Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Amazement and wonder

"People were overwhelmed with amazement." Mark 7:37

Max Lucado has said,"The most valuable thing a Christian has is the edge of amazement on which he(she)stands." How long has it been since you felt amazement at the Son of God? or at the wonders of God? Or has the miracle become the mundane for you?

Read the gospel of Mark. Amazement is mentioned at least 12 times there. In Acts the people continue to be utterly amazed...amazed and perplexed...to have wonder and amazement at what had happened. One of my favorite preachers, Mike Lewis, once said "Without a sense of wonder, our routines will kill us." My spiritual formation group is reading Receiving the Day; Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time by Dorothy Bass. I read today, "Amazement and festivity are hard to come by in a society that sets its sight intently on productivity."

As we were leaving our rooms for dinner, the women at the Highland women's retreat were wooed away from our trek to eat by a gorgeous double rainbow above our heads. What a reminder of God's promise!

Life should not be just a quest for productivity, but a celebration of life, love and wonder. Stop, Look, and be amazed today!

Monday, September 27, 2004

What would you save?

Eudora Welty's mother rushed into her burning house to save her collection of the works of Charles Dickens. Her neighbors thought her crazy. I empathize. And I got to thinking what would I rush in to save? Oh, there are the given things: videos and photograph albums of the family, the baby book, a family Bible, cherished pictures on the wall, the Zoe CDs and folios, the memory book made by Brandon and Sheryl and presented to me on Christmas, 2000,the three books of illustrated poems and scriptures given me by Bess Walton, my journals of quotations, and the wedding albums, etc.

Aside from those, what book would I rush in to save? I have so many favorites it is hard to say--maybe the short story book Sam gave me, the antique geography book used by Sam's dad in school, my mother's school text of Romeo and Juliet, my out-of-print copy of The Harvester, or Sam's old book about William Greenhill. But what "regular" book? I guess it would have to be Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies--surely one of my favorite books of all time.

What would you save?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Duchess Anna Amalia Library

On September 3, 2004 the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar Germany was destroyed by fire. So what? The library was established in 1761 in the Green Castle of Anna Amalia. Among the works destroyed were a collection of 18th century musical works and the renowned book collection of the first librarian Daniel Schurzfleisch, who brought them to the castle on 35 horse-drawn carts in 1722. Johann Goethe served as supervisor of the collection for over 30 years.

Other treasures destroyed were 10,000 original editions of Shakespeare. 50,000 classics were irreparably damaged, but some 6,000 works, including a 1543 Bible belonging to Martin Luther, were saved by a chain of people who rushed into the burning building and sloshed through sooty water....The staff was in tears when firemen prevented them from continuing as the roof threatened to cave in.

The cause is thought to be faulty wiring. Government officials called the fire a "national culture catastrophe and a great loss for world heritage." It is certainly a loss for world scholars as well.

I suppose it would be equal to our Library of Congress burning down....perish the thought!

Saturday, September 25, 2004


As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I enjoy stories about others. Have you ever heard of Abdul Kassem Ismael (AD.938-995) who was Grand Vizier of Persia? He never left home without his personal library.

On his many travels as a statesman, he was always accompanied by a train of 400 camels just for his library of 117,000 volumes. They were trained to walk in alphabetical order so tht each camel-driver-librarian could retrieve any book quickly. Each camel carried about 300 books. The camel train was nearly a mile long. Wouldn't the people at an oasis hate to see them coming....

Friday, September 24, 2004

Daily Bread

"The Israelites ate manna forty years...until they reached the border of Canaan. Ex. 16:35

It didn't take long for the Israelites to begin to complain. It took them about 45 days. "(In Egypt)...we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted." Exodus 16:3. So God sent manna and quail which they ate for the next 40 years.

Can you imagine eating the same thing for 14,600 days (40 years)? They knew that God was taking them to a land flowing with milk and honey and they began to complain to the One who had brought them out of SLAVERY. Contemporary Christians would not stand for it either. We demand more variety in our food and in our church life. I think we would begin to complain sooner--like the next day.

I was stricken last night as I opened the one bag of groceries I had just bought at United ($60 for ONE bag). I glanced over at the evening news and saw a man crying in Haiti which surely must be the most miserable place on earth right now. The poorest land in the continent devasted by the hurricane, no food, bodies in the streets, 1000 people still missing......

Father, give us today our daily bread and help us to be truly thankful for it! Bless the people of Haiti and those who are helping them--brush the tears from their eyes and give them food, rest, and a sense of your love.

Thursday, September 23, 2004


Icon: an image, a representation, an enduring symbol.

