Thursday, December 28, 2006

Book review: Light from Heaven by Jan Karon

Jan Karon's Mitford series is my "dessert" reading. The Christmas break afforded me the opportunity to savor the last chapter of the final book in the series, Light from Heaven. It turns out the timing of my reading was perfect, since the book closes with a Christmas celebration.

If you like a White Christmas, there is a decided advantage to stepping in on the Mitford celebration. You can enjoy the snow without shoveling it or driving in it!

"The snow was falling thick and fast by the time they turned into the driveway at Meadowgate. The wreaths on the gateposts had a fine topping of snow, and the wipers had already pushed a good bit of it to either side of the windshield."

Doesn't that sound idyllic?

Whenever I finish a "Mitford" book, a sense of sweetness lingers. I'm not quite sure how the author achieves that result, because the characters she portrays certainly have flaws and foibles. But those are perhaps the very things that serve to endear the characters to my heart. Whether we hail from a rural, mountain community like Mitford or from the plains or the desert, underneath we are all people of like passion.

Father Kavanaugh, the main character, is a man of deep and vibrant faith. Very refreshing, because there is no timidity in the way he is portrayed.

Often, I find myself reaching for pen and paper to jot down the snippets of poetry that are sprinkled throughout the book. Like this one, entitled "Let the Stable Still Astonish" by Leslie Leyland Fields:

Let the stable still astonish;
Straw--dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkey, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the child,
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.
Who would have chosen this?

Who would have said: 'Yes.
Let the God of all the heavens
And earth
Be born here, in this place'?
Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms
of our hearts
and says, 'Yes.
let the God of Heaven and Earth
be born here-
in this place.'"

I LOVE that and would use it in my next Christmas greeting, but for its length. Most people don't read greetings over a couple of sentences long.

Incidentally, there is a book of Father Tim's favorite quotes and poems entitled Patches of Godlight. I own the book and love it, too, but somehow I always see the words differently when they are applied to the story.

I am a little sad to close the last page on Mitford. I've laughed and cried with those folks for many years. But of course I can and will go back and re-live their best moments. Our family enjoys taking the audio books with us on long car trips, the ones read by the author. Jan Karon has a slight southern lilt that adds just the right touch to the reading.

Light from Heaven is certainly a worthy finale to the Mitford series.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Rest

artwork by Artiste, age 7

"The idle man does not know what it is to enjoy rest."
Albert Einstein, 1879-1955

Merry Christmas, and may you experience true rest and peace this blessed day.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

Dawn turned her purple pillow
And late, late came the winter day,
Snow was curved to the boughs of the willow,
The sunless world was white and grey.

At noon we heard a blue-jay scolding,
At five the last thin light was lost
From snow-banked windows faintly holding
The feathery filigree of frost.

by Sara Teasdale

Friday, December 15, 2006

Watership Down: LIFE IS NOW

Albrecht Durer. A Young Hare. 1502. Watercolour and gouache on paper. Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, Austria.

Watership Down is proving to be a delightful read. I am so glad that I chose to make this a read- aloud book rather than assigning it to my two Junior High students to read on their own. They would have devoured it quickly and we would have missed many rich discussions.

It is the story of a journey, of immigration and new beginnings. The pilgrims in this story happen to be rabbits. The book is too long and complex to be called a fable; I would categorize it as an epic. There are many morals and lessons to be learned along the way.

There is humor, too. We have sometimes chuckled as certain incidents in the story have evoked our memory of Brer Rabbit.

But the book has also prompted more serious discussions centered on social welfare, the role of leaders and prophets, and stewardship.

Here is a little taste of the book, taken from chapter 22. I found it good food for thought:

"Rabbits (says Mr. Lockley) are like human beings in many ways. One of these is certainly their staunch ability to withstand disaster and to let the stream of their life carry them along, past reaches of terror and loss. They have a certain quality which it would not be accurate to describe as callousness or indifference. It is, rather, a blessedly circumscribed imagination and an intuitive feeling that Life is Now."

Scripture expresses this same idea so
eloquently : " thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead." Phillipians 3:13

Life is Now. At the close of the year, I take inventory of my life. For me, this has been a year of tears, but God has saved them all in a bottle :

"Thou hast taken account of my wandering;
Put my tears in Thy bottle;
Are they not in Thy book?"
Psalm 56:8

Good literature always helps me put things in perspective. The perspective gained from Watership Down is so simple, yet so profound. LIFE IS NOW.

