Thursday, August 31, 2006

What do we do with affluence?

I live next to one of the wealthies counties in the U. S.--Williamson County, TN. This is where the median family income is $90,087. There are an estimated 5,964 families who make in excess of $200,000 a year.

What does that mean for me as I sit patiently waiting for the $2.00 per month cost-of-living increase given each year by the Texas Teacher Retirement System?I guess it means that I know a lot more wealthy people than I used to. It means that I am amazed everyday by the monstrous houses being built in Williamson County. It means that the Nashville area is booming as everyone wants to get in on the high economy--more businesses, restaurants, etc.

There are, however, an estimated 6,891 people living at the poverty level and the homeless level is extremely high, as well.

It woould follow that church contributions are at a very high level (don't think so)and that these rich folks are more than eager to help those who are not (don't think so). I do pray that the growing affluence in this area will spread out to help those who are not as fortunate. This is the essence of Christianity.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Nostalga is a strange thing--it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I was in Starbucks this morning and noticed a poster showing a girl sitting between her grandparents. The caption was something like Pull out the hide a bed and put on another pot of coffee.

After seeing that and remembering all the times of visitation with various people, I have been depressed all afternoon.

I miss visiting my grandparent Granny Tucker whose house always smelled slightly of mothballs and good food. I miss visiting:

Aunt Ruby who always put on the grandest feast ever and entertained us royally.

New Braunfels with all sorts of friends and relatives--I miss stepping into the cold water to float around the bend, hit the rapids and survive to float again. And the food we cooked and brought there--cold oven pound cake, vegetables from the garden, homemade burgers, unhealthy snacks of all kinds; singing hymns late at night in the screened porch; watching Sam and the other men play horseshoes and 42; yakking with the women as we sat on the green bank and watched the kids swing off "the rope" and paddle in the shallow water.

sitting around tables in the fellowship center at Minter Lane and having "Sanging and Sandwich" nights in which we got out the old brown hymnals full of Stamps Baxter hymns and let go

Oh, well nostalga is bittersweet and I am glad I have those times to remember.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Playing Catch Up

Because of reading restrictions etc. I am behind in several things:

For Phil, my review of Phil Keaggy:

I loved every minute of his concert--After all, I matured in the 50's and 60's. He is so talented and humble. I was amazed at his ability to do several things at once with his guitar and accompaning technology. It was hard to tell if he and his friends were really playing tunes or just jamming. They looked like they were having lots of fun. "Here Comes the Sun" was my favorite of the evening. Can't wait until next year.

Sandy Collins and I are teaching a class on Ecclesiastes this fall, beginning Sept. 3. If anyone out there knows of some good resources for the class, let me know by replying here or to my e-mail We have found some good things, but my mode of operation is to find everything I can possibly find on a subject I am teaching. It is going to be enlightening for us and the class. I have least learned to spell Ecclesiastes.

My son's adventures at the theatre this weekend were hysterical to say the least. I don't know of any other person who can get himself in so many ambarrassing situations and come out of them laughing. I will say, he is more like his father than his mother! My Sam would still be laughing.

I saw World Trade Center yesterday. I can't say I enjoyed it--but is was striking to see the circumstances in film. So wrenching, and so still unbelievable. That is another day I will never forget along with the deaths of JFK, Bobby K., MLK, and man walking on the moon. Nicholas Cage does a good job and the young Hispanic actor an even better one. Lest we forget...

Regarding Brandon's blog of the past few days, It is so heart-warming for me to watch BST and Sheryl model and teach sharing and caring for the poor to the girls. I am glad the girls are getting to see that not everyone has a playroom full of toys and a nice cool house with all the needed amenities. We are all too blase about the wonderful blessings we have.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Eyes Have It

I have spent the last few days recovering from cataract surgery on my right eye.

Everything went well and improvement should come soon. I needed no anesthesia, so it was somewhat disconcerting to be able to see the surgeon working on my other eye and to hear a machine nearby doing something.

