Thursday, December 05, 2013

Set Apart

Isolate me, if Thou must
Train my heart to love and trust
By the arrow's inward thrust
I am reminded Thou art mine

I'll cleave to Thee, I'll not let go
For Thou alone, my heart doth know,
Hath sent this wound to bid me grow
And remind me I am Thine

—Vicki Baird

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Proof Against Adversity

"God gives, even to the poorest and least instructed of us art, science, literature, appealing not only to the senses but to the soul. By the aid of those teachers of mankind we may, if we choose, build such houses and palaces within us as shall be proof against adversity--bright fancies glad memories, noble histories, faithful sayings, treasure-houses of perfect and restful thoughts, which care cannot disturb, nor pain make gloomy, nor poverty take away from us. These He gives us as the foretastes of the many mansions which He has for us in His home above."
~excerpted from Streams in the Desert Volume 2, September 4

Yesterday, we re-embarked on our homeschooling journey after our summer break. The ranks are thinning; my youngest daughter is my only student this year! It is a delight to see her begin her high school studies, to witness her eagerness and her self discipline. When I came across this quote in an old devotional book, it struck me as the perfect summation of what I hope to accomplish in our homeschool.

I remember sitting in school and watching the clock tick slowly, itching for the bell to ring and to be FREE! Sadly, I didn't fully enjoy learning until I was an adult, when I began to connect it to beauty and to virtue and especially to God. Storing up beautiful things in the heart against the day of adversity seems a very worthy goal, don't you think?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

My Love Affair with 3x5 Cards

Writers sometimes experience a conundrum when they face a blank computer screen, or when they pull out a fresh, white piece of writing paper. On the one hand, the blank canvas presents delicious possibilities; but the flip side is that the yawning expanse, waiting to be filled, is a bit overwhelming. Where to start?

The lowly 3x5 index card can be the anecdote to the dilemma. Its small size narrows the field and helps a writer mentally scale down the possibilities to a manageable size. Speaking of size, the cards are aesthetically pleasing because they are proportioned according to the famous "golden mean," the mathematical ratio that the human eye finds beautiful.

For me, writing on a 3x5 card is also a tactile pleasure. Good quality cards have a creamy finish and it is a pleasure when the nib of a fountain pen glides silkily along its surface.

The cards are great for journaling, whether you adhere to the one-line-a-day school of thought or are a little more prolific. They can be dated and boxed for posterity at the end of the year.

Serious writers find index cards convenient for sequencing. If you are writing a story or novel, the elements of the plot can go on the 3x5 cards and you can play with arranging and rearranging them until it fits together the way you like. Similarly, college students writing a research paper can place their research data on the cards and then order the bits of information logically before writing the first draft.

I have found that a 3x5 card is also a great reading companion. It can serve as a bookmark, a place to jot down a quick quote that I want to remember, and a straight edge for underlining. The best of the quotes will find their way into my stash of pink 3x5 cards, and I pull one out every day for viewing. Today's quote is, "The broken become masters at mending." It's a great way to recycle worthy words and keep uplifting thoughts in view.

Believe it or not, index cards can be a great tool for uncluttering the mind. Does your mind ever get full to the bursting point? Right now I have some of these random and disjointed thoughts rolling around in my head: I need to get a birthday card in the mail for my friend, it's time to make my next dental appointment, I've got to get a quote on new shades for the living room, need to write down the name of that book I want to read before I forget it, etc. Carrying around this alphabet soup in the mind drains my creativity and also detracts from my ability to stay focused on what is most important. Unloading these thoughts on a 3x5 card is very freeing. I put only one thought on a card and later I can take action, starting with the highest priority item.

In my purse I keep a few 3x5 cards, held together with a binder clip in true Hipster PDA fashion. They are always handy for making a  grocery list, jotting an address, or taking notes at a meeting. Unlike a notepad, you can toss them when you get home or file them if they contain info you want to keep permanently.

During my 16 year homeschooling season (which is still on-going), I've used tons of index cards. Every morning I wrote a card for each student containing  daily chore and assignment list. When the kids were young, I'd use colored cards and attach fun stickers. They carried them around all day and checked off their assignments as they finished them, before presenting them to me at the end of the day. We also found them useful for making quick flashcards, memory games, and word banks. I'd definitely place 3x5 cards near the top of my list for homeschool essentials!

There is a rather elaborate home management system that centers around the use of 3x5 cards, popularized in the 1980s by the book Sidetracked Home Executives.  It is really a variation of the timeless tickler-file system, but with some color coding and twists especially relevant to home managers. One great advantage of this system over the more techno-savvy apps available today is that only ONE card with one action point lies in your view. You aren't tempted to run off on a bunny trail, surfing the net instead of focusing on the thing that needs to be done.

Finally, I have to mention the vintage recipe box in my cupboard that is crammed full of  recipes handwritten on 3x5 cards. Although there are some definite advantages to keeping recipes on a computer file, I could never part with the recipes penned lovingly by Grandma Jordan, my Mother-in-law, my Mom, and far flung friends. Some are splotched with food stains, some are dog earred, others proudly proclaim "from the kitchen of . . .," and a few have roosters stamped in the corner. Back in the day they were convenient to slip in the purse to be shared at church and today they remind me of wonderful shared meals, holiday feasts, church suppers, and Sunday potlucks.

