Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Spiritual Sunday #5" -- Advent Begins

So this is fitting, I guess. It is the beginning of Advent, and the end of NaBloPoMo. Although only one of those things obviously fits my theme of the day, actually they both do. Because I started this blog, and have done NaBloP, as a friend calls it, for two years now, as part of a self-and-God devised plan of self-discipline and growth.

When I turned 50 (in early 2001) I took a look at my life, and all the things I was going to do "someday", and decided that I had better get started. Some of them were purely physical, like a regular exercise routine. Some of them were purely spiritual, like daily Scripture and prayer, and a several-times-a-week spiritual journal. Some of them were in between.

I don't mean to imply that at 50 I suddenly became fully disciplined. I don't think I'm better than average even yet. But each year or so I've been able to add -- and stick to -- something. Currently my "weekly disciplines chart" has lines for ten different things I need to do, with check boxes for each day of the week, and projected goals. (I only "have" to walk four days a week, though sometimes I do five. And this week I didn't walk at all, to rest an injured knee.) And one of those things is blogging.

According to the chart I'm supposed to blog (or write an extended letter or email to somebody) at least twice a week. I haven't been entirely successful. But I stuck with NaBloP, and came up with daily themes, and that gives me hope for the next year. And I'd say I'm about 93% successful in my spiritual disciplines, which have observably made me a better and more godly person. (My kids will tell you they were very pleasantly surprised over Thanksgiving, when none of the stresses and disasters led to a melt-down on my part. Even I was surprised.)

So NaBloP is over and Advent begins, a season when Christians traditionally search and prepare their hearts to celebrate again the Lord's coming. Since I won't be posting here tomorrow (unless it's a snow day, which may happen,) I'll leave you with a hymn which both lifts my spirits and encourages me to do just that.

People Look East
words by Eleanor Farjeon

1. People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

2. Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

3. Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

4. Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

5. Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

(If the tune is unfamiliar, the MIDI is here.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sloppy Saturday #4 -- Sleepover Report

Well, it went as well as could be expected for a couple of two-year-olds who have never spent a night away from both parents at the same time. There was a melt-down at bed time, but all was saved by the combined efforts of Aunt Maggie and a judicious application of Davy Jones singing "Personal Penguin" combined with the iTunes visualizer. About 8 hours of mostly uninterrupted sleep was enjoyed by all. (The parents, at least the ones without the four-month-old, enjoyed even more! ;-D )

We will definitely do it again. And everybody, grandparents included, will probably take a nice long nap this afternoon!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Family Friday #4 -- Grandkids!

I'm taking a lazy day today. Partly because Roger is doing a bread-baking marathon in the kitchen (he's shooting for five six-loaf batches, most of which will go home with our kids), and partly because I'm not quite sure how much sleep I will get tonight. We are having a first-ever event: a grandchildren sleep-over!

Both Daniel and Camilla (and Matthew for that matter, but he's too young to participate) have slept at our house before, with their parents. Both of them pretty much consistently sleep through the night in their own beds. But neither of them has ever slept overnight anywhere without at least one parent nearby.

So this may be almost a non-event, in which case it will become a regular thing. Or it may be a cause of major "trauma", including middle of the night calls to parents. (Because Maggie and Katie are both home, the married kids are staying elsewhere this trip.) What is for sure is that both couples are going to get some alone time, with Rosie and Anthony retrieving Matthew after a couple of hours. And I will have a chance to read approximately 142 Dr. Seuss books, with two two-year-olds on my lap. Or maybe just Fox in Socks 142 times. Lovely!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tip-Line Thursday #4-- Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope all your days have been as peaceful and blessed as mine has. We had an "early" dinner -- 1 PM -- so that Arwen and her family could eat again at six at her in-laws. Everything was done on time, everything was delicious, our daughters (Maggie and Katie) who are away at college made it home, albeit with a "lost luggage" delay and well after midnight. Furthermore, Arwen and Rosie, who had a stomach bug yesterday, were recovered enough to enjoy the feast.

And so here's my Thanksgiving tip, for every year: NOT every year will be like mine this year! The turkey will cook too fast, or too slow. Somebody's flight will be canceled. Somebody else will have the flu. Some years this will happen all at once!

But all the things throughout the year that we have to be thankful for are not negated by that. Even if the turkey burns to a crisp, we can be thankful that our week's nutrition wasn't depending on that turkey. A flight that's canceled beats a flight that crashes! And if the illness is severe or even terminal, we can rejoice in the good things that person has brought into our lives. In other words, we can choose to look at the doughnut, not the hole!

Happy THANKSgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Whatcha Readin' Wednesday #4

Short and sweet -- I'm reading recipes! My daughters who were going to help with the cooking came down with a stomach bug, so I'm running solo. I'm just Sooooo glad that for various reasons we are have Thanksgiving here this year, and not in their town, which was the original plan. Catch ya tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tasty Tuesday #4 -- Cranberry Relish

This recipe has been kicking around in my family forever. My sister-in-law was thrilled when I gave it to her, because my brother, who is the world's greatest adherent of all things traditional, was grumpy without it. Although Roger and the kids are fans of Ocean Spray jellied sauce in a can, I have an aversion to the texture (I don't like Jell-O, either.) So every year I make this just for me, and any guests who are brave enough to give it a shot.

Cranberry Relish

1 (12 or 16 oz.) bag fresh cranberries
1 apple (red preferred)
1 orange (seedless preferred)

Wash and pick over the cranberries. Quarter the apple, and core but do not peel. Quarter (and remove seeds if needed) the orange. Put all through a meat grinder, alternating berries and quarters of other fruit. Sweeten to taste with sugar (I use about 1/4 cup, but I prefer it tangy.) Stir well, and chill until needed.

My sister-in-law doesn't have a meat grinder, so she throws everything in her food processor. My brother hasn't noticed. And I know that my grandmother, who was diabetic, made it with sweetener instead of sugar. Also, I adjust the size of the apple and orange based on the amount of cranberries -- medium for 12 oz., larger for 16 oz.

