Friday, September 30, 2005

When you were a kid...

...what TV character did you yearn to be?



I was recently asked that question, and I didn't even have to think twice about th answer:

THAT GIRL!!!

Yep, when I was a little girl I wanted to be Marlo Thomas. She was so cute and perky and adorable as "That Girl." Yeah, this was before she got all feminist and married Phil Donahue.

I would have given anything to have coaxed my naturally curly hair into that pert flip. Just think, I could have, if I had just had a really good flattening iron! Unfortunately for me, those hadn't been invented yet!

Her character, Ann Marie, had such a neat life on the show. She was an actress who got into all kinds of kooky situations. And can't you just see her batting her long eyelashes and saying, "Oh, DONALD!"

And the clothes. Oh, she wore the cutest clothes. I swear some of those clothes would be just as cute today.

To a lesser extent, I also wanted to be Barbara Eden/"Jeannie." I thought it would be so cool to have her magical powers.

So what about you? What TV character did YOU want to be?

Happy Friday to all! :)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Looking for international voice-over artists...

Are you a voice-over artist that is fluent in one of the following languages:

Chinese_Simplified
Chinese_Traditional
French
German
Japanese
Korean
Portuguese
Spanish

A company for which I do voice-over work is seeking voice-over artists who are fluent in the above languages. If you're interested, e-mail me at gnews(at)radio91 dot com, and I'll forward your e-mail to the company.

Winding my way down Lanier Street...

a pastor reflects on his Katrina relief experience

"How do we respond? Do we ignore the human suffering as we shake our self-righteous fingers at them? Do we say the job is too big as we sit at home and watch it all from our overstuffed, vibrating, leather-clad recliners? I hope not. It is true that we cannot help everyone. But we can help someone. We can reach out in the name of Jesus and show them the love of God through our actions."--Mark Garard

I've been giving kudos to Morning Star Baptist Church here in Rockford for putting feet to their compassion by sending teams to the Gulf Coast to help out with hurricane relief. Read this moving account by Mark Garard (who--little bit of trivia here--went to Bible college with my husband and me).

Speaking of hurricane relief...

Many people, including some of my own dear cousins, are still without power and/or living away from their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

My cousin Judy sent me an e-mail yesterday filled with pictures of destruction in Silsbee, the town she lives in near Beaumont. Judy, her son,and her mom and dad (my Aunt Sandra and Uncle Earl) are staying with her brother, my cousin Tommy, in Baytown. Judy tells me her husband Joe is back at their house in Silsbee, but he's living there without electricity, and the heat and humidity are terrible.

My relatives suffered damage from the storm in the way of doors being blown off, roof damage, downed trees and the like, but thankfully their houses didn't suffer any structural damage.

Living "out of pocket" has to be very difficult, and my thoughts and prayers go out to my East Texas cousins.

And now for something completely different...a National Chocolate Survey???



OK, I keep getting this e-mail that (confirmed chocoholic that I am) immediately perked my interest.

Subject line: National Chocolate Survey

The e-mail gives me a "participation confirmation number," and goes on to say:

"Congratulations! You have been selected to participate in our Nationwide m&ms(R) Survey
Which is better....Milk Chocolate m&ms? or Peanut m&ms(R)?? Select your choice to receive a FREE* $100 Restaurant Gift Card of your choice or $100 worth of Milk Chocolate m&ms(R) or Peanut m&ms(R) for participating!
This is a limited time promotion and will no longer be available after September 30, 2005.
Please take the survey before it is too late.
Warm Regards,
Jeff L.Reward
RewardsRepresentative

National Survey Panal"

Of course the e-mail is full of links that they want me to click on. Pardon the pun, but I'm not biting! I'm afraid if I click on any of these links, it will unleash a maelstrom of vile computer problems. Our engineer, JB, has taught me well--never open anything you're not sure of.

Am I being overly paranoid? Is there really a chance I could be cheating myself out of the chance to win a 100 dollar gift certificate? I'd love to know! My usual source for confirming or debunking things, Snopes.com, has nothing about this. If you know anything, do tell.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Are you making the most of your blog?


(*image borrowed from Jollyblogger)

Not long ago, I posted a "Quote o' The Day" from the Evangelical Outpost that really made me stop and think about how I'm using this platform--my blog.

I ended up getting some great comments in response to the quote, and I must admit, they added a new angle to my thoughts on the matter.

Here's the quote:

"Your audience is giving you two of their most precious possessions – their time and their attention. What are you doing with this gift? Are you using it to improve their life, influence their worldview, feed their mind? Or are you wasting it by giving them junk food, blather and trivia which provides a momentary amusement but has only a fleeting impact? What will this person gain in return for loaning you this treasure for 26 hours every year?"--Joe Carter on the 5/150 Principle

I still think it's a great quote. Granted, I don't have the enormous audience that blogs like the Evangelical Outpost, La Shawn Barber's Corner and others command. I occasionally spend a few days as a Large Mammal in the TTLB ecosystem, but I invariably slip back to the Marauding Marsupial category.

Still, if God is going to hold me accountable for the things I say, no doubt that applies to the things I write as well.

Does that mean, however, that every post needs to be laden with gravitas?

I don't think so. I think if I post something that makes you smile or even takes your mind off your problems for a few minutes, I've provided a service.

Katy Raymond is one of the most delightful bloggers I've encountered, but the above quote prompted this comment from her: "I guess I post some of the most trivial stuff anywhere, but I try to intersperse it with the touching and the meaningful. Now I'm worried about all my wonderful readers, though, and the time they're 'wasting' under my 'influence'..."

No, no, no, Katy. A visit to your blog is never wasted. Reading about the funny things that happen to you, or getting a bit of your insight on life, adds a touch of joy to my day.

Rodney is a radio announcer in Australia. His blog, The Journey, touches on a wide range of issues; sometimes serious, sometimes light and quirky.

He has his head on straight about blogging: "Have you ever met one of those people who only talk about 'important' issues? They are convinced that they should thrill you with their immense knowledge. They never give you a chance to really get to know them as distinct from their opinions.

