Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lagniappe: When Platypuses Fly

Dr. Maturin, who has a great naturalist bent, is speaking to Captain Jack Aubrey of the possibility of their sailing to New South Wales.
"Jack, I cannot tell you how I long to see a platypus." ...

"Never mind. It will be much better this time. You shall see great flights of platypuses at your leisure."

"My dear, they are mammals, furry animals."

"I thought you said they laid eggs."

"So they do. That is what is so delightful. They also have bills like a duck."

"No wonder you long to see one."
Patrick O'Brian, The Nutmeg of Consolation
(Master and Commander series #14)

Worth a Thousand Words: Grace Reading at Howath Bay

Grace Reading at Howth Bay (c.1900). William Orpen (Irish, 1878–1931).

Genesis Notes: Rebekah's Resume

Rebekah is a tricky lady to assess, in more ways than one. She is so willing and able when Isaac's servant needs water for the camels. She comforts Isaac for the loss of his mother. And yet she picks a favorite child and does all she can to help trick her other son out of his birthright. As with all real humans, she is complex. She does things we admire and things we deplore. I love this about the Bible. It shows us real people, warts and all, as I've said many a time.

Benjamin West (1738–1820), Isaac's servant tying the bracelet on Rebecca's arm
Strengths and accomplishments:
  • When confronted with a need, she took immediate action
  • She was accomplishment oriented
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Her initiative was not always balanced by wisdom
  • She favored one of her sons
  • She deceived her husband
Lessons from her life:
  • Our actions must be guided by God's Word
  • God makes use even of our mistakes in his plan
  • Parental favoritism hurts a family
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Haran, Canaan
  • Occupation: Wife, mother, household manager
  • Relatives: Grandparents - Nahor and Milcah. Father: Bethuel. Husband: Isaac. Brother: Laban. Twin sons - Jacob and Esau.
Key verse:
"Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death" (Genesis 24:67). "Isaac, who had a a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob" (Genesis 25:28).

Rebekah's story is told in Genesis 24-29. She also is mentioned in Romans 9:10.

All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Well Said: Doing Something for God

Remember, "doing something for God" might not be God's will.
Father James Yamauchi
It is very much in our modern mindset and also in our American character to show that we care by trying to "do something." And, of course, often action is needed to feed the hungry, help the ill, and so forth. But we like to apply action to every circumstance in our lives.

We're problem solvers and "do-ers" and also ... let's face it ... sometimes a frenzy of activity is the easy way out. We don't have to think or reflect or face ourselves that way. God's ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. Sometimes, as Tolstoy says, time and patience are the best warriors.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Long Leg

The Long Leg, Edward Hopper, c.1930
via WikiPaintings, in accordance with the Fair Use guidelines listed there

Scott's Skype unexpectedly updates. ...

... Julie is furious — that Old Time Skype was good enough for her! Inherit the Wind (1960) is the subject of Episode 158 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Well Said: Bravery

People glorify all sorts of bravery except the bravery they might show on behalf of their nearest neighbors.
George Eliot, Middlemarch

Worth a Thousand Words: Spring in a Hot Spring

Spring in a Hot Spring (Onsen no haru), Hiroshi Yoshida
via Lines and Colors

Friday, May 26, 2017

Well Said: Stop thinking about yourself

This is from a 1917 mystery featuring a female detective, Millie, who has an unusual way of dealing with cases. Here she has explained to a prospective client that she doesn't deal in divorce cases because they are too "high" (difficult). She goes on to give some advice instead.
"I will give you a piece of advice if you like."

"I am willing to pay well for it," he expanded.

"This is not for pay. No matter what your wife has done, go home and do everything you can that will be for her good."

The man stared.

"Stop thinking about yourself and your wrongs. I don't know what they are. I'd rather not know. Whatever they are, they are past. If it is best for your wife to leave you then help her do it. Stop thinking about yourself."

The man's narrow eyes widened a little as they studied the quiet face before him.

She nodded. "Help her to get away from you if you think she will be better off."

The man's eyes continued to regard her with a puzzled look.

"But I'd be pretty sure, if I were you, that it's best for her to leave you. It would be a silly sort of body if it's heart went wrong, that went to work planning to get rid of it, divorce it for good and all. That's a homely way of saying it. I'm a homely woman and when people are married they seem to me one just as truly as the body is all one. I don't divorce part of me unless it's too bad to be made right. If it is, I go to a good surgeon and tell him to make quick work of it."

She paused with a thoughtful look and smiled. "But the best surgeons now, they tell me, don't believe in amputating. They bring their cases to a serum specialist, don't they?" She nodded toward the card on the desk. "And you find out what's wrong and give them some more of the same kind, only different and they get well."

The look in the man's darted and broke in a little laugh. "You think I'd better give Rose serum treatment? Spiritual serum?" He chuckled. His face had cleared. "I wonder what kind," he said thoughtfully. His face had the keen look of a scientist attacking a difficult problem.

"Some brand of human kindness, I should say," responded Millie dryly.

The man laughed and got up. "I believe you've been giving me serum treatment." He held out his hand. ...

