The way to love someone
is to lightly run your finger over that person's soul
until you find a crack,
and then gently pour your love into that crack.
~Keith Miller

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Texas today
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Marcus Tullius Cicero
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chestert
“I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” Psalms 7:17

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I’m still compelled to respond with love



On an issue like this, 
I try to start with what I’m absolutely sure of,
 and work outwards.  
I’m sure 
of what my own attitude should be 
toward gays and lesbians: 
I should show love and grace.  

As one person told me, 
“Christians get very angry toward other Christians who sin differently than they do.”  
When people ask me how I can possibly stay friends with a sinner like Mel, I respond by asking how Mel can possibly stay friends with a sinner like me.  After all, Jesus had much to say about greed, hypocrisy, pride and lust—sins I struggle with—but did not mention homosexuality.  Even if I conclude that all homosexual behavior is wrong, as many conservative Christians do, I’m still compelled to respond with love.
from an interview with Philip Yancey


I played with the format a bit to suit myself as far as how I want to think about these comments, the words are Yancey's, and I think good thoughts on a topic which  people get to think about.  I think it's "righter" for me to just be nice.  I like to talk about what "we" have in common rather then where I disagree with someone's personal choices (Yeah I think sexual expression is a choice. But I don't think anyone is accountable to me for their choices.)
I say it like that because thinking about other people's sexuality/sexual practices seems like none of my business ... while at the same time, I don't like to see sexuality in any variation openly "out there" in general, and certainly not driving agendas. I don't know what I think about some of this stuff, because I don't think about it.  But ... teaching specific sexual technique as part of the core curriculum seems misguided and disrespectful to me.
I'm thinking about it.   

The photo ...

It has been really difficult to get (I'd like to say all, but any is closer to the truth) a n y of the work I like to keep done here in our home ... done.  Last week end I stripped the slipcover off of the sofa in the living room for the first time since when?  I seriously cannot remember and that's troubling.  Intended to get the kitchen floor mopped but that along with re-ordering the pantry waited for yesterday.  There is laundry, little individual stacks of it, folded in the den awaiting delivery to the various drawers ... clean undershirts, expertly folded, center cushion in front of the socks ... . So much to do!  I don't like our stuff to be messy dirty disorganized.  I don't like spots of yuk.  Dribbles of yuk. Smears of yuk.  Even microscopic particles of dust, pretty as they are, lose their charm when they are in my house. 

Wouldn't it be so nice if we could just slip out of our "naughtiness", toss it in some hot water with a TIDE pod and a scoop of OXYclean. 

It's funny really ... I know I'm doing the best I can with my stuff.  I'm not tracking in every crunchy leaf that finds its way underfoot in the foyer.  It would be excruciatingly annoying if every guest came in to critique ... the tidiness, the decor. I have had visitors like that.  They are not my favorites.

Everything seems to lend itself to metaphor.  
And then there are the kitchen cabinet fronts, in plain view, desperate for a wipe down, I dread to imagine what's going on behind the one that stores the storage containers.

Gotta go.  Got work to do.

PS.  
I don't "feel" as graceful towards ummmm ... murderers/terrorists/ISIS, sex traffickers/predators/profiteers of those industries which enslave and diminish our lives and corrode our souls.
And some other types ...
but, really, I need to go get a bucket of hot soapy going on some of my own stuff.
and, most politicians, those scoundrels.
I'm still compelled to respond with love.  Ugh.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nets

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. ~ John Buchan
Joy is prayer; joy is strength: 
joy is love; 
joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. 
~Mother Teresa


without knowing that it is not fish they are after. 
~Henry David Thoreau


Today I was reading in Luke 5 ... this: Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the net. Then the story of the Leper ... "Lord if you will you can make me clean," And Jesus touched him saying, "I will: be clean." Next the story of the paralytic ... healed. And then the "calling of Levi, the tax collector" aka Matthew.
I thought about each point of intersection on the fishing net as a representation of a person and how when that net (network) is "deployed" by Christ the results are impressive.  I am not thinking of it as fishing for men in the sense of a salvation event, rather as salvation (grace extended) as a means of saving/supporting us from the grief which living in a messy world presents.
Just trying to "save" the idea for further contemplation.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

grace dance
"For many, romantic love is the closest experience of pure grace. Someone at last feels that I — I! — am the most desirable, attractive, companionable creature on the planet. Someone lies awake at night thinking of me. Someone forgives me before I ask, thinks of me when she gets dressed, orders her life around mine. Someone loves me just the way I am. For this reason, I think, modern writers like John Updike and Walker Percy, who have strong Christian sensibilities, may choose a sexual affair as a symbol of grace in their novels. They are speaking the language our culture understands: grace as a rumor, not a doctrine." P.Y. and ...