And that's it -- a homemade Thanksgiving recipe that's easier than pie!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Musical Monday #3 -- More "King" Hymns

I hope nobody minds, but today's post is simply a continuation of yesterday's. :-D I really like the hymns I'm posting today, and I was hoping we'd sing one of them yesterday so I could feature it. But we were attending Arwen and Bryan's parish, which has some awesome musicians, and they did a combination of traditional Latin chant and some original things. All of it was wonderful, but I didn't get to sing ANY of these:

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.

Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!

Plenty more verses at CyberHymnal, plus the best-known tune of Duke Street. I also like it to Truro.

And then there's this one--

Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.

Crown Him the virgin’s Son, the God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won which now His brow adorn;
Fruit of the mystic rose, as of that rose the stem;
The root whence mercy ever flows, the Babe of Bethlehem.

Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest.

Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of peace, whose power a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease, and all be prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end, and round His pierc├Ęd feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet.

Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.

Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns, as thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns, for He is King of all.

Crown Him the Lord of lords, who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word, for ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light, where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night, their God, Redeemer, King.

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.

I've never sung all the verses at once, but I've sung most of them here and there. Definitely to Diademata.

And this one:

Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore;
Rejoice give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Savior, reigns, the God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains He took His seat above;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail, He rules o’er earth and Heav’n,
The keys of death and hell are to our Jesus giv’n;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope! Our Lord the Judge shall come,
And take His servants up to their eternal home.
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

To Darwall's 148th, although I think I've heard another tune somewhere.

And finally:

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.

Let highborn seraphs tune the lyre, and as they tune it, fall
Before His face Who tunes their choir, and crown Him Lord of all.
Before His face Who tunes their choir, and crown Him Lord of all.

Crown Him, ye morning stars of light, who fixed this floating ball;
Now hail the strength of Israel’s might, and crown Him Lord of all.
Now hail the strength of Israel’s might, and crown Him Lord of all.

Crown Him, ye martyrs of your God, who from His altar call;
Extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod, and crown Him Lord of all.
Extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod, and crown Him Lord of all.

Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race, ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.

Hail Him, ye heirs of David’s line, whom David Lord did call,
The God incarnate, Man divine, and crown Him Lord of all,
The God incarnate, Man divine, and crown Him Lord of all.

Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget the wormwood and the gall,
Go spread your trophies at His feet, and crown Him Lord of all.
Go spread your trophies at His feet, and crown Him Lord of all.

Let every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball
To Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all.
To Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all.l.

O that, with yonder sacred throng, we at His feet may fall,
We'll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all,
We'll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all!

To Diadem, with organ and/or trumpets, although Coronation is acceptable.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Spiritual Sunday"#4 -- Christ the King!

This is one of my favorite feasts of the church year; as I said last week, even though it's still technically ordinary time, I feel like it has a season all its own. That's probably influenced by the fact that I love so many of the hymns and songs that speak of Christ's Kingship. So you get some today, and more tomorrow.

This first one is supposedly quintessentially Catholic, but frankly I can't see why. Follow this link and listen to the MIDI; the tune makes it even better.

To Jesus Christ, our Sovereign King
To Jesus Christ, our Sov'reign King,
Who is the world's salvation,
All praise and homage do we bring,
And thanks and adoration.

Christ Jesus Victor, Christ Jesus Ruler!
Christ Jesus, Lord and Redeemer!

2. Thy reign extend, O King benign,
To ev'ry land and nation,
For in Thy kingdom, Lord divine,
Alone we find salvation.

3. To Thee and to Thy Church, great King,
We pledge our hearts' oblation,
Until before Thy throne we sing,
In endless jubilation.

Then there's this one, that really goes better with guitars. But it's so peppy I'll sing it however I can. (I know, I know, it's been a subject of scorn ever since Stephen Colbert did a distinctly odd version last year. But I can't help it -- I knew it first.)

The King of Glory

Refrain The King of glory comes, the nation rejoices. Open the gates before him, lift up your voices
1. Who is the King of glory; how shall we call him? He is Emmanuel, the promised of ages.

2. In all of Galilee, in city or village, He goes among his people curing their illness.

3. Sing then of David’s Son, our Savior and brother; In all of Galilee was never another

4. He gave his life for us, the pledge of salvation, He took upon himself the sins of the nation.

5. He conquered sin and death; he truly has risen, And he will share with us his heavenly vision.

I'd like to post a picture, too, but the only one I really like is here, and I can't seem to get it inserted. All glory to Christ the King!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sloppy Saturday #3 -- Sleeping In!

I actually prepared this post a couple of days ago. We are visiting Arwen and Rosie and the kidlets while Bryan and Anthony are "upnorth" at Bryan's dad's hunting ranch. They may or may not shoot any deer (Bryan certainly not-- he doesn't even take a gun), but a good time will be had by all. And we are having a good time here hanging out with the grandchildren, and, if I had any luck at all, sleeping in!

goodnight sleeping women cartoon

(9:45 -- a record!)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Family Friday #3 -- Later Kids Get Neglected?

Back when I was getting geared up for NaBloPoMo, I mentioned that one of my goals for Family Friday was to get you up to date on Katie and Tommy. I don't think it's going to happen, or at least not the way I envisioned it. . . . I gave the other four kids each a multi-part bio, which (mostly) they were OK with. And I have Katie all the way into elementary school in these posts, but I just can't seem to write the next episode. (I have several tries in my drafts folder to prove it!) And Tommy is at the stage where no matter what I write about him, he'll probably argue that I got it wrong. (Not that he deigns to read my blog, although he lives on the internet otherwise, but one of his sisters would be sure to mention it to him.)

Which pretty much goes to demonstrate the old truth that everybody really knows -- although older kids may get cheated out of some things (scroll down to paragraph 6) because mom and dad haven't relaxed yet, younger kids definitely get neglected when it comes to baby books (I have 1 and 1/2 of a second), individual pictures (we have Olan Mills shots of Arwen and Rosie, but nobody else) and just the general individual record keeping that older children get. I'm sure that this is not because we love them any less. It's just a matter of time and resources. (And, um, the fact that mom and dad aren't as young as they were back when #1 was a baby.)