"Some bloggers are like that.

"Most friendships develop out of the kind of small talk that helps you get to know someone. Out of the trivial conversations comes a closeness that gives permission to move on to deeper issues.

"That's the kind of blogger I want to be. I'm not convinced I have the balance right but that's my aim.

"I want people to get to know me. I want them to hear how proud I am of my kids and how wonderful my wife is. I want them to share some of the lighter moments from my day. I want to develop the kind of friendship that allows me to share the deeper things of life when it's appropriate.

"If I was a news service I would need to make sure that everything I posted was important. I would ensure that I was improving lives, influencing worldviews, feeding minds. I'm not a news service. I'm a guy who wants to develop relationship and through that relationship discuss the deeper stuff at the right times."

Good words, Rodney.

I've often been blessed by the writings of Debra. She does feel a sense of urgency at times when blogging: "I feel more than ever we are in the Last Days and I want to make the most of them so I try to make my blog reflect that. It's no big deal if people forget me, but it is a big deal if they forget God."

And the philosophy behind Dee's blog is kind of like mine--a little of anything and everything she's thinking about at the moment: "I think about my audience often before I post, but there are times I use the blog to get some things off my chest, and other times I promote things that no one would have considered like watching Dear Frankie..."



The truth of Joe's quote still stands, and serves as a worthwhile reminder. I don't want my blog to be worthless and inane--and honestly, I regularly tackle serious issues.

But I also reserve the right to post the occasional bit of trivia or humor. In fact, I reserve the right to post whatever I want to post. In the times we live in, being able to relax and enjoy even a few moments in one's day can be a gift.

Phil Johnson has me listed in his blogroll under the category "Convivial." According to the dictionary, that means "fond of...good company; sociable. Merry; festive."

You know what? I like that. There are worse things to be.

And if I happen to bless you, or educate you, edify you, touch you, or shed a ray of light your way? Praise God.

Serious Stuff I've Blogged About

Just to prove I am capable of gravitas, here are some serious things I've blogged about in recent months:

My interview with Joni Eareckson Tada

My interview with Schiavo family attorney David Gibbs III

My interview with John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute

My interview with Noel Piper about "Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God"

Rockford's abortion doctor dies

Worshipping the goddess of anorexia

...and many more that I don't have time to link.

*Note: If you like the "I think, therefore I blog" logo, you'll be happy to know that you can order T-shirts bearing the logo from Jollyblogger. Find out more here.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I just don't get atheism


Madalyn Murray O'Hair

Several things have gotten me thinking lately about atheism.

Last week, I read this article in USA Today about Lori Lipman Brown, a new lobbyist in Washington D.C. for people who don't believe in God. YAY! Atheists have their own lobbyist now--as if they didn't have enough friends in government.

Brown says her two goals are to "keep religion out of government and win respect for a stigmatized minority."

The story makes much of the overwhelming odds against Brown in a nation in which the Christian right wields so much power. If that's so, then why are we losing our religious freedoms seemingly by the day?

And why do I have trouble seeing atheists as downtrodden and persecuted? It seems to me it's much more uncool to be a Christian these days.

The Happy Atheist?

I grew up thinking of Madalyn Murray O'Hair as the quintessential atheist. Pretty much everyone agrees that O'Hair was a miserable, hateful, amoral jerk. It stood to reason. She had not only rejected God, but made it her life's work to actively and vigorously oppose Him and everything He stood for.

(By the way, if you've never read the autobigraphy of her son, William Murray--My Life Without God--I highly recommend it. The picture that emerges of life in a family that hates the very idea of God is very telling, to say the least. And here's a fascinating article by Murray about the deaths of his mother, brother and daughter.)

However, a lot of modern-day atheists reject the image of the miserable, curmudgeonly atheist. They want everyone to know that they are just as happy and fulfilled as any Christian. Hey, probably even more so. They don't have to live uptight lives restricted by Judeo-Christian mores.

You know what? I just don't buy it.

Have you ever seen that little saying: "Know God--Know Peace. No God--No Peace."

I'm sorry, you can NEVER convince me that someone who doesn't believe in God has any sort of real peace in that dark night of the soul that we all have to face at one time or another.

When all the lights are out, and everyone is asleep, and you're alone with your thoughts, and fears, and worries, and dreads, and horrors--no God??? Only yourself to turn to, to lean on, to trust in, to rely on? Uh-uh.

Atheists are often extremely intelligent people. Personally, I wouldn't even begin to try to debate one. I'm not an apologist; I have only simple, childlike faith, and the Bible--which they reject anyway, so using it in a debate would hold no water with them.

All I know is, when times are hard, when tragedy strikes, when pain and loss rear their ugly heads--how utterly empty and sad and lost it must feel, to have no God.


Acappella

The other day on Radio 91, I heard this beautiful song by Acappella (listen to it here), or below:



If There Were No God

"If there were no God there would be no music
There would be no dream to be dreaming of
What a dreadful thought of an empty future
If there were no God there would be no love

If there were no God there would be no children
There would be no joy to relieve our tears
Not a tender hand to provide us comfort
No consoling heart to subdue our fears

If there were no God there would be no sunshine
There would be no rain to refresh the earth
There would be no jewels to display their value
There would be no thought of enduring words

If there were no God there'd be no creation
There would be no light there would be no breath
No surpassing joy nothing in existence
If there were no God all would be death.

CHORUS:
But we know that God is with us
And we know His majesty
Reigning now, the King eternal
Yes we know the victory."

Words and music: Keith Lancaster © 1995 Anthony K. Music (ASCAP) Arrangement: Don Marsh © 1995 Anthony K. Music (ASCAP)

"No surpassing joy"--key phrase there. No God--No Peace? I submit to you: No God, no joy.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Thank Goodness it's Friday!



First and foremost, I want to remember to keep the Hurricane Rita situation in our prayers. I have extended family members in east Texas who could be affected by this. My thoughts and prayers are definitely with you, dear ones!

Yes, the Friday Feast Again!

