My Favorite Book, Reprise

It’s Curt’s birthday today. 
From the archives, here’s a post I wrote earlier.

You are my P.G. Wodehouse.

You make me snort with laughter.

You are my Conan Doyle,

A mystery until the end.

You are my C. S. Lewis.

You see how beautiful truth is.

You are my Hank the Cowdog,

Silly fun with a clever twist.

You are my Alexander McCall Smith,

Always interested in those around you.

You are my Wendell Berry.

You take pleasure in provisioning.

You are my Michael Pollan.

You speak good sense when it’s needed.

You are my Martin Luther,

Famous for good table talk.

You are my David McCullough;

Decent, insightful, articulate.

You are my Anthony Trollope,

Warm comfort on a cold evening.

You are my Shakespeare,

Full of quotes worth memorizing.

You are my Atticus Finch;

The one on whom we depend.

You are my Matthew Henry.

“Look at this,” as you point to a verse.

You are my Chilton.

You keep our cars running.

You are my Dostoevsky;

Complex, difficult, but worth the read.

You are my Jeremy Burroughs.

You model the rare jewel.

You are my Book of Common Prayer.

Your quotidian prayers lead and guide me.

You are my Chesterton;

An original thinker without the bulk.

You are my Fish and Game Regs,

A calendar of high holy days.

You are my Dickens.

You understand human nature.

You are my Dante.

You write poems of love.

You are my Cabela’s catalog;

Treasures waiting in the warehouse.

You are my favorite book to read.

Word by word;

Page by page;

Chapter by chapter.

Waiting to be Read

The arrival of books here is a weekly occurrence.  Between Paperbackswap, Amazon and various smaller publishers, I have little Christmas moments throughout the year.  I find myself frequenting my local library much less often because my personal library is alluring enough.

But two books arrived which are special.  Special because they are intended to be ingested as a couple or family.  As winter approaches we start reading a chapter after a meal.  During the dark of the year, Curt and I enjoy reading aloud to each other before sleeping.   The unspoken (but not unbroken) rule is that nobody reads ahead. 

On the dock:

Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World   
From the blurb: 
In these sparkling chapters, Wilson gives an aesthetic examination of the ways in which humanity has tried to make sense of this overwhelming carnival ride of a world. He takes a whimsical, thought-provoking look at everything from the “magic” of quantum physics, to nature’s absurdities, to the problem of evil, evolution and hell. These frequently humorous, and uniquely beautiful portraits express reality unknown to many Christians-the reality of God’s story unfolding around and among us. As the author says, “Welcome to His poem. His play. His novel. His comedy. Let the pages flick your thumbs.”

This will not be the first N.D. Wilson book we’ve read aloud.  We greatly enjoyed his young adult books 100 Cupboards and Leepike Ridge.  There is not a hint of schmaltz with Wilson.  I’m expecting an unpredictable, thought provoking, delightful read.

  Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial may seem an unlikely choice for healthy people to read.  But I have a problem with the funeral “industry” that exists today.  When my friend told me that her family paid $2,000 to rent a coffin for her dad’s funeral (he was cremated after) I was fired up.   

The adage “You’ll be told when you need to know” doesn’t hold water here.  I want to bone up on our options before it is time to lay the body down.    The opening quotation before the preface is Genesis 3:19  In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.


* We started in on Tilt-a-Whirl tonight.  The first chapter was highly excellent.  This is gonna be a ride!   Here’s a sampler sentence.  “There are various theories as to how and why this all happened [the universe], attempts at explaining the sheer number of creeping things in the world, the stars, the life cycle of frogs, the social behavior of fish, the meaning of love, life, and a really good hamburger.”

Road Tripping

It has been said that the dynamics of two people driving in a car are perfect for deep conversation.  You are both facing the same direction, which is more conducive to open disclosure, less threatening than facing each other.  It is possible in a car to have very few distractions that normally disrupt discourse between two people. On a journey of any distance you have the greatest luxury: time.  Time for the talk to meander the way a wild river wanders, rambles and loops.  Time for a topic to steep and brew and be set aside before drinking it down. 

Some of my best memories are of long car trips we’ve taken. 

Our honeymoon was spent driving from Wheaton to the West Coast.  As we approached South Dakota my husband became animated, anticipating Reptile Gardens.  Please!  Why would someone actually pay money to see snakes dripping from trees?  My lack of enthusiasm had no dampening effect on Curt.  But I was driving and he was sleeping when we cruised through Rapid City right past that repulsive place.  A mile down the road I had a throbbing fit of conscience, made a U-ie across the meridian, and drove back to the exit.  True love.  It is one of the great mysteries of my life that three times I have paid to be a snake spectator.

I was raised in a large family, with a Stop For Gas Only policy.  Your bodily needs had to coordinate themselves to the car’s fuel tank.  One learned early The Precautionary Pee.  “Just try,” Mom would say.   I had the good fortune of marrying a man who takes the first exit when the need for a facility is expressed. Whew!

