Friday, November 30, 2007

Not Inspired of Myself

"His thoughts said, I am ashamed because of my poverty of love and my interrupted obedience.
His Father said, I know it all. I know thee as thou art and yet I love thee.
His thoughts said, I often pray to be delivered from slothfulness that all the spaces of my time may be fruitfully filled by Thee; and yet the spaces seem to me quite empty, and the little that is done is so imperfectly done that I am ashamed.
His Father said, Commit thine empty spaces to Me, and let thy trust be in the tender mercy of thy God for ever and ever. I will perfect thine imperfections."
-Amy Carmichael
His thoughts said...His Father said...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Caring and Compassionate Micah. Meant to post this a few weeks ago but entirely forgot. Votes on the side burns (is that what they're called?) or maybe chops. Halloween is over, maybe we should move on.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Carnival!

I am totally remiss in putting this up sooner, especially since its past the deadline to enter (unless you can butter up At a Hen's Pace). Here is what it's all about.

Contrary Expectation: A Celebration of Advent

Advent is arguably my favorite time of year. I always enjoy Christmas and even Easter and Lent in a too busy distracted kind of way (although I really don’t like the inevitable let down after a major feast, like Christmas, which is always more intense if the feast was especially wonderful), but Advent is best. There are three reasons for this. The first is that it gets dark early and so lighting candles in the evening with the children is fun, because it’s dark enough to see them. Second, I love the hymns, love them far better than Christmas Carols. Third, I love Advent because I am contrary and ornery in my soul. While the whole world is rushing out to buy ipods and nanoos (oh wait, that’s the same thing) and x box players and getting crushed trying to beat their way into store after store and listening (oh horror in my soul) to Christmas Carols for a whole wretched month, I retreat into the solitary beauty of sorrow over sin, longing and desire for the parousia, quiet lighting of one candle and then another candle and then another.

So we do have some small Advent Traditions. The first, of course, is the Advent Wreath. I have a wooden bowl/plate thing on which I put three purple candles, one pink and one white. This year the Advent Wreath Routine will be in the morning rather than the evening because we have been having a morning Bible Story with the children plus songs and the Lord’s Prayer. And we’ll sing ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ probably every morning so the kiddos can learn it.

Then, in the evenings, we’ll open the Advent Calendar which this year is in the form of a lot of little books, some sacred, some secular, all alluring because they’re all so little and everybody wants to touch them and read them and wreck them. They might go on the tree eventually, but I might rather keep them safe in the box so we can use them next year.

Third is the feast and celebration of St. Nicholas. I am fussy about this because it’s a nostalgic moment for me. I always had a pair of clogs growing up and my carrot and turnip and parsnip would be shoved in them. Clogs are really especially nice for St. Nicholas. My kids are too American already to have clogs (I mean, where would I even get a good pair of Danish clogs for a child in Binghamton? Really, if anyone knows, please email) and so we’ve actually put out boots the last couple of years. And because I really don’t like parsnips for eating and haven’t been organized to go buy them just for the shoes, we’ve put in carrots and potatoes. And then, when they wake up, they find a perfectly round orange, a chocolate St. Nicholas and a small present. It’s so exciting and special. And then, of course, St. Nicholas visits everyone in church, arriving with gold chocolate coins and oranges and wearing a fancy bishop’s hat and cope. He knocks on the door to the altar and then comes out crying for all the children to come and greet him. Every year I’m surprised by the number of even older children who think he really is St. Nicholas.

Fourth, our lives are inextricably wound up in the church, so for me, part of Advent is the intense and sometimes stressful preparations for the Christmas Pageant on Christmas Eve. The pageant has grown to include the Annunciation, Visitation, Holy Innocents, Kings, Shepherds, Everything. Because we did so much work last year, it’s basically ticking along beautifully this year. I am particularly charmed because we have a long thin King Herod, three enormous adult Kings and then Aedan will be Herod’s Guard (a tiny tiny guard) because he refused to be a sheep. We also have a lot of baby lambs this year that will have to be carried by the Shepherds. It should be wonderful.