Two Christmas Books by Ruth Sawyer

Because our bookshelves are groaning, I have to keep my collection of Christmas books in a large plastic bin. Opening the book bin each holiday season is something of a special occasion, like greeting long-lost friends!

I have chosen two of my lesser-known favorites to tell you about.

Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer (who also wrote This Way to Christmas, which is mentioned below)

This is a charming book, especially for girls up to about age 10 or 12. It is out of print, but used copies are not hard to find. Here is the description from the cover:

"Eight-going on nine-year-old Maggie Rose, who was born on the night before Christmas and named after a real live princess, is one of "those Bunkers," a lazy and shiftless family who live in a dilapidated shack on the wrong side of the Point, a resort spot near Bangor, Maine, and are known to one and all as the laziest, laughingest, singingest family for miles around. Tim and Liz Bunker and their brood of seven children are without an ambition in the world and prefer to lean generously on the charity of their neighbors rather than go out and work. Only Maggie Rose ever wishes for something a little better; most especially, she wishes that just for once there was enough money for "those Bunkers" to have a wonderful birthday Christmas celebration all of their own.

In spite of their faults "those Bunkers" have a fine feeling for the important things in life and they all recognize Maggie Rose as something special, someone who might have come out of the top bureau drawer, had they had a bureau drawer. So when tragedy threatens Maggie Rose, "those Bunkers" are finally jolted out of their kitchen chairs, and in an unprecedented move they rally together and determinedly set about making Maggie Rose's dream come true.

Ruth Sawyer's unfailing magic...brings smiles and tears to her readers.There's the feel of Maine and Maine people in the telling-the author has a gift for absorbing local idiom, for telling a story out of the hearts of her characters."

This Way to Christmas, also by Ruth Sawyer

Text notes from the online version:

Ruth Sawyer's This Way To Christmas is a collection of Christmas stories from various cultures. But it is also a story about loneliness, isolation, and the overcoming of prejudice. David is sent away from his family because of the first world war. Irish Johanna, David's old nurse, regards the other people on their isolated mountain as "heathen". David finds comfort by visiting them, hearing their stories of Christmas, and retelling their stories to his hosts. It is no accident that each of the story-tellers represents a group which was viewed with suspicion or dislike in 1916 America. Feeling against Germans was strong because of the war; Eastern Europeans were viewed with suspicion and South Americans and Negroes were often treated as inferior races. (Sawyer herself falls into stereotypes in portraying black Uncle Joab as childish and subservient.) It is David, younger and less prejudiced, and feeling a common sense of exile, who communicates a vision of their shared humanity to his elders. In the end, they are all seated at one table, eating together as one human family.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Weaving, the Art of Queens

In his book, _Sesame and Lilies_, John Ruskin speaks of weaving as the "art of queens." Addressing well-to-do art lovers, he speaks scathing words because they have not used this skill to adequately clothe the poor.

A quote from the book:
"Six thousand years of weaving, and have we learned to weave? Might not every naked wall have been purple with tapestry, and every feeble breast fenced with sweet colors from the cold?"

He then uses the words of Christ as a reproach:
"I was naked, and ye clothed me not."

All of these lofty ideas were running through my mind as my seven year old daughter, Artiste, tackled her first weaving project this week. All of my girls have been introduced to weaving by making a simple potholder. It is a satisfying project for a young girl, because it can be finished in an hour or two and produces something both lovely and useful. My older girls quickly graduated to using a larger loom and making more substantial items.

Creative pursuits train little hands to be skillful and little eyes to notice details. But there is much more than skill and self satisfaction involved. Domestic arts provide young ladies with a tool by which they may contribute to the welfare of others.

It may seem that giving the gift of a simple potholder would not benefit another person a great deal. But consider the following incident.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine lost her mother. We all grieved for her loss.
This happened at about the same time my oldest daughter, Melody, had been honing her weaving skills. Melody had such compassion for my friend, and immediately asked, "Mom, could I make her some potholders?"

Now most people give flowers as a gift of condolence. But my friend got potholders.
They were woven with love and sympathy, tangible evidence that my daughter cared.

