Tuesday, 21 May 2013
So profound was Anna and Robert's wedding that I can't stop pondering its potent magic.
The families supporting and standing behind Robert and Anna are a fortress of fidelity. Three sets of grandparents sojourned to our beautiful Shire to witness the vows. I'm guessing around 150 years of marital faithfulness are represented in their marriages. Winsome, dignified, charming. These gentle folk are who I want to be when I grow up. Their flame is still burning, their love abides, they joyfully treasure each other in the sunset years. Clearly, their children and grandchildren adore them, rendering preference and respect. It was a comfort to move among these well-oiled relationships.
Also behind the bride and groom are delighted parents, grateful to be in this moment, so proud of their child and so pleased with his/her choice. Parents who have worked diligently to arrive at this junction, who rejoice to see maturity and beauty in their children.
Beside Robert and Anna are ten siblings (plus four added by marriage). Their devotion is palpable. Their toasts were deep with emotion involving some long, very throat-lumpish pauses. There's a shadow of grief—the tiny sorrow of separation and change—the kind of shadow that with its shades highlights the bright joy. You see, these dear ones are cherished and respected. And yet, there was no sense of you-aren't-good-enough-for-my-sister (daughter, brother, son).
Robert and Anna are both glorious; a glory that comes from all directions: inward, upward, downward, outward.
Photo credit: Rebecca James
Each family's culture was represented. Many of the Taylor clan wore salwar kurtas to the rehearsal to reflect their Indian heritage. The Hurley appreciation of excellent music was evident with Uncle John and Aunt Rebecca's violin contributions to the music and in the congregational hymn We Are God's People, the processional in other Hurley weddings. The Callihan rehearsal dinner had cowboy boots as centerpieces and barbed wire on the serving table. Callihans enjoy dramatic productions: the guys wrote and produced a skit for the evening's entertainment.
It is deliciously simple and profoundly mysterious, this love between Robert and Anna. Grounded in faith, expressed in humility, bounded by restraint, Christ-centered, other-oriented, staggering in its beauty, strong as death. They are not perfect, but there is an excellence in their love that called for a robust celebration: navy dresses with daffodil yellow shoes, bold bright flowers, Anna's entrance to For All the Saints, a homily focused on dancing together, a feast of home-made pies, a Father-Daughter led Grand March, Robert and Anna's first dance to Eric Bibb's Gratitude, and their departure as we sang the Lutkin Benediction. It was good. It was fitting. It was full of glory.
As Robert and Anna danced the next generation looked on, hopes and dreams germinating.
Thursday, 16 May 2013
My husband and I are separating today. I'm headed "up the branch" to celebrate dear Anna's wedding to Robert. Curt leaves tomorrow for Washington to celebrate dear Lori's wedding to Gunnar on the same day. These brides are treasures to us: radiant, glorious jewels. I love to witness a wedding with my hand firmly gripped by Curt's, but I am up to the rim with joy that we can each take part in these concurrent weddings.
When I need only a few minutes of reading material, I often go to Alphabet Juice for a quick fix. On this double celebration week, I was astonished to discover what "good" means.
from root ghedh- to unite, join, fit. Other derivatives: together, from the Old English togaedere, from the Germanic gaduri, in a body; gather, from the Old English gad(e)rian, from the Germanic gaduron, to come or bring together.
When we hear the words, "We are gathered here today to witness the joining of two lives," it will all be good.
Monday, 13 May 2013
There are bleak moments in our life when it feels as if the world has pitted itself against us. We grow unthankful and our hearts lose hope. It's usually at these times our mothers give us breakfast and tell us to snap out of it, and we are forced to rejoice at how good we have it.
Father, we can't thank You enough for the impact and example our mothers have had on us over the years. Their industry, faithfulness, love, discipline, and unworldly care should give us pause to consider there's more to the story than meets the eye. You have a majestic plan, and in this plan is redemption, and at the forefront of this battle are our mothers.
We can't pray enough, Father, for protection of our mothers in their role as helpmate and guide. Give them patience and grace in what sometimes may feel like combat in raising their young ones.