Yes, I have a history with 3x5 cards. How about you? Do you find them useful or outdated?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Shortest Poem

Do long poems make you yawn? Here is one that you can read in a jiffy:

 by Aram Saroyan, 1965

You read that right! It qualifies for the "minimal poetry" category, sure enough. Not meant to be pronounced, its impact lies in the seeing. By manipulating the spelling of the word "light," Saroyan created something which seems to radiate forth in the same manner as light waves. Do you see it?

This poem not only emits light waves, it also created waves of controversy back in the 1960s because the poet was awarded $500 from the National Endowment of Arts when it was selected to be a part of a published anthology of poetry. An Iowa congressman thought it wasteful and reckless on the part of the government to be paying out good money for one word, and a misspelled word at that! He tried to get the chairwoman of the NEA removed. George Plimpton, the one responsible for selecting the poem for inclusion in the anthology, reportedly said, "You are from the Midwest. You are culturally deprived, so you would not understand it anyway." [OUCH! says this midwestern girl.]

The "it" to be understood was the style of poetry called "concrete poetry," in vogue in the 1950s and 1960s. Concrete poetry was structured in a way to create a visual impact. Since George Herbert employed this device in his poetry back in the 17th century (see "Easter Wings" here), it could hardly be called avant-garde. Lewis Carroll, ee cummings, and Ezra Pound also played with the visual sculpting of words on paper. Why then, a firestorm over this little one word poem?

Timing. Our nation was experiencing deep division during the 1960s over Vietnam. The older generation didn't understand the shaggy haired hippies. There was cultural upheaval brewing, and "lighght" brought to light the differences in thinking: traditional vs. outside-the-box thinking, government support of art vs. private support, status quo vs. "flower power."

I think it fascinating that one little word--if it can even be called a word--could stir up such strong feelings! Lines were drawn over whether this word symbolized the degrading of culture or the expansion of culture. What do you think?

One thing I think we can all agree on : words are powerful. Language is the gift that sets us apart from all other creatures, and wielding words wisely calls forth a maturity that few can claim to possess. As the ancient writer James declared, " For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dead Men Walking by Bryana Johnson

 Peter and John Running to the Tomb by Eugne Burnand 1850-1921

Dead Men Walking

(For Peter and John)

And we were dead,
stark in our trespasses,
your unseeing eyes wide,
--mine, too,
the smell of the grave on our lips,
It is the way of things,
the coursing of the world:
death begat death begat death begat death

We went racing,
our hearts and our toes
thudding in time together
--I beat you.
She said there was nothing,
and I found the nothing first.
There was nothing.
You and me, how could we understand that?

cracked into regrets,
sobbing, "I love you, I love you,"
--too late.
Me, spluttering
choking on the taste of deadness,
all my ideals spattered
into tears upon The Skull.

We went like that
dead men walking,
running, running, running!
How could we know
the missing One had come
to love all our corpses
into the land of the living?

by Bryana Johnson from her book Having Decided to Stay

Bryana is a talented young poet. Please visit her blog and purchase her book.
Her poetry is vivid, bold, and a delight to read. Highly recommended! 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Consider the Lilies

John Singer Sargent, Study of the Vickers Children

On Easter Day the lilies bloom,
Triumphant, risen from their tomb;
Their bulbs have undergone rebirth,
Born from the silence of the earth
Symbolically, to tell all men
That Christ, the Savior, lives again.
The angels, pure and white as they,
Have come and rolled the stone away
And with the lifting of the stone,
The shadow of the cross is gone!
~ June Masters Bacher ~

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Psalm for Good Friday

Good Friday Photography by Thomas York

The Psalms

A Cry of Anguish and Song of Praise
To the chief Musician upon Ai'jeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.
1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not;
and in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But thou art holy,
O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee:
they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered:
they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm, and no man;
a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn:
they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him:
let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. 
9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb:
thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb:
thou art my God from my mother's belly.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near;
for there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed me:
strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths,
as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint:
my heart is like wax;
it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd;
and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws;
and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me:
the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me:
they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones:
they look and stare upon me.
18 They part my garments among them,
and cast lots upon my vesture. 
19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD:
O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword;
my darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion's mouth:
for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren:
in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
23 Ye that fear the LORD, praise him;
all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him;
and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
neither hath he hid his face from him;
but when he cried unto him, he heard.
25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation:
I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied:
they shall praise the LORD that seek him:
your heart shall live for ever.
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD:
and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28 For the kingdom is the LORD's:
and he is the governor among the nations.
29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship:
all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him:
and none can keep alive his own soul.
30 A seed shall serve him;
it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness
unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

This is one amazing scripture! Written a thousand years before the crucifixion, it chronicles with amazing detail the suffering of the Messiah upon the cross. It is instructive to lay this Psalm alongside the actual historical record of the crucifixion, found in the gospels: Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19. According to Pastor Chuck Smith, "If you take just the prophecies of this one psalm alone and work them out with the law of compound probabilities, the chances of one person fulfilling them all would be one to 1 in 10 to 17th power (100,000,000,000,000,000). Yet Jesus fulfilled each one of these, in addition to over 300 prophecies concerning Him."

 I'm thankful that God left a prophetic footprint, one that satisfies the mind as well as the soul. I'm thankful for the sure word of prophecy and for the accurate record that has been passed down to us. Most of all, I am thankful for Jesus and that He willingly gave Himself to be crucified, to be buried, and to rise again the third day.