That incident is one that I have treasured in my heart. And I think it epitomizes John Ruskin's ideals. Sometimes we feel so small and insignificant in the midst of worldly sorrow and brokenness. I cannot feed or clothe the multitudes en masse, but I can touch the soul of others, one potholder at a time.

"She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff; she stretcheth out her hand to the poor. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet." Proverbs 31:19-20

Domestic arts are not frivolous. They serve a meaningful purpose in life and provide the means by which we might serve our fellow man.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Carol has written such a wonderful article about her experience learning Latin. I especially loved her way of describing the way a Latin-lover looks at words:
"Multiple times daily I look at a word and see the Latin behind it. I feel like I've been given a secret code or a special set of glasses that makes the bright colors pop out. My world has been expanded far beyond my expectations."

I cannot say that this happens to me multiple times daily, but it is happening often enough that I am grateful for the little bit of Latin that I know.

I always felt a bit cheated that Latin was not offered at my small-town high school. So, from the moment I commenced to homeschool my own family, the inclusion of Latin was a given. In a way, that decision is probably a little selfish. I know that it is a great benefit to my students, but I am primarily learning Latin for ME!

It is a tall order, however, to teach Latin when you do not know it yourself. My goal has been simply to stay one step ahead of the students.
How I would love to have a tutor like the one that Carol described!

Here is how I have approached it:
When my oldest was in 4th grade, I purchased an introductory curriculum entitled _Our Roman Roots_. It is billed as a Catholic curriculum, and we are not Catholic, but we found it very suitable for beginning our Latin journey. I taught the curriculum that year in a cottage school setting, with about a dozen students of all ages.

As recommended by the author, we repeated the entire book again when my oldest daughter reached 7th grade (this time at home rather than in a group situation). That gave extra reinforcement to learning the basics and it gave me a little more confidence to move forward.

This year, I have been using an antique book called _Latin Book One_ by Harry Fletcher Scott and Annabel Horn. It is online here, which makes it an economical choice. It is definitely a bare bones curriculum in comparison to the _Roman Roots_ approach. It does not have any stories or chants or cultural tidbits. But it is a solid program, heavy on translation work.
All three of my students, grades 5, 7, and 8 are able to grasp the concepts.
This is not to say it is easy, however!

It is gradually dawning on me that this is a l-o-n-g term pursuit, and that the most good is accomplished in small portions taken consistently. By consistently, I mean DAILY. If that sounds burdensome, it is not. It has proven to be very economical in terms of time, because it incorporates the best elements of English class all under one umbrella.

I think all word lovers would benefit from a bit of Latin; even if it is only learning a few derivatives. My goal for my children is that they would be able to use words accurately, precisely, and beautifully so that they are better equipped to share God's Word with their generation. Accuracy is so important to those who handle scripture, as the apostle Paul affirms in his letter to Timothy: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth."

My prayer is that I may help to develop habits of diligent study in my children so that they will be those unashamed workers of truth. Latin, I believe, is certainly stretching us to be able to achieve that end.

Denim Purse Project

My daughters learned to make purses from worn out jeans at our recent homeschool craft day. Melody, my oldest, especially enjoyed the project and has decided to make several as Christmas gifts. She has been scouting out cute jeans at the local thrift shop and adding sparkles, beads, and trim to the pockets. It is an easy and inexpensive project that can be accomplished in an afternoon. I love it when my children come up with their own ideas for Christmas gifts. And personalized gifts are always so appreciated!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Unwrapping His Gifts

"Mary....sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word." Luke 10:34

In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me." Matthew 26:55

Sitting quietly at the feet of the teacher Jesus seems so innocuous and passive. But it is startling to trace the subsequent, radical actions of those who sat in that place.

Mary of Bethany was moved to profound love; eventually that love brought her to the point of pouring her costly alabaster flask of ointment out on His feet.

The multitudes, on the other hand, were moved to violent action. They came as a mob to arrest Jesus, bringing clubs and swords against the gentle teacher.

Why such radically opposite responses to the words of Jesus?

Because the inner ear must be opened before His words can be perceived and understood.

Often, Jesus sought to awaken that "inner ear" in His listeners. Thus the warning, "Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears do you not hear?" Mark 8:17-18

What was it that Jesus wanted so badly for His listeners to comprehend?