"I am going home," he said. "I came here with the idea that I was a desperate figure, a kind of modern Othello, blighted life and so on due to infidelity. You have made me see I'm sick, a kind of spiritual invalid that hasn't sense enough to take care of a common cold, just goes around suffering with it."
Jennette Lee, The Green Jacket
"Stop thinking about yourself."

If more of us put the good of the other person first, what a lovely world it would be wouldn't it? That's an interesting perspective for a detective who investigates murders and theft. Full of common sense and a knowledge of what makes people tick.

Note: I'm not sure what serum treatment meant in 1917. When I look on the usually reliable internet all I find is ads for skin and facial treatments so it clearly doesn't mean now what it did then.

Worth a Thousand Words: Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna

Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna,
sister of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, ca. 1880s
via The Corseted Beauty

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Point of Entry

Point of Entry
taken by Valerie, ucumari photography
Some rights reserved

Well Said: Books and Sharks

I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle showed up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.
Neil Gaiman in a talk about libraries

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Well Said: I have learned many things ...

I must confess that I have learned many things I never knew before ... just by writing.
St. Augustine
There's something about having to organize one's thoughts enough to write that sends them further than they'd have gone if everything just remained in one's mind. It is funny how that is. It is why keeping a journal, a blog, or writing letters (or emails) is so good for us. Like St. Augustine we learn things we never knew before.

Genesis Notes: Isaac's Resume

As I said last week, we tend to overlook Isaac because he's a fairly quiet, unassuming soul compared to the vivid personalities that come before and after him. And yet, God told his father, "I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him." That's huge. That's everything, in fact, for the Hebrew people. And for us. God saw his heart and worked with him just as with the more active members of the family.

Meeting of Isaac and Rebecca, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione
Strengths and accomplishments:
  • He was the miracle child born to Sarah and Abraham when she was 90 years old and he was 100
  • He was the first descendent in fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham
  • He seems to have been a caring and consistent husband
  • He demonstrated great patience
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Under pressure, he tended to lie
  • In conflict he sought to avoid confrontation
Lessons from his life:
  • Patience often brings rewards
  • Both God's plans and his promises are larger than people
  • God keeps his promises. He remains faithful though we are often faithless
  • Playing favorites is sure to bring family conflict
Vital statistics:
  • Where: The area called the Negev, in the southern part of Palestine, between Kadesh and Shur (Genesis 20:1)
  • Occupation: Wealthy livestock owner
  • Relatives: Parents - Abraham and Sarah. Half brother - Ishmael. Wife: Rebekah. Sons - Jacob and Esau.
Key verse:
"Then God said, 'Yes, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.'" (Genesis 17:19)

Isaac's story is told in Genesis 17:15-35:29. He also is mentioned in Romans 9:7, 8; Hebrews 11:17-20; James 2:21-24.
All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Worth a Thousand Words: Baking Bread

Baking Bread, Helen Allingham

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Our Nation, In Numbers: USA Facts

Where does the money come from?

Where does the money go?

What are the results?
Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO, has put $10 million of his own money into discovering the answer to these questions about government spending.

The result is USAFacts, a site which has wonderfully easy graphics to help us make sense of where our money goes.

The best part is that they aren't pushing an agenda, except aiding understanding.
We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative and have no political agenda or commercial motive. We provide this information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding it in the future.

We rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources. We don’t make judgments or prescribe specific policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether our quality of life is improving or getting worse – that’s for you to decide. We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government. Such debate is vital to our democracy.
Spend some time browsing around. It's fascinating and surprising.

Lagniappe: Trying to negotiate with Beethoven...

Trying to negotiate with Beethoven was like trying to take a steak away from a hyena.
Robert Greenberg,
How to Listen to and Understand Great Music

Worth a Thousand Words: “Over a Balcony,” View of the Grand Canal, Venice

“Over a Balcony,” View of the Grand Canal, Venice;
Francis Hopkinson Smith
via Lines and Colors

Monday, May 22, 2017

Well Said: This Stalinist Path of History-Flattening and Monument-Erasure

On the dismantling of monuments, specifically four Confederate monuments in New Orleans:
Most people seem to need this debate to be more simple. Not only Ivy League professors and descendants of Confederate veterans, but also those who should know better. Maybe Americans’ deep-rooted Puritanism drives them to view every person as either glorified or damned.

And so we spiral down this Stalinist path of history-flattening and monument-erasure, one side waving a battle flag that Robert E. Lee himself renounced, the other insisting that every man who wore gray was little different than Leonardo DiCaprio’s caricature in “Django Unchained.” Americans long ago abandoned Lincoln’s admonition—malice toward none, charity for all—and in some important ways the U.S. is less united today than in 1866.

In a world of demons and angels, we can’t agree on who’s which. And we don’t have the charity in our hearts to admit most of us are somewhere in between.
Tony Woodlief, Charity for All? Not in Today’s Debates Over Civil War Memorials
You may read the entire editorial at the Wall Street Journal or at Lux Libertas.