Fifth, my own private celebration of Advent has come to include the making of materials for the Atrium. This week I’m going to start work on the Level Two Prophecy Prayer Cards as well as the Flight into Egypt. The making of materials has come to be a restful moment of devotion and focus in a month that can be garish, busy and stressful.

And finally, Matt and I spend a whole day making some sort of food as our Christmas presents to everyone (I’m sorry, I don’t have the money or inclination to shop, so if you don’t like chocolate or cookies or sweets, you won’t like what I’m giving you this year). Two years ago we made chocolate truffles, and the year before that, jars of lemon curd, and the year before that, Nigella’s Chocolate Loaf Cake.

Somewhere towards the last Sunday of Advent we’ll get a tree and decorate the house. But again, I love the plain sorrowfully quiet tone of Advent in a house undecorated for Christmas until the last moment. Then you put it all up, and immediately tare it all down.

Several weeks ago I explained Advent and all its charms to my unchurched Jr. High Sunday School class. They were appalled at the idea, as well they should be. Its shocking that God would take on Flesh and come be with us, rebellious and sinful as we are. That he would go through the pain and unpleasantness of being born. That he would spend years trying to communicate with our small minds. And then that he would die. Four weeks is not too long to wait in silence and hope for him to come back in glory. I’m frankly excited about it all. Happy Advent!

Friday, November 23, 2007

I just came across this gem on Drudge,
Most young girls dream of marriage and babies. But Sarah dreamed of helping the environment - and as she agonised over the perils of climate change, the loss of animal species and destruction of wilderness, she came to the extraordinary decision never to have a child. "I realised then that a baby would pollute the planet - and that never having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do."
I would say, yes! absolutely! By all means Don't Have Children if you're going to have this kind of attitude about them. Of course, the attitude is completely false, and, I would say, arrogant.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Prep Day

I continue to be amazed that Matt didn't cook one tiny iota when we got married. When I cooked for him the first time, in those romantic courting days, he was unflatteringly skeptical about the idea. But I managed to impress him enough so that when I was pregnant the first time, and couldn't go near the kitchen for nausea, he took up the enterprise himself and now does fully half if not three quarters of all the family cooking. This is very good for us all because he's very good at it. The more he has devoted himself to food and the cooking thereof, the happier I have become as a person. Thanksgiving is his high holy day of cooking, and Wednesday is always spent prepping.

So today I made pie crust with the kids, pumpkin pie filling (roasting the pumpkin, pureeing it myself and adding cream, eggs, sugar and spices), and Brioche dough to be baked up for breakfast. And Matt minced onion, celery, sage, garlic, parsley and other fresh herbs. He also brined the turkey, and began the base for his gravy tomorrow. He has lately been devoting himself to perfect gravy. (I am torn in my praise of this gravy. If I say it is perfect, he may move on to something else, meaning less gravy. On the other hand, I can't lie.)

Tomorrow, after Brioche, the menu, as it looks now, is very traditional.
Turkey, stuffing, mashed potato, asparagus, brussle sprouts, gravy and biscuits. And then apple and pumpkin pie. We thought about fussing around with cranberry, but we only ever do it for looks, not for actual eating, so we decided not to bother. And we'll also be making hand turkeys out of construction paper, and Indian hats (whether or not this is politically incorrect, I don't know, I'm sure someone will tell me), and the children will dance, because that's what they do on thanksgiving.

Oh, and providentially, our Bible story reading for tomorrow just happens to be all the Israelites dying in the wilderness for whining and being ungrateful. So that will be nice. I look forward to it all very much and am perfectly prepared to be thankful All Day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My sermon for the Southside Ecumenical Service Tonight

I have always loved the road outside the house where I grew up. My house is just off the road
with a row of thorn trees in front. The drive sort of forks off and there is a path running from our house across the road to the neighbor. The road itself is dirt, not the red cake like dirt of the other side of the stream, but fine white soft sand. Over the months and days the worn easy places of the road change depending on the rain and traffic. A considering person will be careful
to walk on the smooth places, and pay attention to how the road changes over time. By walking it every day, the road becomes familiar even as it changes, so that even in the dark, you know where to walk.

It’s hard, I think, driving everywhere, or even walking on paved roads to visualize walking in a spiritual sense. Here, if you walk from Giant over to La Tazza, you have to look up and out, not down at your feet, so as to avoid cars, rather than stones. But more than likely it would be easier to drive the distance, faster.