On the other hand, there are a couple of advantages to being toward the bottom of the age scale. Parents are more relaxed. I would absolutely have lost it if Arwen had decided to change her college choice at the end of July. With Katie, we just told her that if she could pull it off, fine. And she did. The last kid at home also has a definite advantage when it comes to family meals out. There are no siblings arguing for a different restaurant. And when Arwen played Quiz Bowl in high school, we bought a big can of peanuts for her practice- and match-day snacks. Tommy has a drive-thru-on-the-way-to-work budget, which would equal at least a #10 can of peanuts every week.

I can just about hear one of my older kids thinking about making "not fair" noises about that drive-thru money. And you know what? It isn't fair. But it's been the best we could do for every kid, and different treatment doesn't mean different amounts of love. I promise you, around here the love is six times infinite. As we used to say, "All the giga*-smooches there are!"

* Although I guess these days it should be tera- or peta-smooches. Maybe I should just say yotta- and be done with it?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tip-Line Thursday #3 -- Turkey Stock

Roger and I were grocery shopping this morning (he comes with me on major shopping weeks because it takes about half the time) and I was moaning that I had this "tip-line" thing to do and I was clueless. Since we were buying our Thanksgiving turkey -- two, actually; one at each store with a super sale -- he suggested that maybe some of y'all might not know what to do with that turkey carcass after dinner is over. So I'm going to give it a shot.

The first thing, obviously, is to get all that great meat off the bones and into some bags in the fridge. I divide it into "sliceable" -- which is for sandwiches and our traditional Thanksgiving leftover meal on Saturday or Sunday -- and "choppable", which gets diced and thrown into the freezer in one- and two-cup amounts for things like soup or creamed turkey. Sometimes I pick it off very carefully, because I was raised by a depression-era mom, and we wouldn't want to waste anything! But sometimes that just seems like too much trouble, and anyway it'll go to flavor the stock.

Because mom or no mom, I am not going to throw away that turkey carcass (just yet). I'm going to put it -- skin, bones, scraps and all -- into my biggest pot. I have a 20 quart (5 gallon) pot, but you can get it into a 12 quart if you break it in pieces (or maybe also if you didn't start with a 20-odd pound turkey.) Anyway, I then fill the pan with water to cover the bones*, put on the lid, bring it to a boil, turn the heat down to simmer, and leave it alone. For two days.

During those two days. I occasionally take off the lid and give the whole mess a stir. As the stock simmers the bones, most of the connective stuff dissolves and/or relaxes, and it looks less like a turkey and more like a bag of bones. During this time my house smells wonderful!

At the end of two days (or more if I'm busy; I just make sure the heat stays at a simmer) I take the pan off the heat and let it cool. In November in Michigan I usually put it on the porch, but room temperature is fine. I just don't want to get scalded when I strain it. I put a big mesh strainer into my biggest bowl, and ladle the broth into it, scraps, bones and all. When the strainer gets full I slowly lift it out (see why it needs to be cool?), letting the stock drain into the bowl, throw the bones away, and repeat as necessary. I have a big enough bowl to hold it all, but if you don't, you can transfer some of the stock to other containers until the pot is empty.

At this point, I wash out my great big pot (it doesn't have to be grease-free, just no sludge from the bones) and put all the broth back into it. Then I taste it. Sometimes it has great turkey flavor already, but usually it's a little weak. So I put it back on the heat to boil until it has reduced by a third or a half. I taste it until it seems right. Please note: at this point I'm only looking for turkey flavor. It will not be salty enough, but salt intensifies when stock reduces, and again when you freeze it. It's better to have too little salt and be able to add it later.

When the turkey flavor is good, I take the pot off the heat and cool it again. At this point it really needs to be chilled, so if you don't have a "porcherator" like I do, divide it into the biggest containers that will fit in your fridge. ** Once the stock is chilled, I take off any solid fat and measure it by cups into freezer bags. (I usually like 2 cup and 6 cup amounts, which need quart and gallon bags respectively.) I mark and seal the bags, lay them flat on cookie sheets, and freeze. (Flat bags of stock are easier to store AND easier to thaw than storage containers, but those work fine if they're what you have.)

And then, all year long, I have turkey stock for soup, and gravy, and creamed turkey...YUM!

* At this point you can throw in other things, if you like. Potato and vegetable peelings, or celery trimmings. Any leftover Thanksgiving vegetables --onions, green beans, carrots, mushrooms -- that don't have cream or cheese in them. (Even green bean casserole is OK. Just rinse off some of the soup.) Just be sure the flavor is something you'd want in turkey stock. Yams are kind of odd. We always have Brussels sprouts (a tradition from Roger's family), and those are definitely too strong.

** If you don't have enough fridge room either, the stock CAN be bagged and frozen from room temperature. But that doesn't let you remove the fat, and also means the stock will be warmer longer in the freezer, which slightly raises the risk of bacteria.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Whatcha Readin' Wednesday #3

Well, I finished the Foreigner series. Even though there are nine books (three "trilogies"), it wouldn't surprise me at all if Cherryh comes out with another one, or even another set. There were just too many ends left hanging to consider it "done." Of course, she has several other "worlds" going (this is the only one I really like), so it may take a while... And if it takes years, I'll still be excited when it comes out.

I know that because Elizabeth Peters just came out with a new book in her Vicky Bliss series after fourteen years! Furthermore, she tied it in to her Amelia Peabody books -- but I won't tell you how. Read either series in publication order for the most enjoyment. (Now if she'd just write another Jacqueline Kirby........)

I am currently reading Death Lights a Candle, one of the Phoebe Atwood Taylor books I mentioned last week, I'm pretty sure I know how the poison was administered, even though the characters are currently clueless, but I don't know
who or why. But it's such a great period piece that I'm probably going to read all of them just for the ambiance.

The two-week books I got last week are not so hot, and will probably go back unread. One of them might be fun for anybody who likes golf, but I think it might have been self-published, because I can't find a link. I picked it up because it mentions Frederick MD, which is where my brother works and is also the home of Barbara Mertz/ Elizabeth Peters. How's that for a small world?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tasty Tuesday #3 -- Praiseworthy Pie Crust

Everybody loves my pies. Not everybody loves all of the kinds of pie, of course (pumpkin is either love it or hate it), but even pie-indifferent people love at least one kind of my pie. And the comment is usually "That's the best crust ever!" Which is funny, because according to the rules, I do everything wrong.