As my husband said, "Tyrants are always the ones who erase history. Now we don't have an individual tyrant. It's been institutionalized."

In my own case, having just finished rereading A Tale of Two Cities, I was put in mind of the mob in the French revolution and Madame Defarge in particular. Not a drop of charity there for anyone.

Worth a Thousand Words: Prelude in C Sharp Minor

Prelude in C Sharp Minor by Edward B. Gordon

Friday, May 19, 2017

Well Said: Our inequalities become openings to love ...

People are equal in one sense only, but it's a decisive sense deeper than any simple equations of worth. ...

Our dignity is rooted in the God who made us. His love, shared in every parent's experience, is infinite and unique for each of us as individual persons - because each son and daughter is unrepeatable. Only God's love guarantees our worth. And therein lies our equality. Nothing else has God's permanence. In him, our inequalities become not cruelties of fate, but openings to love, support, and "complete" each other in his name.
Charles J. Chaput, Strangers in a Strange Land

Worth a Thousand Words: Girl in a red dress reading by a swimming pool

Girl in a red dress reading by a swimming pool (1887). Sir John Lavery (Irish, 1856-1941). 

Hey, I didn't know they had swimming pools in 1887.

Going out of town for a quick getaway to celebrate our anniversary. I won't be as delightfully dressed as the Girl in a Red Dress, but I could see myself lounging and reading while others swim.

My Christopher Closeup Interview Airs Sunday on Sirius-XM and Relevant Radio

I was so honored when Tony Rossi from The Christophers asked to interview me about my new book, Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life.

First of all, because I respect The Christophers so much. Their motto, "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness," is how I try to live. They've been promoting this mindset for a very long time.

Secondly, because I have so much fun talking to Tony. He is a first-rate interviewer and asks such interesting questions, many of which never would have occurred to me in the first place. And he's read the book — I could tell precisely because of the questions he asked.

We got in some extra talking time so my interview will air in two parts.

Part 1 of the interview will air this Sunday:
  • Sirius-XM’s The Catholic Channel (129) at 6:00 am and 10:30 am (Central time)
  • Relevant Radio network at 3:30 pm (Central time)
Tune in and get the inside scoop on Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life ... and me!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Chiffchaff

Chiffchaff by Remo Savisaar

Well Said: Our battle-flag

The battle-flag is always placed among warriors, as a sign to which they look during the hardest fighting of the battle. We are continuously at war with the princes of darkness ... If anyone is troubled, vanquished, and overcome, let him look to the Lord hanging on the gibbet of the cross.
St. Thomas of Villanova

Genesis Notes: Isaac, the Bridge Between Generations

GENESIS 25 & 26
Other than nearly being sacrificed by his father, Isaac's life seems pretty boring. He can't keep his sons straight, has trouble controlling "bad boy" Jacob, and generally doesn't seem as if we can learn too much from him. Wrong, as Catholic Scripture Study showed me. I fell into that same old trap of thinking that there is only a lesson if something is interesting. But God doesn't work that way.

"And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.(KJV);
  illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible
The life of Isaac seems insignificant next to the careers of his father Abraham and his son Jacob. There are few chapters of Scripture devoted to Isaac, and most of his story is entwined with the story of the other Patriarchs. Even the Catechism moves from "God chooses Abraham" (59-61) to "God forms his people Israel" (62-64) without mentioning Isaac by name. Yet he is a Patriarch, his name forever included when Israelites call on the name of God, the father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Isaac's main role seems to be one of a bridge between Abraham, father of those who believe, and Jacob, father of Israel. Isaac safeguards and transmits the promise through his own faithful obedience. He embodies the continuity of God's promise, the link through whom it passes from generation to generation. But there is more significance to him than that:
  1. Isaac waits for God's promise, as indeed do all of the Patriarchs. Those 20 years spent praying for a son not only helped form Isaac in faith, they became an example for Israel as it waited for God's promised Messiah. As it is pointed out in Dei Verbum, "through the patriarchs...[God] taught this nation to acknowledge Himself as the one living and true God,...and to wait for the Savior promised by Him. In this manner He prepared the way for the gospel down through the centuries (DV3)."
  2. Isaac is also the fruit, the evidence of God's promise. He is the impossible child, born of two people well past the age of childbearing. His name means "laughter," and his name is a perpetual reminder that God promises the impossible and keeps His promises.
  3. And as the obedient son of the promise, Isaac prefigures Jesus Christ, the promised Son of God. He walked willingly and obediently up the hill to be sacrificed, even as Christ would so many years later. His life is a living testimony to "the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were (Rom. 4:17)." He is the loving son and father and husband, the obedient son through whom God pours His blessing on a nation and on the world.
All quotes from Genesis, Part II: God and His Family. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Tuna Assortment


Spicy Tuna Fish Cakes

Not yo mama's regular fish cakes ... these have a definite Asian style. Get them at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Well Said: Sacred Idleness

Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.
George MacDonald
We don't really know how to react to such a statement in our rushed, busy world. That in itself is probably a sign that we need to practice sacred idleness. Otherwise, when do we even have time to listen, to hear?

