Thursday, April 29, 2010

MOB Redux Update: Closing for the Duration

Gentle Readers, it is now time to close QG until after the wedding on Saturday. Everything has fallen into place very nicely, and I find it certainly helped to have some experience in wedding planning!

We're excited, praying for good weather and for God's blessings on Babs and P-Dubya as they begin their new life together.

I'll be back next week with a full report!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Presbyterians Today: Young Adult Volunteer Blogs

The May issue of Presbyterians Today focuses on World Mission, so my column The Best of The Blogs introduces several Young Adult Volunteer bloggers.

The PCUSA's Young Adult Volunteer program encourages the participants to create and maintain blogs to share their experiences with friends, family and supporters.

Log on here to learn some of what God is doing through these amazing young people as they work in mission at home and around the world.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Watercolor Exercise: Rocks and Wet Sand

Here's my latest watercolor exercise. The idea is to practice painting rocks and water. This is actually my second attempt because the first one was a hot mess!

The folks on the discussion board for the online class suggested the painting needs some additional detail in the foreground, and I think they are right about that.

However, my brain right now is totally in MOB mode, so I got nothin'. After the wedding, I'll go back and try to stir up some creative juices.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tweeting the 219th GA

Presby-Polity types who are planning to follow the upcoming 219th GA should check out a very informative and interesting series of posts that PresbyBlogger Robert Austell is writing called : "Twitter: What Could It Mean at a General Assembly?"

If you are not a Twitterer, you will learn why you might want to follow the GA on Twitter and the basics of how to get started. Austell also has a lot of specific information on who is tweeting and how to follow them.

Check it out!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Last Day of BSD

Yesterday was the last day of our BSD study for 2009-2010 and we wrapped up with the last two chapters of Romans. I really loved this year's study and the amazing women who were members of my small discussion group and my leader group who inspired me weekly with their devotion to study and their faith.

On the last day of the study we traditionally invite people to speak about their experience with BSD that year. There were more than 200 women overflowing the church's chapel yesterday. (BSD also has coed study groups on weeknights and Sunday mornings that were not represented.)

This year one of the speakers was a woman who identified herself as a Messianic Jew who has involved with BSD for several years. She thanked the group for the welcome she had experienced and the interest shown in her Jewish heritage, saying that over the years she shared seders and other celebrations with group members. Then she exhorted us, in the words of the Apostle Paul, to "arouse my own people to envy" (Romans 11:14) of what we have in Christ by the example of how we live. This was the most memorable witness I have heard in the few years it has been my privilege to be a BSD group leader.

Afterwards at the Celebration Luncheon someone asked me how early I have to leave Sugar Land to get to the church on Thursdays and then asked me if I was coming back next year. But all I could say in reply was, "how could I not?"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

He WAS Listening...

Dear God,

I know I made the mistake of ever-so-briefly wondering what I would do with myself when BSD and the wedding are finished. Foolish me, I didn't really think you were listening.

So now I'm asking you to help me pull it together to lead Take Six and Go! (a study of selected parables of Jesus plus a mission project) on Wednesdays in May and June at the church.

And this time I KNOW you are listening.

Thanking you in advance,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Book Review: The Gargoyle

El Jefe asked me last night what I was reading on my Kindle. I told him I was finishing The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, a novel that is almost impossible to describe.

When pressed, I said that it is an allegory about the power of love. That's the best short summation of an intricate plot that I could come up with on the spot.

The gargoyle is both the nameless narrator who was horrifically burned in an accident caused by his own drunken and drugged driving and the obsession of his lover, Marianne Engel, a successful sculptor of gargoyle images.

Marianne is a mysterious and compelling character. Is she sane or delusional? Does she suffer from schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or both? Or is she what she claims to be: the narrator's 700 year old first lover whom he first met in medieval Germany when he was a badly wounded soldier whom she nursed back to health in the convent where she was a nun and master scribe?

Marianne is a master storyteller and throughout the novel weaves memorable tales of true love that work their magic on the dead soul of and spirit of The Gargoyle whose secret goal is to recover sufficiently from his burns to get discharged from the hospital so he can commit suicide.

Usually I find time-traveling novels hard to follow or too cute by half, but Andrew Davidson deftly blends the different time periods of the narrative so that it works. The last part of the novel echoes Dante's Inferno in ways that I cannot describe without spoiling the plot for you.

The novel starts somewhat slowly. The narrator, a self-centered porn star and addict, is not a sympathetic character as the story opens. Details of his extensive burn injuries and the excruciating treatments he must endure are hard to keep reading. But the reader's persistence will be rewarded by this amazing novel and its themes of eternal love, self-sacrifice, patience and renewal.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

MOB Redux Update: Blowing Bubbles

Many thanks to those of you who commented on my last post. Babs decided she wanted a bubble send-off and since Teri allayed my concerns about the bubbles and gave them an enthusiastic endorsement (see her comment on this post about a Houston wedding last weekend no less!), we'll be blowing bubbles as the happy couple depart.