I really don't have much time to blog today, so once again I give you the Friday Feast. Feel free to answer the questions in my comments section, or post them on your own blog!

Appetizer
Name something someone has done lately that impressed you.--Last night I watched my husband interact with a three-year-old boy who cries when his mom leaves him at daycare. I was so impressed with my husband's spirit and demeanor interacting with this little boy--it gave me a surge of love and admiration for him.

Soup
Do you have any relaxing rituals? If so, what are they?--Oh, definitely. The top priority is a hot bubble bath. I can hardly sleep at night if I don't have my bath, or at least a shower. It's a delightful way to wind down. Other than that, I try to always read a portion of the Bible, then if it's not too late at night, some of whatever fiction book I'm reading. (It helps me relax, but if the book is really good, it keeps me up past my bedtime!)

Salad
If you could spend the winter season somewhere other than your current location, where would you choose to stay?--The Austin, Texas area--home of my son and his wife, my mom, my younger sister and her family, and my brother and his family. Winters may get rainy and sometimes icy, but I've been there in December and January when jackets were unnecessary and the weather was gorgeous. I would choose to go there for the fellowship as much as the mild weather.

Main Course
When was the last time you had dinner out, and what was the name of the restaurant?--Coincidentally, we ate at Giuseppi's last night. It's my favorite Italian restaurant, although it's unimpressive to look at. The food is ridiculously good--I firmly believe they have the best pizza ANYWHERE--and the prices are remarkably reasonable.

Dessert
If you had a boat, what would you name it?--The Dawn Treader. Ever since I fell in love with the Chronicles of Narnia as a child, I've thought that was the coolest name for a seafaring vessel. :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Some good news and bad news?

Good news for a Katrina victim; bad news for a baseball chaplain


Some good news for my friend Don Elbourne, whose church facilities in Lakeshore, Mississippi were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Don's still dealing with those issues, including the need for wells to be repaired.

Though he pastored in Lakeshore, Don's actual residence was in New Orleans. He and his wife were finally able to make a trip back to take a look at how their home survived the storm, and they approached it with trepidation, fearing the worst.

But apparently the water had only reached the top of the porch. Don writes: "...I even reached down to touch the rug because after all I’ve seen over the past three weeks I almost could not believe it was dry. Everything remained where we had left it and nothing in the main house sustained any damage."

Read more here.

With all that Don has to deal with regarding his church, this is truly great news.

Washington Nationals Baseball chaplain suspended


This story grabbed my attention immediately, since my husband is the chaplain for the Rockford Riverhawks. It's a voluntary job that he loves and takes very seriously. Also, my blogging friend David Warren Fisher is the chaplain for the Toronto Blue Jays.

APreports that the Washington Nationals have suspended the team's chapel leader for agreeing that Jewish people are doomed if they don't believe in Jesus. Reportedly, the team has asked Baseball Chapel to appoint an interim replacement while the comments are investigated.

According to the AP story: "The decision was made following an article in The
Washington Post. The newspaper reported that Nationals chapel
leader Jon Moeller nodded when a player asked whether Jewish
people are doomed if they don't believe in Jesus."

Baseball Chapel is an international ministry recognized by Major League Baseball. Their website clearly states: "Our purpose is to glorify Jesus Christ!"

This story has very serious implications. No doubt about it, a team chaplain has to be sensitive to the religious beliefs of others. And one would hope that he would use utmost tact when answering Biblical questions. But when does the chaplain lose his right to free speech? When does the chaplain find his hands tied in sharing his own religious beliefs with a team member?

I don't know all the details, but I find the story troubling on several levels.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Goin' down to Saint James Infirmary...



My paternal grandmother, Imogene Garrett, was a remarkable woman. She was still running for and being elected to office (justice of the peace) in her small west Texas town late into her "golden years." (She was a die-hard Democrat, by the way.)

She taught Sunday School for years at the Methodist church she attended faithfully until her death. She was fun, and funny, and laid back...as kids, we always knew we could relax and enjoy ourselves at her house.

My dad often referred to her, not as Mother or Mom, but as "Imogene"...with a good deal of respect and a dollop of awe, like she was a force to be reckoned with.

She was originally from Arkansas, but the man she married, my grandfather, was Lousiana-born and bred. (My own father, in fact, was born near Mansfield, Louisiana.)

Some of my favorite memories of Grandma Garrett involve her sitting at her piano and accompanying herself as she sang. She had a light, pleasing, slightly quavery voice...part of that could have been her age, but part of it was a slightly bluesy vibrato that was characteristic of the popular singers of her youth.

(Any visits to Grandma's house also included an on-demand performance by our family. She loved gospel music, and nothing delighted her more than to listen to her family members sing.)

I remember her playing and singing one song that caught my attention (I think I was a teenager at the time), and I never, ever forgot it. Grandma's little quavery bluesy voice singing it; the sad, rather morbid lyrics, and the lazily mournful tune, somehow combined to capture me.

The song was "Saint James Infirmary." I only heard the song one other time in subsequent years...for some reason, Lily Tomlin sang it once on Saturday Night Live (I have no idea why...I think it was part of a skit.)

Here are the most commonly-heard lyrics:

I went down to the St James Infirmary
Saw my baby there
She stretched out on a long white table
So cold, so sweet, so fair

Let her go, let her go, God bless her
Wherever she may be
She can look this wide world over
But she'll never find a sweet man like me

When I die want you to dress me in straight lace shoes
I wanna a boxback coat and a Stetson hat
Put a twenty dollar gold piece on my watch chain
So the boys'll know that I died standing flat


I've been thinking about the song since Hurricane Katrina, because for some reason, it was linked with New Orleans in my mind.

Well, now there's the Internet, and I can Google a song that has stayed in my memory for years. Thanks to the Internet, I now know that the song has been recorded by a wide range of artists, from Louis Armstrong to Cab Calloway to Eric Burdon to the White Stripes. Come to find out,though it's often performed in New Orleans by blues artists, it's not about New Orleans. According to Rob Walker, who seems to be even more fascinated with the song than I am, it actually had it's earliest origins in County Cork, Ireland in the 17-hundreds!