I use the wrong ratio of fat to flour to water, I never use lard, I cut it in too much, I'm lazy and use waxed paper, I don't trim the edges. But as long as so many people like my crust anyway, maybe you'd like to try it my way.

Praiseworthy Pie Crust
(enough for one double or two single 9" crusts -- can be multiplied as needed)

Sift and stir together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1 cup shortening (NOT pre-creamed). (I do both these steps with my pastry blender. If you don't have one, get one!) Keep cutting until the mixture is uniform. (Standard recipes tell you to cut only until the fat is the size of small peas.) Gently sprinkle in, one tablespoon at a time, 4 to 6 tablespoons cold water*, stirring with a fork after each addition. The mixture should start to come together as a ball. (Experience will help you know how much is enough. If some of the dough feels wet, STOP!)

Gather the dough together in your hands, and form it into two softball-sized lumps. Flatten each lump slightly, and place between two squares of waxed paper. Roll out each crust, turning the whole thing (paper and all) over at least once, and peeling the paper loose before you roll the second side to get rid of any wrinkles.

When both crusts are rolled out, peel the wax paper free of one side, replace it loosely, and then turn the combination over and peel the other sheet off. Holding both crust and loosely-adhering paper, place crust in pan (or on top of pie) and remove paper. (Arwen worked out this trick -- I always just peeled one, and then peeled the other when the crust was in the pan. But it's less likely to tear this way.) Fill and or bake as your recipe directs.

*(I use cold tap water, but I live in Michigan! If you live somewhere warmer, you may want to use refrigerated or even iced water.)

This dough can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, either before or after rolling. Either way, warm to room temperature before using, or the dough will crack. Any cracks can be mended by tamping together with a warm finger.

The other thing which makes my pie crusts different is my sealing and forming technique. Instead of trimming the edges, and sealing two flat surfaces, I roll both crusts together up and in toward the pie, making a largish roll which I then crimp. I freely admit, crust is my favorite part of the pie, so I make sure I get a lot. I do tweak the crusts a little to make sure the roll is approximately even.

With Thanksgiving coming, I'm going to be using this recipe several times. If anybody tries it, please let me know how it turned out!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Musical Monday #3 -- genres

In general, I am at least a partial fan of all genres of music. (The exception is rap, which to my ears isn't music at all, although I am willing to acknowledge a possible cultural bias.) That's not to say I like all of every genre; I definitely prefer Vivaldi to Brahms, or The Sons of the Pioneers to Dolly Parton, for that matter. But there are a couple of genres that I actively like which will probably surprise you -- ska and techno.

I posted the Wikipedia links to both of those genres, but honestly, the histories are not something I'm at all familiar with. I just know that when I say to Tommy or George "I like that! What is it?", those are the answers I'm most likely to get. I am familiar with one "Christian ska" band, Five Iron Frenzy. I'd link to a song, but since the only ones I recognize for sure are on George's iPod, I'm having trouble finding them on the appropriate albums.(George, if you read this, please provide a link in the comments, preferably to that song I used to always notice while driving you to school.....) Anyway, I DO know what I like about ska: the syncopated feel and the brass-heavy instrumentals. Of course I like those things no matter what genre I'm listening to, and sometimes identify something as ska when it's not, to the scorn of my sons. I guess I don't know art, but I know what I like! ;-D

I do remember my first exposure to techno. I just didn't know what it was. All of my kids have been in the marching band, and I've chaperoned band camp enough times that I'd have to put more effort than I care to into figuring out how many. But one feature of every band camp (along with a talent show and "band olympics") is the Thursday night dance. This particular year, the drum line instructor was serving as DJ. I had no idea what he was playing, but unlike the other parents, I liked it! My current favorite song (which is not exactly new) is Technologic, by Daft Punk. There's a great video (not the official one) on YouTube.

Now obviously I can't recommend every song in these genres. I'm sure some of them are verbally offensive, and I know some of them are musically deficient. But if you've never listened to either of these genres, I think you should give them a try!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Spiritual Sunday" #3 -- end of Ordinary Time

Technically, of course, ordinary time doesn't end until the First Sunday in Advent, which this year is November 30th. But because the last Sunday of ordinary time has a specific name (the feast of Christ the King), and because the "ordinary" refers not to "usual" but to "numbered" (see the link), I have a tendency to see these weeks as a little island of their own, past ordinary time (today is the 33rd Sunday) but not quite into the new liturgical year.

This feeling is aided, of course, by the purely political and increasingly secular holiday of Thanksgiving, which falls during these weeks. It is sad that Thanksgiving has strayed so far from its roots, and become a day mostly of family, food, and football. None of these things are bad, and even secularists tend to spend at least a couple of minutes thinking about what they are thankful for, but the concept of being thankful to Somebody Who provided these things seems to be missing.

So here I sit, in my little self-made no-times'-land, and think about the NEW coming: a new Thanksgiving to be thankful with family; a new liturgical year of celebrating the high glories and low humiliations of Christ's life and our salvation; a new chronological year with all it will bring (including a new grandchild); probably a new place to live, if the government ever finalizes the details of the planned buyout. New things to read, new recipes to try, new music to sing.

In general I, anxiety-prone as I am, am radically and often grumpily change-averse. But today, somehow, it just looks NEW. Bring it on!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sloppy Saturday #2 -- Computer Gaming Edition

Well, the tech problem is solved, by eliminating the domain entirely. I'm not sure what this means in the techie world, but for me it means reconfiguring things and re-entering my passwords again, which I had to do only a couple of months ago when the server gave up the ghost. (And I'm hearing ominous noises from my hard drive, which may mean doing it again in a couple of months.)

But the bright side of this is that I now have an updated version of Digger! I got hooked on this game back in the 1980's, when Roger had the privledge of bringing home his work "portable" computer, a Compaq 1, which was the size of a large suitcase, had a monochrome-green screen about eight inches across, and weighed so much that you canted to one side when you carried it. At some point after the computers which supported the original game died of old age, Alawar released an updated version, which was one of my Christmas presents a number of years ago. Every time we've had a major system change, that's been one of the codes I've had to reload. But when the server crashed, I could no longer get it to work.