The realities of the unseen spiritual world. The things freely given us by God that are for a season veiled to our senses.
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."
1 Corinthians 2:9

The Apostle Paul also spoke of these unseen realities. He said "we speak wisdom among those who are mature...we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory..." 1 Corinthians 2:6-7
Those who are mature are like Mary of Bethany, who fixed her inner eye on Jesus and trained her inner ear to listen to His voice.

Like Christmas gifts waiting to be unwrapped, God has prepared wonderful things for those who love Him. But they cannot be apprehended by the mere physical act of hearing or seeing. "God has revealed them to us through His Spirit." 1 Cor. 2:10

What are these freely given gifts that God has prepared for us?
Scripture tells us that the following things have been prepared for the believer:
~a table set before us in the presence of our enemies
~a place, a mansion for our future habitation
~a city
~good works prepared in advance for us to do

A.W. Tozer once said, "The mind can grasp the shell, but only the Spirit of God can lay hold of the internal essence."

Although I KNOW there is a table prepared for me, only my sanctified imagination can begin to picture it. All of the bounty laid out on my earthly table reminds me of this promise.

He has assured me that He has prepared a mansion for me, and all of the lovely houses on earth that I admire and long to live in stimulate a deeper longing for my true, eternal home.

I begin to see in all of life shadows of eternal glories.

Quoting again from Tozer, "The value of the cleansed imagination lies in its power to perceive in natural things shadows of things spiritual."

This season, as I cast my eyes once again on the glittering sights and sounds of Christmas, I'll be unwrapping His gifts. I can almost hear Him whisper, "If you think this sparkles, wait till you see what I have prepared for you up here!"

Happy unwrapping!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Christmas Joy

Heidi Joy's concert was just the thing to start the Christmas season. What a voice! A petite 5'4", she can alternately soothe or soar with great versatility. Her music has a spiritual depth that comes from obvious, heartfelt faith.

Heidi is becoming a household name in the Midwest. Her new Christmas CD is to be released December 8th~~check it out here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


anomaly |əˈnäməlē| noun ~ something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected. Something different, abnormal, peculiar, or not easily classified.

This unusual potato was good for a few laughs. Artiste could not resist drawing a face on it. Humor is sometimes find in the most unexpected places!

Art and Eternal Glories

"Learn to look; compare what is before you with your familiar or secret ideas....Let a gallery or a museum show you something more than a collection of objects, let it show you schools of art and of life, conceptions of destiny and of nature, successive or varied tendencies of technique, of inspiration, of feeling...."
"If you cannot think thus, you will become or be, a man of only commonplace mind. A thinker is like a filter, in which truths as they pass through leave their best substance behind."
from the book, The Intellectual Life

Although I have had a membership to our local art museum for several years, it is only recently that I have gone beyond
in a superficial way. This year, two of my daughters are taking art lessons at the museum. While they are engaged with lessons, I have the luxury of perusing the gallery for one and a half hours each week.
To view great works of art on a regular basis means that you become more intimately acquainted with them. Every week I see details that I did not notice on previous visits. I am, I think, beginning to absorb a little more understanding of technique and schools of thought.
Often, I have the added pleasure of bringing a lady friend with me as a guest on these museum visits. This adds another layer of pleasure: listening to the perceptions and observations of others. This always brings a fresh perspective to me.

Here is a picture of one of the flashier items in the museum's permanent collection, a Chihuly glass sculpture. As I view the sunlight playing on the colored glass, it makes me think of heavenly glories: "Her light was like a most precious stone, like jasper stone, clear as crystal." Revelation 21:11 "And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass." Revelation 21:21
The beauty we now enjoy is but a shadow of the better things to come. How wonderful that God gives us the ability to train the inner eye to see beyond the natural, to see glimpses of eternal delights.
Credit for the picture goes to my friend,smilingrrt, who is much better with a camera than I am!

Friday, November 17, 2006


Anna has inspired me to dust off my sewing machine, which has had a long season of hibernation in the basement. I happened upon this soft flannel fabric for only one dollar a yard, and thought it the perfect thing for snugly winter pajamas. Using Anna's tips for a budding seamstress, I guided my 10 year old daughter in sewing a few of the straight seams, and then zig- zagging to finish them. This gave her some experience in using the sewing machine, as well as a share in the satisfaction of a nicely finished garment.

