Tuesday, August 31, 2010

QG Nominated for Book Blogger Award

Woo-Hoo! I got word this morning that Quotidian Grace has been nominated for Best Spiritual, Inspirational or Religious Book Blog in the Book Blogger Appreciation Week awards contest. If memory serves, there were around 20 blogs entered in this category and I am excited to be among the three nominated by other book bloggers for this award.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is September 13-17 and this is the third annual contest. The awards are chosen by fellow book bloggers who registered to vote back last spring, so it is an honor to be nominated by your peers.

Here's a link to the post which was my entry into the contest:
Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards Entry

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back from the Cruise!

Here's one of my favorite pictures from our vacation. We took a cruise along the Dalmatian Coast (the Adriatic Sea just east of Italy in Croatia) for 10 days and had a fabulous time! The scenery is spectacular and there is lots of history and ruins of the ages to explore.

Unfortunately I can't download about 2/3 of the photos I took--the camera wouldn't transfer them and then they vanished. GRRRRRR! So I'm left with the Iphone photos like this one that I took the last 3 days of the trip when I couldn't recharge the camera battery.

More later, but glad to be back.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

QG on Vacay

El Jefe and I are off on vacation today which will include a digital sabbatical. Yes...he plans to (gasp) turn off the Blackberry. Any bets on how long that lasts? The blog will be on hiatus until we return at the end of the month.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And the Winner Is....

Thanks to the 16 Gentle Readers who threw their names in El Jefe's gimme cap (tastefully adorned with the logo of his high school mascot: the Borger Bulldog).

El Jefe drew Purple's name from the hat!

So, Purple, please email me (jody dot harrington at gmail dot com) your name and mailing address, which I will forward to the publisher's representative who will send you a copy of A World Without Islam.

Let me know when you receive it so I will know you got it! And if you write a review, let me know and I'll provide a link to it.

Monday, August 16, 2010


We're going into our third week of temperatures hovering near 100. Chez QG, the lawn is starting to get some brown patches and some of the bedding plants are wilting in the heat where the sprinkler system doesn't quite reach completely.

But then, there's only so much the sprinkler system and hand-watering after sunset can do in the face of this kind of punishing heat and drought.

The geraniums bit the dust yesterday. I pulled them out and threw them away, leaving pots with potting soil on the patio. No point in trying to plant anything else, it will just wilt, too!

Hoping for rain soon,

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Watercolor: Pool Nap

It's too hot for anything but a nap in the pool! This was inspired by a photo of DK's niece.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Apps of the Apostles

My faithful Gentle Readers know that I am a big Apple gadget fan and tote both the Iphone and the Ipad. Kudos to The Ship of Fools for their selection of the Top Ten Apps of the Apostles! And yes, these are all real apps.

My Faves:
The Halleluja Button -- this will go well with my IPhone ring which is Joy to the World.

The Bible Shaker--"in the King James version for that extra touch of brimstone!" Just enter a word and shake for that perfect proof-text.


Jesus Lives--"not an optical illusion."

I do have to wonder what the Azan Alarm Clock is doing in the top 10 because I doubt it is an app of the apostles. It issues the Islamic call to prayer -- but you get to pick your own virtual muezzin, which could be Cat Stevens!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review: A World Without Islam

When I received an email from a publicist asking me if I would like an advance review copy of A World Without Islam by Graham E. Fuller, I was intrigued. What was the author's thesis?

It turns out that his thesis is quite simple: the present crisis of East-West relations, or between the West and "Islam", has really very little to do with religion and everything to do with political and cultural frictions, interests, rivalries and clashes.

In short, Fuller (former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA and presently adjunct professor of history at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada), argues that if Islam did NOT exist, the present-day geopolitical tensions and conflicts between the West and the Middle East would continue. The major theme of this book is the relationships between religion, power and the state.

