Saturday, January 31, 2009

Book Review # 5-Cry, The Beloved Country

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a powerful, beautifully written book! I couldn't put it down. The main character, Pastor Stephen Kumalo, is a courageous and honorable man who goes to Johannesburg in search of his sister and son. His journey is one of the heart that continues even after he returns to his home.

One of my favorite parts: breaks into a hymn, with a high note that cannot be sustained; but others come in underneath it, and support and sustain it, and some men come in too, with the deep notes and the true. Kumalo takes off his hat and he and his wife and his friend join in also, while the girl stands and watches in wonder. It is a hymn of thanksgiving, and man remembers God in it, and prostrates himself and gives thanks for the Everlasting Mercy. And it echoes in the bare red hills and over the bare red fields of the broken tribe. And it is sung in love and humility and gratitude, and the humble simple people pour their lives into the song.

It is a story about how much we need one another, how much we need God, and how to endure everything in between.

Friday, January 30, 2009



A hectic week coming to an end. I had places to be every evening this week so at this point I'm not sure if I'm coming or going. I'm thinkin' that I should be going, yep pretty sure I have co workers who will be on the look out for me. Nice to have a job and great people to work with.

Have you made God smile this week?

Happy Friday to you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Crooks and Crannies

"The only way we can be of use to God is to let Him take us through the crooks and crannies of our own characters." Oswald Chambers

I read this quote at CWO (link on my sidebar) in a great post by Angie. It is worth the time to stroll over there and read it.

The crooks and crannies of my character? I will ponder this, and all the neat boxes I've put in my storage space, throughout the day.

Prayers for God to take me through the dark places in my heart so that healing and renewal can dwell there instead. He stands ready, waiting...for each of us.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Book Review #4-The Coffee Trader

The Coffee Trader by David Liss
Pages: 384
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This was a first read by this author. This historical fiction is based on entrepreneurship in the 1600s...specifically on the coffee trade and the Dutch influence on the rest of the business world, including the present day business world. The Dutch developed new methods of trade as they were coming out of a war of independence with Spain which was about all they were left with.

I found the history of coffee intriguing especially (it is one of my most favorite of drinks!) and it had a few connections with another book I recently finished...The Botany of Desire (review #1) which talked about the tulip trade and how the Dutch market flourished for a time because of this flower.

The main character, Miguel Lienzo, a Portuguese Jew living in Amsterdam, got a little exasperating with his repeated bad choices, but somehow I found myself cheering for him and hoping against all odds that he would be successful. There were so many underhanded schemes that at times I lost track of who was plotting against whom. It all got figured out in the end though.

Reading Outliers (see review #3) at the same time did add to the story. I found myself looking for things based on ideas from Outliers that made him a success even while others failed.

Book Review # 3- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Pages: 285
Rating 4 out of 5 stars

This was my first Malcolm Gladwell read. He is a very thought provoking writer and is able to get clearly state his message. This book looks at people, events, failures, and successes from a unique point of view. He investigates successful hockey players, computer gurus, airplane crashes, why IQ doesn't also equal success, and many others and discovers the unique reasons for them all.

One of the things I liked about it was that he did not discount hard work as a common denominator, yet this alone was not enough. Birth date, time, place, chance, environment, culture, heritage...well, all these things do matter sometimes more than we realize.

Very insightful, but I did find myself skimming some parts.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Book Review #2- Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie-Best of the Booker Prize Winner
Pages: 533 (someone asked me about this so I'd thought I'd add it to the review)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Fiction

Wow! Rushdie did an amazing job of weaving this story together with threads of fantasy intertwined with history. It is about a boy born on the midnight that marks India's independence. The Prime Minister sends a letter to the family talking of how this boy's life will reflect the life of the country. (Talk about pressure to be successful!) It is told from the main character's,Saleem Sinai, point of view as he reflects on his life and the saga of his family and his country. Rushdie somehow goes back and forth from the past to the present without missing a beat, sometimes in the same paragraph. One critic says "Rushdie's prose snaps into playback and flash-forward..." His writing is very descriptive, yet fast paced. His punctuation, or lack of, is not distracting and adds to the pace and energy of the story.

A few of my favorite passages:

"Things-even people-have a way of leaking into each other," I explain, "like flavors when you cook. Ilse Lubin's suicide, for example, leaked into old Aadam and sat there in a puddle until he saw God. Likewise...the past has dripped into me."

She had become a prematurely old, wide woman...she lived within an invisible fortress of her own making, an ironclad citadel of traditions and certainties.

What remnants of guilt fear shame, pickled by time in Mary's intestines, led her willingly? unwillingly? to provoke the aged bearer in a dozen different ways-...

What tiny grain of grit, in the sea of old age now washing over the old bearer, lodged between his lips to fatten into the dark pearl of hatred-...

I have become, it seems to me, the apex of an isosceles triangle, supported equally by twin deities, the wild god of memory and the lotus-goddess of the present...but must I now become reconciled to the narrow one-dimensionality of a straight line?