The day of the surgery I was told not to focus too intently (in other words, don't read). I don't know how I would cope with blindness--reading is too much a part of my day. I found myself wandering about wondering what to do.

Thanks to all who sent prayers and offers of food.

God is good.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Colonial days

Back in the days when I was a high school teacher, I loved teaching early American literature. In that I could also teach early Colonial history. I have been reading a book that I missed when it came out: Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death--it is fine! I recommend it, especially to overwrought TV fanatics.

At any rate, in one of the first chapters, he writes about the literacy rate of early Americans. He says that between 1640 and 1700, the literacy rate for men in Mass. and Conn. was somewhere between 89 and 95%, "quite probably the highest concentration of literate males to be found anywhere in the world at that time." (Women's was 62%--they didn't go to school) I think of this every time I hear some athletes interviewed on television (or rappers). Where has literacy gone? He also said that in the very first days of colonization, each minister was given 10 pounds with which to start a religious library. How many of your churches have one?

The Bay Psalm Book (which every household had) was printed in 1640 and is highly regarded as our country's first best-seller. The best-sellers today are mysteries and political rantings.

Schooling for colonial young was consider a moral duty and an intellectual imperative. Reading was not regarded as an elitist activity, but was spread out into all classes.

Thomas Paine's Common Sense sold more than half a million copies. A book today with our population would have to sell 24 million copies to do as well.

I will add that today we consider being able to read the label on a soup can as literacy. Can many of our students read Thomas Paine?

I would be happy if every American could read a soup can label, but I wish we would stretch a little higher like our forefathers and foremothers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Old friends

We were so thrilled to have Sally Gary visit this weekend. She has been a part of our family since a certain red-haired boy at Wylie stepped into her classroom and asked, "Are you the teacher who directs the one act play?"

Sally is ministering to the church with a very contemporary ministry so needed in churches these days--You can hear her at the Zoe Conference in October for which you must register now--it is filling up.

Maddie and Ella and Sam love "Aunt Sally" too. She usually brings them gifts having to do with pigs (it has a BST Connection), but this time she brought them two games: Ants in the Pants and those monkeys one has to hook togehter. Remember those?

Sally had not made the Puffy Muffin, so we did that for breakfast yesterday. Ella came with Daddy since Maddie is now in school on Mondays. It was a Daddy Date which Brandon is committed to every now and then with each child (Sam is a little young yet, but he will be included too). I think it is a wonderful tradition and shows the child that Dad thinks you are special and worthy of time.

Sheryl and I attended a baby shower for Sara Williamson this weekend. With her usual panache, Sheryl wowed the crowd by decorating the tables. (This was a sit-down brunch for about 30 people) 3 large tables. Taking her cue from the shower invitations, she decorated (that is, covered different boxes with white paper and painted the same designs as were on the invitation on the boxes, and then stacked and filled them with flowers). She also made napkin rings for everyone in matching colors using wrapping paper cores and delightful ribbons. What a master!!!

And then we had Celebration Sunday last night--a true blast in more ways than one.
I realized as we sang "Listen to Our Hearts" that it is one of my all time favorite Zoe songs.

It was certainly a fun weekend for all of us.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Movies I really liked

After yesterday's post, Drew Battistelli asked for suggestions of movies I really like. I recently saw "You've Got Mail" again. I had forgotten how much I liked that one. Probably because some of it is set in bookstores.

Although "The Devil Wears Prade" is not billed as a funny movie, it was; and I really like it too. Meryle Streep is an amazing actress.

However, these may be both be considered "chick movies"? The truth is, there seem to be longer and longer spells between movies I like and movies I don't. Where are all those good writers out there?

We were treated last night to a reader's theater presentation about the life of Diedrich Bonhoffer called The Cost and written by Jonathan Wade. It was very good. Why has a movie not been made about his life--what a story! Oh, I know, he was a Lutheran pastor.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Talladega Nights

Several years ago, Brandon traveled all summer with an ACU recruiting group (Reflections?). The group was booked into Tuscaloosa, AL for an appearance. I decided to go see him and get in a short visit with Gene and Ruth Ann Stallings. (Their daughter Martha Kate was in the group). I flew in; we had a lovely dinner, and then the kids decided to go to a movie. They talked me into going with them ( I don't need much persuasion to go to a movie). We saw "Dumb and Dumber" which truly was the dumbest movie I had seen up to that point.

