Saturday, April 29, 2006

Akeelah and the Bee

I saw Akeelah and the Bee today. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT FOR THE FAMILY. It is about a 11 year-old girl from the L. A. ghetto who enters the National Spelling Bee.

A film celebrating knowledge, intelligence, good grammar, and ethics is hard to find.
Akeelah is coached for the Bee by a UCLA professor of English who insists on promptness, optimism, and good work habits (certainly good lessons for today's students to learn.)The importance of reading and language study is stressed for champion spellers--not just rote memory which is how I always passed the spelling tests. I never knew how important Latin was to spelling. Latin was not a subject my tiny high school offered--I am sorry I missed it.

This one will join my shelf of good teacher videos right up there with Mr. Holland's Opus and Dead Poets Society. Don't miss it. The theater today was full of kids who applauded every Akeelah accomplishment.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Battle of Franklin II

The Battle of Franklin took place in November, 1864 in a small isolated Tennessee town of 2,500. There 20, 000 Union soldiers and 20,000 Confederates fought a short battle of 5 hours which has been called the the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. 9,300 boys died that day, more casualties than at D-Day and twice as many as at Pearl Harbor. Rivers of blood ran across the fields; six generals were lost in battle (the largest number of American generals ever lost in war.) Then there were the people of the tiny town trying to heal and bury all of them. Many were buried in shallow graves surrounding the town. Others were sent home. A few months later, the family who owned the ground on which most of the soldiers were buried decided to plow the land over and cultivate it. What to do with all those bodies and bones?

Up step John and Carrie McGavock whose plantation home had been used as a hospital during the battle. They offered to move the bodies to a plot adjoining their family
cemetery at their home Carnton just north of town. So that is how the largest private Civil War Cemetery came to be. 1,500 soldiers are buried there; some with names on their markers and some in the "unknown" plot. Carrie continued to tend the cemetery until her death in 1905. The cemetery is now owned and maintained by the Frankin Chapter of Daughters of the Confederacy.

Widow of the South by Robert Hicks tells this fascinating story--I highly recommend it.

As a new Tenessean, it seems to me that the Battle and all the casualties lie on the shoulders of a crazy Confederate general named John Bell Hood who marched his men across a flat field toward the entrenched Union forces and to certain death. Sorry if some of his relatives are readers.

As I have often stated before, all war is craziness. They do give occasions for heroes to arise and Carrie McGavock was certainly one of the most giving women of any war.

What a fascinating story.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The battle of Franklin

Our book club is reading for May: Widow of the South by Robert Hicks. It is the story of the Civil War battle in Franklin, TN. Franklin is just down the road from where I live. It is the tale of Carrie McGavock whose home, Carnton, was used as a hospital for that battle which occurred around her area. After the battle, she and her husband buried 1,500 of the fallen soldiers on their property. So we are going to see that Civil War Cemetery tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing the house too.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Last words

The "cemetery class" I am taking has piqued my interest in the last words of famous people.

Maybe one of the more famous is from the Texas writer O. Henry: "Don't turn down the light. I'm afraid to go home in the dark."

"I shall hear in heaven!" Beethoven Afflicted with deafness, he died at age 57.

"Tell them I loved to draw." Edgare Degas

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist----." General John Sedgwick shortly before he was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter.

"Tell my mother I died for my country. I thought I did it for the best. Useless, useless..." John Wilkes Booth

"Am I dying or is this my birthday?" Lady Astor awaking to find herself surrounded by her entire family.

"What's this?" Leonard Berstein

Taken in part from Famous Last Words compiled by Ray Robinson

I hope mine will be, "Thank you, Father. I want to come home."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lots for sale

Driving into Mount Olivet Cemetery, we saw a sign posted by the funeral home there:

Cemetery Lots: Buy three, get one free.

What a hoot, we thought. Kind of like buying boxes of cereal. However, joking aside, someone said lots there are very expensive--in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"A Christian's best things are to come." Thomas Watson

Friday, April 21, 2006

Mount Olivet

Our "cemetery" class toured Mount Olivet yesterday between rainstorms. It is truly the most beautiful cemetery I have ever seen. So many trees, so many gorgeous monuments. One very wealthy railroad man is buried under an exact replica of Napolean's monument--black granite and very impressive!