I could have marked and dog eared just about every page. Long, but definitely worth the read.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fantastic Friday

Make it a fantastic Friday! Even if it gets tough, find something to laugh about before the day is over. If you can't find anything funny, call me. Laughter is good for the soul.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow Day Images

No school today so I stayed home with E. We took pictures as we played outside (ahem,by 8:15 this morning).

What a beautiful day!

Just before daybreak (E was still asleep).

The bad news is hubby smashed into a tree. Silver City is frowning now. The front bumper and hood is...well in E's words..."That's very harsh."

The good news is that he didn't get hurt. His first wreck in 20 years. Poor fellow.

Hope your day was enjoyable.


Stray Thoughts's a little of my stray thoughts while listening to music and walking today (on the treadmill)...

From Van Morrison:

Hey where did we go,
Days when the rains came
Down in the hollow,
Playin' a new game,
Laughing and a running hey, hey
Skipping and a jumping
In the misty morning fog with
Our hearts a thumpin' and you
My brown eyed girl,
You my brown eyed girl.

Woohoo, gotta love a brown eyed girl from the holler! You Rock Van!

Fleetwood Mac:

Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life

Uh Oh...nope, I haven't been sailing through the changing ocean tides of my life all that well...I can't even tell what season I'm in....Oh boy...


In the middle of my darkness

In the midst of all my fear
You're my refuge and my hope
When the storm of life is raging
And the thunder's all I hear
You speak softly to my soul

Salvation? God's voice in the most thunderous of darkness and fear...I have refuge and hope...He is my Strong Tower!


Majesty, Majesty
Your grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed, but alive in your hands
Majesty, Majesty
Forever I am changed by your love
In the presence of your Majesty

Woohoo! Grace...there's nothing else like it...He meets me where I matter the season, the storm, the color of my eyes, or being a ragamuffin from a holler...I am alive in him, I am changed by His love.

Praise God!

I pray that each one of you, no matter your past, present, or feared future...know there is a strong tower where you can find shelter and there is a majestic God waiting to meet you there. You will find grace and life.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Taking on the Clutter

Today I got serious about decluttering my house. The first area up for bid on the auction block was the mud room and laundry room. Once I got started I realized I needed to do the pantry...and a few cabinets...and the storage cabinet (i.e. former entertainment center, current clutter holder with the doors kept shut). I decluttered, dusted, moved furniture, swept, and mopped. I found the biggest dust bunnies I've ever seen.

Before I knew it I had spent 7 hours cleaning today. My house feels pounds lighter from getting rid of so much stuff. Now, the challenge will be keeping my momentum going until every room is done.

Oh how much better it looks! It was so worth the effort. Plus, I still had two boxes that hadn't been unpacked from moving in nearly 2 years ago-can't believe it has been that long-and guess what? There was my good ol' blender! Woohoo!

Friday, January 16, 2009


I remember when I used to work week ends (when I was younger!) and oh how I missed the joy that comes with a Friday. I am so thankful to have something to be excited about every week again. To me there is just something magical, something festive in the air every Friday.

Isn't it great to have something to look forward to every week!

Make your Friday festive.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Solid Rock

Words that comfort my soul from The Solid Rock by Edward Mote. He wrote these lyrics in 1834 yet they still apply.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

All other ground is truly sinking sand. No matter how dark and hopeless things may seem, He is our hope.

May these words be a balm to your soul as they are to mine.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

You Are a Pumpkin Latte

You are always up for a celebration. You are a very festive person.

You look forward to every holiday, and you are nostalgic for good times after they're over.

You appreciate the small things that make life special. You love little treats.

You often look at the world with childlike wonder. There's so much to enjoy!

OK, I'm a little goofy, but I love little quizzes like this. I've been a book so why not a latte? Two of my most favorite things.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Book Review #1-The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book made me think, taught me many new things from genetics to history, yet he somehow managed to keep it light enough to make me laugh. Thinking, learning, and laughing - a great combination! He focuses on four plants that he cleverly connected to four basic human desires: sweetness-apple, beauty-tulip, intoxication-marijuana, and control-potato. He divides the book into sections with each section covering one desire and one plant. This arrangement made it easy to read and understand. He did seem to not have a great opinion of God which bothered me, but I didn’t take away from the rating just because we may not share the same religious beliefs.


The apple was one of the few things that was sweet to eat when white sugar was not easily obtainable. He gives the history of Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) and his role in establishing the apple firmly in American life. I learned more about his life as well as apple genetics. Two apple facts: First, the seeds contain a small amount of cyanide causing the bitter taste if you accidentally bite into one. It is thought that this is a defense mechanism to keep animals from eating the seeds. Second, is that every seed in every apple contains completely different genetics. Just as humans are heterozygous-no two alike, so are apples. Every single apple would only have resemblances of the parent tree producing completely different apples. The reason we have apple families-Gala, for example, is because of grafting. If not for that, once the Gala tree died we would never have that kind of apple again.