This makes sense to me, because the Irish really seemed to have a thing for morbidly sad songs. Remember "Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye", on which "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" was based? The original version is horribly sad and mournful.

In his Letter from New Orleans #13, Rob Walker says he likes the stanza where the singer starts planning his own funeral while gazing on his loved one's corpse: "It was odd that the singer would abruptly start addressing his own funeral arrangements while looking at his lover's body, but I found it charming somehow. I'm not saying I admire the singer, who seems overly pleased with himself and dishonest besides. But I do admire something in his matter-of-fact, fearless taunting of the fates. That just seems very New Orleans to me."

It's rather amazing that a tune I hadn't heard since the 70's has stuck in my mind all these years. For me, it's inextricably woven into my memories of my grandmother, sitting at her piano playing and singing. I loved my grandmother, and truly miss her--just as I do my dad, her oldest son, who died a little over a year ago.

I can easily imagine them sitting at a piano in heaven together, singing and playing to their heart's content.

If you'd like to hear a bit of the song, here's a little sample of Harry Connick Jr. singing it...and here's a sample of an instrumental version.

(By the way, Connick's version captures the almost indolently slow, unhurried tempo at which my Grandma sang it.)

UPDATE:Here's a little more of the Harry Connick with the Marsalis Family version.

And it's good to know my cousin Chris also remembers Grandma singing this song: "I remember her singing St. James Infirmary and it was great, in exactly that warbly old 78rpm blues style that (Cindy) described - and oddly enough, I have that Saturday Night Live version of the song burned in my memory too. I probably experienced them both around the same time (mid-late 70's). I wish some one had a recording of Grandma singing some of those songs - St. Louis Blues, St. James Infirmary, whatever song she was singing - her version was always the definative version for me."

Amen, Chris. :)

Friday, September 16, 2005

It's FRIDAY!!!!


Been a while since I did the Friday Feast, so here I go (answer the questions in my comments section or on your own blog!):

Appetizer
Do your closer friends tend to be male or female? Why do you think that is?--Besides my husband, my best friends are my sisters. I've had some wonderful male friends since I work in a male-dominated profession. But as a married woman, I've come to realize that it's not wise to develop too close a friendship with another man. If you're single, though, go for it--men make great friends.

Soup
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new talent, what would it be?--Playing the piano!!!! I would love to sit down and play anything on the piano, and play it well. I envy my friends who can do that.

Salad

Name a household cleaning item that you would recommend to others.--I really like the Comet spray cleanser. It smells fresh and clean without being overbearing, and I use it in my kitchen and my bathrooms.

Main Course
What do you strive for in life?--To please God. All too often I utterly fail, but it is what I aspire to. Other than that--or maybe this falls under the general heading of pleasing God--I want to be "salt and light" to everyone with whom I come in contact. My motto is a quote by Mother Teresa: "O Lord, let your light shine on others through me."

Dessert

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how funny do you consider yourself?--When I'm on a roll, I can be pretty stinkin' funny. I'd say at least a 7, maybe an 8. :)

Now go out and have a blessed and wonderful weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Been reading some terrific books lately!

Saturday Morning and A Standard Christian


Christian fiction is better than ever.

I've read two terrific books in the past few weeks, and I now offer them for your enjoyment and edification:

Saturday Morning, by Lauraine Snelling

Lauraine Snelling is best known as a writer of historical Christian fiction, but she hits one out of the park with her latest contemporary fiction offering, Saturday Morning.

Snelling brings together four women of diverse backgrounds who are each going through crises in their lives. Their interweaving stories, and the way they band together for friendship, support and prayer, makes for such an engaging tale, I had a very difficult time putting the book down.

There's Andy, who after raising her children and supporting her traveling businessman husband for years, now finds herself with a thriving lavender farm and skyrocketing lavender product business. (Coincidentally, I have had my own love affair with lavender for the past several months! I love its fresh, clean fragrance. I thought lavender was grown in France; didn't realize it's a big business here in the U.S.) Suddenly, Andy's husband wants to move to San Francisco...and Andy doesn't want to go.

There's Hope, who runs a downtown San Francisco rescue mission called "Casa de Jesus." Big business is threatening to close the doors--just as Hope gets some of the biggest, most life-changing news of her life.

There's Julia, an attorney whose troubled granddaughter has run away to--you guessed it--San Francisco.

And there's Clarice, an wealthy aging widow who arrives in the Bay City, stunned and penniless, courtesy of the gigolo husband who duped her.

The idea of women coming together for support and prayer is one that Lauraine Snelling hopes will catch on. She tells me, "My dream would be that women would come away from (the book) saying, 'I have to have a group like that,' and do everything they can to build that group and to take the time for that group and to be blessed that way."

By the way, I was able to interview Lauraine Snelling by phone today, and hope to provide more excerpts from our interview shortly.


A Standard Christian, by Jeri Massi



"Never, in all my life, had I heard anything so beautiful and so true as Handel's Messiah...Christ had come; Christ had died; Christ had risen. Everything foretold had come to pass; everything not yet past would pass. Even the men who made great claims would pass away with time. In the end, all that would be left would be that sweet claim extending a command to comfort the people of God, to bring them into heaven, to take away their sin forever and give them the knowledge of God."--"Grace Jovian" in A Standard Christian.

For young Grace Jovian, listening to The Messiah for the first time is just one of many revelations along her path to a solid faith in God. It's a path that also includes plenty of roadblocks, stumbles, and lessons from surprising sources along the way.

In this sequel to Jeri Massi's Secret Radio, Grace is out on her own after graduating from a Bible college that represents an extreme,almost cultish branch of fundamentalist Christianity. As a manager-trainee at a department store in a western North Carolina town, Grace struggles with her faith as she realizes that the truths in God's Word often differ wildly from what she's been taught.

