Friday, June 30, 2006

Berea College

I have been interested in Berea College since the 70's when I read Eliot Wigginton's books called Foxfire--books taken from a magazine which Wigginton and his students had begun to preserve the Applachian way of life. Berea College figured prominently in those books.

Berea College is in Berea, Kentucky. It is a liberal arts school with a billion dollar endowment--yes, that is billion with a "b". None of the students who attend pay for their schooling--they simply work in some capacity for the school at least 10 hours a week. The school is dedicated to providing an educational opportunity primarily for students from Appalachia "black and white, who have great promise and limited economic resources." Equal education to both men and women Fall enrollment this year was 1,523 students. It is an undergraduate school with a large training program in the arts (both aesthetic and technical). There are several shops on campus where students learn woodworking, weaving, painting, etc. The school publishes a catalog selling wooden items, etc. which are handmade by the students. Deeply embedded in the school is the Christian ethic, even though they have no Bible department.

We stayed at Boone's Tavern in which all the furniture in the hotel was made by the students. It is a lovely facility and a tavern in the sense that it provides a place for people to eat and sleep. The county is dry.

So interesting to see a university put a Christian commitment on the line through service and an interest in equality.

Begun by fervant abolitionists and radical reformers, the school is quite proud of its history and of the service it is rendering to the Appalachian region.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Traveling with friends

Friends from Abilene and I went to Kentucky last weekend. It is one of life's joys to be with old friends, who as someone once said "know all my faults, yet love me anyway." With friends, you don't have to fill in any background when you begin a story. These particular friends, Pat and Morgan Phillips and David and Ann Jones were with me in so many of the dark and light moments of my life--they were there when Brandon was born (Dave loves to call him Brandy). They were there when we built our house at Potosi (Dave later built on a lot next door). They were there when Sam got sick and when he died. Dave and Sam were both principals in AISD. In fact, Mr. Jones suffered through 7 years as my principal at Austin Elementary School.

Pat is Brandon's second mother; her son Paul is an only child too. Pat plied Brandon with honey sandwiches as he grew and loved him through adolescence too. Pat and Morgan helped us give Brandon's graduation party, serving as waiters at our Italian-themed party. Morgan is a retired school counselor, Pat is a retired teacher, Ann is a retired school principal. So we had many things in common. We all attended Minter Lane in Abilene together. And we still enjoy each other's company. Sam was the absent yet very present 6th person on our trip. We can't get together without telling "Sam Thomas stories." Dave was Sam's roommate on principal convention trips and his favorite target for tricks.

It was such a joy to be with all of them! Thank you God for a lifetime of good friends.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Regional speech

I have been gone a while enjoying an Elderhostel program in Kentucky. We visited Pleasant Hill (a restored Shaker village) and Berea College. Much more about these two places will follow--much fodder for the blog!

At Berea, we were given a list of Kentucky Applachian terminology taken from the book Muddy Branch by Clyde Roy Pack. I was stricken to discover how many of the idioms listed sounded like they came out of the mouths of my family. Here are some things I heard both my grandmothers say which were on the list:

pert near (pretty near)
poke (a paper sack) We carried groceries in a poke.
roast neers (roasting ears) corn on the cob
heavy set (overweight)
fleshy (heavy set)
raisin' cain (drinking, etc.)
here while back (in the not too distant past)
a fer piece ( a great distance)
smack dab (exactly in the middle)
safe (a kitchen cabinet)
chifferobe (the piece of furniture in the bedroom where clothes were hung before closets)
show out (act out)
smidgen (a measurement in cooking)
2 bits (25 cents)

Could it be that my relatives came from Appalachia--which we learned could be pronounced either "Appalatcha" or Appalaycha".

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Good friends in Nashville

I can't believe it, but my long-time Abilene friends Pat and Morgan Phillips are in Nashville this week-end. They came over for brunch this morning along with Morgan's brother and wife and Morgan's sister and husband and Brandon and Sheryl and the kids. Matt and Katie also came. It was a great morning.