Julie finds Marvin amusing, which depresses him even more. Scott begins working on a Jupiter-sized computer to replace the Earth.

Grab your towels and join us for Episode 158 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast where we discuss The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Nerds, Start Your Engines: Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Firefly - and Boethius

Initial depicting Boethius teaching his students from folio of a manuscript of the Consolation of Philosophy (Italy?, 1385)

I never heard of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius until a couple of years ago when a friend mentioned, somewhat diffidently, that she was reading it. She said just enough to intrigue me and the book looked intriguingly short. It went onto my mental "read someday" list and that was as far as I got.

Until now. Corey Olsen's first Mythgard Academy class on The Consolation of Philosophy hit my iTunes feed. I've mentioned the Mythgard classes before, especially those to do with the Lord of the Rings and Dracula. They are really excellent and they are free.

As it turns out The Consolation of Philosophy is not only one of the most influential books through Middle Ages and Renaissance, but strongly influenced J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Not to mention that the ideas continue to filter through pop culture and can pop up in such unlikely places as Firefly.

You're not likely to find a better guide or an easier way to learn about this classic work.

Read more about the book and class at Mythgard Academy.

Here's where you can find the podcast at iTunes.

Worth a Thousand Words: Self-portrait with two pupils

Self-portrait with two pupils, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, 1785.

Well Said: Messengers of God

Malachim, or messengers. Christianity has defined these messengers as what we know as angels. The more ancient interpretation in Judaism is that the malachim could be anything. They could be heavenly spirits. Or not. They could come in the form of ordinary people, donkeys, a flame, or even a breeze.
Stephen Tobolowsky, My Adventures with God

Friday, May 12, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Self-Portrait in the Studio

Francisco Goya, Self-portrait in the Studio, 1790-1795
via Wikipedia

I have a thing for self-portraits. Also I love Goya's hat. And his hair.

Well Said: Relationships and the level of your greatest weakness

Relationships never operate at the level of your greatest strengths. They operate at the level of your greatest weakness. Whoever is unfaithful, whoever is more needy, whoever is late, controls the nature of the friendship. You can swing with it or not, but you can’t count on changing it.
Stephen Tobolowsky, My Adventures with God

Getting Closer to Jesus: His Mother

This beautiful, profound meditation on Mary and why we should imitate her is from The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander.
When we are attracted to a particular saint, it is usually the little human details which attract us. These touches bridge the immense gap between heroic virtue and our weakness. We love most those saints who before they were great saints were great sinners.

But even those who were saints form the cradle are brought closer to us by recorded trifles of their humanness ...

Of Our Lady such things are not recorded. We complain that so little is recorded of her personality, so few of her words, so few deeds, that we can form no picture of her, and there is nothing that we can lay hold of to imitate.

But it is Our Lady -- and no other saint -- whom we can imitate.

All the canonized saints had special vocations, and special gifts for their fulfillment: presumption for me to think of imitating St. Catherine or St. Paul or St. Joan if I have not their unique character and intellect -- which indeed I have not.

Each saint has his special work: one person's work. But Our Lady had to include in her vocation, in her life's work, the essential thing that was to be hidden in every other vocation, in every life.

She is not only human; she is humanity.

The one thing that she did and does is the one thing that we all have to do, namely, to bear Christ into the world.

Christ must be born from every soul formed in every life. If we had a picture of Our Lady's personality, we might be dazzled into thinking that only one sort of person could form Christ in himself, and we should miss the meaning of our own being.

Nothing but things essential for us are revealed to us about the Mother of God: the fact that she was wed to the Holy Spirit and bore Christ into the world.

Our crowning joy is that she did this as a lay person and through the ordinary daily life that we all live; through natural love made supernatural, as the water at Cana was, at her request, turned into wine.

In the world as it is, torn with agonies and dissensions, we need some direction for our souls which is never away from us; which, without enslaving us or narrowing our vision, enters into every detail of our life. Everyone longs for some such inward rule, a universal rule as big as the immeasurable law of love, yet as little as the narrowness of our daily routine. It must be so truly part of us all that it makes us all one, and yet to each one the secret of his own life with God.

To this need, the imitation of Our Lady is the answer; in contemplating her we find intimacy with God, the law which is the lovely yoke of the one irresistible love.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Well Said: A vision above material things

Projects undreamed of by past generations will absorb our immediate descendants; forces terrific and devastating will be in their hands; comforts, activities, amenities, pleasures will crowd upon them, but their hearts will ache, their lives will be barren, if they have not a vision above material things.
Winston Churchill

My Year of "In Order" - TV, Novels, Movies

I just realized that I've fallen into a number of long series that it seemed logical to do "in order." That's not normally my style for things like the James Bond movies, where it is completely ok to see most of them without any reference to the others.

And, on the other side of that equation, I'm usually perfectly fine with not finishing series. I never read more than the first of the Dune series, was able to abandon Community after Season 3 (the last good season), and so forth.

But, for these seemed like it would be fun, somehow. They all seem specially suited for summer which is just around the corner.