Bless the work of their hands in their homes and bring prosperity upon their many endeavors. We as sons, daughters and fathers are forever indebted for Your design of the family and how it beautifully reflects Your kingdom and character.
Bless our mothers who give of themselves completely and selflessly. May we honor them with our love and respect. "Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."
In Christ's name,
* In our church we regularly pray for our families and for the nations of the earth. Yesterday Brian, a young dad himself, prayed this prayer for mothers. He gave me permission to share it with you.
Tuesday, 07 May 2013
Nellie Harper 3/23/20 - 5/7/1968
My mom's death from an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder was sudden. There were no good-byes other than a casual "bye, Mom!" tossed over the shoulder as I left the house.
As I re-read some of her letters, I notice how she said good-bye to my dad, a college professor teaching in another state. And, these many years later, she continues to instruct me.
I miss you here - really seems lonesome without you - just a few weeks like we had in Sept. spoils me. But since I love you so much I know that it will always be that way - I don't get used to you being away, I just wait for you to come home.
Je t'aime beaucoup, beaucoup...
Now I must close - surely do miss you. Guess I didn't write partly because I was just too lonesome and didn't want to sound too sad. Those spells come when I feel as though I just have to see you, and anticipating a week end without you seems too much. I just must not think ahead to weekends but take each day as it comes. And the thought of you using so much time and energy and losing out on your studies just to come home doesn't cheer me any either. All in all it is not the most satisfactory situation, but it is the best one for us now or else the Lord would change it, of that I'm sure.
Must close for now. I do love you and, like Danny, I often would like to give up because "I want you". But because of you I take heart and strive to do a good job here.
But we'll keep on in our feeble way.
I love you and I just can't get used to having you gone so much — howbeit the Lord has given joy and peace just to know that you are busy for Him.
Time to close — wish you were here to talk to instead of writing. Take care of yourself these busy days. We love you and your name is mentioned ump-teen times a day. I'm learning that when you really love a person you never get used to having him gone — it gets worse instead of easier. Hurry up, summer!
I love you and miss you so much. I would like to have a week or so together with no other responsibility but to catch up on all we've missed this winter. But we can only dream of such a time with all the cares of this world upon us.
Like Jimmy says "Daddy can fix anything." But it is not primarily a handy man that I need here, but to have your love and fellowship in person.
Oh, Mom. I remember you. Forty-five years it has been and I continue to note your absence. I wish that your daughters-in-law, your sons-in-law, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren—every one of them—could know you the way my brothers and sisters and I know you. I wish I could call you on the phone and exclaim today's good news: the next baby is a GIRL!! I can hear your chuckle at my exuberant joy.
Your letters inspire me. I can take heart and strive to imitate you, to become a Nellie Harper to my people. Thank you for pouring yourself out for us, for giving us yourself, day after day after day. Thank you for being the best mom ever.
Monday, 29 April 2013
Before we drift to sleep, I read aloud (sometimes just a paragraph, other times a page or two) from Mark and Grace Driscoll's Real Marriage; we wake up to The Last Battle (snicker about that combination).
When I drive the car, I listen to Kathleen Norris' Acedia & Me. Acedia means lack of caring...sort of like depression, but different.
If I have an afternoon with my eight year old grandson, our real aloud is Where the Red Fern Grows. We are at the happy parts of a compelling story; Gavin begs for one more chapter.
I'm plowing through Colin Thubron's book Shadow of the Silk Road, a travel memoir. I believe this is the loveliest book cover...ever! So much terrain is unfamiliar; it takes longer to assimilate this reading. I had read the first two chapters a while back and put it down. When I retunred to it a few months later I had to start at the beginning. With forty pages to finish, I've read Thubron through China, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and we're entering Turkey.
Donna at Quiet Life started a book club reading Bonhoeffer. I listened to it in 2012, and immediately bought the print copy because I wanted to read it with my eyes. What a remarkable family! What a rare jewel of a man!
So you could say I'm filling my mind with art, Asia, apes, apathy, Achtung!, amicability, and adventure.