It’s no mistake that Paul uses the word ‘walk’. ‘Walk’ not as unwise but as wise. He is talking to those of you who are already on the road, already walking towards God, away from the world,
away from yourself. The road stretches on ahead of you. There are two ways to walk. You can walk wisely, carefully, considering the road, the destination, your situation. Or, you can walk unwisely, carelessly, without attention.

How do you know the difference?

Well, first you have to make sure you are on the road and not wandering off on some path that peters out. Do you know Jesus? Do you love him? Do you trust him to save you from your sins?
Or are you relying on yourself and your own goodness? Relying on yourself is foolishness. Don’t be foolish, don’t continue walking on the wrong road. Get off that road and walk toward Jesus.

But if you’re already on the road, you love Jesus, he is transforming you day by day into his image, he has saved you and made you whole, then, to know if you are walking wisely you must be able to understand what the will of God is. Do you know why he made you? To worship him?
Do you know what your purpose is? To go out into the world and tell people about Jesus and how much he loves them. To listen to his voice and do the work he gives you. Do you pray every day and read the scriptures to know his will, day by day, step by step? If you don’t know his will, you won’t walk wisely.

But then, understanding the will of God, do you allow yourself to be distracted, to be filled up with other things, the things of this world, like wine, or worry, or busyness, or gossip, or anxiety, or a grudge, or envy, rather than to be filled up with the spirit. You can be on the road but not walking carefully in smooth careful watchfulness of God. Don’t walk that way. That is foolish.

How do you fix it?
Paul says, be thankful.
Now, I know its possible to go through this whole week, this week of Thanksgiving, and say thank you a lot, to other people and to God, with your lips, but not have time for it to be translated into your heart and mind. But if you cannot see God any more, and you do not know his will, and you are filled up with many other things, than you are not walking in wisdom.

Walking on this road in wisdom, means walking on this road in thankfulness.

Stop and put yourself into the place of Thanksgiving. You don’t have to feel thankful. You have to stop and bend your will, your mind, your feet towards God and thank him.
If you don’t know where to begin, start by thanking him for your existence.
Without him and his desire for you, you wouldn’t have been born.
Thank him for his preservation of you and provision for you.
Thank him for his salvation—in sending his son to die in your place so that you might live with him forever.
Thank him for the Holy Spirit who sanctifies and guides you.

The way of wisdom, the road toward Jesus is gratitude, is thankfulness.
Walk in it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

late again!

We DIDN’T Forget, we kept trying to get to the computer, but it kept getting away from us. Here is the book Emma wrote and illustrated in your honor. The pictures did not photograph well but here is the text. Each line is actually a page. We are considering mailing it, however, it might be that E will insist on doing another one to mail, being somewhat of a perfectionist.

Book by E

I like flowers.
I saw a moose print.
Those are berries.
I saw a different moose print than before.
I love you.
I saw a different canoe.
Then I saw a better canoe than I saw before.
This is a drink.
That’s not a horn.
That’s not a cross or an ‘x’.
That’s not a bird.
I don’t like that glove.
I saw a whale.
Two boxes.
That’s a shark.
That’s scribbling.
A tooth is gone.
We are all together with the sun, the grass, and the sky.
Clouds you like.
I love Gwendolyn.
That’s a school.
A scribble.
We flew.
We love you.

Friday, November 16, 2007

a little more preachy

Listened to this today.
Really. Excellent. Check it out.

a little preachy

I’ve been feeling frankly euphoric about having four children all day. These moments, as you can imagine, are few in the day. If I do have them I don’t generally have time to notice because there’s so much to do. But I was in the car a fair bit this morning and again this afternoon and I had time to consider how great it is to have so many kids, and how completely impoverished I would be with, say, only three, or only two, or only one, or none at all.

I’d be, first of all, very poor in experience. It’s taken 3 babies to figure it out. Nursing alone is something I only just now feel I have the hang of. And knowing the capacity of a child, say, to not whine if you tell them not to; I didn’t know that with the first, or even the second child. Now, on the third, we finally have the whining under control. Or the difference between boys and girls from birth. Being so rich as to have two of each, I am gaining wisdom and understanding in the differences between men and women, boys and girls, on a more basic and deeper level.

