Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Watercolors

Here are this week's watercolor exercises. The first one is called Rocks Under Water and the second one is called Cascades and Running Water. Water is hard! I'm not crazy about the large boulder in the middle of the waterfall in the second one. It looks like it is suspended in the air instead of having the water rush around it.

The third one is the lighthouse at Sabine Pass, Texas--on the border with Louisiana. Its in a state park which is on the grounds of the Battle of Sabine Pass -- the only battle fought in Texas during the Civil War. (UPDATE: El Jefe points out that while the Battle of Sabine Pass was the most significant Civil War battle fought in Texas, there was also a battle in Galveston. The Battle of Palmetto Ranch (near Brownsville) actually took place AFTER the war was over, but word hadn't reached the combatants.)

In the exercises you use a prepared sketch and draw or transfer it on the paper and then practice the different techniques demonstrated in the videos. Rocks Under Water used a glazing technique that shows up better in real life than in the photo.

Just so you know--I'm only posting the semi-acceptable results. Today I tried to paint from a favorite photo of the San Antonio riverwalk and found myself foundering pretty badly! I will probably try that one again later--maybe when I get to the ink and watercolor lesson.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Presbyterians Today: Evangelism--There's An App for That

The June/July issue of Presbyterians Today is now available online. You can check out my Best of the Blogs article, "Evangelism--There's An App for That."

The article highlights several helpful blogs and websites that offer guidance for those looking to launch or expand their church's internet and digital ministry.

Book Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Looking for an undemanding but satisfying novel to read this summer? I highly recommend Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, especially if you are an Anglophile like me.

This is Simonson's debut novel and I'm looking forward to more from her. The main character, Major Ernest Pettigrew, embodies the older "stiff upper lip" British generation, and his fractious relationship with his yuppie son Roger symbolizes the differences in outlook between their generations.

Major Pettigrew is a great character--he exhibits a dry British wit that made me laugh aloud several times while reading. The Major spends most of the novel trying to prevent his sister-in-law and niece (as well as son Roger) from forcing the sale of a pair of antique guns after the death of his brother. He sees the guns as a symbol of tradition and enduring family pride while the other members of the family are eager to exchange them for a boatload of cash.

Along the way Major Pettigrew (a widower) develops a romantic entanglement with the widowed storekeeper of Pakistani descent who shares his love of English literature. Her family problems and the cultural expectations that she is dealing with are another theme of the book. Their relationship is the vehicle for the author's exploration of the relationship between the townspeople and their Asian immigrant neighbors.

I won't spoil the novel for you by describing the plot any further, but the two themes are skillfully entwined and resolved by the end of the book. This is a classic modern English comedy of manners novel, well conceived and executed.

Two thumbs up!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Suburban Rabbit Huntin' Blues

Bea ain't nothin' but a hound dog
Huntin' all the time.
No, she ain't nothin' but a hound dog
Huntin' all the time.
Last night she almost caught a rabbit
Which wouldn't have been too fine.

Cause when a dachsie gets a rabbit
You know its a real big mess.
Yes when a dachsie gets a rabbit
It's a real big mess
She'd proudly bring it back to El Jefe
Who'd have to clean it up, no less.

Bea's a suburban hound dog,
But she's huntin' all the time.
Quail, birds, mice and rabbits
You know she's huntin' y'all the time.
She may get a rabbit yet
I'm givin' you this warning sign.

~harmonica riff~

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Bible Quiz for the AP Class

Thanks to Michael Kruse at the Kruse Kronicle for alerting me to an article in Christianity Today about biblical literacy: Why Johnny Can't Read the Bible.

Now this is a topic near and dear to my heart! I've led several groups through the
Bible in 90 Days program and firmly believe that the church needs to ramp up the biblical literacy of its members.
Since many of my Gentle Readers are wonderfully well-versed in scripture, here is a Bible Quiz for the AP Class from the Christianity Today article so you can test yourself. The answers are at the end of the article and are linked here.
NO PEEKING! Tell me how you did in the comments. I have to admit that I barely passed. This is really tough.

A Different Kind of Bible Literacy Quiz

So you can name the 12 disciples, the 10 Commandments, and the 7 days of Creation. But do you know how they fit together?

1. What lesson from the life of Jonah did Jesus talk about?

(a) Jonah learned to obey God, because disobedience is punished.
(b) God forgives the repentant as he forgave Nineveh.
(c) God rescues us as he rescued Jonah when he was cast overboard.
(d) Jonah spent three days in the fish as Jesus would spend three days in the tomb.
(e) People are as wicked today as they were in ancient Nineveh.