Ordered the bubbles. Check. On to the next thing on the list!

Monday, April 19, 2010

MOB Redux: No Birdseed, No Rice, No Sparklers

I've got a bit of a MOB dilemma. When Portia got married the guests at the reception lit sparklers and waved them around as Portia and DK left the reception. That was SO pretty and made some lovely pictures for her album.

Now however I have learned that the place where the reception for Babs and P-Dubya's wedding will take place bans not only rice and birdseed (pretty standard) but also sparklers.

So I've looked on the web for alternative ideas but we're not really thrilled with any of them--water soluable confetti and bubbles seem pretty popular right now but I'm concerned that if its raining the colored confetti could stain Bab's dress and the garments of the guests and bubble soap is bound to spill and make the area slick. Dried flower petals are ok but don't seem worth the trouble.

Portia suggests we don't have to have anything we can just cheer and wave as the happy couple depart--which is true. But I'm wondering if any of my Gentle Readers might have another suggestion???

Friday, April 16, 2010

MOB Redux Update: Bridals and Operas

Babs and I got to see her bridal portraits at the photographer's studio yesterday. So beautiful!! There were some cute candid shots of Portia and Babs together because Portia went along on the shoot to lend a hand.

We're counting down to the last two weeks before W-Day and everything is falling into place quite nicely. The MOB does wake up at night thinking of little details that still need to be addressed, and her dentist remarked at this week's check-up that her inside lip was looking pretty chewed up, but all in all she's feeling pretty good and looking forward to the big day.

This weekend there will be a brief Wedding Planning Time Out for the opening night of Queen of Spades at Houston Grand Opera. Our precious Catherine has a small part so my sister, brother and sister-in-law are coming from San Antonio for the performance followed by a reception at El Jefe's law firm.

Catherine has been learning Russian with a private tutor all year to prepare for the role. Thank heaven HGO projects subtitles in English! It's a very lOOOOng opera--3 1/2 hours. I'm not sure we can keep El Jefe up past his bedtime that late. I look at it as payback for all the sports events I've had to sit through over the years. He'll still owe me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Of Disputable Matters

As we are wrapping up our study of the book of Romans in BSD, we came this week to chapter 14. In this chapter Paul admonishes Christians to accept one who is "weak in faith" but NOT for the purpose of :

"passing judgment on his opinions" (New American Standard)
"disputes over opinions" (NRV)
"passing judgment on disputable matters" (NIV)
"having doubtful disputations" (King James)
Romans 14:1

This chapter really spoke to me because over the weekend I read the controversial Middle East Report that is coming before the General Assembly this summer. Without going into a point-by-point analysis of why I believe the report is seriously flawed and should not be approved, I will just say that if ever there were "disputable matters" that are not essentials of the faith then opinions on issues of domestic and foreign political policy fit squarely within Paul's definition.

Paul's admonishment that Christians should "make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification" (v. 19) within the community of believers is again being ignored by the denomination which seems intent on avoiding dealing with its own serious internal problems by engaging in disputes over matters of opinion. In the process more internal division and less unity among its members is created. And that is a major reason for the serious decline in the PCUSA.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book Review Update

I really enjoyed Mennonite in a Little Black Dress and was pleased to see that it is now available in audio and paperback versions.

A downloadable book club discussion guide and recipe cards (Rhoda Janzen's Top Mennonite Shame-Based Foods for Youth Lunches) are among the resources available for the book on the publisher's website.

What a hoot it would be to serve your church or neighborhood reading group the Cotletten and Ketchup sandwiches with Platz for dessert!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just Rattlin' Around the Bay

Ahem. Sometimes one can get TOO close to nature. Case in point: this weekend El Jefe was enjoying a cigar and a good book on the lawn of our bay house when he heard a weird rattling noise.

Looking up, he spied this large rattlesnake coming straight at him, poised to strike and rattling its tail in warning. Jumping up, he rushed to the garage, grabbing a fishing net and managed to scoop the snake into it without harm to himself.

Just then I came down the stairs to go to a neighbor's house and he hollered at me to get my BIL from inside to help him kill the snake since it took two hands to carry the net.

BIL ran to the rescue with a shovel and the two of them trapped the snake on the ground with the net and dispatched it, as you see. This was no baby--it was about 3 1/2 feet long.


Rattlesnakes are known to hatch in the spring, so we fear there is a nest around the bay house somewhere. A relative suggested that we strew the garage and yard with mothballs and said that would keep them away. If the stiff winds down there don't blow them away first!

All in all, more excitement than we bargained for this weekend!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Watercolor Friday

Here are a couple of my latest watercolors. The Matterhorn is one of the painting exercises in the course. The idea is to practice painting a snow-capped mountain. You can see I haven't gotten to the DVD about painting trees yet!

