Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Well, my folks and I had some olie bollen and egg nog, and we watched the ball come down in New York at 9:00 p.m. our time. We channel surfed a little, watched a little of Mary Poppins on CTV and part of a mass on EWTN. My folks have gone to bed, and I may go soon. It's about 11:30 but I don't feel any obligation to stay up till 12:00. I do feel an urge to eat another olie bol, but I am fighting it.

I went to church earlier this evening. It was a communion service. At one point, we wrote down a sin we'd like to be free of a piece of paper, and then we went forward, lit the paper on fire in the Christ candle, and threw it in a bowl to burn. Then we took communion. There was time to think about what to write, but while the pastor was just explaining the procedure I already wrote down three. Yeah, there's that much room for improvement.

Tomorrow being Sunday, there's another church service in the morning.

I felt sleepy around 5:00 p.m., was worried whether I'd stay awake at church (no problem), and then got a second wind from about 8:00-10:00. I'm a natural night owl, which is not a helpful personality quality in the workaday world. But I'm starting to feel a little sleepy, so I guess I should take advantage of it.

Happy New Year to you. We sang this great hymn at church:

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

Frances Havergal, 1874.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dinner at the awesome restaurant

Tonight my Dad treated the local family to dinner at "the awesome restaurant." That's the Old Country Buffet. That name comes from a few years ago when we went there when my great-nephew was still a little boy. He went to the salad bar and returned with a plate of croutons, which is what he liked. When I told him that he could go back to the food counters as much as he wanted and just take the food he likes, he said, "This place is awesome!"

Tonight the cute thing was my two little great-nieces, who are 6 and 4 years old. They found out where the desserts were, especially the soft ice cream, and then whenever anyone else was ready for dessert, one or both of them would show the way. It was pretty sweet to see them take my parents' hands and lead them to the desserts.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Wow, heavy rain and poor visibility again on tonight's commute. It's so dark, the wet streets are so reflective, and in so many areas the stripes on the road are difficult to see. Kind of unnerving, yet, for all that, I struggled with drowsiness. I'm feeling particularly tired this week. I think it's because it's the darkest time of the year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rain, rain

Rainy, dark drive home this evening. Terrible visibility. It seemed as though there was a lot of standing water on the road near the Nooksack River. I looked online to see if there was a flooding warning, but I didn't see one. I did see an alert for this area for "Rainfall"! It warned of "significant rainfall." Well, okay, then.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Well, Christmas Day has come and gone. I know that liturgically there are still ten more days of Christmas after today, but in the culture in which I am enmeshed Christmas is over.

The contorted filbert
I looked for a photo to use for today and picked this one from the day before yesterday. The weather was much the same today, and I had another quiet day at home. I did a significant amount of laundry. I wanted to accomplish more than I did; specifically, I wanted to sort through my closet and take out anything I no longer wear and put it in a box to donate. Really, that would have been such a suitable occupation for "boxing" day, but I didn't get to it.

Perhaps if I go to bed on time tonight I'll have energy after work tomorrow to do that. Maybe if I went to bed on time every night, I'd have more energy in general. I seem to recall making a New Year's resolution to that effect at the beginning of this year, and I kept that resolution ... several times. Well, perhaps I'll try again. After all, it's painless enough to make resolutions. I oughta know.


The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:16)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Quiet and green

Here is the view out my living room window this afternoon on Christmas Eve day. It's going to be a green Christmas in Lynden this year. I looked back through my blog, and it was 2008 that we had a white Christmas.

I'm looking forward to a quiet afternoon and evening, and I hope my expectations are met. I need to finish wrapping presents for the family gathering tomorrow, and that's really my whole agenda besides just enjoying being at home.

Tomorrow will be the celebratory day with church, a family get-together, and opening presents. That will be nice, too.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tweny Years After

Having finished The Three Musketeers on the Kindle, I walked right into the sequel, Twenty Years After. As its name implies, it takes place twenty years after the earlier adventures. An interesting twist is that now the four companions, though still loyal friends, are on opposite sides of France's civil unrest. The "great cardinal" Richelieu is dead and his successor, Cardinal Mazarin, an Italian, rules France through the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria, as Louis XIV is still a child. The action occurs during the Fronde. D'Artagnan, as a member of the King's Musketeers (the others have all gone on to other things) upholds the authority of Mazarin and the Queen, while not respecting them much in his own heart. Porthos joins him in the hope of receiving a barony. Athos and Aramis are Frondeurs, and there is a new young hero, Athos's secret and natural son, as well as a new villain, Milady's son. I am interested to see how it unfolds.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Healthy, wealthy, and wise