As I read the book, I was reminded that the pre-emption of religion by the state in order to consolidate power is truly nothing new under the sun. When the split between Israel and Judah occured in the time of the Old Testament, 1 Kings 12 tells us that King Jeroboam ( a bad king!) appointed priests who would be loyal to him and set up golden calves, altars and alternative religious festivals to keep the people of Israel from traveling to Jerusalem in Judah to offer sacrifices and attend worship and possibly give their allegiance to Rehoboam, King of Judah.

Fuller begins with a theological analysis of the similarities and differences between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Then he traces the history of the relationship between Islam and the various states and powers in the Middle East over time. He speculates that if the Eastern Orthodox Church had not been displaced by Islam in much of the region, today we would be seeing that faith used in the name of the state in much the same way that we see Islam being used today. That seems like a stretch to me, and I wonder how those in the Orthodox Church would respond.

The book offers a thorough and well-researched history of the development of Islam not only in the Middle East where it began, but in Europe, Russia, China, India and the Far East and highlights the relationships between power and heresy as well as faith and ethnicity. One of the many interesting points he makes is that the Muslims of Europe are predominately working class people in contrast to the more professional backgrounds of most Muslim immigrants to the United States and Canada.

The reader would expect someone with Fuller's background to offer his analysis and solutions for the conflicts between the Middle East and the West, and so he does. In the last section of the book, he advocates the immediate withdrawal of all US and Western forces from "Muslim soil" so that "the area can begin to calm", along with several other policy positions that are popular with the anti-Iraq/Afghan war group.

This is not realistic and does not appear to be the policy of the Obama administration, which Fuller admires and clearly hopes to influence with this book. There are extremist groups who act out of what they perceive as religious reasons. Over the weekend, the Taliban's murder of of twelve members of a Christian humanitarian medical group in a remote area of Afghanistan where they were offering treatment for eye problems appears to have been motivated by the fact that they were Christians-- although by all accounts their mission was strictly medical. Incidents like this make unilateral withdrawal unlikely, as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton noted in her statement condemning the action.

To sum up, A World Without Islam offers a well-researched history of the development of Islam and its relationship to the secular states and cultures where it has become dominant. It is written in a relatively academic style which sometimes makes it difficult to read. The thesis is thought-provoking and challenging and would lends itself well to discussions in book clubs or adult study groups.

I could also see using this book in a church study group for the purpose of focusing on the chapters that cover the history of Islam in different countries. Additionally, the author's discussion of the relationship between religion, faith and power would doubtless prompt lively discussion. Fuller's recommendations will be lauded by those who share his political viewpoint and rejected by those who support past and current administration policies in this area. I'm not persuaded to his point of view but did learn a LOT about the development of Islam in the historical context of many countries from the book.

And if you have read this far, I have a reward for you! Little, Brown and Company has generously offered to send a copy of the book to one of my Gentle Readers. If you are interested in getting your own copy, please let me know in the comments to this post. A week from today I will put the names of those who commented in one of El Jefe's "gimme" caps and let him draw the winner! The book will be released tomorrow and is also available as an e-book for your Kindle, Nook, or IPad.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Matagorda Bay History: Indianola

Saturday afternoon El Jefe, SIL, BIL and I took a tour of a couple of historic sites along Matagorda Bay.

We drove to Indianola, which the second largest port in Texas (after Galveston) between 1844-1875.

The large granite statue you see in the photo is located in a little pocket park on the bay there. It depicts the explorer LaSalle, whose French fleet sailed (way) off course and instead of landing in New Orleans, came ashore between Indian Point and Indianola, Texas in the year 1685.

The expedition established Fort St. Louis which was intended to be a temporary settlement while they searched for the mouth of the Mississippi River. Too bad they didn't have a GPS! Besiged by unfriendly natives, bugs and bad weather, the little colony struggled. LaSalle left to seek help in 1687 but was killed by Indians along the Trinity River. The settlement perished.

This statue was erected in his honor during the Texas Centennial celebrations in 1936 on the site where his expedition landed.

Indianola was founded in the days of the Republic of Texas. The area was the primary entry point for European immigrants and American colonists seeking to move west. The army even brought camels through the port in an experiment to replace horses and mules in the southwest.