We listen to music, lots of audio books, sermons, seminars and audio magazines.  Sometimes I read a book aloud.  But the rich moments are when we talk.  (Aside: If I had younguns, I’d be one of those mean moms who would restrict the use of personal DVD players.  Why?  Because they rob you of thinking time.  And talking time.  Without them the brain has space to stretch.) 

I got to thinking of gerunds that come along on road trips:

spitting (seeds)

While I love the speed of airline travel, car trips seem more….organic.  Remember all the songs and games of childhood trips?  Hagaleena Bagaleena, Do Your Ears Hang Low, Alphabet I Spy, License Plate games…

Road trips have been a great adhesive.

Agree or disagree?  What road trips do you remember?

* the cleaned up words, don’t ya know…


Gas or Electric?


Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

Curt and I have a history of sticking with an oven/range until its final, gasping breath.  Back in 1981, our $50 used unit succumbed in increments: first the oven, next a small burner, followed by a large burner, then a small burner.  It was Curt’s first year teaching and coaching at the local high school; I was working for a CPA.  We had just bought our first house and were living without margins.

I perfected “skillet dishes” until we scraped enough money together for a new stove, the cheapest, stripped-down “contractor’s model” the store sold.  It had one large burner and three small instead of two and two; no self-cleaning oven; it was so basic a range the buffalos were still roaming on it.

Call me Dutch, call me Yankee Frugal, call me crazy, but I couldn’t justify getting a new stove until this one was worn out.  And blast!  That stupid thing Refused To Quit.  The appliance repairman came back in 1997; I danced in anticipation of a new stove.  Bob put in a new element ($17) and it was good to go. 

That silly $200 stove is Still Working.

Except. The oven door is sprung.  Opening the door is similar to a child safety lock on a pill bottle: push down, twist a little until you find the sweet spot, yank it open.  That works.  But if you actually want to bake, you will want a bungee cord to hold the door firmly shut.

Last night Curt told me my birthday present would be a new stove!   What?  The burners still work! 

Here is the Big Question: Electric or Gas? 

I’ve never cooked with gas in my life but that is what I’m leaning towards.  We have gas in this house but would have to bring it over to the stove.  I know you must have an opinion.  I would LOVE to hear it. 

Excuse me.

I need to go work on my Hava Nagila…..People!!  I’m getting a new stove!!!


Wonderful Wedding Moments


Saturday we celebrated the wedding of Julie and Daniel, the fourth and final wedding of the year in our church community.   In this lovely picture (credit: Matthew Hurley), we are dancing a Virginia Reel.  Isn’t Julie beautiful?  She is wearing the same dress her mom, aunt and grandma wore with a gorgeous pair of cowboy boots underneath.  Directly behind her is Isaiah (white shirt) for whom many of you prayed to wake up from a coma.  There he is, dancing!  I’m leaning forward, ready to twirl around.

It was a wonderful wedding. I woke this morning through a floodtide of memories…moments worth recording:

~  The groomsmen’s toasts were simply amazing.  My friend leaned over and whispered, “If these are the kind of guys Daniel is friends with, it speaks very highly of him.”  The masterpiece was the song written by one of the best men, Daniel Went Down to Wallowa, modeled on The Devil Went Down to Georgia



 ~  Collaborating with a college freshman on the composition of a violin descant for St. Patrick’s Breastplate, the bridal processional, was a hoot! We had more fun isolating a musical phrase and pulling a blues riff from it when we should have been focusing on the descant. Julie entered during the centerpiece of the song: Christ be with me.  My first exposure to NoteWorthy Composer software has me drooling.

~  I looked across the table and said, “Krista, You. are. beautiful.”  Her mother, holding with a squirming grandson agreed, “She really is.”  Krista smiled and explained, “My husband’s love makes me beautiful.”  And.  It was so sweet and genuine, not a Sunday School answer, if you know what I mean.

~  The. Kiss.

~   Our Bonnie (mother of the bride, a friend who belongs to us all) displayed extraordinary beauty and serenity.  Hosting a wedding reception in her back pasture was no worry.  She glowed with the light of grace.  It has been five years since she fought Stage 3 cancer.  We are so thankful for God’s kindness displayed in her life.

~  The entrance of the cake, held high and carried around all the tables and delivered to the head table by a Best Man (there were two), while a jig was played on the violin.  

~  When I heard the men were wearing Wranglers I was a skeptic.  However. They looked exceedingly handsome in their Chocolate Black Wranglers with cowboy boots, formal vests and, after the ceremony, cowboy hats.

~  It has been a glorious summer.  Glory can be fatiguing but it is a Good Tired.  A Happy Tired.  Looking back with a young friend, we smiled and sighed and took a deep, cleansing breath.  “Well,” she said, “I guess it’s time to start a new season of love!” 