On one level, the book is almost a roman a clef chronicling the public scandals spawned by the sect from which Grace has emerged. On another, it's the story of Grace growing up: battling mice in her mountain cabin, suffering a major health setback, achieving physical fitness, making new friends and learning important lessons from those friends, Christian or not. But mainly, it's the internal story of Grace's seeking after a real, solid faith. And it makes for a very absorbing and readable tale.

Author Jeri Massi tells me: "One great purpose of the book is to show the humanity of every human being, saved or not, the value of every life, and the constant work of God's grace that is often visible but also inscrutable, unable to be fathomed, even imperceptible. The other purpose is to show that God works when we don't think He is working."

Ultimately, although Grace never claims to have "arrived," she's able to agree with the wisdom of a friend who tells her, "Just accept that you're a standard Christian with all the flaws and keep going back to Him."

Jeri Massi has chosen the self-publishing route for this series, which started with "Secret Radio" and will conclude with a third book in early 2006. Massi has been oft-published, though--most recently, her excellent Valkyries series. You can read my review here.

...and one I hope to review in the near future:



If I Gained the World, by Linda Nichols, isn't a new book--it was loaned to me recently by a friend who knows I love fiction.

This book grabbed me and didn't let go. I can't wait to read more of Linda Nichols!

...and two I hope to be reading soon...

Robin Lee Hatcher's "Victory Club" just arrived on my desk--I can't wait to read it; it's no secret that I love Robin and her writing.

And I've promised Infuze Magazine (an online magazine for which I've reviewed a couple of books previously) that I'll review Jack Cavanaugh's "Dear Enemy" for them. Both are World War Two-themed books, so it looks like I'll be spending some time in the 1940's!

Sigh...reading...one of the great pleasures in life!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Vanity, thy name is...a table?



OK, this post may seem a little ironic after I earlier posted a quote about taking your blogging audience seriously. But the truth is, my blog has always been a hodgepodge of things that interest me, and that I hope will interest others as well.

So, I couldn't pass up a USA Today article today about, of all things, vanity tables.

But there's a reason for my interest. You see, the vanity table that sits in my bedroom right now is inextricably linked with many of my fondest childhood memories.

I've blogged before about my great-aunt Cynthia, whose name I inherited through my mother. Well, another thing I inherited from her, through my mother, was a beautiful bedroom suite. As a child, I would go into the bedroom and look at the furniture, the decorations, the Huldah prints, with reverential fascination. I was powerfully attracted to that room.

When I married and the furniture became mine, I was thrilled and delighted. The whole set is in need of refinishing, but that doesn't bother me so much now that a "distressed" look is "in." The beautiful bed needs repair; we're not using it right now, although I hope to have it restored someday.

But the vanity is one of my very favorite pieces, and always will be.

USA Today says: "Vanity tables, hugely popular in the 18th-century, are making a comeback despite their seeming irrelevance to the lifestyles of modern women.

"A vanity, or dressing table...was the sort of thing a woman would have in the corner of her boudoir, back when women had boudoirs. This is where she displayed her perfumes, sat down to apply her powders and potions, and stored her jewelry and other luxury pretties."

The article goes on to ask: "..why would women want them now--and who has room for them?"

I'm blessed with a fairly large bedroom now, but I've always had room for my vanity table and the chair that accompanies it.

And I use it exactly as those 18th-century ladies used it. It's where I sit to apply my make-up and fix my hair. The surface holds pictures of me with my husband, my daughter, and my sisters, as well as perfumes and lotions. The drawers contain jewelry, make-up, skin care stuff, nail polish, old letters, cards and mementoes. It's a little island of feminity where I can succumb to my girliest tendencies. And I love it.

As far as I'm concerned, this piece of furniture represents the only time the word "vanity" is a positive thing.

(By the way, the vanity pictured above is not mine. If you'd like to see more, here is a website that sells vanities pretty much exclusively.)

Quote o' The Day for Bloggers

"Your audience is giving you two of their most precious possessions – their time and their attention. What are you doing with this gift? Are you using it to improve their life, influence their worldview, feed their mind? Or are you wasting it by giving them junk food, blather and trivia which provides a momentary amusement but has only a fleeting impact? What will this person gain in return for loaning you this treasure for 26 hours every year?"--Joe of Evangelical Outpost, on The 5/150 Principle

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Two terrific Katrina-related interviews

I was able to interview two people today who are both relatively small cogs in the gigantic wheel of Hurricane Katrina relief...but both interviews brought to mind a song my dad used to sing a lot, "Little is much when God is in it!"

A small church reaches out with compassion

Pastor Bob Bixby

I told you earlier about Morning Star Baptist Church, which is taking seriously Biblical mandates to care for the hungry and hurting.

I was able to talk by phone with Pastor Bob Bixby, who along with his associate pastor Mark Garard has been in Lousiana and Mississippi trying to determine what one small church can do to help. Bixby and Garard took a vanful of donated items along with them--items that ended up being airlifted to a church in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Pastor Bixby told me he's learned so much about what to do and what not to do. But he's been struck by the compassion of small churches who are doing so much to help, and by the reactions of the evacuees.

And he said he hasn't seen a great deal of anger and frustration: "That has not been our experience. We expected that. (But) I have been hugged so many times, I mean, I've gotten enough hugs to last me a year--and thanked. Just thanked for coming, even though I had nothing to offer."

Although Bixby believes the spiritual need is the greatest, he also believes that Christians need to show love and compassion by helping to provide needed material things. "Let's face it...would you want to hear somebody preach to you when you've been in the same pair of underwear for five days, and haven't brushed your teeth in as many days, and have these physical needs? You wouldn't even be interested. That's just the way we're made, and it's appropriate to give materially."

Bixby plans to come home and organize his thoughts and impressions and write them down. He wants to encourage churches to hook up with churches in the hurricane-ravaged area. "I've learned how to help them," Bixby says. He expects to send a group from his church back down to the area next week.

Go here for more information on what Morning Star is doing.

Homeschooling help for displaced students...



Charlotte Mason

My second interview was with a fellow blogger, Donna-Jean Breckenridge of Liberty and Lily, who had alerted me to a possible way that children displaced by Hurricane Katrina can continue their education.