Last night I couldn't get on the internet, so I went to bed early. Now that I've been to bed early and risen early, I should become healthy, wealthy, and wise. Looking forward to it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Turn the world around

I gather that today or tomorrow should be the shortest day of the year. The moment of winter solstice, when my hemisphere is tilted furthest from the sun, should occur at about 9:30 p.m. my local time, if I understand correctly. Then it will start slowly tilting back again, and the days will get longer. I'm for it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Late and early

Company Christmas party. Late getting home. Now late getting to bed. And tomorrow morning is early. So it goes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Advent - Angels' Candle

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:8-14)

Well, what else is there to say, really? Except maybe this:

One more week until we celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to be God with us.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


On my Kindle, I'm re-reading The Three Musketeers. (I bought a big compendium of Alexandre Dumas works. Interestingly, on the Kindle, buying "the complete works of" or the like is often the cheapest way to get a novel by an author.) Possibly the last time I read The Three Musketeers was in high school. That's about when the Richard Lester movies came out -- I still love those movies (The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers). I probably was attracted to the movie because Michael York played d'Artagnan, although Richard Chamberlain as Aramis might have been a draw, too.

It's serendipitous that while I'm reading this book, my mom returned to me a clay sculpture I did in high school during my interest in things Dumas, which I called "Aramis":

From the side, it's not too bad, for a high scholar's work, although obviously I had no patience to provide any detail in the hair and perhaps used the Prince Valiant type of hair style to avoid having to make ears.

As I recall, I was most interested in the face. I was trying to make an attractive face, but apparently I lacked knowledge of realistic proportions of facial features. The eyes are extremely large, the nose long, and the top of the head narrow:

It looks rather primitive, although I can see it also bears a resemblance to figures in Orthodox iconography, which is also a type I am attracted to.

12th-century icon of Archangel Gabriel from Novgorod,
called "Golden-Locked Angel",
currently exhibited in the State Russian Museum.
This is a faithful photographic reproduction
of an original two-dimensional work of art.
The work of art itself is in the public domain
because its copyright has expired.
I may have had a little crush on the character Aramis. If I were going to have a crush on a character from The Three Musketeers at this time of my life, it would more likely be Athos (played by the gifted Oliver Reed in the movies I liked). But I don't think I'm capable anymore of getting crushes on characters in novels. I wonder when I passed that milestone.

As I re-visit the book, I'm struck by what a good adaptation the Lester movies are, by the way. Very true to the book.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The apple of his eye

I particularly love that line in the hymn: "Dear as the apple of thine eye, and graven on thy hand."

Deuteronomy 32:9-12 has this description of God's care for his people:

For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:

So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.

Isaiah 49:14-16 has this dialogue between God and his people:

But Zion said, "The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me."

"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me."


Huisbezoek is Dutch for house visitation. I have only heard it used in a church context, when church leaders, generally in pairs, visit the households of the church, but when I googled it I gathered that in the Netherlands today it can also refer to the visits of social workers and government types.

Anyway, tonight I had huisbezoek with my district elder and deacon. The old stereotype of huisbezoek was that you cleaned your house within an inch of its life, put on your Sunday clothes, and sat stiffly in the parlor hoping no one asked you a particularly difficult doctrinal question. The real purpose is to make sure you're in good relations with your church, find out if you have needs -- spiritual or physical -- that the church can address, and generally let you know that the church does care how you're doing.

The huisbezoek my church leaders are engaged on is, they have publicly announced, specifically to find out if you are involved in a small group or if you would like to be. I shared with my elder and deacon that I have been trying to improve my prayer life and I would like to participate in a small, intimate group focused on prayer -- praying with each other, encouraging one another in prayer, and providing accountability so that we could make progress -- but that I really didn't know where to get started. They suggested two names of people I know that I might want to talk to about it.

We talked about other things, too, and it was a pleasant visit. It's gratifying and encouraging to have two people visit for the sole purpose of seeing how you're doing. It makes you feel cared about.

I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord
Words: Tim­o­thy Dwight, Psalms of Da­vid, 1800.
Music: St. Thom­as, Aar­on Will­iams, The New Un­i­vers­al Psalm­o­dist, 1770

I love thy Kingdom, Lord,
The house of thine abode,
The church our blest Redeemer saved
With his own precious blood.

I love thy church, O God:
Her walls before thee stand,
Dear as the apple of thine eye,
And graven on thy hand.

For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend;
To her my cares and toils be giv'n,
Till toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heav'nly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise.

Jesus, thou Friend Divine,
Our Saviour and our King,
Thy hand from ev'ry snare and foe
Shall great deliv'rance bring.

Sure as thy truth shall last,
To Zion shall be giv'n
The brightest glories earth can yield,
And brighter bliss of heav'n.