This morning when I was reloading other game codes, I came across the Digger shortcut in my games folder. I tried the code again -- same luck as last time -- and in desperation went to the Alawar site, thinking maybe I could download it afresh and try the code again. It was gone! There was, however, something called Digger Adventures, with a one hour free trial, so I downloaded that. It turns out to be Digger with upgrades to the graphics. And my old registration code works!!!

I have, of course, a bunch of other computer games I love, from the assorted card games that come with ther machine to Sky Bubbles, Snood Slide, Super Text Twist and Peggle. What do you play?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Family Friday #2 -- Living in a "Test Lab"

This post was going to be an update on Katie (who is flourishing at college, except for Latin), but it's actually going to be quite short, because the y-chromosomed tech wizards I mentioned yesterday are having "domain controller" problems. Something about installing the latest updates, which messed with the virtual server, which means all the logins have to be reconfigured... (Don't hold me to all of that, I'm just flinging terms around without proper referents.) Anyway, I can't get at everything I want to, and I just had to put my desktop back the way I like it, and Roger is heaving sighs which I am interpreting as "Just go away and let me fight this dragon." So I'll see you tomorrow, if nothing else crashes!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tip-Line Thursday #2 -- Computer Storage

To start off with, I have a very important tip for you -- never set yourself up for something you don't think you're good at just because somebody else thinks it's a good idea! My post topics for the other days of the week were easy to come up with, but as you know, I struggled with Thursday. A couple of people suggested giving tips; hence, Tip-line Thursday. But last week's Thursday post was the hardest one I've written all month, and I've been dreading today's. Live and learn, or at least I hope I learn.

What I can do is tell you some things that work for me. (There's actually a "Works-for-me-Wednesday" at another blog.) And this week my topic is computer storage. (No, not the technical stuff! I leave that to the geeks in this family who happen to have y-chromosomes.) I'm talking about storing useful information.

For example, I tend to be very tradition-oriented. I think I've mentioned before that our Thanksgiving menu, for example, tends to be cast in stone. I combined the best parts of Roger's and my families staples, and on Thanksgiving Day, that's whats for dinner. (Arwen and Rosie would like more variety, and next year when they cook dinner, they can have it.) But one of the things I like about this is that I have everything stored on my computer -- menu, shopping list, basic timetable of what needs to be done how far before dinner time. I print it out every year, and while I have work to do, I essentially don't have to think.

I also have things stored for Christmas, and for the Easter breakfast party we throw every year, plus some idiosyncratic family holidays. Even when I do want to change things, I know what I'm changing them from. People who enjoy change could probably use a variation of this system to know what not to repeat.

So, although I don't know what I'll be posting about next Thursday, I do know what's for dinner the Thursday after that! See you here tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Whatcha Readin' Wednesday #2 -- Anticipation Edition

I am still working my way through the Foreigner books -- halfway through # 8 Pretender -- but I am now sure that I can finish what I have left well before their due dates in December. And since I have three books (including Silks) to return today, and since Wednesday afternoon is "my" time (I get up at six, and work non-stop all morning to finish the household stuff), I am going to treat myself to an extended browse of the library. I may find some old favorite to re-read, or I may discover a new author to read through. As long as I stay away from the new, two-week, nonrenewable books, I should be able to supply myself with reading material to last me through New Year's.

I do have two books here at home that I want to work on. One of them is an old favorite, Enchantment by Orson Scott Card. I got into reading Card through the Alvin Maker series, read Ender's Game
to make Tommy happy (I think he wants to be Bean), but I always come back to Enchantment. It's a stand-alone, unlike most of Card's other works (and I think his series tend to start out strong and go downhill.) I promise that if you read it, you'll have a new take on a lot of old fairy tales.

The other book I have hanging fire is The Shack, by William Young. It was given me by a pastor friend, who is buying paperback copies and passing them out with instructions to "read it and pass it on." Frankly, I've been delaying. This is partly because I want to finish the Cherryh series, but also because "Christian fiction" often leaves me either annoyed or bemused. This dates at least back to third grade, when I won a "Christian cowgirl" book for the best Scripture memory skills in my Good News Club. I still think it was stupid. Anyway, when I do read this one, I'll let you know what I think.

. . . . . .

Post-library update: I didn't get all the links into this before I had to leave the house, so I'm just posting it now. I managed to get away with only two two-week books, which I'll report on next week. I also got a big pile of "modern reprints" of books by Phoebe Atwood Taylor. They were written in the thirties,and reprinted in the sixties, and look like a lot of fun. I also got one simply for the title -- Who's Afraid of Virginia Ham? How could anybody resist that??

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tasty Tuesday #2 -- Chicken with Bacon and Wine

This recipe is adapted from The Bacon Cookbook by James Villas. I got the book as an anniversary present, and have been working my way through it.

Chicken with Bacon and Wine

In a medium skillet, melt 3 T butter or margarine over moderate heat. Add 18 small white onions* and brown them lightly on all sides. Add 1/2 c chicken broth, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer the onions for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut 4 large boneless chicken breast halves** (1-1/2 to 2 pounds) in half lengthwise. Put 1/2 c all-purpose flour on a plate, and dredge the chicken pieces in it.

In a large deep skillet fry 4 thick or 6 thin slices bacon, cut into large dice*** over moderate heat, and drain on paper towels. Add the chicken to the drippings in the skillet and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken to a plate, and stir in 2 T flour. Stir for a couple of minutes, until the flour is becoming golden. Add 1 c red wine **** , increase the heat, and scrape to get all the browned bits up from the bottom of the pan. Add 1c. chicken broth and 1 T tomato paste. Stir until well blended. Return the chicken to the pan and add the onions, the bacon, (2 crushed garlic cloves), 1/4 t. coarse pepper, and 1/2 t dried thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 1 t dried parsley in a cheesecloth packet or tea ball*****.