2. Melchizedek, king of Salem, met with which biblical figure? How is Jesus like Melchizedek?

3. Besides Jesus, name five biblical figures who rose from the dead.How were these incidents different from Jesus' resurrection?

4. Name four biblical instances where the number 40 is important.

5. Whose faithfulness is contrasted with the Israelites' grumbling in Exodus 16-18?

6. Name the four women besides Mary who are included in Jesus' genealogy (Matt. 1:1-17), and describe their circumstances.

7. "No prophet is accepted in his hometown," Jesus said after his inaugural sermon (Luke 4:14-30). He then gave examples from the lives of two other prophets. What were they?

Monday, May 24, 2010

24 and Session

Tonight offers a dual challenge: the finale of 24 and a session meeting. Of course I'm dvr'ing 24 and El Jefe has promised to wait and watch it with me . The question is whether to watch it when I get home or save it for tomorrow night. That will probably depend on how late the session meeting runs since the finale is 2 hours long.

Actually I was tinkering around with making some analogy between 24 and session meetings, but couldn't do it. 24 is fast-moving and decisive, but session meetings (and all things in PresbyPolityLand) are just the opposite most of the time.

So fellow 24 fans, what's your prediction? Will Chloe and Cole help Jack escape or fake his demise so he can save the republic another day in the upcoming move? Or will the movie be a prequel or flashback? What will happen to President Taylor? Will Nixon-clone ex-President Logan get his just deserts? Or the Russians? And where are those dirty bombs now, anyway?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Watercolors

I'm really happy with the way this exercise in my watercolor course, called Silver and Gold, turned out! You use a lot of different techniques, including masking fluid, wet on wet painting, and sponge painting , and apply them in layers. I'm going to look for some photos for other subjects that I adapt to get similar effects.

Before moving on to the next set of exercises, which are all about painting water, I decided to do another painting that focused on skies and trees. This one is the outdoor chapel at MO Ranch in Hunt, Texas--a Presbyterian retreat center.

I like the way the sky turned out and the trees are pretty good, too. The chapel is on top of a very high hill, but the photo I used to paint from didn't show that so I didn't either!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Crabs in Springtime

In spring El Jefe's thoughts lightly turn to thoughts of...(sorry Tennyson!)...soft shelled crabs.

This year his favorite version was found at a local Italian restaurant.

My friend Recovering Baptist recently Facebooked (that's a verb now isn't it?) about cooking some at home, so I'm inspired to scour the local Whole Foods and HEB fish markets looking for some myself.

The trick is NOT to treat them like hard shelled crabs and boil or steam them. You must fry or saute them so they are crispy on the outside and juicy and delicious on the inside. You could eat it Cajun style inside a bun or sandwich but I say why muck up the flavor with bread?

There are lots of favorite spring seasonal foods: what's yours?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Scattered Wednesday Thoughts

  • the new hibiscus plants we put in Monday are looking really good!
  • just informed that Olivia will sleep over tonight because Portia has to go to a corporate retreat
  • must preview video for tonight's class which will discuss the Prodigal Son parable--hope to see something new there
  • need to take list of service projects for class to choose from
  • having fun with latest watercolor exercise involving birch trees
  • a/c check this afternoon
  • pondering joining beginner class at Watercolor Art Society of Houston
What's in your Wednesday?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Review: Life In Year One

Frequent Readers of QG know that I usually do not review books that I didn't like. However, I am making an exception for Life in Year One by Scott Korb in the interest of alerting those of you who are looking for interesting material for adult study groups. Avoid this one.

I thought this would be a good addition to my teaching library, but was disappointed to find that it was very derivative of the work of John Dominic Crossan, former Catholic priest and founder of the Jesus Seminar. The author quotes so frequently from Crossan's The Birth of Christianity and his book with co-author Jonathan L. Reed, Excavating Christianity, that I wonder why this was published. I'm not a fan of Crossan and do not agree with his theological point of view, but if you are, I suggest you just read his books instead of this one.

Additionally, much of the text is contained in the numerous footnotes which are in teensy tinsy print which makes the book difficult to read.

Caveat lector.

Monday, May 17, 2010

More Cuts, More Decline

This weekend the General Assembly Mission Council approved more budget reductions which included the elimination of many staff positions. I can't quite figure out the exact number because the PNS report is confusing.

What I do know for sure is that the young man that I worked with at Presbyterians Today was one of those whose job was eliminated. According the the report, "most of the reductions are concentrated in Congregational Ministries Publishing, and in the areas of Shared Services, and Communications and Funds Development."