There is nothing more fulfilling that breaking bread with friends and relatives. It is a little taste of heaven.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Yes, Jacinda, it is true I had a few unkind words to say about Disney books when I was teaching children's literature. I do not retract any of them; however, now that I am a grandmother, I can see Disney's allure to children. My grandchildren are caught up in the princess mode as are most girls of their age. And what does Disney offer them? Books, videos, DVDs, large and small dolls, dresses, shoes, tiaras, and who knows what else. The Disney group has uncanny success with tapping into whatever children of America want. It has been fun to watch Maddie and Ella dress up endlessly pretending to be princesses.

No, their books are not literature, but their products and inventions have provided entertainment to thousands of children. No, I do not expect that parents will quit buying their books, but I do wish if parents buy the Disney Cinderella book that they would also buy a book with the "real" story so that children are not caught up short when they find out that birds did peck out the eyes of the wicked stepsisters.Of course, there is no real story because the Grimms, from whom many of the old stories came, simply stole the stories of nannies, grandmothers, and babysitters for their books. Or they made up the stories altogether.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Musing about theology

I have been wondering lately why I am so impatient with theological stuff. Why do I turn off preachers who enjoy mystifying their listeners with theological terms. Why I seek the "Human" touch in ministers: a human touch which must know that not all of their listeners went to seminary, have read the latest Dallas Willard book, or who have suddenly seen the efficacy of dawn to midnight reading of the Bible. Why do I protest so much against the very adademic and intellectual knowledge I wish I had?
Oh, yes, I do wish I knew Greek and Hebrew; I do wish I knew the difference between Aryans and Gnostics; I do wish I knew what triumphalism is; I do wish I knew the
theological philosophies of any number of dead white men I have heard mentioned lately.

The truth is, I don't think it really matters to God that you know ancient philosophies, what the Greek word is for baptism, or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Am I closeted in my church of Christ bubble, am I being anti-intellectual or what?

I don't know.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Heads up

I received a very discomforting letter last week--an invitation to the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation. We were only a class of 42 and several have died, so it will be a small group.

I have been thinking about what a different person I am 50 years after Hamlin High School. Not only has my body changed shape,and my hair changed color, but my mind has a different shape as well.I have gone from being a graduate who had no idea what she wanted to do in life, to a 67 year-old-person who has retired from what she didn't know what she wanted to do (librarian). I have developed from a born and bred member of the church of Christ to a Christian whose mind has been opened in so many ways letting traditions and practices of others drop in. I have even become a Tennessean!

I know that others in my class have experienced the same transformations. I am looking forward to seeing them again in September.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Catching up

My computer monitor has been giving me trouble, so I have not been able to post--here's what I have been up to lately:

Pool party on Sunday in the hot sun!!!! Maddie kept asking me to get in the pool so she "could help me swim"--I had told her earlier that although I had lessons through the years, I had never learned to swim. And that I was so pround of her for learning at age 5.

Small group: We are beginning a video series featuring THE N. T. WRIGHT whose writings are being touted by many people I know. I am looking forward to it.

Volunteering: I went to our Wayne Reed Christian Child Care Center for a few hours yesterday. Sandy Collins wanted me to sort shelves of books so they would be more useful. Sorting into teacher units, books to be read while waiting for school to start (some of the kids get there before 6:30 a.m.), books to be given away to parents, and books to pitch. My librarian soul was happy to do that, and with the help of Doris Colvett (a retired elem. teacher) we strode into the room and began.
We probably got only 1/3 of the job done before we had to leave. What a job! It is amazing what turns up when people are asked to make donations of books to a non-profit! I have never seen so many Disney books in my life. And worn and torn books as well. I had no trouble pitching many of them. The same goes for donated videos in the teacher workroom which we had to go through to free up some shelves. The task almost made me wish I were in the trenches again, organizing things for the teachers' benefit, buying books to implement the curriculum and buying books for the enjoyment of preschool children who have no books at home.