Indianola was hit by a major hurricane causing extensive damage and loss of life in 1875 which was followed just 11 years later by a catastrophic hurricane that literally wiped the town from the face of the map. It was never rebuilt. Today all that remains are a few fishing shacks and historical monuments and memorials to its former days of importance.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday Watercolors: Two Dogs, Two Still Lifes

Several weeks ago I did this painting of St. Betty's dog, Sweetie, from a photo her daughter Jane Long sent me. It's a present I'm giving her tonight at a dinner celebrating one of those Big-O Birthdays. I didn't want to post it before today because sometimes she reads the blog!

I had a darling photo of Olivia which made a nice portrait painting. Now I have to take a similar photo for Bea and do her portrait so she won't be jealous!

At the end of the week I was stuck in the house supervising the dogs because the construction fence between us and the home being built next door was coming down, so they couldn't go outside without supervision. That gave me some more time to paint so I tried these two still lifes of lemons and peppers.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

LC Presbyterians vs. GB Presbyterians

El Jefe, ever the historian, subscribes to the Journal of Presbyterian History which publishes an issue twice a year. I just know many of you have it on your coffee table as I write ;-).

This week he shared a very interesting article with me written by Louis B. Weeks, former president of Union Presbyterian Seminary, titled "American Protestants Today: Thriving, Tottering, and Tinkering Together on the Mainline." That's some powerful alliteration, isn't it?

We're all too familiar with the labels for the different divisions within the PCUSA, but Weeks offers yet another major division: the Local Church Presbyterians (LCPs) and the Governing Body Presbyterians (GBPs). Weeks and a colleague, William Fogelman, first published this idea back in the 1990's. Their thesis is that when congregational leaders ask "how is my church doing?", they are "asking mostly about their own local church and others like it...Only a minority of Prebyterians thought first of the denomination."

Weeks offers a thoughtful analysis of what this difference in viewpoint means in practical terms. I checked the society's website, but this current issue is not available online, so I'm going to briefly summarize this part of the article.

Weeks says that most Presbyterians (and other mainliners) belong "first and foremost" to their local congregation and only a small percentage of these LCPs become involved in the wider denomination and become GBPs. He observes that this works well when a denomination is healthy as the LCPs provide money and a pool of potential members for the GBPs who in turn provide seminaries, pastors, curricula, hymnals and support for the LCPs.

But in times of decline, Weeks says that the different goals and values of these two groups create sharp conflicts. LCPs look at mission, evangelism and outreach from the perspective of their local congregation and do not want direction from the GBPs, especially if their goals and values differ significantly. Indeed, that is the case.

It's an article well worth reading. Weeks covers several studies of mainline church congregations and encourages "tinkering" with the local church as a tool for "thriving" churches.

So, how is your church tinkering?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Best of the Blogs: Bridging a Multiethnic Gap Via Cyberspace

The August issue of Presbyterians Today is now available online here.

In this month's Best of the Blogs article, several blogs written by and for Asian American Presbyterians and Christians are highlighted.

My RevGalPals will be particularly interested in the blog More Than Serving Tea, written by a group of Asian American Christian women of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filiphina and Pakistani heritage who focus on how God has helped them move past the constraints of gender and culture.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Beatrice Blogs: Les Lapins 0, Moi 3


Olivia and I have banished the Suburban Rabbit Huntin' Blues Chez QG.

This weekend I bagged my third (count 'em!) rabbit and gave it up to El Jefe. I don't like eating rabbit--I much prefer pork--but it's all about the thrill of the hunt.

Olivia spotted a rabbit earlier this week in the front yard and dashed through the front gate after it. She's just getting started in the rabbit-hunting game, though, and lost her prey. Whilst the rabbit skittered across the street to safety she was still in the front flower beds howling and searching for it. I'm going to give her a lesson in following the scent later this afternoon. When QG isn't watching....

Meanwhile El Jefe put chicken wire on the front gate to keep Olivia from getting out onto the street. There's construction on both sides of the house right now and those big trucks are a real hazard to little dachsies.

Yours for a Rabbit Free Zone,