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 45 minutes. Add more broth if necessary. When done, add salt and more pepper to taste.

Remove and discard the herbs, transfer the chicken and onions to a serving dish, and pour the sauce over all. Serve immediately.

Serves 3 - 8 depending on appetite and side dishes. I like it with rice or a wild rice blend and green beans. Do make sure you have some kind of starch to soak up the luscious sauce!

* The first time I made this I used a bag of tiny onions that I had on hand. They tasted great, but pretty much vanished by the end of cooking.

** I originally used 6 chicken breasts, but everybody agreed that there wasn't enough sauce.

*** The original recipe calls for peppered bacon. If you have it on hand, omit the 1/4 t pepper below.

**** The original calls for Zinfandel. I used an inexpensive merlot, and it was fine.

***** This is a classic "bouquet garni". When I first made this, I packaged the herbs as directed. From now on I'll probably just throw them in and fish out the bay leaf. The garlic is in parentheses because it doesn't fly at my house.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Musical Monday #2 -- a cappella

On Whatcha Readin' Wednesdays I'll probably mostly talk about the fiction I'm reading, since that's what I read the most of, at least in books. (Newspapers and magazines are a whole other story.) But today I'd like to mention one of the non-fiction books in my pile, Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A CAPPELLA Glory by Mickey Rapkin. Frankly, I haven't opened it yet, except to glance at the pictures in the middle, but I found it intriguing enough to grab it off the shelf at the same time I got Silks. I'm working hard to get through the Foreigner series first, but since even new non-fiction can be renewed for up to two months at my library, I grabbed it when I saw it.

I've been intrigued by college a cappella groups for a relatively short time, since Katie showed me this video last winter. (Go watch it, you'll love it!) But when I saw that video, I remembered my early love for the (original) Swingle Singers. And, for that matter, Rockapella. You may know of them through their connection with the kids TV show "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"

There's just something about the unaccompanied human voice...(And yet, while I love a cappella harmony, I'm not such a fan of chant.)

Where is this all going? Nowhere, exactly, except that our church choir is slowly starting to sing more a cappella music. (This is a return to the roots, since the phrase means "as in the chapel"; that is, singing without the organ, which was too big for the chapel.) Right now we are mostly singing accompanied songs, and the pianist simply drops out on the final repeat. That way nobody knows if we've gone flat, not even us. But we have a piece we are learning for our Christmas concert which is unaccompanied except for string bass and drums. Will we keep in tune? Only time will tell!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Spiritual Sunday #2 -- Week of Feasts

This particular week in the liturgical year is chock full of feasts! Today was the celebration of the Dedication of the Church of St. John Lateran, which is one of the few liturgical events that takes precedence over Sunday . Monday is St. Leo the Great; Tuesday -- St. Martin of Tours; Wednesday -- St. Josaphat; Thursday-- St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. Friday is an ordinary day. Saturday morning celebrates St. Albert the Great, but the evening is trumped by Evening Prayer I of Sunday. (I deliberately mixed it up on all those links; there's a lot of other good stuff Google-able.)

But I don't especially want to talk about these particular celebrations. What I really want to stress is the advantage of having a liturgical year at all, with celebrations that come around on a predictable basis.

Although my husband and kids are all Catholic, and you probably can't tell it from this blog (:-D), I'm not. (The whole story is for another time, maybe.) Anyway, although not raised Catholic, I was raised in a church with a liturgical tradition. Advent is followed by Christmas is followed by Epiphany is followed by Lent is followed by Easter is followed by Pentecost is followed by summer (OK, we were a little sloppy!) and repeat. There were special things about each season, things to look forward to each year. And over the course of three years you were exposed to pretty much every story and theme of scripture.

When I went off to college, and later when I lived in Ohio, the evangelical groups I belonged to had a less specific year. Christmas and Easter, yes, but the rest not so much. And I missed it. It's harder to celebrate the spiritual side of Christmas when you haven't spent four weeks preparing your hear. (It's also easier to slip into the cultural/materialistic rut that had carols playing in Wal-Mart the day after Hallowe'en. I know Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, but come on, cut me a break!

I also missed Lent, strange as it sounds. When you haven't been fasting, or "giving up something for Lent" as I did as a child, or both, then the feast becomes less significant. In fact, if you never fast, a literal feast becomes just dinner. I wonder if some of the obesity epidemic is traceable to the idea that every day is a feast?

So when Roger returned to the Catholic church, and the kids joined him, I plunged back into the liturgical cycle with joy. And adding saints' days just added to the joy. No matter how you feel about declaring somebody "officially" a saint, those who have gone before us in the faith are worth celebrating. Also, it's very helpful. When an older friend in the choir tells me that she's not really just "Mary", but "Maria Magdalena" because of the day she was born, I can hit the liturgical calendar and know to send her a card on July 22!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sloppy Saturday #1 -- Nerd Test

I told you that Saturday could be anything, and I meant it. I've seen this nerd test before, and I always get about the same score. Of course I was born nerdy, and I live in a household of geeks and nerds. I rather expect your scores will be lower, but let me know. I'd kind of like some company, and if you score higher I will acknowledge that with a grin -- and a bow!

I am nerdier than 84% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Family Friday #1 -- Frustration

I was going to do a photo post of everybody, so that when I talk about them you'll have a mental image, but that's going to have to wait until I have tech support (like Tommy!) sitting next to me and helping me to get the pictures I want without linking to identifying information as well. Roger and George have Flickr accounts, and everybody is on Facebook, but I can't seem to do a transfer. Sigh. I have a file on my desktop, but it has unhelpful photo names like Variousphotos001.jpg.

Fortunately the family themselves are not frustrating, although some of them are frustrated! (Actually, pretty much everybody over two is frustrated by the election results, especially the passage of Proposal 2 here in Michigan.) Roger is frustrated because his small business is dead slow, not surprising in the Michigan economy. I am astounded that I am as calm as I am about our finances. I know that's the grace of God.

Arwen is blooming with our fourth grandchild. Bryan is enjoying the fruits of the garden they did last summer, and realizing that he has some of his Dad's family's green thumb. Camilla is grasping that "later" means something, to Arwen's great relief.