Thursday, 25 April 2013
Friday, 19 April 2013
Bruce Marshall's author blurb on the back cover:
Bruce Marshall is a dark, smiling man, fundamentally serious, four-square in appearance, definite in manner. He has a great fund of pity for humble, toiling people whose virtues are seldom proclaimed, a vigorous and delightfully malicious humor, and a savage dislike of bullies, stuffed shirts, humbugs and toadies.
Many of my favorite stories involve priests: G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown; dear Mr. Harding in Anthony Trollope's The Warden; Father Tim in the Mitford books and Father Tim novels; Brother Cadfael in Ellis Peter's medieval mysteries; the priest in Jon Hassler's Dear James.
Father Smith is a Catholic priest in Presbyterian Scotland, a priest who prays daily for Scotland's conversion. I don't think I've ever read a novel with such a strong emphasis on Catholic theology, and, at first, I found it off-putting. But I discovered that I appreciated many of this humble man's thoughts. I think any conservative would appreciate the struggle to hold on to the old ways.
When he had been a boy himself, Father Smith had longed to be grown up, because he had believed that it would be easier to obey our Lord as an adult than as a child, and he had been disappointed when he had found it was more difficult.
When he was happy, Father Smith always sang snatches from the psalms as he walked the street.
Always remember that you can't see into other people's souls, but you can see into your own, and so far as you really know there is nobody alive more wicked and ungrateful to Almighty God than yourself.
Father Smith felt that it was a pity that one ever heard anything at all on wireless sets, because it seemed to him that new inventions were coming out much too quickly, and that if amusements went on becoming more and more mechanized as they seemed to be doing, people would no longer require to use their intelligence to fill their leisure, and literature, poetry, and the drama would be pop goes the weasel per omnia saecula saeculorum...
...and those who weren't weeping had a great distress on their faces because they knew that a great clumsy slice of man who had known all about God's mercy would walk among them no more.
The book opens at the start of the twentieth century with the priests wondering how to respond to the first cinema in town. Father Smith baptizes two babies, whose lives we follow throughout the story. When the Great War begins, Father Smith works on the front line as a chaplain, hearing confessions and praying over the dead. His bishop predicts a spiritual revival will come out of the war, but Father Smith finds reality to be much different. What held my attention was Father Smith's grappling with the tension from the static doctrines of the church and the rapidly changing culture.
I learned a host of Catholic nomenclature: sedilia (stone seats for the clergy), asperges (the rite of sprinkling Holy water), pyx (the container that holds consecrated bread), and pro-Cathedral (parish church temporarily serving as cathedral).
I wish I could remember who recommended this. I found it absorbing reading, but I have no desire to read it again. The cheerful humility makes me want to explore another book by Bruce Marshall.
Tuesday, 09 April 2013
The Holocaust was storm, lightning, thunder;
wind, rain, yes.
And Le Chambon was the rainbow.
— Jewish mother whose children's lives were saved at Le Chambon
Let me digress: One habit served me well and introduced me to the story of Le Chambon. I read books with a soft lead pencil in hand. When a word, phrase, sentence or paragraph nudges me, I mark a line in the margin, | . When I read an unfamiliar word or one I can't confidently define, I put a √ in the margin. And when I see a reference to a song, a painting, a book title, an event that I'd like to know more about I also use the √. I usually don't stop reading to look further at the subject. But when I comb through the book a second time, writing down compelling quotes, etc. I will follow up on the check marks.
How did I find Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed? I had decided to cull out Barbara Tuchman's sparkling book of essays, Practicing History, from my library, a decision that still gnaws. Before I let it go, I transferred notes to my journal. In an essay entitled Mankind's Better Moments Tuchman notes some astonishing accomplishments:
the enclosure of the Zuider Zee in the Netherlands adding half a million acres to the country;
the marvel of Gothic cathedrals;
the perseverance of La Salle, who mastered eight languages before he set off exploring;
William Wilberforce's work to abolish slave trade;
Le Chambon, a Huguenot village in Southern France devoted to rescuing Jews. √
Le Chambon? I had heard of Huguenots—French Protestants—but not Le Chambon.