Great information about the tulip and its Dutch history. He also tells about a virus that instead of making the plant wither and become unsightly, it made the colors vibrant and beautiful. While making the tulip more beautiful on the outside, it weakened the plant. After a couple hundred years this certain breed of tulip eventually died…basically killed for its deadly beauty (hmmm, they say beauty is only skin deep)


The most interesting thing about this section was the research being done on the brain in relation to THC. Two researchers discovered a specific receptor for THC in the brain leading to the discovery of a new brain network. Cannabinoid receptors show up all over the brain, but were specifically clustered in the areas responsible for the mind altering effects of marijuana…cerebral cortex (higher order thought), hippocampus (memory), basal ganglia (movement), and amygdala (emotions). Now neuroscientists are working to find out exactly how the cannabinoid network works and why we should have one in the first place. When the author asked the female researcher what she thought the purpose of the network could be she referred to direct and indirect effects such as pain relief, loss of short term memory, sedation, and mild cognitive impairment. The explanation for this? “ All of which is exactly what Adam and Eve would want after being thrown our of Eden. You couldn’t design a more perfect drug for getting Eve through the pain of childbirth or helping Adam endure a life of physical toil.” She noted that cannabinoid receptors have been found in the uterus…this may not only dull pain, but also help women forget it later. It is the brain’s own drug for coping with the human condition. Gotta love a female researcher!

Desire-Control….Plant –Potato

I couldn’t wait to see how he related the potato to control and boy did he do a good job of it. From the poverty stricken Ireland of the late 1700’s and population control to genetically modified potatoes to control nature in the late 1900s…what a journey the potato has made across the land and into the taste buds. From being called “the root of plenty” to being named as the problem of Ireland…”the indolent and turbulent habits of the lower Irish can never be corrected while the potato system enables them to increase so much beyond the regular demand for labour.’ Now, we are into the age of either eating potatoes doused with chemicals or genetically modified with a pesticide included making the potato “intellectual property” protected by federal laws. What is really scary is that this potato plant is registered as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Administration!

The book is full of great information and it was difficult to limit it. A really good nonfiction read

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Kernel

For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money. -Arne Garborg, writer (1851-1924)

Lots to think about with this one.

Thank God for the kernel within.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

First Sunday 2009

We have had a great first Sunday 2009! A wonderful first Sabbath.

We did wake up a bit late and were tempted to skip church, but thankfully didn't fall for the trick. The service was amazing. I felt God's presence as soon as I walked in the door...about 5 minutes late. The tears were flowing to the point of Marty asking if I was OK. The music was unbelievable, the spirit was moving, the communion was soul touching, and the sermon was perfect for the New Year.

We then had a quiet lunch at, almost home...then quiet time while Erin went to a friend's house after church. We had a superb, phenomenal supper of beef tenderloin with very dear, very special friends. Many laughs and special memories made. (Erin even ate two servings of spinach and asparagus salad!)

I hope this is a forerunner of things to come...if not, I pray God gives me the strength to withstand and grow...thrive even no matter the year ahead.

Happy Sabbath to you.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My 2009 Reading Challenge

Last year I did well with the reading of my challenge books, but did not post any reviews. This year part of the challenge will be to actually write the review. For 2009, I am challenging myself to read books I own without buying more, more, more! So, from my shelves come the following titles.

Jan. The Botany of Desire--Michael Pollan
Feb. If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name--Heather Lende
Mar. Writing Down the Bones--Natalie Goldberg
Apr. Future Grace--John Piper
May Truth and Beauty--Ann Patchett
June We Band of Angels--Elizabeth M. Norman
July Change Me into Zeus's Daughter--Barbara Robinette Moss
Aug The Four Loves--C.S. Lewis
Sept Here If You Need Me--Kate Braestrup
Oct. The Sacred Journey--Frederick Buechner
Nov. On Foot to the End of the World--Rene Freund
Dec. Desiring God--John Piper

Jan. Midnight's Children--Salman Rushdie
Feb. Cry the Beloved Country--Alan Paton
Mar. Adam Bede--T.S. Eliot
Apr. Dew Breaker--Edwidge Danticat
May The Wall--John Hersey
June All Aunt Hagar's Children--Edward P. Jones
July Anna Karenina--Leo Tolstoy
Aug. Stones from the River--Ursula Hegi
Sept. The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club--Julia Slavin
Oct. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao--Junot Diaz
Nov. March--Geraldine Brooks
Dec. Ellen Foster--Kaye Gibbons

I will also have book club books to read so it should be a literary year. Who has time for TV?

New Beginnings

Here we are...standing on the edge of the new year! It stretches before us, uncharted territory, full of opportunity.

This year we can: Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life-in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. Philippians 2:14-18

Father God I pray that I live for you, willing to be poured out for you...a living sacrifice so that your light may shine through me...a beacon of hope for others. Help me rejoice always rather than complain, no matter the situation.

May we choose to shine like stars in a world that needs hope...true hope that only comes from above.

Peace and joy to you!