Thursday, April 30, 2009


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alt="Click to join FellowshipMATCH"/>

Click to join FellowshipMATCH

Gentle Readers, a friend and I have started a new e-mail loop called FellowshipMATCH: Fellowship for Mentors, Administrators, & Teachers of
Classical Homeschoolers. This is a place for those of us who are teaching or providing a community of learning for homeschoolers from a classical Christian perspective, to get together, share ideas, and encourage one another. If you:
1. Are teaching homeschooled students who are not your children in any setting (individually or in a class, in person or online, in a co-op or study center or on your own);
2. Can assent to the Apostle's Creed as a statement of your faith in the triune God; and
3. Want to participate in civil, humane discussion about classical Christian education;
you are invited to join us! Membership must be approved by one of the moderators (myself or my friend Beth).

I hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Agrarian literature and maturing children...

In a recent discussion with my eldest son Ben this week (you should know, Gentle Reader, that Ben and I cover deep territory in our talks: literature and theology and philosophy, and Ben always acts like he thinks I understand what he is talking about, which is very gracious of him) we turned to talking about the agrarian movement, and utopian movements in general. This topic came up because I am reading Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd, and Ben identified this as English agrarian literature. He claims we Americans tend to read seriously English agrarian literature and take it at face value, while if we were reading the same novel placed in the antebellum South, we would dismiss it as a romanticized version of reality. He then went on to describe agrarian literature as doing the same thing as progressive literature, but in retrograde. In other words, where the progressive plants his utopia in the future and grasps towards a future than can never be reality, the agrarian places his utopia in the past and grasps towards what never was. We went on to discuss Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, and the fact that you rarely hear the agrarians talk about the stagnation that can occur in a rural setting, nor the fact that breaking into such communities results in just as much displacement often as breaking out of them does.

I found these fascinating ideas, and have been pondering them ever since. And I feel blessed to have had such conversations with a child of mine, grown to adulthood, and surpassing me in many ways. And he is becoming a friend in a way childhood never allowed. I feel like he is rising up in the gates and calling me blessed because he enjoys my conversation, and has so much to teach me. What a joy to watch your children leap ahead of you. May each of you, Gentle Readers, be so blessed!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Miscellany

The start of a new week is upon us: and spring gardening is calling! The apple and pear trees are in full bloom, and my tomatoes are protected by their walls-of-water out in the vegetable garden. I love this time of year! And here are a few things that have been in the back corners of my mind...

Cool journal: Themelios Journal is available online, and I am looking forward to reading it! I am currently reading a book of essays by one of the editors, Carl Trueman, and enjoying it. (Thanks JT)

Touching Photojournalism: This photo essay shows a lot about living with cancer: both its beauty and its terror. (Thanks DW)

Absurd political moments: I could fill pages with these, but how about this take on the Durban II conference, or these excellent comments by DT? It appears most of the videos of the outrageous reporting about the April 15th TEA parties is off-line, so I'll spare you those, Gentle Readers...

Interesting religious items: I appreciated these comments following all the reports of the death of Christianity in America, and enjoyed this article about the return of religious themes to Science Fiction. And while we're talking about Messianic imagery, how about a little something from Carl Trueman on the cult of personality?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some Dickensian thoughts

Tonight we hope to watch the final installment of Masterpiece Theater's version of the Dickens tale, Little Dorrit. We have really enjoyed it so far, though neither of us have read this novel, Dickens fans though we be.

In discussing Dickens recently with a friend at church and with my ds, I was reminded of one of my favorites, Our Mutual Friend. We also loved Bleakhouse and Hard Times, and I loved Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, and of course, A Christmas Carol. Part of the magic of Dickens is how he has you slog through seemingly disconnected lives, like multiple themes in a symphony, and at the proper moment, they all come together to form an exciting and cohesive climax. This is typified in Our Mutual friend, Bleak House, and to some extent in the movie version of Little Dorrit. lot of coming-together has to happen in tonight's episode to bring it all off.

Hope you can enjoy it too, Gentle Readers. And who among you are Dickens fans? And what are your favorites?

Friday, April 24, 2009

In honor of National Poetry Month

Holy Sonnet XIV: Batter My Heart by John Donne (1572- 1631)

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy anniversary Strunk and White

Click here. I couldn't have said it better myself!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Being spoiled....

This morning, after a lovely, fresh-cooked omloet breakfast with my dearest, he went off to earn a living, and I went to the pool. I swam laps for 20 minutes, the first time I've been swimming since my breast cancer. It felt just great! And them I soaked in the hot tub for a while, and laid in the sun under palm trees and read until I was all dried off. After Dave takes me out to lunch, I am going to walk on a treadmill for a while, then take a nap with a movie on before we go out to dinner. if this is not being spoiled, I don't know what is!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Come Sunday afternoon, I'm going away with my friend...