Second, I’d be poor in time. My days have become vastly richer and more varied with each baby. Its especially nice to have a baby at each stage doing different things, all day long, so that at every moment there’s a whole tapestry of play and conversation and activity. Also, I get more done, so my time is overall better spent and less wasted.

Third, I’d be poor in understanding. As I’ve known all my life with my head (because my dad said it over and over) ‘you can do it if you have to’, I now know with my body and soul. There isn’t anything that can’t be done, if God tells you to and gives you grace. So now, when people say, ‘Oh, I could never do that’ when they see my four kids, I can say ‘Oh, you probably could, if you had to.’

But mostly I’d be poor in love. And I don’t mean all ooshy gooshy I’m so in love with my kids they can’t do anything wrong. I mean that God expands the human faculty of love as needed. If there are a lot of people around who need it, God gives you the ability to act in self giving/selfless love towards them for their good, regardless of your own needs. He meets your needs and gives you sufficiently of himself to meet theirs. This, I am experiencing daily, even in my own flesh, is so crucial if you want to be rich in God. You cannot say no to him. If he says, do such and such, you cannot say no, or you become poor. You become lean. You become narrow. Or, as my mother has so helpfully pointed out, you develop ‘good boundaries’ (usually at the expense of other people).

All this I saw and felt as I drove all over town today, thinking about this new baby. The nurse when I checked into labor and delivery, hearing she was our fourth, said ‘Oh, I have an oops baby too’ it’s great. And it is. It’s actually the best.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Health and Happiness

E is definitely feeling better. I now have a dinning room table covered in paint, an elaborate train track taking up the whole hall way, a sea of crayons and paper in the living room, and a soaked bathroom from the bath currently going on. Its going to take me a whole day to recover and then she'll be home because its Saturday. And her cat, Francis, is staring at me fixedly in a murderous sort of way, like if she were a lot bigger, I'd be a snack.

And, just to rub it in, before throwing up on me this morning, the baby slept through the night AGAIN, that's right, again. Ha!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Meat Loaf

I was actually thinking about making meat loaf. I'm not sure why, maybe because its starting to be cold out. I'm not even sure that I've ever even eaten meat loaf. Anyway, I'm looking for advice. Is this a worthwhile endeavor? And if so, can anyone recommend a good recipe? And also, what would one eat it with?

Shameless Posting About My Children

I get really irritated when my favorite bloggers don't post ever day, or worse, take a whole week off from blogging. In that same spirit, I offer my deep regrets for taking almost a whole week off from posting. Thing is, I preached Sunday after not preaching in a long time, and I kept meaning to post my sermon, but then I added and adjusted so much as I was actually speaking, that I decided to bring it home and fix it, but then someone walked off with it during coffee hour, and Lord knows where it is now. So, of course, then I meant to try and fix it from memory, but that hasn't happened either. Anyway, I think it was a perfectly fine sermon, and maybe someday you'll get to read it.

Also, just as we were all getting over a vile cold, E caught some throwing up bug. She's been home from school for two days and will stay home again tomorrow to get some more rest, by which time I'm sure someone else will be throwing up often without prior warning. The fall/winter season is definitely here.

But we've been having a good time nonetheless. For example, E informed us this evening that God can make people sick, but he can't heal them. 'Well', she amended her statement, 'he can but he lets doctors do it.' She has heard about the Israelites getting sick in the desert for complaining and it has made a big impression on her (being sick and all). She organized tea for us this afternoon-a lot of plates carefully arranged on the coffee table, three empty (not sure why), one with 4 grapes on it, one with 6 tiny biscuits smeared with jam, peanut butter and nuttela, one full of cookies. She took the plate of grapes around carefully to ask if we'd like more. Very hospitable. But then she made us sing 'Now the Day is Over' and 'The Lord told Noah to build him an Arky Arky' and afterwards told a long and complicated 'Bible' story holding a copy of Mansfield Park instead of a Bible. Then she got really bossy and tried to make us all take a rest, which I refused to do and everything broke into chaos. She really misses school. But I've been happy to have her home for a couple of days. We miss her when she's not here.