As sung by the choir of Fort Massey Church (found it online by googling for the hymn):

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Knowing the secret

Today at work we had a presentation by the people who administer our retirement plan. I don't have a brain for finance. They talked about growth funds and bonds and other kinds of investments I don't remember because I didn't understand them. They talked long. As I sat there I thought, I have learned when preaching to keep my sermons to twenty minutes, but now I've been listening to someone talk for an hour.

I tried to breathe deeply, but not audibly, while synchronizing my breathing to the Jesus prayer. I tried to remember how to recite, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21) and, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (Philippians 4:12).

When they seemed to be winding things up, a co-worker kept asking them questions and prolonging the meeting. I tried to look at him in a way that pled, "Please, please, stop asking questions." But he did not receive my non-verbal communication. As a friend of mine once said, "Drink to me only with thine eyes, and I won't have to wash a cup."

Now, I respect their knowledge and their ability to think about and take an interest in the stock market. For some people, that's their gift and they should use it. Moreover, they're using it for my benefit in caring for my (extremely young and small) retirement account. I'm thankful for them and their work for me. It's good stewardship that I should try to amass a retirement account so that when I am old I have less likelihood of becoming a burden on others. But basically my understanding of money is my bank balance and whether that will pay my bills.

I do pray for grace to care about more than preserving my middle class lifestyle.

There are things I wish I had money for -- travel in particular. I would like to be able to go to Italy, multiple times so I could see various regions. And I'd like to go to Vienna, Austria, Germany, and France. And to England again. But travel is a luxury. If I can't travel abroad in the remainder of my life, that is not a hardship. Many people in the history of mankind have lived most or all of their lives in the same region. If I can provide for my needs, for food, clothing, and shelter, then I have no reason to complain.

No one can say money is not important because you're a Christian. The Bible talks a lot about money. It's useful, it's necessary, and it's dangerous. It's a tool and, like any tool, can be used for good or ill purposes.

It's easy to feel that I don't have as much money as I wish I had, but really I have more than enough for my needs right now and thus am highly blessed. My next big travel indulgence (deo volente) will be to Grand Rapids, Michigan (known to members of the Christian Reformed Church in North America as "Jerusalem") to my alma mater, Calvin College, and the wonderful Festival of Faith & Writing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Deep thoughts

I wonder what my dog's name for me is? In Peanuts, Snoopy refers to Charlie Brown as "That round-headed kid." I hope it's "The food-giver," or "The one I like to sleep by," or "She who takes me for a walk," rather than reference to any outstanding (ahem) physical feature.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Third Sunday of Advent - Shepherds' Candles

Also known as Gaudete Sunday because an introductory part of the Catholic service includes Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice"; in Latin: "Gaudete in Domino semper iterum dico gaudete."

I had a good but busy weekend but now am tired out and need to conclude my day soon, so I can face the work week tomorrow. On Saturday night, my mom, my sister-in-law, my niece, and two great-nieces went to The Nutcracker, performed at Mount Baker Theater in Bellingham, Washington, by the Northwest Ballet company. I've seen this company perform The Nutcracker at least four years now, maybe more, and this was the best performance yet. They improve every year, and this year were really excellent. Also, in past years they used recorded music, and this year they had a live orchestra, the Starry Night Orchestra, which performed excellently as well. The whole experience took a quantum leap in quality.

Four generations of women in my family
attending The Nutcracker ballet.
Afterwards we stopped at the Denny's restaurant in Ferndale, which is on the way home for some of us, and has become our traditional stopping place for a treat after the ballet. That made for a late night.

Then today we got together again, with even more of us -- including my dad, my great-nephew, and my youngest great-niece -- and went to a you-cut Christmas tree farm to cut down a tree, bring it to my house, set it up, and decorate it. Then we ate pizza for dinner and had birthday cake in my niece's honor.

Family is a blessing.

Missed the eclipse

Yesterday I blogged about what a beautiful full moon we had the previous night, but I didn't realize till later that there had been a lunar eclipse visible from the West Coast early in the morning, 6:00 a.m.-ish. Not that I wanted to get up that early on a Saturday, but it never even occurred to me because I lacked information.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The weather report

Last night was clear and cold, and the moon was full and bright. I saw the moon when I got out of my car when I got home from work and it made me remember a scene from one of the Narnia Chronicles -- think it was Prince Caspian -- where Aslan lies awake all night and he and moon just gaze joyfully at each other.

Yesterday in the morning it was frosty here in Lynden. Every plant, leaf, and blade was outlined in white. As I drove to work I could see the bare trees all drawn in white. Then as I got closer to Bellingham I drove into a heavy fog and drove in the mist the rest ohe way to work.