Intrigued, I found this clip on YouTube:
And I found Philip P. Hallie's book, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. The book is essentially a biography of the Reformed pastor, André Trocmé and his wife, Magda. Trocmé's belief in God was at the living center of the rescue efforts of the village xxi. Le Chambon was a remote mountain village, predominantly Protestant (Reformed and Plymouth Brethren) in a predominantly Catholic country. The Trocmés were unshakably committed to obeying the Sermon on the Mount 28.
In practice this means that the village rescued between 3,000 and 5,000 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. They kept many Jewish children at a private school; some family groups stayed until they could seek refuge in Switzerland. All the villagers took great risks, but they considered harboring others more important than their own safety.
"Look hard for ways to make little moves against destructiveness." — André Trocmé
Trocmé attended Union Theological Seminary in 1925 (five years before Dietrich Bonhoeffer was there) and found the Social Gospel too secular, too rational, lacking piety. Like Bonhoeffer, Trocmé lived intimately with those he shepherded.
For the rest of his life he sought another union [an organization he belonged to as a child during WWI], another intimate community of people praying together and finding in their love for one another and for God the passion and the will to extinguish indifference and solitude. From the union he learned that only in such an intimate community, in a home or in a village, could the Protestant idea of a "priesthood of all believers" work. Only in intimacy could people save each other. 57
A recurring motif in the book is that André Trocmé gave himself. He gave himself to his people, visiting them in their homes regularly. He gave himself to his community by his involvement in their lives. When he came home his children rushed him, enveloping him in hugs because he brought himself to them. Hallie expatiates on this theme in one of the most profound passages in the book:
When you give somebody a thing without giving yourself, you degrade both parties by making the receiver utterly passive and by making yourself a benefactor standing there to receive thanks—and even sometimes obedience—as repayment. But when you give yourself, nobody is degraded—in fact, both parties are elevated by a shared joy. When you give yourself, the things you are giving become to use Trocmé's word, féconde (fertile, fruitful). What you give creates new, vigorous life, instead of arrogance on the one hand and passivity on the other. 72
At one time, Trocmé is asked whether another group struggling in WWII should practice non-violent resistance. His response was that a foundation first has to be laid before such a tactic can be efficacious. Trocmé, along with Pastor Edouard Theis and schoolteacher Roger Darcissac had poured their lives into resisting evil and teaching their neighbors before such visible means of resisting became necessary.
I tend to look for perfect heroes and tidy endings. I was sad to read that a personal tragedy reduced Pastor Trocmé's faith and that Mme Trocmé seemed to hold faith at arm's length even as she worked indefatigably.
Writing about this book brings threads of recent events together: Today, April 9th, is the anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's death. There are striking similarities and certain differences between André Trocmé and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As I look at the photo of the Trocmés above, Magda Trocmé reminds me of Edith Shaeffer, a different kind of rescuer, who died on April 6th. And finally, the news of Rick Warren's son's suicide on April 5th coincides with a Trocmé family tragedy.
Ever curious, I wondered where the surviving children were. I discovered that Nelly Trocmé Hewett, 85, was giving talks last October and is scheduled to speak tomorrow at Macalester College in the Twin Cities. How immensely would I love to be in that audience.
Tuesday, 26 February 2013
I love 5MinutesforBooks.com's feature What's on Your Nightstand? It's fun to get a snapshot of what people are reading. Clearly, I did not tidy up my stack of books on the nightstand. I can't go into much detail, because of time constraints, but here is the stack I am working through. I ran out of my favorite Post-It Flags, as you can see by the pencils stuck in the books. Shame.
• Real Marriage, by Mark and Grace Driscoll is on loan from my son and his wife. I want to read parts of it aloud with my husband...someday!
• Barely visible, the tiny sliver of blue, is Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovic. This young mom has an abundance of wisdom that reaches far beyond homemade granola bar recipes and stars on chore charts. I like to consume it in small bites.
• The back cover showing, Shadow of the Silk Road, by Colin Thubron, is my current travel book. In this book Thubron travels from Xian, west of Shanghai, to Antioch in modern day Turkey. This is my third Thubron; I'm already inclined to like his writing. But I'm not sure he'll be able to entrance me like Rob Gifford did in China Road.
• The generic black journal is my commonplace book. This is my fourth identical journal, purchased at WalMart, in which I write down quotes, phrases, words, book and DVD titles, and similar musings.