Rosie is enjoying having two boys, and cooking up a storm -- her
favorite domestic chore. Anthony is one of the leading salesmen at his company. Daniel is jabbering constantly, in complete if short sentences. I can have a conversation with him on the phone now! Matthew is growing like a weed, weighing much more than Daniel did at equivalent ages. Good thing Rosie is strong!

Maggie is in her senior year, and stressing about where and whether to do grad school. Unfortunately she got her anxious point of view from me :-( George is loving his job in the Coast Guard, and thinking about going for 20. He'd still only be 37 when he got out.

Katie is loving college, but not Latin. She's also in many activities. Tommy becomes a better drummer every day, and is a great kid except maybe when he hasn't had enough sleep. Lucas and Joe sleep half the day and fight the rest.

And that's the brief version of my family for this week!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Tip-Line Thursday #1 -- Menu Planning

In honor of the ongoing input about menu planning going on over at Faith and Family (where Arwen blogs) I thought I'd have today's post touch on this topic. When it comes to meal planning, most women either love it or hate it, and since I've been in both categories, I'm hoping I have something helpful to say!

I was raised in a family that operated on the "pantry principle"; that is, there was always a substantial stock of assorted raw ingredients on hand (frozen meat, canned and dry goods) and each day's meal was concocted from items on hand. Weekly shopping trips were for perishables (dairy, produce, bread) and to restock items that had fallen below a certain threshold. The money-saving trick was never to replenish at full price if you could help it. That is, in the week chicken is on super sale, you buy enough chicken to last until the next sale rolls around. You have the money for this because this week you're eating the beef that you bought when it was on sale.

The catch to this system, of course, is the start-up. I was blessed that when Roger and I got married my mother took me out and stocked a basic pantry. (This was in addition to the awesome shower gift from some friends -- a laundry basket full of spices and baking items.) I'm glad I was able to do the same for my married daughters. I still work on a modified version of this principle, and consequently in 28 years of marriage have never raised my grocery budget above the government's "thrifty" spending level. (Click on the second bullet, and then the month. It's a pdf.)

The only glitch in this approach to food shopping is the day-to-day "cook what you feel like from stock on hand". When I was pregnant I was blessed to never actually get sick, but NOTHING ever sounded good. If Roger told me what he wanted I could cook it, and eat it when it was done, but he very quickly got tired of coming home from work wanting dinner and being asked "what do you want?" So for the sake of marital harmony, I began planning menus.

There are several possible approaches to menu planning. One is the "thumb through all your recipes and pick some out" technique. The one I tried first was the "master list." I listed all the main and side dishes my family liked, sorted by main ingredient -- pork, potatoes, pasta, whatever. Then I'd put together a week's worth of plans based on the lists. I still do a variation of this, but I've found that I can be more frugal if I do an alternation of a "big" shopping week -- sometimes hitting as many as eight stores -- with a "fill-in" week for milk and produce. So I plan several weeks at a time.

If you don't have as big a repertoire as I do, but would like to expand it, try this variation. Assign each day of the week a main food: Monday -- pasta, Tuesday -- hamburger, Wednesday -- chicken, and so forth. Then make old standbys some weeks, especially when things are busy, and try something new (or a variation, like making your own spaghetti sauce) when you have a little more breathing room. And if you and your family are happy with pasta and jarred sauce every week, don't feel like you have to insert variety all the time!

I have a hard deadline for doing something else now, so I'm going to go ahead and post this even though I could say much more. But if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll try to answer.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Whatcha Readin' Wednesday #1 -- Foreigner

Last week I mentioned that I had gotten Silks from the library. It is pretty much what I expected: classic Dick Francis, first-person, fairly suspenseful, with a steeplechase tie-in. What I didn't know is that "silks", as well as referring to the colors worn by a jockey, is also a slang term for Queen's Counselors, the specially qualified barristers (lawyers) who plead high-profile cases in British court. Read it and find out the connection!

What I really want to talk about today, though, is the sci-fi series I've been working through, the Foreigner books by C.J. Cherryh. This is my second time through, and I liked them enough the first time to buy a few of them in hardback as they came out, rather than waiting for the paperback or the library copy (although I now have a great system with the library that I'll talk about another time.) Each book has a single word title, beginning with #1 Foreigner and ending with #9 Deliverer. They are sort of a trilogy of trilogies, though I think you could read them out of order and still enjoy them.

The books center around the planet of the atevi, an alien race much taller than humans, with black* skin and golden cat-like eyes. A human colony ship, due to a computer error, lost its way and has no idea how to return to Earth. The nearest hospitable planet belongs to the atevi.

You may think you know where this is going, but that's all really just back story. The main character in all the books is Bren Cameron, the paidhi-aiji, that is, the official human translator from and to the atevi. After some years of peaceful-seeming cooperation, it became clear that humans and atevi were hard-wired to think in vastly different ways, so in order to keep peace and prevent serious and deadly misunderstandings, both races agreed to live separately and have only one very specially educated paidhi. Bren lives several hundred years into that system.

Roger and I both love these books, and in a discussion not long after I restarted the series, we decided that that is mostly because the books deal with true communication. A great many events happen throughout these books, but the whole point of the series is the work required to make sure that all parties understand them in the same way. Highly recommended!

* That's black like coal or asphalt, not the African "black". The books have human characters of all races and ethnicities. Unfortunately, nobody told the cover illustrator for books 7 and 8. Definitely don't judge these books by their covers!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tasty Tuesday #1 -- Election Day Comfort Food

As I mentioned in this post, what I believe in causes me to be politically active. Today I'm out working the polls. The weather report predicts dry and unseasonably warm, for which I am grateful. But when my shifts are done, I'm going to come home tired and hungry, to an equally tired and hungry family. And ordering pizza is not in the budget. (Or that's what I tell them; I just don't like pizza that much.)

So what's to eat?

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits!

In a large saucepan, melt 1/4 c butter or margarine. Add 1 onion, chopped, and saute until tender and translucent. Stir in 1/2 c. flour*. Add 2c. chicken broth and 1c. milk. Stir until thickened. Add 1-2 cups chopped chicken. Heat through, season to taste, and serve with biscuits.