As we stood in "Confederate Circle" , an area honoring fallen soldiers of the war, I was overwhelmed at the utter uselessness and stupidity of war. There are 1,500 soldiers buried in that one spot--most of whom were 21 years of age or younger. The Civil War has often been called "The Boys' War" because so many young men died in it.
Our nation lost a whole generation there for nothing. So sad!!!

One of the more poignant memorials features three little children in the arms of Jesus. That particular family lost three children on the same day in the cholora epidemic. We have won the war against that disease--too bad we cannot win the war against war.

Oh, God help this useless war we are now fighting and losing young people in to end soon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What cemeteries tell us

Several of us at Otter are taking a course this spring in the Lipscomb series called Life Long Learning. We are taking Nashville History as Seen through It's Cemeteries.

While this might seem a morbid subject to some, I am learning quite a lot about Nashvillians and their history. We have visited the City Cemetery in the heart of the city where several Tennessee governors are buried. Marilyn Switzer (also of Otter) who is the teacher, showed us one woman's tomb which was large and very expensive, but which had no inscription. It seems that the second wife, weary of her husband's mentioning the first wife's name, had all inscriptions on her monument removed. We also learned that although people of color were allowed burial in the cemetery, they were often buried just over the fence or outside the family plot. And placement in the cemetery depended on the family's prestige--those who were important got the best spots with the best views (as if they could see).

Speaking of fences, many of the plots are fenced or curbed, unlike the "modern" burial places today. And of course, the monuments are creative, symbolic, often very large and ostentatious (depending on the wealth of the family). So unlike today's flat plot with a vase holding a dying flower. (I do not like those!), I realize it is easier to mow, but we trade beauty for cut grass.

I was surprised how many monuments do not have the full name of the deceased.
That makes it awfully hard to do genealogy. After years of research, I still do not know the full names of my grandmother's siblings --most of them had nicknames and their monuments read T. F. Herndon or the stone has the nickname as the first name.
Oh well, mine is already in place beside Sam and reads Judith Ann Brandon Thomas.
It does give me a start when I visit the Groesbeck Cemetery and see it. By the way, that old cemetery is full of beautiful above-the-ground monuments and fences. Yes!!!!

More about this later. We visit Mt. Olivet the ritzy cemetery of Nashville tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

No detachment here

Corrie Ten Boom once said, "Like many railway tickets in America, I am "Not good if detached."

We so easily get used to things and lose our wonder. Tim spoke Sunday about the awe and wonder we ought to feel about the resurrection. Without it, Christianity would be just another "ism" for the history books.

Detached Christians miss so much in their world. One of my friends spoke about recently attending her parent's church near here. She said, "There was no emotion--everything was hum-drum--Heads were buried in the song books as if they had never sung those old songs before. The communion was rushed and looked like the changing of the guard, rather than a commemoration." Yes , we are no good, if detached. We miss the zing in worship and present to God a worship that may as well be mimed. We miss the sweet communion and joy in the breaking of the bread. We miss the communal feeling of sharing a special time together.

Resurrection seems to get almost as much bad press as Christmas. There were several articles posted this past weekend about the myth of resurrection. I, for one, do not doubt it--it and the incarnation are what my faith clings to as I journey down this road to heaven.

Monday, April 17, 2006

New Words

I love learning new words. I am always amazed at people who can coin new words on their own. In a new book called Crazy/Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD (how's that for an impossible title?), author Edward M. Hollowell created these words to describe our modern world:

Sceensucking: Wasting time looking any screen; video game, television, computer, etc.

Taildogging: Allowing the tail to wag the dog. Going faster or pushing harder on yourself or your kids or your business just because other people are doing it and you don't want to left behind.

Frazzling: Multitaking ineffectively

Doomdarts: An obligation you had forgotten about that suddenly pops into your consciousness like a poisoned dart.

Kudzu: The unstoppable, unkillable stream of unexpected minor requests from people everywhere that slows down humans down.