Hmm. It seems to me that a denominational office that is suffering budget shortfalls needs more communications and fund development rather than less. At the same time, its controversial Washington political lobbying office appears to have escaped any reduction in funds or staff, and a new director for this office was approved. This makes me think the GA Mission Council is not serious about focusing its resources on the decline in membership of the PCUSA. What a surprise.

Today's Wall Street Journal brings more bad news on the ecclesiastical job front with its article "Joblessness Hits the Pulpit" which reported on a trend of elimination of jobs for both pastors and other church staff due to declining contributions. The reporter attributed this to the poor economy and jobless rates and did not discuss other contributing factors such as membership decline or denominational schisms.

Unfortunately I feat these trends will continue with the result that the core mission of the church--the spreading of the gospel--will continue to suffer.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Watercolors

Bet you can guess that I've been working through the Tree exercises in my watercolor course!

Although, actually, neither of these are included in the exercises. I wanted to try painting a Texas live oak because they are such magnificent trees with unique shapes. This is the second attempt because I didn't like the first one. I'm pleased with the progress on this but still have a way to go.

Then I decided to try a wet-on-wet painting using a photo that suggested an impressionistic scene. The last one was also a good exercise in using just two colors. I'd like to get my style to evolve to be more impressionistic and less realistic, so it was time to give it a try. Watercolors are a great medium for that but you have to make yourself relax and let the water do its work.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Painting the Resurrection

Over the centuries many artists have tried to depict the resurrection of Christ. Here's a video about the latest effort, by artist Ron DeCiani who has completed a Texas-size mural of the resurrection on display at a museum in Dallas.

Watch the video and note the "cloud of witnesses" gathered to see the moment. The only woman in the group is Queen Esther--which I find a curious choice. Clearly the idea is that at the moment of resurrection the faithful dead see the victory of Christ (which explains why Mary Magdalene is not included), but I think I would have included Ruth, Christ's ancestor, and possibly Deborah, the Judge, or Miriam, the prophetess and sister of Moses. Who would you have included?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why Don't We Pray For Business: Mark D. Roberts

Presbyterian pastor and author Mark D. Roberts is writing a thought-provoking series on his blog entitled Why Don't We Pray For Business?

Here are the first 3 reasons he discusses:

PresbyBlogger and chair-elect of the General Assembly Mission Council of the PCUSA Michael Kruse responded to the first post with the following comment:
...Their (pastors') mindset is the zero-sum game of the biblical world. They believe capitalism and the market economy is based on greed, selfishness, and hoarding. They are ambivalent toward business people because they see the market place as unseemly. Thus, when business is mentioned in corporate prayers it is almost exclusively in the sense of restraint, circumscribing bad behavior, and repentance. We are all called to repent from greed and be generous. The enormous additive contribution of business is not in view.

It is ironic to me that pastors who can so readily appreciate how recent experience has reshaped our ethical understanding to embrace inclusion of women in leadership or biological evolution, continue to hold to pre-Nineteenth Century views on business and economics."
For the full text of Mike's comments go here.

It seems to me Mike is spot on in his observations and that Mark's series brings a much-needed focus to a neglected issue. I look forward the rest of Mark's series on the subject.

Why don't we pray for business in our churches? What do you think?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

GA Help

PresbyBlogger Robert Austell, a pastor in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a commissioner to the 219th General Assembly of the PCUSA has created a website for other commissioners to help them anticipate and prepare for their roles at GA: GA

The site includes official links to the business before the assembly as well as links to many different news and commentary sites on the internet. He even includes handy links that will help you track blogs, twitter feeds and other social networking feeds that may be relevant. This would be a handy site to bookmark and use during the proceedings. It is a work in progress, so check back as Austell continues to expand the information that will be included.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Beatrice Blogs: Happy With a Real Dog's Life

Woof! Beatrice, your Canine Correspondent here.

QG left the front section of the Wall Street Journal on the floor this weekend and I got to reading this article about how American Parents Go to the Dogs After the Kids Leave.

Verrry interesting, I say. Portia and Babs are gone but I don't notice QG and El Jefe chauffeuring me and Olivia around to compete in dog sports, take agility classes, and make play dates with their friends' dogs. Sounds like a hectic life to me. Don't think we would like that. It might interrupt Olivia's power naps and the time I need to spend barking at the birds in the backyard.

~nudge from Olivia~

Okay, so Olivia reminds me that one time they took us to the new dog park in the neighborhood. No other dogs were there and I had fun running up and down a ramp. But Olivia didn't like it. She sniffed all around the perimeter and then whined to be picked up. She must have some Yankee genes in her somewhere 'cause she doesn't seem to like wide open spaces.