At Minter Lane in the fellowship building, we had a wonderful artwork by Talmage Minter showing a large oval bread with one piece cut out symbolizing the community supper. Though somewhat controversial, putting it in the fellowship building was better than putting it in the sanctuary. Because you see, our fellowship does not believe in icons or symbols.

In Exodus 16 God commands Aaron to take a portion of manna and place it before the Lord to be kept for generations to come. Aaron put it "in front of the Testimony" (v. 34) that it might be kept. Again the Israelites were reminded of the daily blessing of God.

When Minter Lane remodeled the sanctuary several years later, a beautiful blue cross was hung above the baptistery. As the cross was pulled up on the piano wire, shadows of two other crosses appeared behind it. It seemed to those watching that God was saying, "This is right; I like it." What a moment! I will never forget it.

As I look around at Highland every Sunday, I see our cross hung with purple, I see a cross sitting on the communion table, pictures by Jack and Jill Maxwell on the walls,and pictures drawn by children adorn the back walls. I am glad we are finally getting the message that icons are ok as long as we don't worship them--in fact, they are badly needed in this visual generation.

I highly recommend Henri Nouwen's Behold the Beauty of the Lord;
Praying with Icons. It helped finally liberate my rational mind and brought me to a new way of walking more closely with God.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

What is it?

"When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Exodus 16:15 ----------Just as the Israelites did not know what manna was, we often do not know what the daily blessings of God are in our lives. When something comes that seems too hard, we raise our hands, look up into heaven and ask, "What is this?" -------------Yet, as the day develops and we look back in the evening with Examen, we can often see that what God sent was really a blessing in disguise. And we give the blessings names: perhaps it was an eye-opening reminder of our finitude, or a flash of sweetness from a child, or a stirring moment when we absolutely knew the Spirit intervened in a situation, or a turn of event which brings us comfort as we remember it in retrospect------All reminders of God's care for us every minute of the day. I know this blog looks strange--I don't know what is happening. Forgive the format and read the words. Father, thank you for blessing us even when we do not know it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

One day at a time

"...you hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand on me." Psalm 139:5
In a thought-provoking sermon called "Bread of Angels", Barbara Brown Taylor examines the phenomenon of manna and its effect in the lives of the Israelites. She compared manna to the the grits of the South--"fine, flaky things that are absolutely no good left over."
Manna was a reminder to the tribe that they were living one day at a time by the providence of God. I need such a reminder in my life. I have been working the last few months on believing more fully that God is with me now, today, everyday, everywhere, and in everything (Psalm 139).
The benefits are mind-boggling and comforting. Taylor says that if you are willing to look at everything that comes to you as coming from God, there will be no end to manna in your life. Father, that is what I desire--to be so hemmed in, to be so completely caught up in living each day with you that I feel the overwhelming covering of your love "...in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God." Exodus 16:12

Monday, September 20, 2004

Laity Lodge

"I lift up my eyes to the hills ----where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.....He will not let your foot slip....he watches over you...The Lord is your shade at your right hand...The Lord will keep you from all harm---he will watch over your life....both now and forevermore. Psalm 121 I was fortunate to attend a weekend retreat at Laity Lodge near Leakey---A most beautiful place surrounded by rock hills, the Frio River and beautiful vegetation. What a glorious place! My sister-in-law and her husband lived in many towns around it, but eventually wound up in Pasadena, Texas. Had I the choice, I would never leave the hill country. God always seems nearer in such a setting, and one is certainly convinced of His creative abilities there too. Our stay was relaxing, refreshing, and intellectually stimulating. Fred Aquino outdid himself. There were old friends there I hadn't seen since ACU days. Thanks to the Howard E. Butt family who spent much of their fortune creating the Lodge and the HEB Encampment. And to God who filled my cup to overflowing this weekend.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Teacher Movies

I collect movies about teachers. I used to show some in my classes and workshop. Movies have a way of bringing home lessons to this visual generation that even a wonderfully written classroom lecture cannot match. I don't have a copy of these, but several years back there were some good ones: Blackboard Jungle, Up the Down Staircase, and Dangerous Minds. My favorite is Mr. Holland's Opus. Although it almost sinks in the middle, the movie has a wonderful ending. Dead Poet's Society comes in a close second--I guess it would be a favorite of anyone who has had a charismatic English teacher. I also enjoyed Music of the Heart which is based on a true story. Julia Robert's The Mona Lisa Smile was a flop for me and at the box office. Goodby Mr. Chips was entertaining and enchanting. Have I forgotten one?