Donna-Jean serves on the advisory for Ambleside Online, a free online homeschooling curriculum based on the educational methods of Charlotte Mason--a Christian woman who lived a century ago in England.

Donna-Jean tells me: "(Mason) has a motto that says, 'Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.' ...She talks about 'the natural home atmosphere.' In other words, not bringing everything down child-size, but letting children live among what's normal, what's natural.

"The discipline of habit...creating good habits with children so that they don't have to consciously be making decisions about things, but that instead doing things properly becomes a habit.

"And then the one that most people love the most is the part that says 'and a life'--and that has to do with living books in particular. What the Charlotte Mason method of education would advocate is using the best books for children. She believed that
the mind feeds on ideas, and that therefore children should have a generous curriculum...rather than textbooks, which are often pre-digested, if you will, by a team of people who determine what a fourth-grade child needs to hear.

"Instead, the Charlotte Mason method would advocate children being put in direct contact with these living books, great authors...so that, in a sense, the authors become the teachers. And the teacher's job then is to present this sort of smorgasbord of ideas for the children to to directly go to Robert Louis Stevenson, or C.S. Lewis, or Emily Dickinson, or the great works of art, and so on."

Now, Ambleside Online is working on a project to help Hurricane Katrina evacuees use the curriculum during this time of disruption in their children's lives.

Of course, this pre-supposes that the evacuees will have access to the Internet. Says Donna-Jean: "We're sort of envisioning a family that has had to leave, that has been displaced, and they may be living with relatives in another city or another state, and of course has had to leave behind--may have lost--their books, their materials, their resources, their curriculum."

If you go to Ambleside Online, you'll find a link for a simplified plan for Hurricane Katrina victims. "As part of our effort we will be including website links to simple, easy to follow resources- music sites, origami (it seems to us this is the simplest of handicrafts to institute in an emergency situation), handwriting pages, simple and easy games to play, physical activities, and so forth."

Sounds like a great idea to me...and it was wonderful speaking with this terrific lady that obviously has such a heart for children.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"When I lay my Isaac down"--my interview with Carol Kent

Unshakable faith in unthinkable circumstances


"...even as I was pounding my fist into his chest saying 'Why, God?' I found myself unable to resist falling into His embrace."--Carol Kent

What do you do when the unthinkable happens? What do you do when your life is turned upside down? I'm sure these are some of the questions that victims of Hurricane Katrina are asking. I was recently able to interview Carol Kent, who knows something about such questions on an intimate level. Carol is the author of When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances. Following is a transcript of portions of our interview.

CINDY: Carol, your life was shaken by some terrible news one night a few years ago. Can you tell me about the phone call that ended up changing your life forever?

CAROL: Most definitely. It had been a wonderful, happy life up until that moment for my husband Gene and I. We raised an only child who was a total delight to have in our family; he had an optimistic attitude, a heart of compassion.

He came home from camp during his high school years and said, "Mom and Dad, I really want to do something that matters with my life, and I believe God wants me to serve in some form of military or political leadership, and I believe the best place that that I can get prepared to do that would be at the U.S. Naval Academy."

And he set his sights on getting into Annapolis, and he received an appointment and graduated in 1997,so we were looking forward to seeing our son thrive in his future, in his career, and with his dreams of serving the Lord effectively. And he met and married a delightful young woman who had been previously married with two little girls...she had been married at the age of 16 to a man ten years her senior, and there were many allegations of abuse.

And we knew that the biological father of Chelsea and Hannah, our new granddaughters, was seeking unsupervised visitation, and we knew this was causing some real stress in our son's life.

A phone call at 12:35 AM

But I had been out of state with my husband at a speaking engagement, and the phone rang after we were in a deep sleep after returning home on a Sunday evening. Gene picked up the receiver; I looked at the clock, it was 12:35 AM, and I saw a look of shock and horror come over my husband's face, and he pulled the receiver away, and he said, "Carol, Jason has just been arrested for the murder of his wife's first husband, and he's in the jail in Orlando, Florida."

And we knew at that moment everything about our future would change.

CINDY: I have two sons myself, and I can only imagine getting a call like that, and how your world was turned upside down in just a matter of minutes. Not only was this news lifechanging for your son, but for you, because you're the director of Speak Up Speaker Services, and you've been making your living as a speaker for quite some time. How did this affect that and, well, basically your whole life in the following months after you got this terrible news?

CAROL: Well, one of the things that we realized immediately was that this was so out of our control to fix or to do anything that would be the norm for us, which is to get the book on the easy ways to pull life back together.

I tried to get out of bed, and my legs wouldn't hold my weight. I had never been in shock before; I had waves of nausea coming over me. And at the same time, we realized that we needed to do something, like get an attorney and pay for an attorney of gigantic magnitude.

"We had no choice but to keep going"

Our livelihood was basically me speaking as a Christian public speaker all over the country and writing Christian books. And my husband had left his profession in the life insurance business after thirty years to go on the road with me and to run Speak Up Speaker Services, a Christian speakers bureau that we have through Speak Up Ministries. And so we had no choice but to keep going. Nor were we allowed legally to talk about what had happened from a public platfrom until after the trial was over.

And so, first, out of knowing that it was the way we made our living, I went to the next speaking engagement. And in my heart I wanted to curl up in the embryo position and just die, I was so sick for my son.

He went through a severe beating when he was attacked by ten inmates just days after he was arrested and placed in a maximum security portion of the jail. His two front teeth were broken off; his ear had a cut in it, he was kicked in the eye. And I remember the call that came from him, and after that 15-minute digitized call clicked off, I sat at my desk and I just wailed. I heard this guttural roar come out of the depths of my being, and I said,"God, I cannot do this journey. I cannot walk this path."

"God ministered to me through my own words"


And then the "Mama" part of me clicked in, and I realized our son needed us more than he ever had. And I went to that speaking engagement, and I stood up and began to speak what I know to be truth out of God's word, and it was as if God ministered to me through my own words, because I was reminded of the fact God was good, and he was trustworthy and that bad things happen to good people even good Christian people in the middle of a fallen world.