This is actually Rose's project because she's never seen the tv shows although she knows the movies. At one point (the tragic period between the original series and The Next Generation), I'd watched these enough that I practically had them memorized. It's been decades since I've seen them, especially in order, and I'm really enjoying working our way through the first season.

We'll keep going until we're done with all the Trek series, making this possibly a lifetime project.


I've loved some of Terry Pratchett's novels for a long time. Witches Abroad was the first book of his I read. I still remember how delighted I was by his skewering our dependence on the patterns of storytelling while at the same time telling a wonderfully funny and insightful story. I noticed Rose has been reading some of his older books and I realized they are the perfect books for summer and letting the world go hang. I'd read the first few long ago and so launched in with Guards! Guards! and got to know the Watch of Ankh Morpork who I'd only encountered before as comic side characters in the witches stories.


Our household has seen tons of James Bond movies but we realized there are big holes in our viewing. George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, and even a few Sean Connery and Roger Moore movies are missing from our Bond experience. The movies we've individually missed overlapped so much that we decided to fill in the gaps in order. Which will be most of the movies by the time we get done. What says summer better than James Bond movies?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Well Said: Peasants Versus Philosophers

It wasn’t that they didn’t take an interest in the world around them. On the contrary, they had a deep, personal and passionate involvement in it, but instead of asking, "Why are we here?" they asked, "Is it going to rain before the harvest?"

A philosopher might have deplored this lack of mental ambition, but only if he was really certain about where his next meal was coming from.
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

Worth a Thousand Words: El puente de Alcantara

El puente de Alcantara, Aureliano de Beruete y Moret - 1906
via The Athenaeum
There is something about paintings of these old Roman roads and bridges that always appeals to me. I can feel the shimmering heat and love the way that the the colors of the earth and bridge and buildings all meld together.

Genesis Notes: Sarah's Resume

One of the things I love about Genesis is that when it focuses on a story you get the sense of "real" people, not someone who's made up to make a point. Sarah's resume shows us a woman I can relate to in a lot of ways, both good and bad. She's a mass of contradictions, because that is how real people are. Genesis shows us these people, warts and all, and so carries their stories into our lives today.

Domenico Fiasella, Abraham and three angels
[See Sarah? She's peeking out of the door. I like this view of her,
keeping an eye on things and also curious about the visitors.]
Strengths and accomplishments:
  • Was intensely loyal to her own child
  • Became the mother of a nation and an ancestor of Jesus
  • Was a woman of faith, the first woman listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Had trouble believing God's promises to her
  • Attempted to work problems out on her own, without consulting God
  • Tried to cover her faults by blaming others
Lessons from her life:
  • God responds to faith even in the midst of failure
  • God is not bound by what usually happens; he can stretch the limits and cause unheard-of events to occur
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Married Abram in Ur of the Chaldeans, then moved with him to Canaan
  • Occupation: Wife, mother, household manager
  • Relatives: Father - Terah. Husband - Abraham. Half brothers - Nahor and Haran. Nephew - Lot. Son - Isaac.
Key verse:
"By faith Abraham, even though he was past age -- and Sarah herself was barren -- was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise" (Hebrews 11:11)

Sarah's story is told in Genesis 11-25. She also is mentioned in Isaiah 51:2, Romans 4:19; 9:9; Hebrews 11:11; 1 Peter 3:6.
All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Well Said: Tolerating only the right religions

"What is, um, your role, madam?"

"I'm the godmother!"

"Which, um, god?" The young man was trembling slightly.

"It's from Old Lancre," said Agnes hurriedly. "It means something like 'goodmother." It's all right ... as witches we believe in religious toleration..."

"That's right," said Nanny Ogg, "But only for the right religions, so you watch your step!"
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum
Sounds familiar, eh?

Worth a Thousand Words: Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925); Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
via Wikipedia
I've run this a few times before but I love it so much that we're getting it again today.

Vatican astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno calls on scientests to "come out" and share their faith.

“God is not something we arrive at the end of our science, it’s what we assume at the beginning,” he said, adding emphatically: “I am afraid of a God who can be proved by science, because I know my science well enough to not trust it!”
I've had the privilege of discussing books with Brother Guy (Episode 100, A Good Story is Hard to Find). Both that conversation and the book he co-authored, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial, made me admire his good sense and faith.

Read the whole "coming out" story here.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Descending

Descending by Remo Savisaar

Lagniappe: The Tall Horse and Mr. Winkle

Now whether the tall horse, in the natural playfulness of his disposition, was desirous of having a little innocent recreation with Mr. Winkle, or whether it occurred to him that he could perform the journey as much to his own satisfaction without a rider as with one, are points upon which, of course, we can arrive at no definite and distinct conclusion. By whatever motives the animal was actuated, certain it is that Mr. Winkle had no sooner touched the reins, than he slipped them over his head, and darted backwards to their full length.
Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
This made me laugh out loud. Dickens can be so very funny and, of course, The Pickwick Papers are loaded with his humor from beginning to end.