Friday, September 17, 2004

Children's Movies

Children's movies did not exist when I began going to movies--in those days, we called them cartoons , and they were much shorter. Tom and Jerry, The Roadrunner, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd lightened many a Saturday afternoon. Children today have their plates full of movies designated just for them, but they can also be enjoyed by adults. My favorite? The Lion King--majestic, good music, funny, good moral--all the requirements. Close second--Beauty and The Beast (or as my Maddie would say "BeautyundBeast). I thoroughly enjoyed both Shrek movies, although I suspect they are a lot like some "children's books" I know--more for adults than children. Mary Poppins, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid all fun.

Thursday, September 16, 2004


There is nothing more relaxing than sitting in a darkened, cool movie theater eating popcorn and watching excellent actors put meat on well-written plot. Time does not exist. It is much the same experience as reading a great novel you cannot put down. --------------The Postman Always Rings Twice rang my bell in my early teens. The black and white version ( there was a later color remake) made the dark plot even darker. I would have to rate To Kill A Mockingbird as my favorite movie drama (one of the few outstanding books made into an outstanding motion picture.) ---------- Others I enjoyed include The Way We Were (Robert Redford!) Chariots of Fire , Little Women, Antone Fisher, The Sting, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (both Redford and Newman!). I used to have a poster of Robert Redford in my office as Madison Middle School. Wonder what ever happened to that???

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


The first epic I remember seeing was Gone with the Wind in the Paramount Theater in Abilene. Getting out of a movie way past midnight was really cool. I also remember driving with friends to Fort Worth to see the new Cinescope epic How the West Was Won. Is the definition of an epic any movie that lasts over 3 hours?

My favorite would have to be Dr. Zhivago. It is one of the most beautifully cinemagraphed (is there such a word?) movies ever made. All that snow! And the history, and the love story! Wow!

A very close second would Lord of the Rings and Stars Wars, although they have a quite different slant. Harry Potter might be included, but his are not long enough.

I even enjoyed The Alamo. An earlier epic I enjoyed was Exodus. That's when I first fell in love with Paul Newman. Sam understood.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Let's all go to the movies--Musicals

It has been a very disappointing summer as far as movie offerings go. I can think of only two I really enjoyed--King Arthur and Troy. I recently got so hungry for a movie, I went to see The Princess Diaries, Part II. It was actually not too bad--at least it had Julie Andrews.

I don't know that the fall is going to be much better, except for the forthcoming biography of Lewis Carroll. So I began thinking about all of my favorite movies. If lists of favorites bore you, come back in a week. It has been fun remembering and evaluating.

My favorite musical (which are all but dead these days): I think a tie for first would be Evita and Fiddler on the Roof. However, I never met a musical I didn't like--even Yentle (sp.?). My favorite Broadway musical has not come to the movies yet--Les Miserables. But I must not despair about the fall; I understand Phantom of the Opera is coming. Do you think Hollywood will ever do Aida?

P.S. How could I not write about in the My Fair Lady, The Music Man, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Singing in the Rain and......

Monday, September 13, 2004

Let's All Go to the Movies

The old Ferguson theater in Hamlin, Texas where I grew up was the only theater in town and probably sat about 200 people. I was a teenager before I realized that its balcony was only for the "non-white" population. It did have a cry room, I remember. Once a month the movie schedule would be placed in all the grocery sacks at Piggly-Wiggly. We would circle all the movies we wanted to see and hang it on the wall above the kitchen table. Our family went often during the week(because prices were cheaper then). My brothers and I always went to the Saturday morning show featuring Hollywood cowboys like Roy Roges and Gene Autry.---------One of the only handicapped persons I knew in Hamlin was the pop-corn man, Mr. Andress ,who was blind. His popcorn machine was not inside the movie, but rather across the street from it(I don't know why). The smell of popcorn permeated downtown Hamlin about 6 :15 every evening before the movie began. Kids often stood and watched the old man pour oil and popcorn in his machine. We counted the seconds before the kernels popped. (There was not much to do in Hamlin). Mr. Andress's niece was there with him to count change--I thought that was a cool job. He always stuck his thumb just inside the lip of the popcorn sack so that he did not overfill the sack and have popcorn littering the sidewalk. In his dark glasses and big smile, he seemed happy greeting all the movie-goers and supplying their movie munchies. I admired his stoic ability to serve the public. Mr. Andress wasa fixture in my childhood and in Hamlin for many years until television forced the closing of the old theater. A bank now stands on its site. What a tragedy! That's all for now, I have to go pop some popcorn.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Zoe Music

..."they would have swallowed us alive...."Psalm 124:3

I have had two experiences this week which testify to the good pervasive influence of the Zoe Worship recordings in our fellowship. At a women's retreat planning session yesterday, one of the participants talked about a difficult situation recently in which God gave her Psalm 124 "If the Lord had not been on our side..." After she was finished, someone in the crowd immediately and extemporaneously began Had It Not Been the Lord.