We think of this gigantic hurricane that, well, we just cannot believe the images on our TV screen, and we realize that in this world there will be trouble, there will be problems, but God is still God, and we are not.

CINDY: Can you tell me briefly about some of the principles that you've learned going through this experience that you are now being able to pass along to other people?

CAROL: Well, when I wrote the book I realized that Abraham was an incredible example of a parent who had to release control of his son to the God who loved his Isaac more than he did.

And I began to journal, and my husband did as well, as we learned that there is a hidden power in the middle of unthinkable circumstances. Because when you're a broken person all you can do is look up, and that's not a bad place to be in. We were flat-out needy, and we learned how to let go of let go of our own control in the middle of our unthinkable circumstances.

And we learned the power of relinquishment, realizing that we have to give to God everything about this situation,even if in this lifetime we can't figure out why God allowed these things to happen.

We learned the power of heartache, that God is very close to the broken hearted, and He loves those who are desperately needy, and even as I was pounding my fist into his chest saying "Why, God?" I found myself unable to resist falling into His embrace.

And then we learned the power of Christian community, as God's people came around us in the most miraculous ways, and they put together an e-mail update that we were able to have sent to hundreds of people all over the country, who began praying for Jason, our son, and for his wife and daughters, and for us. And these people supported us in tangible ways when we didn't have the ability to do it ourselves.

And we learned the power of faith in a dark hour; that sometimes there is no "ram in the thicket" that we can visibly see. But in the middle of it all, I realized that Abraham had history with his God, and I had history with my God, and I realized that due to the fact that I knew Him intimately after coming to Him at the age of five at my mother's knee, that I could trust an unknown future to a known God.

And finally, we learned the power of speaking up. That we could chose to never speak of this publicly, that we could chose to crawl in a hole and pretend it didn't happen, or that we could chose, following the trial to speak up honestly and authentically about what our journey had been, and hopefully give other people the opportunity of freeing themselves to speak about the bad things that happened to them and what they have learned in their faith journey.

CINDY: Carol, what you went through was very tragic...and I think that most of us that live this life are going to face, at one time or another, one of those earthshattering, life-turning-upside-down things happening, whether it be in their family life, or whether it be something like Hurricane Katrina or other natural disasters. What do you hope that people who read this book will come away with that could help them such situations?

CAROL: My prayer is that people will find the hope and will realize that the last chapter isn't written yet. Something more is coming, and because we are a family of faith, when we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we know that even in this lifetime we don't know the answers to all of our "Why?" questions, that there is a better day coming.

And one of the ways that God taught this to me, just in living out my journey, is that once I began to speak publicly about our son's trial, and the aftermath of getting, what in prison vernacular is called a "toe-tag" sentence--our son, apart from our miracle, will never leave the Florida state penitentiary until he's dead on a slab with a tag on his toe--it's a hopeless sentence, and I've cried buckets over that--we still have a remarkable son in a very unlikely place. And we do not justify what he did, it was against the laws of God and man, but we know that he believed his legal resources for
rescuing two little girls from what he believed to be an abusive father, is the "why" of all of this and what started to spiral him in a psychological downturn.

At the same time, we are now meeting people...I had a woman come up to the book table where I was signing books, and with a whisper she said, "My husband's been incarcerated for the last 18 years, and nobody knows he's getting out in a month."

I said, "Is he coming home to live with you?"

And she said, "Yes, we're going to try to make a go of it." Then she stood to her best posture, and she said with a confident look, "Today you've given me the courage to start telling my story. I'm going to quit hiding in false shame and false guilt and tell people what's happened.

And I want everybody to know, whether your Isaac has been abuse, or a financial reversal, or giving birth to a child with a disability, or or having a spouse betray you and leave you for somebody else, all of us have an Isaac experience. And as we seek help from godly people who can give us Biblical truth, we begin to be able to share with others what God has brought us through, and point them in the direction of renewed hope, fresh faith, and the belief that something more is coming.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina updates...New Orleans reminiscinces...

I've been following my friend Don Elbourne's blog with concern and interest. Don is a Baptist pastor who, pre-Katrina, lived in New Orleans and pastored in Lakeshore, Mississippi.

Don and his scattered congregation need monetary and prayer support. The pictures of what's left of his church are heart-rending. Please add Don and his church to your prayer list, and give if you possibly can.

To make matters worse, Don's wife was robbed the other day, and the thief took her purse, including her drivers' license and the couple's credit cards. "Ya’ll pray for us," Don writes. "This is tough and overwhelming, but God will see us through."

Some good news for one blogger...

I had told you that David of Espresso Roast was stressed out because he and his wife were separated from their five-year-old son, who had been visiting grandparents in Mississippi. David and his wife knew Jacob was OK, but they needed, understandably, to have him physically with him.

David posted in my comments section this past Friday: "Thanks for the post and the prayers, Cindy. Yesterday we got Jacob home safe and sound! It was a bit stressful, but God was faithful to provide us peace and assurance of his care."

David blogged: "We didn't realize how much stress we were feeling about that until we actually were within an hour of being reunited with him. It was such a relief to see all of them tired but in good shape."

A local church is taking Biblical mandates seriously...

A church in my town is getting serious about helping victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Morning Star Baptist Church has sent their pastors to Lafayette, Louisiana, with plans to bring back at least one evacuee family. Other plans include a blood drive and a campaign to raise money for air mattresses. Find out more here.

The church's site quotes Pastor Roger Price of Lafayette: "The desperate need here is for mature Christians to put their arms around the shoulders of these people and weep with them...to sit down with victims and let them talk, then offer words of comfort, prayer, and a witness for Jesus Christ."

This is the home church of my blogging friend Joy McCarnan, and I'm happy to pass on the information.

A New Orleans memoir


When I heard New Orleans' deputy police chief say "this city is destroyed" on national television, I couldn't help but feel profound sadness.

Yes, I know there was probably enough wickedness in the city to more than rival the toxic cesspool of water now flowing through the streets. But what city can say "We are without sin...we don't deserve judgment"?