Doris and I will go back after vacation and finish up. It was a joy.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The muffin man

It was fun to keep the girls yesterday. At one point, I heard Ella singing "The Muffin Man" in perfect tune and on pitch. She sang two verses. She also enjoys rocking her babies in my old red rocking chair that I had when I was her age. What a beautiful sight. Bless her. Maddie built a very nice sail boat out of Lincoln logs and painted a picture she entitled "Gathering Cookies." Now are they bright or what?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A breath of fresh wind

Amy Jill Levine, one of the top New Testament scholars in the U. S. spoke at Otter last night. She is a professor of religion at Vanderbilt, and a practicing Orthodox Jew. She spoke on the subject of "Jesus and Women." She totally destroyed everything I have I ever read on the subject of repression of women by the Jews using examples from the New Testament I had never put together before. She said that far from being a feminist, Jesus was more interested in calling EVERYONE to his new way in which all were equal--a much loftier goal than restoring rights. I can't wait to hear her again. Wish the Zoe Conference could get her as a speaker.

I have always been uncomfortable with the whiny arguments about women's repression, although I have been known to use them. For the first time I saw Lydia as an independent business woman, Presilla (sp) free to travel about the country (as were Mary and John's the Baptist's mother).Then there was Cusa"s wife who traveled without him while supporting Jesus. She said of course Jewish men could speak to Jewish women--that is often how they got Jewish babies. And many of the women who supported Jesus had disposal incomes of their own.

What a breath of fresh air. Now about that equality thing......

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sam's birthday party

Possibly the best birthday party yet: Mexican food, a cute one-year-old and lots of good friends.

It is hard to believe that Sam is already a year old. He has spred joy among Brandon's friends for 12 months. They all adore him--who couldn't with those shining four teeth and red hair? I gave him a Superman glass and bowl--it is time for him to stop eating out of Princess bowls and drinking from Mermaid glasses!

How fun it was!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Spiritual formation

Last night our small group finished our study of Marjorie Thompson's Soul Feast and spritual formation. Good book; good study for small groups.

The question now is how do we put it into practice? As Thompson says, one cannot possibly do all practices at once (not even Mr. Superchristian). She suggest that we choose the one with which we feel the most affinity. Some said last night that they might choose journaling; some spiritual reading; some promised to begin examen; our host ( who is already very hospitable) said she wished to become even more hospitable. None of said we felt an affinity to fasting--not surprising. It is fulfilling to know that all of us learned more about spiritual formation. Now if we can just understand that the transformation is a slow process requiring intentionality and patience. God does not see us as we are, but as we hope to become. Thanks to him for his grace.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

We had just finished taking the women for a tour of the homes of country music stars.
The women, mostly early forties, were residents of a halfway house for those with substance abuse.

I was talking to Betty (not her real name). She a native of Iowa; her family had moved to Nashville years ago so her father could work for DuPont. As we talked, I found that she had been a resident of the home for four weeks. She has a back-breaking job working for Goodwill sorting donations. Yet, she seems very happy, has a twinkle in her eye and is generally doing well. Her one poignant comment was "I am so glad my mother and father died before I got into trouble."

Lord, keep the twinkle in my eye as I survey all the blessings you have given me, and help me to reach out to Betty and her friends.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Anne Coffey was a senior at a New York high school of the performing arts when she dropped out to get married. She later said it was the stupidest thing she ever did.
Even though she is an accomplished seamstress and has won awards for her quilts and dolls, she always felt that something was missing.

Dresed in cap and gown, two nights ago she graduated from the Adult Education GED program in Abilene. Anne is 74 years old. She plans to tackle computers next.

What a woman!

As a former board member of the Taylor County Literacy Council, I am always thrilled to see the stories of those who fought to get an education. We need more like them.
Thanks to the adult education programs everywhere who provide ways for those who thought they could never do it to graduate.

Friday, June 02, 2006


To anyone in ACU land: Does anyone have a recipe for the sweet potato dish that often appears on the menu at ACU dinner theaters? It is so wonderful--I have spent lots of money on sweet potatoes and recipes from cookbooks trying to replicate it and have not yet succeeded. It is almost a souffle with a crunch topping. Yum!