books and writes lots of reviews. I don't think I have a book in me, but I think I would love to go on a book tour--especially if I got to be interviewed around the country by the networks and cable TV shows. And I'm not running for President, either!

Here's my Fantasy Book Tour schedule: First the interviews on the morning shows in NYC on Fox, ABC, CBS, and NBC. Then radio interviews with NPR and Michael Medved (who does frequent and very interesting interviews of authors). No MSNBC because that would be like entering the Witness Protection Program. No one would be listening.

Then its on to the primo local TV and radio stations around the country: QG goes to Washington DC, Nashville, Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, Natchez, Dallas, Amarillo, San Antonio, Austin, Marfa, Santa Fe, San Diego, Santa Clara and Seattle. Following the tour (cities chosen by me because that's where I want to go), I make a triumphant appearance around all the Houston area media outlets and bookstores. Okay, so I don't have a book for people to sign, but I'll shake hands and chat.

Who wants to be my agent?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Book Review: City of Tranquil Light

(This review is also published on my book blog: QG's Book Reviews.)
The Chinese Christian church is rapidly expanding in modern China despite oppression and sometimes persecution by the Chinese government. At a conference a couple of years ago I heard a Chinese woman pastor speak movingly about the trials and triumphs of the church in her country.

When I was offered a review copy of City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, a novel about missionaries in China in the early twentieth century, I was intrigued and agreed to read it.

The novel is a fictionalized account of the story of the author's Mennonite missionary grandparents who spent many years in China. Caldwell's grandfather self-published a book about his experiences for his family and she uses that material as well as letters and diaries from other relatives who also served in that mission field during the pre-WWII era. Although none of these sources are ever directly quoted in the novel, it is clear that the flavor of that time and place seem to be accurately depicted by the author. I would have liked to read her grandfather's account.

The novel is in the form of a memoir told by the aging Will Kiehn as he looks back on his work in China alternating with the diary of his wife, Katherine, a missionary nurse. or "deaconess". Their struggles with learning the language and the culture of the people, the privations and joys of their work, and personal tragedy are set in the historical context of the civil war in China. 

There is much to like about the novel. It is gentle in tone and reflects the pacifistic, loving theology of the Mennonite missionaries. Will Kiehn is a well-defined character with flaws as well as virtues. Katherine is not nearly so well drawn, but her diary provides a different, but complimentary viewpoint to Will. The destruction of the Chinese civil war is accurately depicted, well written,  and is an important theme of the book.

My criticism of the book is that, with the exception of the Bandit King, none of the other characters--American or Chinese--are fully realized. The author tells us that the Kiehns came to deeply love the Chinese people and nation but never shows us why and how that came to be. Even the converts who are closest to the Kiehns are little more than names.

That said, I did enjoy reading City of Tranquil Light. I am in awe of these missionaries--and the others around the world--who left the familiarity and comfort of their home countries to follow Christ by bringing the gospel to others. It's not something I can ever imagine doing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Amendment 10-A Fails in New Covenant

(PresbyGeek Alert! This post is about PresbyPolity in action.)

Presbytery of New Covenant voted on Amendments 10-A through O to the Constitution of the PCUSA at its meeting this morning. Amendment 10-A (to change the language of section 6.0106b relating to standards for ordination) was defeated by a vote of 156 to 144 with 4 abstentions.

There was a large turnout and the debate was respectful, "decent and in order", and pretty much covered every pro and con argument I have ever heard.

We did hear from a corresponding member from East Africa who spoke against the amendment saying that if it passed it would negatively affect relationships with Presbyterians in other parts of the world. This concern was echoed by several other African and Asian speakers.

For the record, I voted with the majority because I believe we are to be obedient to scripture, not merely guided by it.  That will come to no surprise to my faithful readers who followed the Sola Scriptura discussions with our vice moderator, Landon Whitsitt. I know if this amendment isn't approved by a majority of the presbyteries we will be doing this all over again in 2012. And if it is adopted, there will be other serious ramifications. But I also have faith that God has a plan for His church that neither side of this debate can see now.

~Aside: After all the years this issue has been argued, I can't imagine anyone abstaining. But they did.~

The only other amendment that drew debate and required a counted vote was 10-C which requires all governing bodies to adopt and implement a sexual misconduct policy. It was approved by 195 to 99. Those voting against it were concerned that there was no definition of sexual misconduct and that putting this requirement in the Constitution could expose churches that fail to follow it to litigation.

The other amendments, 10-B and D through O passed by voice votes.

New Covenant will vote on the proposed New Form of Government at its January meeting and the addition of the Belhar Confession at its June meeting. I'm glad these issues are being addressed separately because 10 A-O was quite enough polity for one day.

(End of PresbyPolity Geek Report. As you were!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Brava Catherine!!!