Mary: As Marvelous as a Day in May

May is Mary's month and what better way to celebrate it than getting a better understanding of Our Blessed Mother? This excerpt from chapter 6 of Adventures in Orthodoxy discusses the common idea of "virgin" versus the real meaning as applied to "Virgin Mary." As a bonus, this explains something I always wondered: why didn't Mary and Jesus (and possibly Joseph) stand out as unusual? The comments in brackets are my own for clarification of points the author discussed earlier in the chapter.
"... born of the Virgin Mary"

...Mary, the mother of Jesus, is an icon of beauty and purity because she is a virgin. But I'm aware that this term, too, [like the term "purity"] has been misunderstood and maligned. We think of a virgin simply as a person who hasn't had sexual intercourse. This is the shallowest of definitions. Defining a "virgin" as someone who hasn't had sexual intercourse is like defining a person from Idaho as "a person who has never been to Paris." It may be true that most Idahoans haven't been to Paris, but to define an untraveled Idahoan by that simple negative definition is too small. Even the most stay-at-home fellow from Idaho is bigger than a negative definition.

What were the early Christians thinking when they honored the Virgin Mary? Was it simply their form of goddess worship? [as some nonbelievers would say] If so, why the emphasis on virginity? When you look at what they believed about Mary, it turns out that they were honoring her for far more than the biological fact that a maiden remained intact. For them the Virgin wasn't just an untouched woman. Her physical virginity was a sign of something far more. It was an indication of her whole character. In her they sensed a kind of virginity that was a positive and powerful virtue. Mary represented all that was natural, abundant, positive, and free. Mary was a virgin in the same way that we call a forest "virgin": she was fresh and natural, majestic and mysterious. Mary's virginity wasn't simply the natural beauty and innocence of a teenage girl. It held the primeval purity of Eden and the awesome innocence of Eve...

You might imagine that such total innocence and goodness would make Mary a sort of Galilean wonderwoman. It's true that her innocence was extraordinary, but it was also very ordinary. That is to say that while it was momentous, it didn't seem remarkable at the same time. There is a curious twist to real goodness. It's summed up by the observation that what is natural isn't unusual. If a person is really good, he is humble; and if he is humble, he is simply who he should be. There is nothing bizarre or egotistical or eccentric about him. There is therefore nothing about him that calls attention to him. Truly good people blend in. They are at home with themselves, and no one is out of place when they are at home. In the same way, Mary wasn't noticed in Nazareth. Because she was natural, she didn't stand out. Mary fit in because she was simply and wholly who she was created to be. Because she was perfectly natural, she was perfectly ordinary. Therefore, she was both as marvelous and as unremarkable as a morning in May.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905), The Madonna of the Roses
via Wikipedia

What's that? You haven't read Adventures in Orthodoxy? Tsk, tsk. It is simply a fantastic book that communicates the wonder and joy of the Faith in a way that is not often found. If you haven't read it then you're missing a real treat.

Farewell, My Lovely - SFFaudio Discussion

Jesse, Maissa, Paul and I discuss Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler on the SFFaudio podcast. We discuss missing dames, stolen jade necklaces, who sapped Philip Marlowe, and much more. Join us!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Well Said: The sorrows of the world versus the importance of local charity

It is one of the evils of rapid diffusion of news that the sorrows of all the world come to us every morning. I think each village was meant to feel pity for its own sick and poor whom it can help and I doubt if it is the duty of any private person to fix his mind on ills wh. he cannot help. (This may even become an escape from the works of charity we really can do to those we know).

A great many people (not you) do now seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don't think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we're doing it, I think we're meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds' song and the frosty sunrise.
C.S. Lewis; letter to Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB; Dec. 20, 1946
The immediacy of global bad news, the idea that being worried about something is action enough, the lack of charity shown locally — don't these sound all too familiar in our Facebook, Twitter, etc. lives? Living locally is trendy for food. I like the idea of applying it as Lewis discusses above. After all, it is when face-to-face with suffering and distress that we get a idea of what it really means.

Worth a Thousand Words: Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)

Breezing Up (A Fair Wind), 1873–76, Winslow Homer

Stop what you're reading. Get this book: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I just finished rereading this for the third time, for an upcoming book club. I enjoyed it so much, even the third time around, that I thought I'd rerun the review in case you've missed this delightful book.

For those who'd like to hear more in-depth discussion, Scott Danielson and I discussed this on A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast (episode 84).

by Graeme Simsion

You know it's an unusual book when your mother forces you to read it by threatening you with guilt at her deathbed if you don't try it. (Ahem. Not that I've left any of my mother's book suggestions lingering too long on my "to read" list. No. Of course, I'd never do that.)

Guilt and mothers being what they are, plus the "after the 'goodbye'" reminder from her as I was hanging up the phone ... I looked around.

Heck, do people love this book or what? 21 copies at the library. All checked out. With 60 holds waiting for it to come in. Ok, Kindle make me love you. And I do love you, Kindle, I do! $1.99 and one click to download.

Where I literally laughed out loud by the beginning of the second chapter.

I guess Mom really does know best.

And it's a good thing because the description, while accurate, would never make me particularly want to pick it up. Hey, that's Don's problem. So accurate and we can't see what's really inside. Here's the blurb.
Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner.
Don tells us the story himself and that is a great part of the charm.