And A's powers of reason are becoming more sophisticated. The kiddos are not allowed to say they don't like whatever they've been given to eat at the table. So tonight, careful not to say that he didn't like it, he explained, very carefully, that the chicken in front of him was made from milk, 'the kind of milk that I don't like'. Very clever, I thought.

And the baby smiled yesterday, after giving it obvious and crucial thought. Plus she slept through the night one time, which was amazing. I've never experienced such a thing, with babies. Imagine, sleeping through the night instead of eating every hour.

And R is his own solid self, agreeably wandering around the house muttering 'yes' to himself quietly. Its his favorite word, although 'cake' comes a close second.

So, you see, I've been covered in children, and not even reading anything online. And its been, frankly, refreshing. Let the Anglican World wreck itself, it doesn't need me reading about it to make anything different.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Butternut Squash Soup

I, frankly, outdid myself tonight on the subject of Supper.

Butternut Squash Soup
I roasted the squash, and then scooped it out into my pan, added probably four cups of chicken stock, salt, pepper, curry powder, ginger powder and cream and, when it came a simmer, went at it seriously with my (well, Matt's really) super cool immersion blender. Creamy, golden orange, I believe Matt used the word 'heavenly'.

Along with miniature biscuits done with an irritating flower cut out. But so puffy. So perfect.

And then tomato and egg (mommy, what's its proper name?) salad avec vinaigrette. And an avocado at perfect ripeness.

I must say, the soup was probably the easiest thing I've ever cooked. It took about 3 minutes of actual cook time-cutting the squash open (I made Matt do it), hunting around for curry and ginger powder, blending it, that's it. Well, and putting everything in the pan. We're going to eat the rest with couscous and then do it again the day before Thanksgiving, that most holy day of eating. Oh, and if you try the soup, it starts out smooth and then the ginger and curry kick in with an interesting bite. Very worth it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Matt discovered, to our amazement, by staring fixedly at the baby for some time, that she really looks, really really looks dad (Dr. Robert Carlson). I thought it would be so unfortunate for a girl to have to be the spittin image of her father, image having to be a combination of one's father and maternal grand father. Plus she really does look like R.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

by them is your servant warned

I’ve been going back and back and back again to Psalm 19 lately. It’s always been one of my favorites, particularly since being in boarding school and hearing some of my school mates when their parents came to visit—a CRWM family from Mali—sing the second part (verse 7 on) of it all together beautifully. But also because it’s a perfect summation of the Christian Life and what produces real happiness and joy. The psalm articulates the liveliness of the Law, the dynamism that it produces in daily life when one tries not only to walk in it, but to integrate it into one’s interior essential being.

But I hadn’t paid particular careful attention to the first half—the declaring speech of the cosmos and earth concerning the greatness of God. There is actually interesting movement—the heavens, the sky, the sun declare the perfection of the Law, after which and out of which flows man’s response.

There is all kinds of richness here, besides the dripping of honey.

First of all, we’ve been teaching our kiddos the 10 Commandments with the use of the old 70s ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’. I don’t know the words to the real thing (heh) but we hit upon it because it used to be one of the tunes I, along with everyone else, had to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ to in Boarding School (along with Ghost Riders in the Sky, In the Jungle, and Gilligan’s Island). With a little tweaking, we managed to make all the commandments fit in plain language, and now we sing it almost every morning (their choice, not ours) and sometimes again in the evening. Their learning of the content of the law concurrently with a love of Jesus was my aim and its delightful to see it happening.

Second of all, psalm 19 has, over time, very much informed my emotional sense of obedience to God, and my overall desire to know God through the Scriptures. Because, let’s face it, the easy way is not obedience or even knowledge of God. The easy way is strict slavish adherence to one’s own passions and desires. To first of all know the Law and then to find it sure, right, pure, clean, true and golden, that takes a life time of work.

As I write this, I am most painfully aware that this sets me entirely outside the worldview of most of the west, actually. I frequently delude myself into thinking myself in the majority by reading people I agree with and avoiding everything else. But this is not the case. The west has become obsessively self centered. The Law of the Lord, perfect or not, is not known nor sought. Even the church has bought into the boring madness of self gratification. Only its called ‘self actualization’ or ‘becoming one’s best self’ or even, ‘living into the baptismal covenant’. And its why the Anglican World is breaking apart.