I have the pleasure this week of going on travel with my best and dearest friend. We've known each other for 33 years, and been married for almost 29 years. What amazes me is how much I still enjoy time with him! So this week I am flying away with him for a few days. He will have to work, give presentations, run meetings. I will watch old movies in a fancy hotel room, and read books by the pool. Hardly sounds fair, does it? But then, that's the kind of blessing he's been to me all these years. And every evening we'll go out to dinner together, and enjoy the sights and sounds of someplace not home.

How lovely...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Grammar as the font of eloquence...

It was the literature of the classical world itself, of course, not Grammar as narrowly understood, that opened doors. But study of the one made possible intimacy with the other, and since the languages studied were Latin and greek, reading literature presupposed an exhuastive grammatical grounding. Grammar was the font of eloquence.
~T. L. Simmons, Climbing Parnassus, p.97

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Getting a Handel on Haydn...

I stole this amusing title from an interesting article here. You see, this year is the 250th anniversary of the death of Handel, and the 200th anniversary of the death of Haydn, so you are likely to see these great composers popping up everywhere.

Of course George Frideric Handel (above) is the composer of the oratorio, The Messiah. There are a couple of interesting recent posts about him here and here; the first has musical examples and an audio piece from NPR.

And Papa Haydn, as he was known, was an amazing composer as well. Get a handle on Haydn at the link above, along with links to interesting Haydn events, or you can Haydn-go-seek at MacLeans here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


My bookmarks overflow with things to share, since real life has kept me from blogging over the weekend...

Economics items of the week: Try this funny but sad article from a real estate agent, or this random post from D.T. about the state of things in the stimulus-rich state of Indiana. And while this is not exactly about the economy, it is about the current state of politics.

Literary items of the week: Here is a fascinating article about one of my favorite poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins. And I had to laugh at this "celebration" of the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Strunk and White. Ben and I had a very similar discussion of it over spring break; I still find it useful, but not as an absolute rule book! I enjoyed this article on the 20 most-used cliches in book reviews. Try to write a review without any of these.... The Atlantic Online posted this list of excerpts from their original reviews of great literature over the years-- very interesting! And finally, how about a glimpse of interesting book stores around the world? It is a feast for the eyes of bilbiophiles!

Items from around the world: Just a few reminders that things are happening outside of the US... How about this back-firing of China's one child policy? Or this depressing look at the moral decline in Great Britain? Or here are some beautiful and sobering photos from the on-going war in Afghanistan.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!

Come Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain Words: John of Da­mas­cus (675-749) (Αισωμεν πάντες Λαοί); trans­lat­ed from Greek to Eng­lish by John M. Neale, 1859. Music: St. Ke­vin, Ar­thur S. Sul­li­van, 1872.

Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters.

’Tis the spring of souls today; Christ has burst His prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying
From His light, to Whom we give laud and praise undying.

Now the queen of seasons, bright with the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts, comes its joy to render;
Comes to glad Jerusalem, who with true affection
Welcomes in unwearied strains Jesus’ resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death, nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal hold Thee as a mortal;
But today amidst the twelve Thou didst stand, bestowing
That Thy peace which evermore passeth human knowing.

“Alleluia!” now we cry to our King immortal,
Who, triumphant, burst the bars of the tomb’s dark portal;
“Alleluia!” with the Son, God the Father praising,
“Alleluia!” yet again to the Spirit raising.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday reflections

This is one of my favorite Eastertide hymns. And one of my favorite paintings for this season. Rembrandt painted himself into this work, showing himself crucifying Christ. I have always taken that as a sign of him understanding the gospel. I hope you take some time today, Gentle Reader, to contemplate your part in the heinous act we remember today.

O Sacred Head Now Wounded
Text: Anonymous; trans. by Paul Gerhardt and James W. Alexander
Music: Hans L. Hassler, 1564-1612; harm. by J.S. Bach, 1685-1750
Tune: PASSION CHORALE, Meter: 76.76 D

O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown:
how pale thou art with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
which once was bright as morn!

What thou, my Lord, has suffered
was all for sinners' gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
'Tis I deserve thy place;
look on me with thy favor,
vouchsafe to me thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever;
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love for thee.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Just for fun

In case you are having NCAA basketball withdrawal, here is a little spoof of a sports report courtesy of the Onion. (Thanks to my pal Ann for pointing it out to me!)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Some wise words about electronic communications...

I enjoyed reading about google's latest technological advance to try to save us from ourselves in this Slate post. I had to laugh at the following paragraph, in the been-there-done-that sort of way:

Auto-complete is insidious because it's just helpful enough. You don't have to remember anyone's e-mail address, and it would be tedious to disable the feature and go back to the old days. But it's so easy to type a few letters, hit return, and ruin your year. Just ask Steve Shanks, an athletic director at a Catholic High school in Iowa who complained about the "[l]ong-ass singing and a long-ass homily" of one of the priests and slighted the girls basketball team in an e-mail that was meant for his brother Joe Shanks, but instead was sent to Joe Katich, a coach he had fired. Or, to give the most prominent example, the lawyer for Eli Lilly who wanted to e-mail her co-counsel Bradford Berenson details of a negotiation but instead sent them to Alex Berenson, a reporter for the New York Times. The result was a front-page scoop revealing that Eli Lilly was talking with the government about a billion-dollar fine for improperly marketing its anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa. (And so much for the effectiveness of those lengthy legal disclaimers at the bottom of corporate e-mails.)