• The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley, has been borrowed for far too long. I listened to the highly excellent audio version, but wanted to copy quotes from it. Which involves a re-reading with some skimming. So this title is the most guilt-inspiring one.
• Black bound Kindle rests on Flavia. I read the sample portion of Booked, Literature in the Soul of Me, by Karen Swallow Prior. An email reminded me that I had an unused gift card from Amazon, so I purchased the book today. Although I keep acquiring Kindle books, I haven't read much except the Bible on it in February.
• The orange spine of Scrolling Forward, Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age, by David Levy, is a book that simultaneously provokes groans and stubbornness in me. I was "Currently Reading" this on Goodreads on September 9th! The author, after finishing a Ph.D. in computer science, majoring in Artificial Intelligence, moved to London to study calligraphy for two years. That alone makes me like him. And the dedication in Hebrew. But, this book from 2001 is outdated. And for some reason I can't ditch it. My persistence—foolish or not—was rewarded in chapter 10 with a great story about the 1989 San Francisco earthquake and the author's assignment for a Hebrew class to translate Psalm 104:5. I have twenty pages left and I'm determined to finish. But the joy left a while back.
• Top of the pile is This Rich and Wondrous Earth, a Memoir of Sakeji School, by Linda Moran Burklin. I've read Wes Stafford's book Too Small to Ignore and several magazine articles revealing abuse and mistreatment at African boarding schools for missionary kids. This book is not about that. Linda's book has a good-natured humor that acknowledges the hardships and difficulties, but also points out the benefits she received and the fun she experienced. I have to admit that the tight regimen and censored letters home has reminded me of prison. Last night we read a few pages aloud after dinner about a baptism that had us all laughing. It sounds sacrilegious, but it truly was a funny baptism story. I know of an MK who found Linda's book very therapeutic. I'm eager to finish it and pass it on to my cousin who was at a different African boarding school.
• There is a secondary pile behind the towering one with two books: Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog and John Stott's The Birds Our Teachers. You might call this the "Meaning To Get To" Pile.
You are welcome to join the crew over at 5MfB or just write in the comments. What are you reading?
Friday, 22 February 2013
Politics, work, love, sexual appetites and revolt: these all have some great quotes in this lengthy section. My favorite involves collywobbles. Even though I steadfastly discarded some great quotes from this post, it is long. Which phrase jumps out at you?
Two questions arise.
In the first place, what is power?
And secondly, where does it come from?
Of King Louis-Phillipe
He was careful of his health, his fortune,
his person and his personal affairs,
conscious of the cost of a minute,
but not always of the price of a year.
Harmony enforced for the wrong reasons may be more burdensome than war.
Nothing is more dangerous that to stop working.
It is a habit that can soon be lost,
one that is easily neglected and hard to resume.
Every bird that flies carries a shred of the infinite in its claws.
In the forming of a young girl's soul
not all the nuns in the world can take the place of a mother.
Work is the law of life, and to reject it as boredom
is to submit to it as torment.
Sloth is a bad counselor.
Crime is the hardest of all work.
Take my advice, don't be led into the
drudgery of idleness.
I encountered in the street a penniless young man who was in love.
His hat was old and his jacket worn, with holes at the elbows;
water soaked through his shoes,
but starlight flooded through his soul.
It's bad to go without sleep.
It gives you the collywobbles.
Among the most great-hearted qualities of women is that of yielding.
Love, when it holds absolute sway, afflicts modesty with a kind of blindness.
The risks they run, those generous spirits!
Often they give their hearts where we take only their bodies.
To Marius, the purity of Cosette was a barrier,
and to Cosette his steadfast self-restraint was a safeguard.
The happiness of quarreling simply for the fun of making up...
At the end of life death is a departure;
but at life's beginning, a departure is death.
He remarked now and then, 'After all, I'm eighty' —
perhaps with a lingering thought that he would come to
the end of his days before he came to the end of his books.
[A waterfall of words describing the elements of revolt]
suppressed instincts of aggression;
blind warmth of heart,
a taste for change,
a hankering after the unexpected;
[snip] vague dislikes,
ambition hedged with obstacles...