"I had experienced the “drip- pings of grace,” C. S. Lewis’s term for what awakens deep longing for “a scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”  

~Philip Yancey What's So Amazing About Grace link to PDF excerpt from the book

I've read a couple of his books ... if I weren't behind on my reading I'd order this book or the follow up book, Vanishing Grace.  Heard him speak this past week and ... I am amused by my cluelessness ... A few guys came in and set down front and center, I assumed one of them was him.  A bit later another guy came in and sat down right in front of me ... exchanged pleasantries (I guess that's what you'd call it, he said my sweather was very bright red and I agreed.  I thought his hair was supernaturally curly but said nothing about that which I thought was pleasant of me), and introductions as we were instructed to do with those immediately around us ... I said my name as we shook hands, but he didn't share his ... I thought that was a bit peculiar, but not that uncommon in the South ... I can't guess why, just that it happens often enough to not be unusual.  Yes, it was Mr. Yancey.  If I saw him out and about I would think "he's an engineer" ... he has engineer veneer with academic underpinnings.  I like his books immensely.  I also like that he likes Lewis.

sexual affair as a symbol of grace    Brilliant idea.  At least I believe so. It's probably a bit of a mess as our relationships tend to be, but if I recall the earliest leanings of "love" things did appear to be quite "graceful".  I haven't had an affair as we commonly use the word - I'm referring to the whirlwind romance which preceded my marriage.  The yearning for grace probably does position us susceptible to extramarital affairs/meanderings.


This isn't the main idea of his book as I understand it ... I think that's gonna be about encouraging "us" to be more Christ-like in our attitudes and actions towards each other.  Christ's life is/was/is grace personified.  


The most powerful idea that's entered the world in the last few thousand years - the idea of grace - is the reason I would like to be a Christian. ~BONO
I think "trust", as in trusting Christ, eases the way for the good of grace (and it's all good). Pope Francis is quoted as saying  "Grace is not part of consciousness; it is the amount of light in our souls, not knowledge nor reason."  Incomplete/faulty knowledge and reason do seem to encourage "not-grace".  

For me, this has been the worst year ever,  I was pretty excited about it back in January, but it's been very trying.  I have actually found a way to occupy myself so as to not have time to do anything but just what the day demands.  I have been training myself to stay "right here" in this day.  "Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature's way of letting in only as much as we can handle." (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)  One of my incredibly observant kids says I am amazingly adept at denial, while I perceive "the skill set" to be optimism, or ... faith even. Either may be fueled by grace. "Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them." (Vincent McNabb) 
Hope. 
Last year I wondered how hope "fit".  
  protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres ... loves
My brother's battle with cancer is certainly on my heart and mind ... and there are other things equally pressing for which cancer is a good metaphor.  Grace helps. (I think it may be pretty much the only thing that helps.)
"But sometimes we find ourselves in places where no one comes to sit with us.  It is then that we most need to remember that God is there with us... ." ~Why Does It Have to Hurt, McCartney.  Grace builds the foundation for the sweetness of I Cor. 13.

I know nothing, 
except what everyone knows 
— 
if there when Grace dances, I should dance.
~ W. H. Auden 


Friday, November 14, 2014

Fall


“Nature was one of the key forces that brought me back to God, for I wanted to know the Artist responsible for beauty such as I saw on grand scale in photos from space telescopes or on minute scale such as in the intricate designs on a butterfly wing.”  ~Philip Yancey