Info addicts: A person addicted to keeping up second by second with what is "going on"

The Megaloctupus: A beast made of people who try to steal your time. It pursues you daily, extends its tentacles and tries to stop you from accomplishing tasks.

Is there anything about your life that is crazy/busy?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

As I ponder the history of this day, I cannot help but think about those women who were at the cross, and especially Christ's mother who stood as the blood of her son stained the hem of her garment.

What would it be like to watch your son crucified? To know that he was killed unjustly? And to hear him say that she would be taken by John? Was this one of the things she pondered in her heart over the three years of watching him after he left home? Surely she must have felt that he was walking into a terrible situation as he entered Jerusalem.

I can only imagine...

Thursday, April 13, 2006


We all have someone in our lives who exude the spirit of Christ everywhere. Tonna Cervantes was one of those people for me. I never saw her very much after she and husband left Abilene for greener pastures. They had just finished a short service as youth ministers at Minter Lane. She would sometimes drop into Lecureship to hear Zoe and pass on extravagant praise for Brandon. The last time I saw her, she had taken a few days off to come to Abilene to see a dear friend. They came to Highland, and we had lunch together. Tonna spoke as if God and Jesus were close relatives with whom she had daily conversations and who audibly visited her. She was a seeker and questioner who was burdened with the church's vision of women, and she often got down and loud about it. Though troubled by a wayward child and cancer, I never saw her depressed or unhappy with her life--just trusting, trusting.

Tonna is now in the presence of God praising him for the ages with the rest of the saints. She died this week of cancer.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Thanks to Sonya Colvert for passing along these words from Rick Warren:

Happy Moments Praise God
Difficult Moments Seek God
Quiet Moments Worship God
Painful Moments Trust God
Every Moment Thank God

Monday, April 10, 2006


Sitting in a car dealer's waiting room, I was interested to hear the topics of conversation between 2 older men and an an elderly lady there. They covered their pains, the weather, the state of hospitals, the trouble our schools and students are in, and finally got around to the headline of the day: The marching of the immigrants against the Congress fiasco with the immigration bill.

While they generally agreed that Congress is on its way to perdition and has fallen apart, they also began talking about kicking out all illegal immigrants who "are taking our jobs and using our tax money." Curiously, they then began to discuss the geneology of their families and decided that they were the recipients of the survival of their immigrant forebearers in this country. Those Irish, Scotch, and English folks who braved the ocean, settled in ghettos in the East and then moved gradually out to God's country in the West and the South. But they didn't seem to see the connection with today's immigrants who are virtually trying to do the same things our forebearers did--pass along a better life to their children.

Personally, I do not mind paying taxes to educate children--ANY CHILDREN. As children are educated, they can only make life in the U. S. better when they grow up.
And they will be the ones living with my grandchildren. It is beyond me how people can be so nearsighted and isolationist and so historically ignorant.

So I hope Congress comes to its senses (if it has any) and helps make a better life for all who come. This is the country where dreams come true; one only has to look at the life we lead to see that.

There were so many commandments to the Israelites to treat the "aliens" who joined them well. And then there is that one that says, "love your neighbor."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Worship is Sabbatical

M. Thompson says that Christian worshiop is a way of "remembering the sabbath day to keep it holy." Ex. 20:8 Like the Jewish sabbath, the Lord's Day is understood to be an opportunity to rest from ordinary labor and activity and to "disengage from the nose-length focus of daily life and see below the surface to life's source."

And do we ever need it! In a story called Always On in a recent Readers'Digest, Seth Stevenson writes about modern plugged-in life. He says that most nights he and a girlfriend sit and watch TV on one of a hundred digital channels. As they sit, each one has a notebook computer in the lap with cell phones and I-Pods within easy reach. Stevenson writes that he knew he was in trouble while hiking the Himalayas, he found a small storefront with internet access. And there he was in one of the most beautiful places in the world sitting in a musty room staring at forwarded emails and playing fantasy baseball on a computer. Stevenson quotes Tom Mahon, a Silicone Valley ethicist who says, "I advise people to observe a data sabbath. Take one day a week to disconnect from anything digital. We are drowning in a sea of information, but we are starved for meaning and knowledge."