I will probably come back to this later. At the moment I’ve just made myself mad and I have to feed the baby.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Scattered Saturday Thoughts from E and A

E, on the way out of a store where she and I had been browsing together on our own: 'All those things in there, that's what made it so wonderful.' (relish and emphasis on the 'wonderful')

E praying in the evening after hearing the story of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac (a favorite):
'Dear Jesus, thank you for Isaac and his family and how long he lived and that he he was a nice baby but grew up and lived a long time and for his mommy and daddy.'

A, gazing at the sun even after being told not to: 'Mommy mommy mommy mommy, you know what there is behind the sun? A SQUARE. And it has lines and its behind the sun.'

A, much later, gazing at G: 'She's so beautiful, and pretty.'
E (whispering in my ear): 'She looks like a boy.'
Me (whispering back): 'No she doesn't. She's covered in pink.'
A: 'I love her.'

Lest you think we are all peace and joy, they then got into a heated argument about how much big furry blanket they each had and who was going to have which song. Finally settled on 'Now the Day is Over' for E and 'I head the Voice of Jesus Say' for A.

And now its 5:30 Sunday morning and everyone is Wide Awake because of the time change. So I am going to roust myself out of bed and begin collecting things for Sunday. I'm even contemplating shoving myself into a collar, would be the first time in months. Its not conducive for baby feeding, but, frankly, I don't have much else that's interesting, and I do have a fancy wine colored velvet jacket, and, as you know, its so much easier to worship God in a fabulous outfit than not.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Happy Belated Reformation Day

So we had a reasonably good time on Wednesday.
It was balmy-windy and warm-and there were lots of little kids running top speed from house to house. We got to meet several neighbors hitherto unmet. Everybody wanted to see the baby. I'd been walking the block for months pregnant so I guess it was only fair.

The highlight of the day, though, was accidentally wishing our very good friends/neighbors a Happy Reformation Day-such a fun thing to wish Roman Catholics. K- wanted to know what 'the reformation' was. Periodically I help her fill out her Confirmation Class worksheets. Told her and her brother in great detail and then asked if they would be dressing up for All Saints. T- couldn't remember what that one was either.
'What do you do in church?' I asked him.
'Go in the cry room' he said, 'the sermon is so boring.
Told him he should be glad he can go in the cry room. 'I sit with our teenagers during the sermon and make them take notes.'
He was aghast. All this time our Jewish neighbor was pondering. Finally she asked if the sermon was all in English. 'Oh yes,' I said, 'All in English, but its very long. At least 20 minutes.'
'My class has to lead the service this week' she said, but she wouldn't say any more. Then I asked them all if they remembered anything for Religious Ed. L- remembered the Shema in Hebrew but didn't know what it meant (Emma told her), and T- remembered that there is someone named St. Paul but didn't know why he was a Saint. 'Wasn't he an apostle?' he asked.
'Yes,' I said, 'but do you know what an apostle is?'
T- thought maybe it was Jesus. Laughed heartily and then told him. Invited them all to church.

I enjoy these conversations with our young neighbors. Its so interesting to see what the average person is getting out of church (any church). And I'm impressed that they're interested. I wish their clergy/pastors would tap into this interest. But of course, K- and T- are not voicing this interest when they are in church.

Anyway, we are launching into the weekend. Micah is here (the official sign that CHURCH will be happening). He is arguing with Matt, well, its sounds like Micah is arguing and Matt is laughing at him. I am going to vacuum the house and muscle the extra bed out of the nursery into the basement. And I'm hoping Matt will cook something fabulous for supper. I bought chicken on purpose for him to do so.

OH! and a big shout out to Bishop Duncan for an AWSOME comeback.


I've just turned on that word verification thingy because I'm getting comment spam. Sorry about the extra hassle.

I've got to get up and madly clean because all three kiddos are sleeping (E is at school), and who knows how long it will last, so I've got to seriously get moving. I have exactly one hour before the next visitor. So much to do, don't even know where to start.