It is funny, it gives us insight into a completely different way of thinking, and it charms us while it does so.

I guess the test of a book one really enjoyed is that you don't want to start another book. You want to let the one you just read rattle around in your head and heart for a while. This, surprisingly, is such a book for me, thus forcing me to turn to nonfiction exclusively for a little while. Most unexpected.

NOTE: For quick explanation of what this book is, use Hannah's fast summing up to a pal: "It's an Abed situation." (Something for Community fans out there.)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Sunflower and Scissors

Sunflower and Scissors, Duane Keiser

A Movie You Might Have Missed #65: The Interrupters

Every City Needs Its Heroes

The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they themselves once employed. Shot over the course of a year, The Interrupters captures a period in Chicago when it became a national symbol for the violence in our cities.
It's funny, when I was watching this it seemed like a long two hours. But since it finished we haven't stopped talking about it. I realized that it needed to move at a fairly slow pace so that we understood all the nuances of the lives of the people living in an atmosphere of continual violence ... and the work of the people who interrupt, slow down conflicts long enough to help more of them come out the other end alive.

Powerful and, as I realized by my joy in seeing some people doing well in the Epilogue, moving.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Through Darkest Zymurgia! A Ripping Yarn by by William H. Duquette

Through Darkest Zymurgia! is what you'd get if you crossed P.G. Wodehouse with H. Rider Haggard and sprinkled a generous dose of Douglas Adams over the whole.

Professors Thintwhistle and Carbuncle go on a ripping yarn of exploration and adventure in a world almost — but not quite — entirely unlike our own. When a determined University donor wields his influence, the professors are forced to abandon their planned summer tour of taverns of exotic cities in the Known World. Instead they must go where no adventurers have gone before. Not, though, without a certain predictability to their new goal as we find when an admiral falls into conversation with Professor Thintwhistle about their destination of Zymurgia.
The admiral sat back in his chair. “What do you expect to find?” he asked.

“Beer,” I said.

“Beer?” asked Wyburn, in surprise.

“Beer,” I said. “That’s what Zymurgia means, you know…the land of brewing. They’ve been selling beer to the Serosans for thousands of years. The trade is only carried on in a small way these days; just with the folk at the base of the plateau.”

“It seems a long way to go to get a drink,” said Wyburn.
Most of the humor tends to build upon long setups and so, as in many Victorian books, takes a while to hit home. Suffice it to say that this Victorian-style tale of exploration retains genuine mystery and adventure while being infused with humorous whimsy.

Full disclosure: I enjoyed it so much that I volunteered to do the layout. That's because I'll be rereading it in the years to come. This is a thoroughly enjoyable tale and I hope author William Duquette will favor us with many more featuring the famed Professors Thintwhistle and Carbuncle in the future.

Worth a Thousand Words: Breakfast Time

Hanna Pauli, Breakfast-Time, 1887
via Lines and Colors
Isn't this a lovely, sun-dappled scene? I can hear the birds, feel a cool breeze, small the coffee.

Well Said: The Real Force

He felt helpless in the grip of this alien ritual, out of joint with his time. The confessional might have been a direct pipeline to the days when werewolves and incubi and witches were an accepted part of the outer darkness and the church the only beacon of light. For the first time in his life he felt the slow, terrible beat and swell of the ages and saw his life as a dim and glimmering spark in an edifice which, if seen clearly, might drive all men mad. Matt had not told them of Father Callahan’s conception of his church as a Force, but Ben would have understood that now. He could feel the Force in this fetid little box, beating in on him, leaving him naked and contemptible. He felt it as no Catholic, raised to confession since earliest childhood, could have.
Stephen King, 'Salem’s Lot
I don't know about "naked and contemptible." But I do know that I was struck by these words: "an edifice which, if seen clearly, might drive all men mad."

It almost sounds Lovecraftian but if one considers how unprepared humans seem to be to see an angel (they always have to say "do not fear") and the angels are simply messengers ... well, then there is something to needing to go through Earthly boot camp and then the purification of Purgatory in order to even to be able to take in the Heavenly reality.

Not what you expect from a horror novel but this is one of King's best.

Genesis Notes: Abraham's Resume

As always, I love these resumes which give such a good overview of a person's life, often with unexpected insights. Believe it or not, I often look to his example, especially when I am struggling with obedience to God.

Aert de Gelder, Abraham and the Angels
Abraham could hardly have been expected to visualize how much of the future was resting on his decision of whether to go [follow God's direction] or stay, but his obedience affected the history of the world. His decision to follow God set into motion the development of the nation that God would eventually use as his own when he visited earth himself. When Jesus Christ came to earth, God's promise was fulfilled; through Abraham the entire world was blessed.