In worship, we take at least an hour a week to unplug from the world and honor God with our praise. In sincere worship from the heart, we lay down our trophies of busyness and exhaustion and celebrate the overwhelming love of God. We restore our souls and drink from God's foundain of blessing and delight. And then we can return to the world refreshed, renewed and happily trusting God to help us through another week.

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever, and his faithfulness continues through all generations." Psalm 100:4-5

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Worship is Relational

It is natural for the creature to worship the Creator. Randy Harris has said that worship is "the reply of the creature to the Creator." Marjorie Thompson says in her book, Soul Feast, "True worship from the heart means responding to God's glory and love with our entire being....worship from the heart joins inner reality with outward expression."

Adoration, ecstasy, falling on our face, crying and even "replying" are not ordinarily part of the worship of my fellowship. Could it be that since we have chosen the synagogue model for worship rather than the temple worship model (more about that later) we have missed out on a basic tenet of worship? When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman in John 4:23, he said, "God is spirit and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth. We have obsessed about truth so much that we failed to invite the spirit.

Some critics have faulted some of the contemporary hymns as being "too personal" and "sounding too much like love songs." Duh!!!Worship is all about God and our personal love for him. Worship is a hungry heart reaching for the Father. When one relects that we can "come near to Him" and even talk to Him, it is sobering, awe-inspiring, and wonderful.

"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men."Isaiah 29:13

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Worship is formational

Our small group is studying this week chapter 4 in Marjorie Thompson's Soul Feast called Gathered in the Spirit, Our Common Worship.

Just how does worship affect spiritual formation? Or does it? I will be musing through the chapter this week with you.

Have you ever thought how difficult it is to plan a worship experience for a group containing rut-bound old coots, bored and restless boomers and young post-moderns looking for an "authentic" experience? Well, it ain't easy! I served on Highland's worship committee for several years and our struggle each Monday as we planned the next week was to meet the needs of our congregation and to spiritually form them in the process. See that word "process"--that is what spiritual formation is. Formation doesn't happen overnight, but it is a prolonged process in which the seeker must be as engaged as the Former (that is, God the one who forms) I really don't think many people see worship as spiritually forming. It is just something we do each Sunday morning, because, well, just because that is what we have always done.

If after you have spent 52 Sundays worshipping God, you do not feel any different and your spiritual life is not any deeper, and it all seems like a ritual to you--you are not being spiritually formed and you are probably not engaged. Thompson says that worship is the work of all those who gather together to honor, praise and glorify God. Work means involvement; work means a self-offering; work means a willingness.

In his book In Search of Wonder, Lynn Anderson says, "...the primary business of the church is worship." In his book Ceasefire, Perry Cotham writes, "Nothing, absolutely nothing we do when we assemble is more important than our worship to God."
Why do we not believe that? Instead of engaging, why do we spend our time in worship finding fault with the service, the worship leader, the songs selected, the program planned, the graphics displayed, the quality of sound, the color of the carpet, the softness or hardness of the seats, the color of the hair of the woman in front of us---my point is we are not engaged in this very important business of paying honor to
God, our creator and forgiver.

Psalm 51:15 "Unbutton my lips, dear God; I'll let loose with your praise." (The Message)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

More quotidian matters

I see by my post counter that this one is #501. It seems like more.

We who washed in the "good old days" know that after washing came ironing--our's was usually Tuesday afternoon while we listened to soap operas on the radio. Remember Stella Dallas?

I was in charge of ironing my dad's work clothes and brothers' levis and all the handkerchiefs (before the days of Kleenix--either that or we couldn't afford them), and pillowcases. We didn't iron sheets, thank goodness.
That way, I couldn't mess up anything of importance. We first sprinkled the very wrinkled clothes (you would be wrinkled too if you had gone through a roller twice).
with a big bottle filled with water. And then wrapped the clothes up in a blanket or sheet to "ripen"--that is, for the water to spread throughout the clothes. After a while, we plugged in the old heavy iron, got out the ironing board and began. Somewhere along the way, some of the clothes were starched. That was before spray starch.