And this morning in talking about the missional nature of our salvation, we just had to sing A New Anointing. Five years ago, those songs were not in our worship repertoire. Thank you Zoe for enriching our worship experiences!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

A Value of Examen

As I ask myself each night what made me the saddest or when did I feel life draining out of me today, I can begin to discern a pattern of desolation in my life, and I can begin to take steps to change that pattern. When I examine my fears and begin to realize the resources God offers me, there can be no huge dread of the future and the unknown. I can, in effect, transition from cowering to stepping out boldly in God's hands----wars, disease, death, things I "should have" done, have no power over me. I am empowered by God's love and can say "Yes" to whatever comes. I can say with the lyrics of "Who Am I"---------"I am Yours Whom shall I fear Whom shall I fear 'Cause I am Yours I am Yours."

Friday, September 10, 2004

Examen III

It is so much easier to lead an unexamined life and surrender to busyness, materialism, and other ways of hiding. However, the reader of Psalm 139 knows there is no way to hide from God and His blessings: "You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me" (Vs5); "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" (Vs7); "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Vs.16)-------We can only say when we look back at each day and see how God has bumped into us "Search me, O God and know my heart; test and know my anxious thoughts....(Vs.23) "and lead me in the way everlasting." (Vs24)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Examen II

When a family chooses to share examen(explained in a previous post)at the supper table, all participants gain insight. Children become more comfortable sharing their fears and expectations. They can also see the stuggles of adulthood as their parents share. From moments of sharing, it is only a very easy step to prayer to God in thanksgiving for the good things and a prayer for help with the sad or bad things. God becomes one with our experiences.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Someone famous once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Those who begin the process of life examination will reap many rewards.-------Examen is an ages-old process recommended by St. Ignatius in The Spiritual Exercises. It is a very simple, but faith-building exercise. In the book Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life, Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn explain the process: Sit quietly (either by yourself, with a partner, or with a small group). Light a candle to symbolize God's presence. Then ask yourself two questions (with an approprate interlude between the questions): For what moment today am I most grateful? For what moment today am I least grateful? Another way of asking is "When was I the happiest today? When was I the saddest today? --------The Linns say, "examen makes us aware of moments that at first we might easily pass by as insignificant; moments that ultimately can give direction to our lives." You can use examen every night (Most Valuable) or at the end of the week or month.--------God constantly reveals himself to us in various ways; the examen process helps us to see Him more clearly.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Which ones do you remember?

Back to story, a recent statistic I read pointed out that over 75% of children entering kindergarten do not know nursery rhymes. These little ditties should be a part of every child's repertoire and should be a part of their life story. My favorite line from all the rhymes I know is "One misty moisty morning"--a perfect description of such a day which we rarely have around here. One of the first nursery rhymes Brandon learned was "Wee Willie Winkie" and he also loved "The Queen of Tarts"-----I think we have him on a tape saying that one.-------Surely one of the travesties of modern times was the idea someone got to turn the nursery rhymes into Christian messages in The Christian Mother Goose. In that one, "Doctor Foster Went to Gloucester" reads like this: " Dr. Foster went to Gloucester in a shower of rain; He went to teach. He went to preach God's word and make it plain." It doesn't quite have the same appeal does it? So much for plucking Mother Goose's feathers--I hope the people reading this are reading nursery rhymes to your children. Do you have favorites?

Monday, September 06, 2004

A story, a story

I have spent a large portion of my life reading stories to children.Today I spoke to a class at ACU and tried to convince the students that they are part of a story. We all live in narrative, a story-----which has a beginning and an end, has a plot, and has characters. Each day of our life is a chapter in our story. Frederick Bueckner has written that it is good to look back at our stories because it is there that we can see the hand of God in our life.----- Stories have always been important in all cultures. Early peoples told stories to explain natural phenomenon which we now understand because of scientific investigations.They told stories about the sun, the moon and the stars; about why fish needed water; and why there was a rainbow in the sky. One of the most magical phrases in English is "Once upon a time...." I love stories and hope to continue reading and sharing them. Dear Father, thank you for the stories you have given us about your love and care--help us to turn to them for comfort and the replenishment of our faith.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Skewing God

Mike taught us this morning about the pervasive old song sung by Israel over hundreds of years found in Psalm 145: "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love." It is also found in Exodus and in at least six other places. How then, did we wind up in the 50's and 60's with the skewed vision of God described so well by Tom Ehrich: "The cagey, hard-to-please God of legalism is a human fabication. No more real is the prickly God who fusses about our solemn assemblies . Or the hair-splitting God who monitors our puncutation and prefers certain translations. He continues, Scripture tells an entirely different story. Scripture tells of a passionate God who loves first, who treasures honesty and eagerness in return, who changes constantly in a quest for oneness with humanity. Scripture tells of a God whose sabbath matters less than healing, who rushes to greet returning exiles, prodigals and sinners."------I guess the answer to that is that we never studied the Old Testament in my formative days.....I will take Ehrich's God anytime.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Aunt Ruby P. S.