There was also plenty of beauty and innocent joie de vivre in that city. I always wanted to take my husband there, because I'll never forget a vacation I took there with my parents when I was a teen-ager, circa mid-1970's.

I was charmed by the distinctive architecture, the honey-rich drawl of the N'awlins natives, by jazz notes floating out of a bar in the middle of the day. I remember my mom getting her portrait done by a hippie artist on Jackson Square. She still has that portrait, and it actually begins to capture something of her unique beauty.

I remember visiting a Civil War museum and renting bikes to ride through Audubon Park. (Is Audubon Park ok? What about the D-Day museum--my daughter has always wanted to go there; is it destroyed?)

I'll never forget our first day of touring the city. My dad parked our car, we got out, and one of us spotted a wad of dollar bills on the sidewalk. No one any where nearby--no way to find out to whom it belonged. It wasn't a big amount, but we accepted it as a gift from above--a lovely little benediction to send us off on our day.

And don't even get me started on the food. We had muffaletta sandwiches from a deli my aunt had told us about. They were amazing. Delectable beignets from the Cafe du Monde. We had lunch at Antoine's. We had incredibly delicious gumbo and jambalaya at a nondescript-looking but awesome little restaurant on Bayou Gauche.

Houston Chronicle writer Alison Cook writes a requiem for the tastes of New Orleans. Cook has her own memories of the Cafe du Monde: "Chicory coffee au lait — was there a more magical brew to be had anywhere? — exerted its lure from the porch of the CafĂ© du Monde, where I would sit under churning ceiling fans, watching waiters pour with a fine flourish as I devoured an absurd number of fried-dough beignets. The more powdered sugar ended up on my clothes, the better life seemed."

And (hat tip to Lisa Samson), Erin of Biscotti Brain has her own memories of signficant milestones in her life that took place in the Big Easy.

Will it be rebuilt? Will it flourish again one day, maybe even better than before? I pray so. I would certainly not want to lose a city that has been such a major part of so many people's lives and memories.

What are your hidden talents?

I'll have a Katrina update hopefully later this morning...but until then, something less serious, courtesy of Robin Lee Hatcher:

Your Hidden Talent
You are a great communicator. You have a real way with words.
You're never at a loss to explain what you mean or how you feel.
People find it easy to empathize with you, no matter what your situation.
When you're up, you make everyone happy. But when you're down, everyone suffers.



This quiz takes just seconds of your time. By the way, Robin has blogged about her heaviness of heart in the wake of Katrina. I can relate strongly, but I'm now trying to process how those of us with very tender hearts can go on with life while still helping, praying for and respecting the loss of those involved in the hurricane.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hearts and prayers go out to Katrina victims

It's hard to watch our city fill with water like a bathtub and try to decide where to go from here. Our hope rests in the firm foundation of our sovereign God who holds us in his right hand. This morning I think of John Newton’s words, “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.”--Don Elbourne

I'm getting word from relatives, friends and fellow-bloggers about how they're being affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A New Orleans pastor...

My friend Don Elbourne, a New Orleans-area pastor, has finally been able to blog about his situation.

Don says he's expecting the worst as far as his house and church building are concerned. His church is in Lakeshore, Mississippi. Don writes: "For those not familiar with the gulf coast, Lakeshore sits about half way between New Orleans LA and Gulport. MS, just outside Waveland/Bay St. Louis. Our church is only about a mile from the gulf, in a very low lying area. As soon as the roads open I want to get in and assess the damage. I will be very surprised if any of our church buildings still stand at all."

Evangelist Tim Lee's ministry is accepting donations for Don and his church. Lee says all financial donations earmarked for Don Elbourne will go directly to Don. You can send your contribution to:

Tim Lee Ministries
P.O. Box 461674
Garland,TX 75046

Sheltering the victims...

This message from my cousin Judy, who lives in the Beaumont, Texas area:

"Thought all of you in the rest of the country might like a local update about the Katrina evacuees. Our local area has a few thousand it sounds like. Our convention center in Beaumont has 1000 and many of the local churches are housing hundreds more. Mom said East Tx Baptist Encampment in Newton is housing some. One church in Lumberton, near me, has about 200. They are calling for all kinds of donations and the Red Cross especially needs cash. I hear that many have medical needs...including medicine and even dialysis. We are starting a sign up list at work for volunteers to help serve food and no telling what else. Also sounds like about 475 buses will be coming through here on IH10 to go to the Astrodome."

A five-year-old can't come home...

David of Espresso Roast is asking for prayers that his five-year-old son Jacob can come home soon. Jacob is safe with his grandparents in Mississippi, but is basically stranded there right now. Read more here.

"I saw several people crying today...

My blogging friend Ashley alerted me to this blog entry by her sister Lindsay, who helped out in a Red Cross shelter as part of her job with the state of Lousiana.

Lindsay writes: "I saw several people crying today, and for good reason. it was heartbreaking to watch the adults watching the news on the big screen tv set up in the corner. at one point, i stood over there and watched with them for a few minutes. they were showing new orleans and they had the caption - sunken city - next to it. some of them just stood there, shaking their heads in disbelief, watching these pictures of their hometown with water up to the roofs of the houses. lots of people told us that they know they have nothing left..."

Opening their homes...

Carol
, who has opened her Texas home to relatives fleeing Katrina's aftermath, has some advice:

"If you know someone who has taken in evacuees, call. Ask if you can stop by. Take some flowers or cookies or something.

"We see a lot about the people stranded in the city and being sent to Houston. They are in an unimaginable situation.

"There are also hundreds of thousands of others who left when told to and are scattered about the nation. They are isolated, their resources slowly dwindling, they are frightened, many do not know where their loved ones are or if they have a home to return to or when or a job or . . .

"Sometimes a smile from someone who has heard and expresses concern is huge.

"I have some of these people in my home. They are my family. Simple gestures of kindness have done so much."

Simple gestures of kindness. Yes.

"And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”--Matthew 10:42
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