Last night we had (literally) front row seats for the Houston Grand Opera production of Madame Butterfly. The QG family was in the house to cheer on our very own amazing Diva Catherine who was singing the part of Butterfly's maid, Suzuki.

Our beautiful six foot blonde blue-eyed girl was well disguised as a Japanese woman, and I WAS wondering how that was going to turn out.  She sang superbly and I hope some critics and agents were there to take note! She also displayed some talent I didn't know she had: moving the large shoji screen back and forth throughout the performance. We joked that she would now have to join the stagehands' union or be mocked as a scab.

This production was so well received that HGO added this performance which gave Catherine the chance to sing on the big stage with Ana Maria Martinez, the soprano star, who had an incredible voice and acting skills.

Staging was beautiful and really enhanced the music and the singing. Even DK and El Jefe (not the biggest opera fans, you might say) rated the evening a success. Since many of the singers booked for the original performances were not available for this additional one, we also got to see many of Catherine's friends from the HGO studio in important roles. You could see how well they all work together and, needless to say, their singing was fabulous. Bravo Michael and Nathan!

Now I'm off to the hospital this morning to see my other niece and check on Patrick, whose condition remains unchanged in the ICU. We're swinging from one emotion to another these days!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book Review: The Jew Is Not My Enemy

When I was asked to participate in the Green Books 2010 Campaign by publishing a review of a book printed on environmentally friendly paper today, I chose The Jew Is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths That Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism by Tarek Fatah from the list of books offered to me for review. 

I have not seen many books written by moderate/liberal Muslims speaking out against the extremist acts of a few, so I thought it would be an interesting read. And it is.

Tarek Fatah, a Canadian of Pakistani descent, is a journalist and the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a liberal group. In his introduction to the book he says that he is on a jihad against Muslim anti-Semitism.

Prior to the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008, the small Indian Jewish community had not been the target of anti-Semitic attacks. The fact that the terrorists came from Pakistan, which has no Jewish population, horrified Fatah and inspired him to write this book about the origins of Muslim anti-Semitism.

Fatah relates the history and development of anti-Semitism in Islam', and the factors that encouraged it from the Qur'an to the policies of the modern state of Israel. 

The purpose of the book is more to persuade his fellow Muslims that anti-Semitism is not a core tenet of Islam than it is to make an apology to non-Muslims. Fatah makes a distinction between the authority of the Qur'an and the writings of the Hadith in order to make his point. He also argues that the creation of an independent Palestinian state would help reduce Muslim anti-Semitism.

I am not familiar enough with Islam or the history of the development of anti-Semitic attitudes in its theology or in the cultures of the countries where it is widely practiced to know whether or not Fatah is making a persuasive case to other Muslims. I do appreciate the courage that it must take for him to take on this subject in a very public forum.

I will give away my review copy to one of my readers. If you are interested, leave a comment on my book blog: QG's Book Reviews.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Beatrice Blogs: Meet Matilda

WOOF!

Beatrice here. I'm wagging my tail so hard that my behind is about to fall off. This morning Portia came in on her way to work and dropped off her new puppy--Matilda. She told me to call her Tilda.

Tilda came from the same Dachshund Ranch in Brenham where Olivia and I were born. Poor little thing is not a piebald like us. She's a long haired black and tan. Kinda cute though.

Portia missed Olivia very very much and decided she wanted to get a puppy and get her trained before Baby comes. You know what that means, don't you? It's up to me to show Tilda where and when to do business, bark, sleep, be adorable and generally not disgrace the family.
QG says she is counting on me to set a good example. I know I can do it, too! But first I must find my copy of Puppies for Dummies. Not for me, for QG.

Oops, Tilda just woke up. Duty calls.

Yours faithfully,
Beatrice.

Monday, November 08, 2010

QG Meets THE Moderator

Saturday morning I had the opportunity to meet Cynthia Bolbach, the Moderator of the PCUSA, at a reception in Houston. 

I was very happy to have the chance to make her acquaintance in person because she is one of QG's Gentle Readers and I got to talk with her over the phone and by podcast when she, the Vice Moderator Landon Whitsitt and I recorded the podcast discussing the Sola Kerfuffle.

Cindy and I may not see eye to eye on everything. However in person we see exactly eye to eye, literally! We can agree that the best Moderators are women attorneys of a "certain age" and well over 6 feet tall. ~grin~

We had a small but eager group from Presbytery of New Covenant gathered for a Q&A session. Cindy displayed the same ease and good humor she showed when she moderated GA this summer. She is honest, forthright and even-handed in her comments.

My question to her was what "elevator speech" I could give to the new elder training class I am involved with at church about the difference between the proposed NFOG and the current provisions in the Government section of the Book of Order. (Sorry for the PresbySpeak, y'all, but if you don't know you don't really want all the details.)