In response to this, Josh Harris offers the following scripture, tweeked slightly to reflect our electronic media, to inform us:

Psalm 141:3
Set a guard, O Lord, over my keyboard;
keep watch over the door of my send button!

James 1:19
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to read, slow to reply all, slow to click send.

Proverbs 10:19
When blogging is abundant, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his keyboard is prudent.

Proverbs 12:18
There is one whose comments on blogs are like sword thrusts, but the comments of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 14:7
Don't follow the Twitter feed of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.

Proverbs 12:23
A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the Twitter feed of fools proclaims folly.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A little miscellany on Tuesday

Some economics items: I enjoyed this explanation of derivatives, and this commentary by Penn Jillette (with whom I likely agree on very little!) There is also a very interesting video segment here from Bill Moyer's Journal: an interview with William K. Black about fraud and duplicity. And on the lighter side, how about this, claiming that Evangelicals help shore up the housing market? And how about this, especially for our Alien family member: why Canada is the best prepared for the economics problems of America.

Some other interesting items: There was a bold Newsweek issue and article about the end of Christianity in America this week. Al Mohler has some interesting thoughts on the issue.

A little encouragement: Need some after all that? Try this excellent reminder from Mark Altrogge: we must fix our eyes on Jesus.

Monday, April 06, 2009

A little distraction

Need a little R & R? Well, apparently one of the best things you can do is read. So if you don't have anything on hand to read, and just want a little humor, try this lovely old piece by James Thurber, called The Dog that Bit People. It is a family favorite around here, and I just recently discovered it online.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Outside my comfort zone

Next Sunday, on Easter, I am going to do something I have not done in over a year: sing a solo for special music at church. Now I have been leading music, and before last spring I was singing on a regular basis for more than 20 years. But in the last year I have not sung at all. And this time feels a bit outside of my comfort zone. Why? During the spring and summer, during two surgeries and radiation therapy, I didn't feel up to much singing or being in the spotlight. And since my third surgery last fall, the mediastinoscopy that meant a tube was inserted and run along my esophagus, my voice has been unpredictable and I can't count on it. Add to that the fact that the drug I take has some side-effects that are detrimental to the voice, and I felt pretty done in.

But this week, the pastor sent out a request for some help with music for Easter. And the thing that occurred to me is that not to offer would make me a hypocrite. For years, I have preached at others regarding the fact that music in worship is an offering, not a performance. One needn't be perfect, just obedient and willing. And here I was, saying "Oh, my voice is not what it used to be: it can crack without warning, so I guess God doesn't want me helping out any more." I felt very convicted of my own double standard: one when it makes other people uncomfortable, and another when it makes me uncomfortable!

So, I will be singing during the prelude time, as we prepare to begin worship. I will be offering an amazing song arranged by Bob Kauflin, with original text by John Newton, called The Look. The words are reprinted below. Off I will go into the space outside my comfort zone, Lord willing, seeking to be obedient and use the gifts God has given me. Please pray for me, Gentle Readers!

The Look By John Newton (original lyrics), Bob Kauflin (alternate and new lyrics and Music)

I saw one hanging on a tree
In agony and blood
Who fixed his loving eyes on me
As near his cross I stood
And never till my dying breath
Will I forget that look
It seemed to charge me with his death
Though not a word he spoke

My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair
I saw my sins his blood had spilt
And helped to nail him there
But with a second look he said
“I freely all forgive
This blood is for your ransom paid
I died that you might live”

Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of Him who died
The Lamb I crucified
And now my life will sing the praise
Of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and
Gladly took my place

Thus while his death my sin displays
For all the world to view
Such is the mystery of grace
It seals my pardon too
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by Him I killed

© 2001 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).

Friday, April 03, 2009

On poetry

Without the balm and armor of Poetry, no man or woman is entitled to be called educated.
~Tracy lee Simmons, Climbing Parnassus

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Singing the riches of grace

In the light of the pervasiveness and thoroughness of human depravity, our only hope is God's grace. God must begin this work and he must continue it in us. God must give a new heart (Ezek 36:26-27), a new will, good works, a longing for righteousness: the result is that "God [is] the author of spiritual life from beginning to end". All our spiritual good comes not from ourselves but God. But God not only begins this work and sustains this work; by his grace, he also brings it to conclusion at the end of days.
Are you willing to bid farewell to your own labors, sufficiency, powers, abilities, and performance in order to rest completely on God's working in and through us? Have you come to the end of your own sufficiency in order to rest on the sufficiency of the Triune God's work for, in, and through you (2 Cor 2:14-3:6)? Will you stop robbing God his rightful glory in claiming anything for yourself in your spiritual choices or accomplishments? Will you sing the riches of God's grace?

~Sean Lucas, Blogging the Institutes Blog 49