Olivia and I chewed up that article real good so QG wouldn't get any ideas. We're happy with a walk or two a day.

Yours for a Real Dog's Life,


Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Watercolors

Yesterday I did this little painting from a photo sent by Brother W. Before I painted this one, I tried to do the last exercise in the Mountain and Rocks section of my online course and it was a disaster! I was certainly out of practice because of MOB duties plus I tried to use a new brush the instructor recommended. Couldn't quite get the hang of it.

You can tell I haven't gotten to the sections on water (reflections) and animals yet! Next up: Trees.

While I had the paints out, I did this study of Olivia from a photo sent to me by Portia. I think it was a hint.

Next up: Trees.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Book Review: The Sabbath World

I'm old enough to remember the days of the Texas Blue Laws when only essential services were available on Sundays. My father, who grew up a hard-core Presbyterian, discouraged anything but church-going, reading and hanging around the house on Sundays. I remember my aunt (his sister) visiting one time and being surprised that he frowned on card-playing on the Sabbath.

That's all changed, now. Hobby Lobby and Chik-fil-A are the only businesses in our area that routinely close on Sunday as a matter of principle. Still, the habits of my youth linger, and I try to avoid shopping on Sundays and fuss at El Jefe for working on that day at home if its not absolutely necessary (my definition, not his!).

Therefore, I was intrigued to read Judith Shulevitz's The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time when I saw a mention of it somewhere. After finishing it, I was glad that I had to order a hard copy instead of my usual Kindle e-book (not available) because it is a book that I want to keep in my library.

The Sabbath World is not just a religious or theological examination of the meaning of sabbath, although it is that as well. Shulevitz skillfully weaves her own experiences with the concept growing up Jewish and now leading her own Jewish household with erudite discussions of the sociological and psychological effect of keeping sabbath on the individual and the community as well as how sabbath has affected the meaning of time itself.

One of the profound insights of the book is how Sabbath encourages the growth of community among those who practice it. Another is that the practice of Sabbath is not necessarily connected with religious faith--something the author struggles with herself as she describes the theme of her book as her ambivalence toward Sabbath-keeping.

The "social morality of time" is another theme of the book. Shulevitz explains that although we think of time as being mathematically neutral, the fight of the labor movement for shorter days and workweeks illustrates this concept. Shulevitz concludes that we are always "recalibrating our feelings towards our friends" based on how long they have kept us waiting. " If other people's use of our time isn't the object of infinitesimal ethical calculation, I don't know what is."

The Sabbath World is well-written and full of fascinating material about sabbath and sabbath-keeping in history, religion and culture. Although the writer is Jewish, she writes knowledgeably about New Testament ideas of Sabbath and its place in Christianity. I confess that I skimmed through some of the denser psychological sections, but I am sure that material would be interesting to other readers.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Life After Wedding Week

Yesterday I cleared out my study which was filled with files, rsvp cards, lists and wedding gifts. Files into the file cabinet. Cards and lists into the trash can. Wedding gifts into the garage awaiting the return of our newly-weds from their honeymoon.

For the first time in about a week I paid attention to the news. Ugh. I'd rather live in Wedding World. Attempted terrorist attack in NYC thwarted, immigration controversies and demonstrations, riots in Greece relating to its financial bankruptcy, floods in Nashville, and the continuing attempt to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf from the BP explosion offshore.

And it's back to church as well. The Take 6 series on the parables of Jesus begins tonight and there is a presbytery meeting Saturday. As our senior pastor observed, "every other year in the spring the PCUSA goes to war." Yup.

I'm hoping to get back to my watercolors in a couple of days as well!

And so goes life after Wedding Week.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

All The Wrinkled Ladies

Hat tip to Peace Bang at Beauty Tips for Ministers for sharing this hilarious new Anita Renfro parody of a Beyonce hit song!

Monday, May 03, 2010

MOB: Honorably Retired

Here's my favorite bridal photo of Babs in her wedding gown. I don't have photos from the wedding itself yet, but will share some when they become available.

The wedding could not have been more perfect! Threatening weather never materialized, so there was no rain. The flowers were gorgeous and the chapel was filled with family and friends. The music was beautiful and the service meaningful. I loved how the congregation sang out energetically the closing hymn "Be Thou My Vision."

We had a wonderful time at the reception--the food was great, the band fun and everyone danced, especially the children. The happy couple left in a shower of bubbles and blessings.

And now with that string of superlative adjectives, I hereby declare that the MOB honorably retired!

(Note to self: Break in new shoes before wearing to the next big event.)

Joyfully and exhaustedly yours,