So much of my work as a mother and pastor's wife involves that which is intangible: sowing eternal truth into living souls. In contrast, a sewing project yields an immediate, concrete reward. It is good for the soul, don't you agree?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Loveliness and Door Knockers

"Loveliness does more than destroy ugliness. A mere touch of it in a room, in a street, even on a door knocker, is a spiritual force. Ask the workingman's wife, and she will tell you there is moral effect even in a clean tablecloth."
quote by Henry Drummond

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree is a mystical poem, by an unknown New England author, found in the collection Divine Hymns or Spiritual Songs by Joshua Smith of New Hampshire, dated 1784. The setting by Elizabeth Poston (1905-1987) is well-known and much loved as a Christmas carol. Poston's setting is in the key of C Major, without any accidentals, which gives it a very pure folk-song-like sound. This hymn was a favourite of Robert Runcie, the 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury, and was sung at his funeral.

I first viewed this post on Dana's site~~thank you, Dana.
It correlated so nicely with my recent post about apples.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tools of the Trade~~Binding Books

In our homeschool, Poiema Academy, there are always messy ongoing projects: nature notebooks, history writings and pictures, art sketches, pages of handwritten poetry. At one time we used folders to try to keep everything organized, but nice work tends to get bent up in folders. A great little tool called a Proclick solved this problem for us. About the size of a 3 hole paper punch, it is portable and easy for little hands to use. It can punch holes in 6 sheets of paper at one time. Then you snap together the comb spines and you have a spiral book that looks very professional.I have found that the children take more pride in their work when it is nicely displayed in book form. They give thought to designing the cover and the title page. It is easy to add on to and comes with a little tool that unzips the spine when pages need to be inserted.You can buy spines that hold up to 45 pages, and larger ones that will accomodate 85 pages. Proclick is available at Staples for about $66.

Explosively Crisp

I'm talking about Honey Crisp apples. Have you tried them? These are a newer variety, developed in 1991 and fast becoming a favorite in our family. The texture is its biggest asset~ never mealy or mushy. The red delicious apples I bought at the orchard are shriveling up in the refrigerator bin because the Honey Crisps are so much better!
My children have become apple snobs. When I offer to cut an apple into wedges for their snack, they ask suspiciously, "Will it be a Honey Crisp?"

The cost is a little higher, the season is short and almost over, but hey~ I am a midwestern girl and I like buying a midwestern apple. No need to buy a Japanese Fuji or a New Zealand Gala when we have the best right here.

Read about the development of the Honey Crisp apple

Check out this blogger's great description

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pink Smoothies

1 6oz. carton Yoplait Yogurt (We like White chocolate/strawberry, but any berry flavor will do).
4 oz. orange juice, cranberry juice, or sparkling water
3 or 4 large frozen strawberries
half of a large banana, frozen

Whir in the blender until velvety. Top with whipped cream. Makes 3 small smoothies (4 oz size).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Just Sittin'

"And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples." John 6:3

As creatures of modern life, most us have difficulty "just sittin'". It seems such a waste of time. Yet Jesus took the time to sit with His disciples; indeed He called them "to be with Him." We see that in doing so, He called them upward, to the mountain.

I am seeking to incorporate more time in our homeschool day for "just sittin'". The routine and the list of assignments to be done seems unrelenting. The whirlwind of activity makes the days slip by so quickly. As my children are entering their teen years, I want to consciously choose to sit with them, to laugh with them, and to enjoy them.

One small step I am taking toward this end is to be consistent in taking short breaks during the day, and to give some thought to incorporating beauty into this ritual. Here is a short list of my efforts, which will hopefully serve to stimulate more ideas:

~pretty little smoothies (4 oz.), an hour before lunch, served in pink goblets with a puff of whipped cream on top.

~making myself look attractive and smell good. I decided to stop saving my favorite perfume for special occasions and to wear it every day.

~asking the kids to join me for a mug of hot chocolate in the afternoons while I have my cup of coffee. Playing soft music in the background quietly for 10 minutes while we sit and sip.

~on a nice day, take a the whole gang on a short walk around the block.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Lady's Loaf

Here is my most-used recipe for the bread machine. It takes 4 minutes to stir together. The only drawback to the bread machine is that the crust is never fully to my satisfaction. But for me, the time savings outweighs this small disadvantage. This is a light wheat bread.