This morning it is frosty again, but overcast.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Winter night

Last night was decidedly cold and I was decidedly sleepy, so I decided to throw an extra quilt on the bed and crawl under it at an early hour. That was a good decision.

It's decidedly cold again tonight.

This evening on my Kindle I finished a novel called Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. I chose it because the author wrote a lovely novel called Gilead and a fine companion novel called Home. Although Housekeeping is good literature, I did not enjoy it as much as the other two. It was a downer for me. It put me into the mind of a sad, lonely person in unfortunate life circumstances. I wanted a happier, more hopeful resolution than I got. I can recommend the book as well-written (although I'll admit I skipped some descriptive passages) but not as likely to lift your spirits.

Gilead, on the other hand, will make you feel that you are a better person for having read it, and Home is satisfying.

Now it's time for me to crawl under that extra quilt again. My hair is wet. I may wrap it loosely in a towel to keep my head warm. "Mamma in her kerchief ... settled down for a long winter's nap" ('Twas the Night Before Christmas).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Very pretty

A couple of my Facebook friends have linked to this article, "How to Talk to Little Girls," by a woman named Lisa Bloom. Her premise is that you should not compliment them on their looks because that will teach "girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice," which "tells them that looks are more important than anything." Instead, she says, talk to them about what they're reading.

With all due respect to my friends who linked to it -- who are sincere, wonderful, good people -- I find that article annoying. Why?

Well, first and foremost, the author is a killjoy. I know a couple of little girls who love to be told that they have on a pretty dress or that their hair is pretty and that they look pretty. Why should I withhold that when I know it delights them?

Another thing is, why does it have to be either/or? You can compliment girls on their looks and encourage them to read. It's not like once you say, "What a pretty dress!" you're not allowed to mention books thereafter. What's wrong with being smart and beautiful? The women in my family do it all the time.

And, finally, the author is so smug and sanctimonious about her own conversation with one little girl. She withheld any remarks about how pretty she was but got involved in talking about and reading the little girl's favorite book, even though in her heart she disapproved of the little girl's choice ("Alas, it was about girls and what they wore"). The little girl, of course, was happy to have a grown-up paying attention to her and reading with her -- all to the good. But the poor naive little thing didn't realize this was not someone genuinely showing interest in her but a woman making a "statement" and preening herself on it:

So, one tiny bit of opposition to a culture that sends all the wrong messages to our girls. One tiny nudge towards valuing female brains. One brief moment of intentional role modeling. Will my few minutes with Maya change our multibillion dollar beauty industry, reality shows that demean women, our celebrity-manic culture? No. But I did change Maya's perspective for at least that evening.

Get over yourself, lady.

I do agree with her in deploring the sexualization of children -- that it's wrong and sick for little girls to worry about their figures and for teenage girls to want cosmetic surgery -- and I don't have an answer as to how to eliminate that sickness from our society. I think parents can probably have some effect by monitoring and limiting their children's consumption of popular culture, and I suppose if enough parents did that, the culture would shift.

So I appreciate her concern, but I will still tell little girls (and big girls) that they are pretty whenever I feel like it.

Because they are pretty. So there.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Beautiful music

Ah! I finally found the source for beautiful traditional Christmas music online. Through some Facebook friends, I connected with a website, or an app, or whatever, called Spotify. I clicked on a friend's choice of music and now am listening to the Worcester Cathedral Choir singing Christmas carols.

Joy to the World. Once in Royal David's City. I Wonder as I Wander.

Those ethereal boys' voices. Lovely.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Second Sunday of Advent - Bethlehem Candle

My Advent candles did arrive, so now I can use a picture from today instead of from a previous year (as I did last Sunday).

I googled "Bethlehem song" to see if I could find a nice song, possibly, "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but maybe another. "Mary's Boy Child" came up because it starts out, "Long time ago in Bethlehem." I like the Boney M. version, which mixes "Mary's Boy Child" with another song I don't know from anywhere else, "Oh, my Lord." It almost makes me cry.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ho, ho, ho

Image courtesy of
I did a whole bunch of online Christmas shopping this evening, but I did not click any check-out buttons yet. I'm leaving everything sitting in the virtual shopping carts while I sleep on my purchases.

One change I made already was to take things out that I wanted to buy myself. Sometimes when I chose something for someone else, I'd think, I'd like that, too, so I'd make the quantity "2." But when I saw the total prices, I changed them to "1" and figured I'll get my own later.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting Midwintry

Time again for a favorite Christmas poem. It's cold and frosty outside where I live, although the wind does not make moan right now. The earth my be like iron and water like stone, but snow has not fallen, much less snow on snow.

But it's close enough.

In the bleak midwinter
Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.