Monday I saw one that rivaled it: Talladega Nights with Will Ferrell. On the advice of several I talked to who thought it was "the funniest movie they had ever seen", I decided to go for a pick-me-up to the afternoon movie. Besides being crass and crude, this movie is as dumb as Dumb and Dumber. (But then, cars chasing each other around a circle at high speeds is also dumb and dumber IMHO).

There is a generation gap here, I guess. I like my humor a little more subtle. There was a flash of my kind of humor as the French driver was pictured reading Camus's The Stranger in the midst of the race.

The movie is rated PG-13, but should be "R". There were middle schoolers there who probably learned some new language (or not).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It's Back....

One day down and 179 to go. School started yesterday for 250,000 kids in the Metro area. The smell of crayons, floor polish, and cafeteria food revisits the memory of those of us who have left the building, but not the profession. (One never retires from being a teacher!) It was a big day for the kindergarten set and the seniors and their folks. Some schools had "boo-hoo breakfasts" for the parents after they had dropped their chick off in the classroom. I remember the day Brandon rode off to kindergarten with Sam in his blue truck where Mrs. Baxter had charge of the red-haired boy we so loved. He kept her days interesting, and she was masterful in her care of him, so all had a good year at Bowie Elementary School in Abilene, Texas. I think I was still at Madison Middle School at that time pushing books to reluctant adolescents. Good years! Congratulations to all children who began school yesterday. May you have teachers who love you, who love to teach, and who are competent in all areas. (It never hurts to wish.)

I know fall is not far behind. Two sets of geese in perfect "V's" flew honkingly south over my house yesterday.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sunday, Sunday

Taking the trash out yesterday,I stepped out the door into a perfect William Faulkner morning-
the humidity was so drippy I felt wet; the atmosphere was foggy, cicadas were singing, all I needed was moss hanging from my crepe myrtle! I loved is so nice to be a Southerner.

We had the pleasure of attending Maddie and Ella's dance recital later in the afternoon at New Song Church in Cool Springs. I was very impressed by my first look at this church--It is obviously a church that celebrates God's gift of the arts--there were even wire sculptures on our tables. Imagine, art in a church....It was Celebrate Seniors Day at the church and I was one of the honored guests, even though nobody there knew me. Waited on hand and foot by the church's youth group (my waitress was named Judea) we were served drinks and food and later received a red rose. And of course, the dance recital was dedicated to us (the dance teacher is a member there). Intersperced with recital offerings, several of the young people sang and played songs that my generation enjoyed (mostly swing and other songs from WWII). Afterward, older couples were invited to dance on the cleared floor to those old tunes. We all felt throoughly welcomed. How long has it been since you honored the Seniors at your church?

The recital was wonderful; Maddie and Ella were cute sprites dancing to Over the Rainbow, etc.

And a fine time was had by all.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Belmont Mansion

I had the opportunity to tour Belmont Mansion this week. The home of Joseph and Adelicia Acklen, it is on the Belmont University Campus. Built in the style of an Italian villa, the mansion is opulent. It had its own water tower, zoo, greenhouse, bowling alley and billiard room plus a grand salon where the elite of the country dined in splendor. Adelicia who was once thought to be the richest woman in America, had an inordinate love of statuary, and her decorator followed the grand Victorian tradition of more is better.

Nevertheless, it is always fun to see how the other half lived. After visiting these mansions, I sometimes want to sing with Tevye "If I Were A Rich (Wo)Man."