life - lately


My french press "busted" very early one morning late in October.  Bummer. Too fine an early morning grind no doubt.  No coffee before leaving the house with light burns across my mid-drift.  Gosh I love coffee in the morning.  I would drink it all day long instead of water ... if ... .
Walking around the local antique/junk mall we spotted this coffee pot.  Other than being in pristine condition it is exactly like the one my dad used to make my momma coffee (every morning until suddenly never again back in 1980).  I am delighted with it.  It may be the silliest of pleasures - watching the water percolate up through the glass stem.  Very amusing, it's practically the only thing I enjoy seeing before that first cup.
Recently I have had the profound pleasure of reconnecting with a High School teacher whose kindnesses towards me changed my trajectory through life.  Her actions amounted to a "reboot". I laugh now to recall my youthful audacity.  I was a bit of a wild one ... back in the day, not now, never now, though I sometimes think I wear my ponytail a bit too tight ... hopefully age will wear well, will relax me a bit.  She describes a current pic of me as Gorgeous, pensive, reflective pic of you DeAnn. It's the same pic used here on TRUENORTH.  I'm always surprised by the words others use to describe me.  And ... in the same vein, isn't it interesting to notice the words one may select to describe oneself.  My daughter, Two, reminded me that some writer, maybe the EAT, PRAY, LOVE lady, suggested the exercise of selecting a "word" to describe "this time/place" in your life.  I tried to think of a single word several years ago.  It's not easy.  I couldn't think of one back then, but seeing pensive, I think that's it (for now).  It's not a word I employ often.  I searched my memory for the meaning, the precise meaning of it ... "All pensive and alone I see thee sit and weep. Thy tread upon the stone, where ... " what?  Something about ashes.  I can't remember.  It's funny to remember a snippet then the words just stop as though they fell off in to a well of forgetfulness.  Gosh I love our magnificent brains!  We remember the most random things when properly prompted (like seeing that coffee pot ... it recalls the stove, and the smell of my Daddy ... the stove, with the door to the oven open, open to radiate heat on to my brothers and I, wrapped in fluffy bath towels, awaiting pajamas with feet.  My nice smelling dad would zip us into the PJs while Momma (presumably) tidied up the bathroom, then he'd carry us, sometimes all three at a time, out to the station wagon. Once everyone was loaded up off we'd go to the Drive In Movies for a ... did they call them doubleheaders?  We'd see some Disney movie like Lady and the Tramp, followed by a Western (John Wayne seemed to be practically family). Yeah, all that from a clunky glass coffee pot.  Pensive ... let's look it up (and the other).
pen·sive
ňąpensive/
adjective
  1. engaged in, involving, or reflecting deep or serious thought.
    "a pensive mood"
    synonyms:thoughtfulreflectivecontemplativemusingmeditativeintrospective, ruminative, absorbed, preoccupied, deep/lost in thought, in a brown study;
    formalcogitative

    Lol, deep.  Not so deep.  More of a wader on the shoreline these days. Working up to splashing.


    There we go ... I "know" it because of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) composer of The Spirit's Song. The author of the text seems to be Anne Hunter (1742-1821).  I remember now liking the idea of speaking eyes ... and parting sighs.

    (in a brown study?) (huh?)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

malignant foolishness


How incredible was the general apathy! They were all eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the awful morning dawned. There was not one wise individual upon earth outside of the ark. Folly duped the whole race: folly as to self-preservation, the most fooling of all follies. Folly in doubting the most true God: the most malignant foolishness. Is it not strange, my soul? All men are negligent of their souls until grace gives them reason; then they leave their madness and act like rational beings, but not until then.
~Alistair Begg. 1 November 2014 email note/daily devotional entitled "Folly of Doubt"
Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2003, Good News Publishers and used by Truth For Life with written permission.

Malignant foolishness 

...doubting the most true God.

I've been thinking about doubting God a lot lately.
It seems like it's impossible not to harbor some doubt(s).

I'm thinking about it like this -  If I am honorable, if I am true and good and just beyond the slightest reproach, and I say ... just something, anything, not a big deal debatable thing, if ... whatever I say is contested ... that would really get old.

"I made that cake."

Uh uh, no you didn't, it was there when I walked into the room.  As a matter of fact, I believe it simply happened."

"I folded those clothes."

No you didn't.  That can't be possible. I didn't see you do that.  Didn't hear you doing that ... liar."

I did the simplest little thing this morning after I walked Sammy.  We were out of eggs because I seem to be too busy to remember small things like that.  I decided during the walk to use up the rest of the buttermilk by mixing it with blueberry muffin mix then scooping it out on to the griddle  for a quick breakfast of pancakes.  I did that.  Nobody said anything about how it wasn't the proper way to use muffin mix, or syrup is only for pancakes.  Nobody thought Sammy may have fixed breakfast instead of me, even though I almost always fix something with eggs for our breakfasts around here.  No doubt or criticism was expressed ... only appreciation.

It must be really tiring for God.

"I'm going to take a shower now and get ready for work ... . "

"No you're not."