One of the things I forgot to say about Aunt Ruby and which I want to preserve for Maddie and Ella was that during WWII she and her sister Ida moved to San Marcos where they folded parachutes for the Air Force at the San Marcos Air Field. She was not "Rosie the Riviter", but had a very important job on which lives depended. 3 million women went to work in defense plants around the country--never again to return to the old model of cooking, cleaning and washing "homemakers." Looking at Ruby's old scrapbook about those days, I was reminded about how many ways Americans supported that war effort. I remember my mother putting up the sugar bowl saying sugar was rationed, and that we would now drink our drinks without it. Even now, I cannot drink tea or coffee with sugar. We collected "tin foil" and turned it into the collection center. I don't know what it was used for. Tires were at a premium and were kept on cars long after they should have been replaced. Movies glorifying war played at every theater; in fact, some of them are still playing.What a difference 60 years make! Dear Father, thank you for the sacrifices of our relatives and friends during the tough times from which we are so far removed.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Aunt Ruby

An era has ended in our family. The woman who took care of everyone is gone. In the late 30's and 40's, she took in three little waifs whose father was an alcholic and whose mother could not make a home for them. They were my husband and his brother and sister. She fed them, teased them, took them to school and church and inculcated those heavy things that parents are supposed to teach their children--the value of hard work, education and loving God. She was the only remaining charter member of her dwindling church and there fixed many meals for the bereaved, for those who were ill, and those who were down on their luck. She never missed a service until she became ill and could not go--and she expected anyone in her house--visiting or otherwise to go too.------- She had a great sense of humor and play which she passed on to her nephews and nieces. One Sunday morning after Ruby had gotten ready for church (hose, heels, hat, gloves, etc.) my Sam picked her up and took her kicking and screaming and dropped her in the horse trough full of dirty water. Dripping and muttering, she chased him around the block, throwing rocks and corn cobs at him. He was just getting back at her because of some trick she had played on him.-------Later, she took in three other nephews after their parents divorced and saw them through middle school, high school and college. And she did all this while she held down a full-time job at the telephone office and took care of her little farm on the side. She was one strong woman, I celebrate her and mourn her loss.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Go down, death

Death, I am really tired of you--wish you would just leave us alone--or even let us live our our lives until a respectable old age. Now you have gone and taken another good man Gwynneth Curtis--a young man still full of missionary zeal and plans for God's church to enter the lives of others. Why must the good die young? Why? Why? We are waiting for that answer. But even now we know that Gwy is much better off with the Father he loved so much and his beautiful voice is joining the angels around the throne today. Bless his family and the grandchildren who will never know him. Bless the fruits of his labors in Europe. Those of us who knew him thank you God for his example, his wide grin, and his love of the Lord.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The state of the cemetery

I spent yesterday afternoon under a funeral tent in the stately old Faulkenberry Cemetery in Groesbeck, Tx where the Thomas family has been buried since 1909. I was saying goodbye to Sam's Aunt Ruby (more about her in a later blog). This beautiful cemetery is really the way all cemeteries should look. I personally do not like the modern places of burial with all the tombstones flat and no place for trees. This one has been around long enough for huge oak trees, pine trees and gorgeous crepe myrtles to grow full. Here and there are old plots outlined with beautiful old iron fencing. The Woodman of the World monuments have always fascinated me--why would anyone want to be buried under a monument that looks like a stump? ----- All the Limestone County pioneers are there with some Confederate soldiers, WWI, WWII and other veterans represented. There are heart-breaking monuments with pictures of very young children. One can tell by the dates when the flu epidemic of the early 1900's came through. Unfortunately there are still remnants of segregation in which those corpses not white were buried outside the rim--wonder what the follks who made the decision to segregate will do in heaven when ALL of us get home? The cemetery is in the middle of farmland, so that one can hear and see cattle nearby--a truly bucolic scene. My husband's grandfather bought enough plots for several generations to be buried there--Now there are four generations from 1909 to 2004 there. My name is on one of the monuments--gives me pause everytime I see it. Thank you Father for ancestors who planned well, for relatives who loved us, and for the lives you give us to live today.