Strengths and accomplishments:
  • His faith pleased God
  • Became the founder of the Jewish nation
  • Was respected by others and was courageous in defending his family at any cost
  • Was not only a caring father to his own family, but practiced hospitality to others
  • Was a successful and wealthy rancher
  • Usually avoided conflicts, but when they were unavoidable, he allowed his opponent to set the rules for settling the dispute
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Under direct pressure, he distorted the truth
Lessons from his life:
  • God desires dependence, trust, and faith in him -- not faith in our ability to please him
  • God's plan from the beginning has been to make himself known to all people
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Born in Ur of the Chaldeans; spent most of his life in the land of Cannan
  • Occupation: Wealthy livestock owner
  • Relatives: Brothers - Nahor and Haran. Father - Terah. Wife - Sarah. Nephew - Lot. Sons - Ishmael and Isaac
  • Contemporaries: Abimelech, Melchizedek
Key verse:
"Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6)

Abraham's story is told in Genesis 11-25. He also is mentioned in Exodus 2:24; Acts 7:2-8; Romans 4; Galatians 3; Hebrews 2, 6, 7, 11.

All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Seeking and Finding Jesus … Via Dracula?

Will Duquette interviewed me about Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life for Aleteia's Book Nook.  It brought surprising things to light!
Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is a book I’ve read many times since my high school days. I’ve come to see what a master work it is in examining the difficulty modern man has in accepting the supernatural as real, in examining unselfish love and service to others as opposed to absolute selfishness, and in examining evil as a perversion of all that is good. Dracula isn’t the anti-Christ in the standard understanding of the term but he is definitely the anti-God. And, as in The Lord of the Rings, these messages are subtly communicated within the larger story. ... I reread Dracula when I was close to finishing Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life and never has it spoken more to my soul in terms of who Jesus is and why I am so grateful for his love and friendship.
That's not nearly all I have to say on the topic ... and others. Read Seeking and Finding Jesus ... Via Dracula at Aleteia.

Thank you, Will, it was fun!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May is Mary's Month

William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
L'innocence [Innocence]
The May Magnificat
May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season --

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother;
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring? --
Growth in everything --

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather
Grass and green world all together;
Star-eyed strawberry breasted
Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good
Nature's motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord

Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surféd cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoo call
Caps, clears, and clinches all --

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.
Gerard Manley Hopkins

I've Been Blogging for 13 Years? How Did That Happen?

The sentiments below (from 2014) are still ones I feel when I think about the blog. Much has changed in my life due to this blog. For one thing I've written some books. That never would've happened.

For another, social media is now king and blogs seem old and passé. Yet, a fair number of people still come by every day. So rumors of our passing have been greatly exaggerated.

With that in mind, let's celebrate!

I remember so clearly that Sunday afternoon when I sat down, filled with nervous excitement, and figured out Blogger well enough to write my first post.

Fittingly enough it was a quote about St. Joseph and work as a spiritual act. I say fittingly enough because over the years I have leaned heavily on sharing quotes about living our faith in everyday life. St. Joseph, who guided Jesus through his first years of everyday life, is a perfect saint to have helped me launch such an endeavor.

I don't have any grand thoughts on this anniversary, perhaps because it just struck me a little while ago that I should see when it was in May that I began blogging. And it was 10 years ago today! What're the odds?

I can say that I have enjoyed it a lot. Blogging continues to bring me new friends, new insights, open doors for God to be present in my life. And what can be better than that? Not much, really!

Many thanks to those who take the time to drop by, and even more thanks to those who comment. I love you all! Now, let's all get some cake!

CraftLit is giving away a copy of Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life!

A raffle for Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life ... done by Heather Ordover at the CraftLit podcast.

(She is the best - if you haven't listened to CraftLit then you are missing a real treat in literary enjoyment).

Giveaway ends May 5 so sign up!

Julie hopes she can make her fried chicken last through Scott's 25 courses.

Scott argues that a giblet is NOT a course. We discuss Spinning Plates, a documentary written and directed by Joseph Levy in Episode 157 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Seeking Jesus review: Fall in love with Jesus all over again

This book is exactly what I needed at this point in my life! Each devotional tackles an area of Christian Living and surrounds the topic with Scripture, quotes from Saints and Scholars, and wisdom and reflection from the author's own experiences. It's a beautiful read that will make you fall in love with Jesus all over again. I cannot recommend this book enough!
Katherine Lyle, Amazon reviewer
Don't you want to see what the fuss is about? Get a copy ... and maybe one for a friend!

Worth a Thousand Words: Peach branches, Squirrel map

Peach branches, Squirrel map; Qian Xuan

Well Said: Perfect forms and lovely patterns

This is the age of science, of steel — of speed and the cement road. The age of hard faces and hard highways. Science and steel demand the medium of prose. Speed requires only the look — the gesture. What need then, for poetry?

Great need!

There are souls, in these noise-tired times, that turn aside into unfrequented lanes, where the deep woods have harbored the fragrances of many a blossoming season. Here the light, filtering through perfect forms, arranges itself in lovely patterns for those who perceive beauty.
Roy J. Cook, Editor, Preface to 101 Famous Poems
This was written in 1958. How much greater the need is now when we haven't stopped the speed, the noise, the barely-there communications. I'm beginning to reread this fine collection and this bit from the preface is as poetically beautiful as anything that follows.