1 cup warm water
11/2 T. non fat dry milk
1/2 T. salt
3 T. sugar
1 T. oil
1 c. Gold Medal Better for Bread wheat flour
2 c. Gold Medal Better for Bread white flour
11/2 T.bread machine yeast

Place everything in bread machine in the order listed. Use the "basic" or "sweet" setting and set for light crust.

The Office and Duty of a Lady

Quote from John Ruskin:
"I would have them desire and claim the title of "lady" provided they claim not merely the title, but the office and duty signified by it. "Lady" means "bread-giver" or "loaf-giver," and "lord" means "maintainer of laws"; and both titles have reference, not to the law which is maintained in the house, nor to the bread which is given to the household, but to law maintained for the multitude, and true bread broken among the multitude.So that a Lord has legal claim only to his title in so far as he is the maintainer of the justice of the Lord of lords; and a Lady has legal claim to her title only so far as she communicates that help to the poor representatives of her Master, which women once, ministering to Him of their substance, were permitted to extend to that Master Himself; and when she is known, as He Himself once was, in breaking of bread."
~~from the book Sesame and Lilies

I remember the exhaustion I felt after giving birth to my first child. A dear Lady, who deserved that title, brought me a piping-hot, fresh loaf of bread. It was such a comfort.

That small act of kindness stimulated me to distribute loaves. I enjoy bringing a loaf with me to church and giving it to the person who seems most in need of a little boost. I bring a loaf to the hairdresser every time I see her. It has become my standard offering as a housewarming gift and to new mothers. At holiday season, a homely loaf of bread is appreciated as much or more than a plate of sweets.

I love the end of Ruskin's quote, "...she is known, as He Himself once was, in breaking of bread." The willingness to feed the lambs is the mark of a Lady and manifests the true character of Christ, the Bread of Life.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Book Review: Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

The subtitle of this book tells its gist:
"The life story of Jayber Crow, Barber, of the Port William membership, as Written by Himself."

One would not imagine a simple barber from a tiny, rural hamlet in Kentucky to be literate, contemplative, or spiritually complex. Jayber Crow embodies all of these qualities and more.

The deep human need for community is woven through the narrative, and the reader becomes acquainted with the individual threads: Cecelia Overhold, the town snoot; Athey Keith, the last of the prosperous old-school farmers; Troy Chatham, the up and coming, cocky corporate farmer;Mattie Chatham, the steady and strong farmer's wife.

If you have read Jan Karon's books, the Mitford characters are light weight in comparison to the richly developed personalities of the citizens of Port William Membership.

At another level, the author draws you in to the love of the land and has an obvious deep connection to nature that goes way beyond any fashionable brand of ecology.

One finishes the book with an aching longing to recapture the deep sense of community that has been lost in our urban society.

It is not often one reads a book of lyric beauty. This one is a gem.

Midlands Painter: Keith Jacobshagen

"Elsewhere, the sky is the roof of the world, but here the earth was the floor of the sky." Willa Cather, describing New Mexico

I live in Nebraska, the "elsewhere" of Cather's quote. Here the sky is the focal point of the landscape and its ever-changing glory earns its description as the "roof of the world."

Painter Keith Jacobshagen has mastered the nuances of light, the variety of cloud formations, the stunning array of colors, and the sheer vastness of the Nebraska sky.

Here is the Omaha World Herald's description of Keith Jacobshagen, dated July 9, 2006:
"Think of Jacobshagen as the Ted Kooser of Nebraska painters. Like the U.S. Poet laureate emeritus, he's a down-to-earth Midlands lover who could have been successful in bigger, busier places but stayed here to mine more subtle gems."

View some of his paintings here:

Friday, November 03, 2006


I love the word "poiema", a Greek word which is used in the following Bible passage:

"For we are His workmanship (poiema), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

Though I am not a Greek scholar, my research shows that "poiema" comes from an ancient Greek verb, POIEO, meaning "I create". As God's creation, His people are His poetry, His poiema, His crowning masterpiece.

This Poet-Creator reveals Himself as the "Word" in John 1:1:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

As I live out the poetry of my life, that inherent love of words (and especially THE WORD, scripture) is His signature mark~~ an evidence that I bear the image of my Creator.

I hope the words of this personal journal will be a blessing to all who read them.