Why couldn't my ancestors have been rich Southern landowners instead of poor sharecroppers? Oh, Well, I guess we would not have had as much fun as richies as we did rising above our hard scrabble existence.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Quest for Immortality

I spent the day yesterday at an Elderhostel here in Nashville. First we went to the Egyptian exhibit at the Frist. Certainly worth attending!!! For one whose knowledge of Egyptian philosophy and religious thought comes from interchanges between Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston, I was astonished at the intricate philosophy of the afterlife they concocted. Like Christians. they believed we will all live forever; however they believed both the body and the soul will live forever--their intricate construction of the Pyramids, mummification and worship of Gods who could help them achieve immortality stem from this belief.

For those of you with children, the Frist has docents prepared especially for guiding children through the exhibit. And audio guides for children are available. Children are also allowed to touch some of the displays. There is a good family guide at the door.

The Frist is a Nashville treasure. I learned yesterday that Nashville had no city art museum (except a very small one at Cheekwood) until five years ago when the Frist was opened. Nashville has grown up into its place as an art center very recently.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Thy Word

The Barna group recently polled churched folks (those who had any relationship with a church) and found that only 16% of them read the Bible daily. One-half of them said they never or rarely read the Book.

Not surprisinglyl, they also found that there was little difference in the rate of divorces and addictions between churched people and the general population.

What do you do in your spare time?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Be Still

I was crusing around Hollywood Video trying to find a movie decent enough to watch (a monumental task!) when I found this new video:

Be Still and Know That I Am God by Richard Foster and others. Based on Psalm 46:10, it is about succeeding at contemplative prayer and the importance of silence in our noisy world. Featuring Richard, Dallas Willard, Beth Moore, Max Lucado and others, the video is very well done. It would be good for personal study, small groups, and classes studying spiritual formation. I enjoyed it very much. I hope they do others on the various aspects of spiritual formation.

It can be purchased from the Foster group Renovare online at for $13.99 plus tax and handling. Or maybe your local video store has it.

Now this a good use of technology!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Veggie donors from generation to generation

This one is for Maddie, Ella, and Sam:

Your daddy's predilection for growing vegetables and giving them away carries on a tradition in the Thomas family dating back over 75 years. Your great-great grandfather Samuel Alexander Thomas lived in "the bottom" in Groesbeck, Texas on land that once was part of a river and land which would grow anything. He grew a huge garden every year fertilized by the droppings of his prize chickens (of whom he often boasted). "Back" ( the name his grandchildren gave him) would take bags of vegetables to town and deliver them to all who made his list. His visits often began with the house of his preacher.

Later, Back's sons Adelbert Brann and Ralph Tennyson Thomas did the same thing. A. B. loved giving away figs off his trees in Pasadena, Tx. He himself once "put up" 100 jars of fig preserves in one year. Ralph who also lived in Groesbeck, grew huge gardens until the day he died (although his wife Ruby did most of the tending). Ralph's job was going to town and giving the vegetables away--again stopping first at the home of the church of Christ preacher. Ralph and Ruby had two freezers and a large storeroom full of homegrown vegetables every summer....Brandon can wax eloquently about eating fresh corn there many times.

Then your grandfather Poppy had a huge garden out in front of our house where he grew things like peas, canteloupe, squash,onions, asparagus, green beans, blackberries, a kind of fruit called the Jerusalem melon, okra and fruit trees. Teachers at Poppy's school would often find bags of vegetables in their mail boxes on Monday morning.
And our freezer was full and running over in the summer.

How I do miss those days when I shop at the grocery and find scrawny squash and hard tomatoes that taste like cardboard.

Who knows? Perhaps someday you will grow gardens too and carry on the tradition.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Crepe Myrtles

I do love summer crepe myrtles--I am enjoying them this summer--especially the watermelon-colored blooms. I like red, too. Don't like white as much, but guess what color the landscaper planted at my house? Yep, white.


Can't brag about cooler TN temperatures any more--hot, hot, hot.


I have been enjoying some Thomas tomatoes--yum--homemade nachos with Tostito chips, slice fresh tomatoes and green peppers covered with cheese-yum.


Is it a fact of life that things you want to go to always occur on the same day? Or does it just happen to me?

Have a lovely hot day!