Living in the Shadow of Death


Yesterday, I held my neighbor, shaking and sobbing, two hours after her beloved Tom breathed his last breath.  His story is too familiar: cancer, treatment, remission, cancer return, gone.  They were prepared for him to go in the fall, but not now. 

This morning as my husband sat up in bed, I pulled him back.  Just a little while longer.  I dread the day that we say our final good-byes, this man whom I have loved for 34 years.   My neighbor’s loss seems a vicarious dress rehearsal, a needed reminder of what is ahead. 

How do I live in the shadow of death? 

Trusting.  My hope and confidence are in the Lord.  I don’t want to be fearful, skittish, anxious, neurotic.  No man knows his time.  All I know is that when deep waters come, the strength will be provided. 

Savoring.  Each day, each conversation, each moment is a gift. 

Expressing.  The older we get, the more we affirm our love for one another.  In the middle of random moments he will say, Love you, babe.   I Love You is a good way to send a child out the door, end a phone conversation, say good night.  Even better is the conversation starter: You know what I love about you?

Confessing  Both confessing our sins and confessing our faith.  Why wait?

Forgiving  Leave no room for pettiness.  Funny thing, we see it in others but are blind to it in ourselves.  Put the best possible construction on actions or attitudes you don’t understand. 

Enjoying   There is truth, beauty and goodness surrounding us.  This is my Father’s world.  

Obeying   For me, it always comes to trust and obey.  There is no other way.

Fine Art Friday – Sir George Clausen

The Mowers, 1885
My husband loves this picture.
He is a man who relishes hard work; his muscles give witness to this.
We are enjoying this slice of August on our computer desktop
while in real life it is a snowy April.
The watercolor above was done in 1885.

The Mowers, 1891
This Mowers is an oil, done six years later.
Which one do you prefer: the watercolor or the oil?
In both, I think he’s captured the fluid movement of the mowers.

 Boy Trimming a Hedge, 1890
This dun colored piece doesn’t have the elegant light of the ones above.
The background seems too cluttered or busy.
But I like to think of this boy as the younger brother, nephew
or even son of the men above. 
Boys at work.  It just seems right.

The Breakfast Table, 1891-92
I believe these girls are the painter’s daughters
and the woman presiding over the table is his wife.
When I look at this picture I can just hear that pleasant
tinkle of silverware on china, a sound I love
in Jane Austen/BBC movies.

The best place to learn more about Sir George Clausen
is this blog.  From what I can gather the author is a
descendant of   SGC.
Clausen is my find of the year (happy sigh). 

Simple Pleasures in the Bleak Mid-Winter

~  The stark beauty of a monochromatic landscape
Gray on white.
It is austere, no doubt,
but awesome in its austerity.

~ Camisoles: the cold girl’s bosom buddy

~ Thick knit socks

~ Modulating up one half-step on the last verse of a hymn.

~  Sustaining words (from my husband’s mouth/pen/keyboard)

~  Non-complicated tax return
(this is one chore I truly enjoy.)

~  Accessible audio books. 
Hope has a great resource list.

~  New Costco throw rugs on a cold tile floor.

~  Baby’s breath (why can’t it stay sweet like this forever?)

~ Wood stove crankin’

~ Ultrasonic humidifier

~ Chicken cashew stir-fry
(onions, mushrooms, celery, bell pepper,
bean sprouts, broccoli, shredded cabbage,
bite-size chicken and generous amount of cashews.
Fry in small dollop of oil.
Add soy/tamari/Bragg’s.
Serve over rice.) 

What simple pleasure do you enjoy?


An offering from my husband, Curt, the occasional poet.




                                                Conception’s seed                  

                                                            Adam’s son

                                                Womb’s darkness                               

                                                            Sin’s tomb

                                                Unconscious growth                          

                                                            Blind existence

                                                Sleepful swimming                            

                                                            Dead-man walking

                                                Nine-month gestation                        

                                                            Thirty-year enslavement

                                                Stressed contractions                         

                                                            Offensive preaching

                                                Pushed and squeezed                         

                                                            Drawn and dragged

                                                Useless resistance                               

                                                            Excuses exhausted

                                                Optionless choice                               

                                                            Broken will

                                                Distant voices                                    

                                                            Divine call

                                                Squinting brightness                          

                                                            Glorious light

                                                Crying gasp                                        

                                                            Holy Breath

                                                Severed cord                                      

                                                            Bondage broken

                                                Washed and wrapped                        

                                                            Baptized and robed

                                                Clean and safe                                               

                                                            Forgiven and kept

                                                Daddy’s arm-cradle                           

                                                            Father’s mercy

                                                Mommy’s milk                                   

                                                            Mother Church

                                                Family likeness                                   

                                                            Kingdom membership

                                                A child is born                                               

                                                            A son is reborn


…of water and the Spirit