*This makes a medium thick sauce; you can adjust up or down to suit your tastes.

I intend to have the onion and butter waiting in the covered pan when I get home. The broth and milk will be in a glass measuring cup, ready to pop in the microwave. Did you know that sauces thicken almost instantly if you heat the liquid before adding it? And the meat will actually be turkey, left over from our last roasted one. I freeze it in quantities for this recipe, but you can even use canned. The biscuits? Well, I prefer homemade, but tonight they'll be from a can. (Some people are happy about that.)

The whole thing will be on the table in the time it takes the biscuits to bake. And however the election turns out, at least dinner will be something to be happy about.

( If you ready this post already, the butter amount has been updated. I typed from memory, and I'm not perfect ;-D )

Monday, November 03, 2008

Musical Monday #1 -- Songs in His Presence

Years ago (and for you young things, I'm talking about the late '70's here) I bought a set of paperback books of "praise and worship music" published by Servant Ministries in Ann Arbor Michigan. Collectively, they were known as the "Songs of Praise" series, and were the outgrowth of the music ministry of the then-extant Word of God ecumenical community. I eventually also bought a couple of copies of the hardbound composite edition, and the cassette tape-recordings of most of the songs. (I tried to find some kind of a link, but they are so thoroughly out of print that even the used book sellers don't have them.) I loved that music. I wore out the tapes. I tried everything on my guitar. I figured out flute parts for a lot of them. And then, well, life intervened.

I had six kids. We left the independent, evangelical congregation where we met and married. Roger returned to the Catholic church, and our kids grew up there. I joined the choir, and learned that some Marty Haugen music is not too bad. (I also learned that if your director loves Marty Haugen, don't rock the boat if you want to sing.) And then...

Actually, I can't remember exactly when or where or how I found out. But I did find out that in the Diocese of Lansing there was a Catholic Christian group of musicians called "Songs in His Presence". Furthermore, they were the "descendants" of the "Songs of Praise" people. Some of them were even the same people.

Last Christmas Roger bought me the first three CD's. For my birthday in February, I got the matching songbooks. Glorious! I love pretty much everything on them, but one of my favorites is Hymn of Heaven. The words are by St. Bernard of Morlaix (Cluny), translated by John Mason Neale, and the wonderful new tune is by Sr. Sarah Burdick. If you follow this link, you can hear a little bit of it (you need RealPlayer installed.)

Hymn of Heaven

Brief life is here our portion;
Brief sorrow, short-lived care;
The life that knows no ending,
The endless life is there.
O happy retribution!
Short toil, eternal rest;
For mortals and for sinners
A mansion with the blest.

And now we fight the battle
But then shall wear the crown
Of full and everlasting
And passionless renown;
And now we watch and struggle,
And now we live in hope,
And Zion in her anguish
With Babylon must cope;

But He, whom now we trust in
Shall then be seen and known;
And they that know and see Him
Shall have Him for their own.
The morning shall awaken,
The shadows shall decay,
And each true-hearted servant
Shall shine as doth the day;

There God our King and Portion
In fullness of His grace
Shall we behold forever
And worship face to face.
Jesus in Thy mercy bring us
To that dear land of rest;
Who art with God the Father
And Spirit ever blest.

(If you're like me the first time I heard this, and those last lines tickle your memory, it's because they're also used in Jerusalem the Golden, which I sang as a kid. CyberHymnal has all the verses -- as usual it plays quite loudly.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

"Spiritual Sunday "#1 -- All Souls' Day

Yesterday was for All Saints (and that includes a great many who have not been proclaimed as such by any religious authority.) Today (as opposed to yesterday's ringing "Alleluia!") is more solemn. Today, we remember, with the prayers for the dead, all souls, even those for whom on the human scale we see little or no chance of redemption in the age to come. Hitler. Nero. Crabby Uncle Henry who scoffed when Aunt Marta took the kids to church, because "that's jest a buncha stupid stuff fer dang fool wimmen."

And yet -- God is love. His love surpasses ours so greatly that we really can't understand it. And He "takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked". (ref Ezekiel 18:23) Certainly some are condemned, or rather condemn themselves by their choices and actions. But since God is infinitely merciful and wise, we who are finite must leave such judgments to Him. And since He is outside time, our prayers for those who have gone ahead of us are never wasted, as we ask His mercy in the eternal NOW. And we pray for ourselves, that we may be numbered among the saints at His right hand, our faults and failings notwithstanding. Lord, show us Your mercy! Amen.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

NaBloPoMo Begins!

Technically this should be a "Sloppy Saturday" post, but since November first is All Saints' Day, I'm going to talk about that instead. If you don't come from a liturgical church background, you may not realize that there's a day set aside to honor all those who have gone before us in faith. But it's been around a long time, and last night you probably handed out treats in celebration of its vigil (definition 1b in the link.) Last night was Hallowe'en, and yes, the apostrophe belongs in there. Hallowe'en = halloweven = All Hallows' Eve = All Saints' Eve -- the night before All Saints' Day. I won't get into a discussion of how our current Hallowe'en customs were derived, because I want to talk about my favorite part of All Saints' Day, the hymn For All the Saints. The link is to CyberHymnal, and be warned, it starts to play the MIDI rather loudly if you click on it.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

I first heard/sang this in HS choir, I think my sophomore year. We had only five verses (1,2, 4, 5, 8 above), but there was a glorious soprano descant in the arrangement, and it captured my imagination -- the countless host singing "Alleluia"!
I wanted to be part of that!

The next time I heard it, I had tears streaming down my face. "Bill", two years older than I, the pianist for the above HS choir, had been killed in a freak auto accident. His grieving parents, yet in "sure and certain hope of the resurrection", chose this as the final hymn for his funeral service.

I have heard and sung it a lot since then. I learned more verses (the eight above I have memorized), and sang it often as part of the "Mom sings a lot of songs and hopes that these kids will settle down and go to sleep" phase of my life. I just discovered while writing this that CyberHymnal has three more verses that I don't know. Lovely! But my goal is still the same as it was in HS (41 years ago!) -- be part of that streaming, praising throng. Alleluia!