The other one is Beatrice and Olivia, of course. I did it from a photo of these two napping together, but changed the background to make a better composition. I'm pretty pleased with it, all things considered. And I was getting tired of working through the mountain painting exercises!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Church-Based Reality TV

A post at Songbird's place today got me thinking about pastors and reality tv shows. There aren't any that I know of. Why not? Wouldn't the church provide as much drama and angst as Last Survivor, Lost, or The Biggest Loser? You know it would.

So, what kind of church/pastor reality show would you like to see on tv?

What about:

Top Evangelist--a soul saving competition for aspiring street evangelists.

Extreme Church Makeover--church consultants compete to remodel both the church building and the congregation. Imprecations and lawsuits fly.

Mission Scramble--a group of missionaries are taken to a remote corner of the globe. The first one to find their way back to the Mission Base WITH a new convert wins a Piper Cub airplane and pilot to expand their missionary efforts.

Homeless Shelter Decor--successful interior designers compete to renovate homeless shelters on a shoestring budget.

Street Savvy Cuisine--prominent chefs develop inexpensive but gourmet meals for church soup kitchens.

What Not To Wear, Thrift Shop Edition--Stacey and Clinton turn their talents to putting together stylish outfits from church Thrift Shops for unemployed people to wear to job interviews.

Bet you have some better ideas! Add them in the comments.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Book Review: Stone's Fall

Stone's Fall is the latest historical mystery from Iain Pears and it is complex and cleverly written.

The novel is set in pre-World War I London, Paris and Venice. Successful and powerful financier John Stone falls to his death from a window in his London mansion, leaving his estate tied up by a mysterious legacy in his will: a bequest to a child.

His young widow, Elizabeth, hires journalist Matthew Braddock to find that child. She and John Stone did not have any children, and although he had been previously married he had no known offspring. Braddock is instructed to keep the true purpose of his investigation secret and use the ruse that Stone's widow hired him to write a biography of her late husband.

The novel is divided into 3 sections which fall in reverse chronological order. The first section is told from Braddock's point of view as he learns that the great financier's businesses were not as sound as they appeared at the time of his death. He becomes personally involved with Elizabeth as his investigation proceeds.

The second part of the story is written from the point of view of Henry Cort, a British spy, who recounts his experiences in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century.

The third part of the story is from the point of view of John Stone himself as he tells of his experiences in Venice in 1867 that involve a love affair and a scheme to develop a British torpedo.

Each part of the story provides a new and startling revelation that fill in the story of the life and death of John Stone. I did not anticipate the last one at all, but looking back over the novel I could see that the author had subtly planted the clues to it throughout the story. That's all I'm going to say, lest the ending be spoiled for any of you who decide to read the book.

Fans of Pears (An Instance of the Fingerpost) will not be disappointed in this one. A cracking good read!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter Monday Share

The RevGals are asking folks to share what went well, or not so well, at their churches this last week.

I'd like to share the Good Friday service at our church that was unusual and particularly meaningful.

As we entered the chapel where the service was being held we were encouraged to sign our names on a large piece of cloth. The entire service was shaped around the theme of Christ as the Lamb of God whose sacrifice atoned for our sins.

The scripture readings were Genesis 22: 1-8a; Hebrews 10: 1-14, John 1: 29-36. We sang the hymns When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and O Lamb of God Most Holy! A quartet also sang Behold the Lamb of God from Handel's Messiah.

The Reflection offered by Dr. Dave Peterson illuminated the Old Testament history of the Paschal Lamb.We all stood for the reading of the entire chapter 19 of the Gospel of John--the passion narrative.

Then a real lamb was brought forward and Dr. Peterson wrapped it in the cloth with all of our names inscribed on it. We were invited to come forward and place our hands on the head of the lamb as the Jews were told to do in Leviticus for the lamb that they offered for sacrifice. We then exited in silence.

Three large wooden crosses were placed in the courtyard opposite the chapel where you could go for more silent reflection.

It was a very powerful Good Friday message.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Watercolor Exercise: Mt Fuji at Dawn

I did this exercise in my online watercolor course yesterday. It is called "Mt Fuji at Dawn" and the purpose is to practice painting skies and mountains. I'd finished the sky exercises but found them very difficult. But I must have learned something because I was really pleased with the way this one turned out.

I skipped ahead and watched the first lesson on painting trees in order to complete the painting and that definitely helped me!

All in all, I'm happy to report seeing myself progress with this.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Presbyterians Today: International Blogging

This month's edition of Presbyterians today is now available online, including an article I wrote about international blogging. You can read it here.

Two RevGals are among the blogs highlighted in the article: Sue of Inner Dorothy, a Church of Canada minister who blogs from the frozen north, and Nik, who is training for ministry with the Church of Scotland as she blogs at a pilgrim's process from Edinburgh.

PresbyBloggers and other readers concerned about the situation in Haiti after the devastating earthquake will be interested in checking out a blog written by Mark Hare and Jenny Bent, Presbyterian mission workers there.

Check it out!