Magistra (Teacher) Mater (Mom)
Hi, I'm Carol. I love to read, sing, and study. My goal is to make my home a light, a sanctuary, a dwelling filled with the aroma of good things, a place where friends and family can flourish. Come on in and stay for a while. On a good day you'll smell whole-wheat bread baking and listen to Yo-Yo Ma playing.
Best Of ...
Notes of Condolences
May 7, 1968
She's Not Here
The Shape of Grief
I Used to Think
Magister Dilectus, My Latin Teacher
Guys Holding Babies
Guys Reciting Poems
Guys Reading Books
A Father's Blessing
My Favorite Book
Bitterness Is Not Plastic Wrap
The Most Googled Post
A Thousand Splendid Suns
May I Recommend a Book?
84, Charing Cross Rd │H. Hanff
1776 │David McCullough
A Thread of Grace │Mary D. Russell
A Year in the World │Frances Mayes
All But My Life │Gerda Weissman Klein
Ω Apprentice, The │Jacques Pépin
Auntie Robbo │Ann Scott-Moncrieff
Barchester Towers │Anthony Trollope
Beowulf │Seamus Heaney
Ω Book Thief, The │Markus Zusak
Cold Sassy Tree │Olive Ann Burns
Crampton Hodnet │Barbary Pym
Crossing to Safety │Wallace Stegner
Cry, the Beloved Country │Allan Paton
Discarded Image, The │C.S. Lewis
Doctor Thorne │Anthony Trollope
Eleni │Nicholas Gage
Emma │Jane Austen
Evening in the Palace │James Gaines
Flame Trees of Thika │Elspeth Huxley
Framley Parsonage │Anthony Trollope
Garlic and Sapphires │Ruth Reichl
Green Journey │Jon Hassler
Guns of August, The │B. Tuchman
Ω Half Broke Horses │Jeannette Walls
Hannah Coulter │Wendell Berry
Herb of Grace, The │Elizabeth Goudge
Ω Home │Julie Andrews
How to Cook a Wolf │MFK Fisher
How to Read Slowly │James Sire
Imitation of Christ │Thomas à Kempis
Island of the World │Michael O'Brien
Jayber Crow │Wendell Berry
Kite Runner │Khaled Hosseini
Kristin Lavransdatter │Sigrid Undset
Laddie │Gene Stratton Porter
Letters of Samuel Rutherford │S. R.
Omnivore's Dilemma │Michael Pollan
On Writing Well │William Zinsser
Out of Africa │Isak Dinesen
Pianist, The │Wladyslaw Szpilman
Proud Tower, The │Barbara Tuchman
Rachel Ray │Anthony Trollope
Remembering │Wendell Berry
Safe Passage │Ida Cook
Schindler's List │Thomas Keneally
Ω Simple Courage │Frank Delaney
Some Lovely Islands │Leslie Thomas
Ω Their Eyes Watching God │Hurston
To Kill a Mockingbird │Harper Lee
Warden, The │Anthony Trollope
Where Nights Are Longest │Thubron
Whitefoot │Wendell Berry
Ω = audio book
Title → Amazon│Author →MM review
Read in 2011
The Guynd │Belinda Rathbone
No Dark Valley │Jamie L. Turner
Maj. Pettigrew's Last Stnd │Simonson
Old House of Fear │Russell Kirk
Ω Half Broke Horses │Jeannette Walls
A Dog of Flanders │L. de La Ramée
Hans Brinker │Mary Mapes Dodge
Pinocchio │Carlo Collodi
The Peterkin Papers │Lucretia Hale
Time to Be in Earnest │PD James
Original Sin │PD James
The Crofter & the Laird │John McPhee
1,001 Things Ab/ Am. History │Garraty
Sword Of Imagination │Russell Kirk
Auntie Robbo │Ann Scott-Moncrieff
From Cottage to Wk Station │Carlson
A Godward Life: Bk 2 │John Piper
German Boy │Wolfgang W.E. Samuel
A Green Journey │Jon Hassler
Eisenhower │Stephen Ambrose
The Christmas Rat | Avi
Title → Amazon│Author →MM review