(And/or the other ... "Okay, go take your shower, this is how you do it ... step one, step two, step three ... don't dawdle I have a whole list of things for you to do today.")




“The two most important days

 in your life are 

the day you are born 

and 

the day you find out why.”

Mark Twain

Sunday, November 9, 2014

the best chocolate cake/frosting recipe ... look no further!

My first attempt at "frosting".  Usually one of the girls takes over on the frosting part if not the entire cake bake ... . I have come late to the joy of baking.  Following is the go to choco cake recipe.
Adapted from Gold Metal.  We cut it two layers at a time because all four layers was just too much cake!

The Greatest Chocolate Cake

  Cake:
  • 2-1/2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
  • 1 (3.9 ounce) package chocolate instant pudding mix (plus a pkg. of vanilla when I decided to double the recipe)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla
  • 1 cup hot coffee
Frosting:
  • 1 cup dark chocolate morsels, melted and slightly cooled
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3-4 tablespoons half and half
Directions:
1. Preheat over to 350°F. Spray three round cake pans (6-inch, 8-inch and 9-inch) (nah, not so much ... I doubled the recipe and used four 9" round pans)with non-stick cooking spray (and coat the pans in the dry mixture) and line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pudding mix, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, buttermilk, egg and vanilla.

4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thick and just combined. Stir in the hot coffee until smooth and well combined.

5. Divide batter among prepared pans, filling each pan about 1/4 full.

6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool on wire racks for 15 minutes before inverting them onto the wire racks to cool completely.

7. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. In a small (double boiler) microwave-safe bowl, melt the dark chocolate morsels until just melted, about 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Set aside to slightly cool.

8. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter until smooth. In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and cocoa. Whisk the powdered sugar mixture into the butter, one cup at a time, until frosting is thick and chunky. Add the melted chocolate and whisk until just combined. Add the milk (half and half bc I don't keep milk), one tablespoon at a time, until frosting is of spreading consistency. Beat frosting on high speed for 2 minutes until thick and creamy.

9. Other then using a bread knife to flatten out the cake while they are still in their pans, I have no technique to offer.   My husband likes a lot of frosting, so I double the recipe and slather it on. Four layers bc we have a large family, and bc I like the way it looks, but, for smaller groups I'll use the smaller pans! This cake was dense yet moist (and froze well).

Servings: 12-14 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 30-35 minutes
Total Time (start to finish): 55 minutes plus time to linger over "clean up".

Saturday, November 1, 2014



What happens to little creatures, like lizards, when it freezes!  It's supposed to freeze here tonight.  (This photo was snapped last weekend.  The second one is the original, what the camera saw - I filtered it towards yellow which "looks" closer to true to me.)  I like that this little guy believes he blends in with his surroundings.  I can relate to a life which adapts to be less conspicuous.  It's funny that he thinks it works.

So ... I have been busy in my front yard today.  The wind is really blowing and that made it easy to give up on raking.  I turned the front beds over and put fresh mulch out.  Time for pansies to be planted, but I didn't feel like going to get them after all that work!  I have too much space to tend to.

Next ... I am reading when the bottom drops out, a book by Robert Bugh, it has a sub title: finding grace in the depths of disappointment.  Someone thought I should read it.  Smile/sigh.  And this on the back cover ... the power of the gospel played out in one ordinary life. That's the first I've looked at the back cover.  His Bio says he's a grad of SMU and Dallas Theological Seminary and has served the last ten years at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago.  I'm glad I saw that ... he's a Texan.  It puts the writing in context.  I was thinking that his writing style made him seem like "one of the guys". I was thinking he sounds like a pilot but now I realize he is like the guys I grew up with ... ordinary good guys.  I probably would have read through the book today if L hadn't suggested we walk in to town for breakfast.  Between that and the yard work, my device has clicked out 8+ miles today (yes, sorta like bragging).
HERE

I'll read the rest of it tonight.  I don't really want to ... but when I begin reading it, it's difficult to put down.  I think it's important to fortify oneself for what comes later.  I was thinking about that this morning while we walked.  
My C began gymnastics when she was like one and a half, then she moved on to diving.  Now she is almost 20 and it impresses me to see the high level of athleticism that she brings to everything ... strong body, yes definitely that, but also the ability to focus on life's "field view".  Very cool.  Tommy is the same way ... warrior he knows how to do, and it's from playing ball rather then going to war, but the skill set is similar.

Well ... time for me to cook dinner.  Cod and I think a cucumber salad, and cous cous.