While all this was a lot of work, it was a great satisfaction to have all the clothes cleaned and ironed and hanging in the closet. Cleanliness surely must be next to godliness. It feels so good.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Quotidian matters

Quotidian--everyday, commonplace. Mondays are days for quotidian matters--for washing, for cleaning the kitchen, for putting away the toys of the weekend.

I guess Mondays have always been days for washing--there are even nursery rhymes to that effect. I find it interesting that one of the best-selling non-fiction books today is about laundry: Laundry: The Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens by Cheryl Mendelson. This her second book about quotidian tasks. The first was called Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. It was also a best seller.

I haven't read the book, but I guess my mother would shake her head that someone would actually write a book about laundry. She spent many of her years of marriage loading clothes in the car and taking them to the local laundry--not for someone else to do them, but for her to spend two hours washing them herself in an old round washing machine with a roller for getting the water out. I went with her many times to help. As I remember, the clothes were first put in a tub to soak, then washed in the machine and then the dirty water was rolled out. Then they were put in another tub to rinse, and then rolled again. Then we took them home and put them on a clothes line outside to dry in the sun. No clothing driers available then. I was in charge of hanging most of the things, but I was not allowed to hang the sheets--they were too big to handle.

Of course in drying clothes outside, one must always clean the line with a wet rag first, and then get the clothespin bag (usually a cloth bag with a wire fit into it allowing it to be hung on the line). I remember how tired my arms got while hanging the towels, washcloths, handkerchiefs, my dad's work clothes, and my brother's levis.
Those of us who remember those days also remember how clean and good the gathered laundry smelled when you brought it in. And sleeping on those sunshined -dryed sheets that first night was heaven. By the way, Mendelson says that we really should have beds made up of two easily washed sheets,rather than covered with hard to wash duvets or blankets.Because (our beds) "receive saliva, perspiration (as much as a cup each night)body oils, more intimate fluids and skin flakes". I don't when I have sweated a cup of perspiration at night in sleep, but that is what she says.

I don't remember if we used Tide then or not--I do remember the Clorox for whites and the bluing ( to enhance the white--I don't know if that is made anymore--I haven't seen it in the stores). And of course, we didn't just do one load--there multiple loads--one for whites, one for our better clothes, one for work clothes and one for sheets. You can see why she needed my help in keeping all these going. I don't how much the laundry cost at Mr. Grubbs's laundry, but I suspect he made a very good living from it. The laundry itself smelled wonderful--soap suds, Clorox,etc. The floor was always wet, and we had to watch where we stepped. My mom knew just what day to go, so that enough washing machines would be available for our week's washing for five people.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Mr. Kenmore and Maytag for your fabulous inventions which we so often take for granted.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Last Prayer Entry

One last favorite prayer:

God our creator, you have made each one of us in every part. Bless us through and through, that we may delight to serve you to the full. Bless our eyes, that we may discern the beauty you give. Bless our ears, that we may hear you in the music of sounds. Bless our sense of smell, that your fragrance may fill our being. Bless our lips that we may speak your truth and sing your joy. Bless our hands, that they may play, write and touch as you guide them. Bless our feet, that they may be messangers of your peace. Bless our imaginations, that we may be fired with wonder in your truth. Bless our hearts, that they may be filled with your love. Bless us through and through that we may delight to serve you to the full, through Jesus Christ who took our nature to make us whole.

From the Anglican Prayer Book for Australia

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The prayers of others

One of the things I find most inspiring when thinking about prayer is praying the prayers of others.

We recently prayed one of my favorites from St. Patrick:

May the strength of God pilot us,
May the power of God preserve us,
May the wisdom of God instruct us,
May the way of God direct us,
May the shield of God defend us,
May the host of God guard us against the snares of evil
and the temptations of the world.

Michael Counsell's book 2000 Years of Prayer is an excellent guide not only to the history of prayer, but to some of the best-known and often-quoted prayers of the centuries. It begins with prayers from the Bible and ends with prayers from contemporary people like John Stott and Billy Graham. Men and women, saints and sinners, Americans and world wide believers, liturgical and prayers of the uneducated are all included.

Another of my favorites to pray:

God be in my head and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes and in my looking;
God be in my mouth and in my speaking;
God be in my heart and in my thinking;
God be in my ending and in my departing.

From one of the "Books of Hours"