Her answer was both succinct and very usable: the NFOG represents a Constitutional, or broad principles, concept of church government as compared to the detailed rules and procedures manual that this section of the BOO has become over the years as it has been expanded by multiple amendments. 

I can make the comparison to the Texas Consititution which has umpty-ump-umpteen amendments versus the Constitution of the United States which has only 27, including the 10 called the Bill of Rights. Of course the federal statutes are WAY longer and take up multiple shelves on the bookcases of legal libraries and law firms. The Texas Constitution has become a Rulebook while the US Constitution sets forth broad principles of governance.

When someone asked Cindy what would prevent future GA's from continuing the practice of multiple amendments to the NFOG if it were passed, she readily admitted that there was no way to guarantee that would not happen. Habits and the culture of the denomination are hard to change. 

Liberals and conservatives alike have expressed frustration with the difficulty of complying with the present form of government provisions of the BOO. But a lack of trust on all sides may prevent the NFOG, or any major overall of the current system, from passing.

I really appreciate the fact that Cindy is highlighting the importance of ruling elders in the Presbyterian Church. I mentioned to the group her excellent article from The Presbyterian Leader, The Awesome Task of Elders, and had several folks ask me afterwards how to find a copy of it for their sessions. Here is the link.

Thanks, Cindy, for taking the time to meet with us in Houston and for your service to the church. May God guide and bless you during your term!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Presbyterians Today: Facebook and Twitter Evangelism

My column in the November issue of Presbyterians Today is about using Facebook and Twitter as tools for evangelism. You can check it out here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Book Review: Exercising Your Soul

Note from QG: When I skimmed through this book after receiving it from the publisher, I realized that I did not have much background in Catholic and Ignatian spirituality. Fortunately my friend Robin Craig has much experience with this and agreed to be a guest reviewer for me. Many thanks, Robin! I know my readers will really appreciate your fine review of this book.

Gary Jansen's Exercising Your Soul is a humorous and helpful read for anyone who wants to explore a life of prayer.  

Sympathetic to the struggles we all face in developing an honest and disciplined prayer life, Jansen offers candid and wry anecdotes detailing some of his own challenges.  And, recognizing how difficult it is for many of us to figure out how to make a start, he provides numerous illustrations drawn from popular culture -- movies, television, and everyday encounters -- to demonstrate how easily we can make use of the ordinary events of our lives in order to discover the God who is present in all things.

Although Jansen writes from a Roman Catholic perspective, with many of his insights based upon the 16th century Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, most of what he  suggests offers prayer potential to anyone of Christian faith.  Many of his very short chapters give helpful introductions to various prayer forms -- historical background, explanations of the how and why, and brief but easy-to-follow instructions.  If you've been curious about lectio divina, or contemplative prayer, or imaginative prayer, he offers lots of practical ideas for for developing a new practice or for revitalizing one that's stalled.

Protestants who are accustomed to focusing primarily on Scripture in their devotional life may find the chapters on praying the parables particularly helpful.  Interestingly, Jansen uses (perhaps unwittingly) a famous metaphor of John Calvin's.  Calvin urges us to understand Scripture as the "spectacles" which God gives us to see and understand God's creation in a way that out brokenness precludes; Jansen offers us prayer as another lens through which we may see God's activity in our lives .

The final section of the book addresses the Stations of the Cross, a Catholic form of devotion. Jansen presents two versions: the traditional one, developed in the Middle Ages, which incorporates moments of Jesus' journey toward the cross as depicted in legend as well as Scripture, and a newer version promulgated in 1991 by Pope John Paul II, based solely upon events related in the Gospels. The latter may be more acceptable to those Protestants who are distracted or troubled by stories and customs that have emerged from tradition rather than from the Bible itself.  As always, Jansen provides detailed but not overwhelming instructions for those wading into new waters with respect to this form of meditation.

As Jansen says in his Introduction, we often think of prayer as :"asking for what I want" rather than as an experience of God's grace.  This book would, I think, be helpful as a guide to either an individual or a small group desiring to explore forms of prayer or seeking to deepen the experience of prayer as grace received as well as desire pursued.
 
--Robin Craig 
 
GIVEAWAY-- If you would like to enter the drawing for a copy of this book from the publisher, leave a comment to this review on my book blog, QG's Book Reviews.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What I Learned in the Waiting Room

I've been spending a lot of time in the waiting room the past couple of weeks, although not as much as I think I should.

Here's what I've learned hanging out in the waiting room outside the ICU.
  • You want to "fix it" but you can't.
  • Sometimes all you can do is show up and have some tissue available.
  • Food offerings are always appreciated by friends and family waiting around.
  • You can feel the power of prayer.
  • A bacteria came back from Iraq with our soldiers that was previously unknown in the US and is now a common problem in all ICU's.
  • Trying to plan the future is frustrating.
  • Living day by day is more doable.