Monday, December 31, 2012

The last blog post of 2012

Soon I'll head over to my folks' to spend New Year's Eve with them. I still have my year-end Mary Bennet problem in that I'd like to say something not only very sensible but downright profound but I know not how.

As I thought about it, my mind drifted to movies that incorporate New Year's. In When Harry Met Sally..., Harry and Sally finally acknowledge their mutual love at New Year's. In Bridget Jones's Diary, Bridget meets Mark Darcy at a New Year's Day luncheon--the turkey curry buffet.

That's all I could think of off the top of my head. Any other suggestions?

Also, is New Year's a holiday particularly suitable to be included in romantic comedies? Are there any dramas or mysteries with New Year's in them?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year-end pondering

At year's end, or New Year's, it seems as though one should stop and reflect on the year that is passing and consider what one hopes to accomplish in the year ahead. I find myself like Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice when her father asks her opinion:

Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.

I went to church this evening, and we had a most suitable service. We celebrated communion, and because it was an evening service it was "old style" communion—the way they always were when I was growing up. The elders handed the trays of small squares of bread to those at the ends of the pew and we took one and handed the tray to the next person. We all held our piece of bread until everyone was served and the pastor served the elders, then the pastor said, "Take, eat, remember and believe that the body of Christ was broken for the complete forgiveness of all your sins." Then we did the same with the trays of small glasses of grape juice, and the pastor said, "Take, drink, remember and believe that the blood of Christ was poured out for the complete forgiveness of your sins." They used to say "remission" rather than "forgiveness."

I have been in churches where you can choose either grape juice or wine—grape juice for those who find wine a stumbling block—but most CRCs I've been to just use juice. We are not a "dry" denomination. We do not believe that the consumption of alcohol is wrong or sinful, but I think there is a feeling that if any recovering alcoholic is in the congregation, we don't want that person either to refrain from receiving communion or take the wine but then be led by that small experience back into their old ways. I think wine is would be more correct, but I understand why we use juice instead. The only problem I have with it is if the pastor administering communion refers to it as "juice." I find that distracting. If it must be juice, it must be, but don't call attention to the substitution. Any minister can avoid the issue just by saying "the cup" without specifying what is in it. That's the wording of the biblical passages about the Last Supper and the Lord's Supper anyway.

The text for our sermon was Ecclesiastes 3:1-15, also very suitable for year-end reflection. The gist of the sermon was that good and bad things happen and we don't understand why but God is in charge. Good to remember.

Our pastor also read a list of all the deaths and births that occurred in our congregation in 2012. In my extended family, I lost two uncles this year, one in April and one just a couple days ago.  They were both good, kind, dear men, faithful and loving husbands and fathers. Tomorrow is the funeral of the uncle who just died three days ago. My cousin who is his son was blessed with a baby daughter this year, so there too we have the coming and the going: A time to be born and a time to die, as this evening's text had it. If I am granted a normal life span, say 70 or 80 years (as Psalm 90 would have it), then I am more than half-way between those two times, closer to the end than the beginning.

I once had a good Dutch Christian Reformed pastor who mentioned that in his youth they always read Psalm 90 at the New Year. I suggested that to my parents once, but my dad was not into it. He didn't care to dwell on the brevity of life while celebrating. Although that's part of what makes celebration precious. As in Keats' Ode on Melancholy:

She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung. 

Keats was very mindful of the brevity of life, since his brothers died of TB ("consumption") at a young age, and he himself died of it at age 26. It's actually quite amazing that he wrote so many masterpieces in such a short life.

Although I haven't actually talked to them about it, I do expect that I'll spend New Year's Eve at my parents' place with them. I ordered olie bollen, a traditional Dutch New Year's treat, and a stick of banket to bring along. My order is at the Lynden Dutch Bakery, which turns out wonderful food. It's so nice to be able to just order these treats. I would certainly never make olie bollen, which requires a deep fryer, and, although when I was younger I did make banket a couple times, I would really rather buy it than bake it. Sadly many people live in towns where you can't buy these because there is no Dutch bakery. Such deprivation.


When I was driving in my car today, I thought of something to blog about. Now I can't remember what it was.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Try, try again

I've been kicking around ideas for New Year's resolutions. I may try again to establish a schedule that gives me regular, adequate hours of sleep. I've tried that before. I'm trying to remember what year I made that resolution and it just never happened. I may try again.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Not without hope

Received some expected, but sad, news tonight, of the passing of a very dear uncle.

Into your hands, Father of mercies, we commend our brother in the sure and certain hope that, together with all who have died in Christ, he will rise with him on the last day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I worked today. Yesterday, Christmas Day, was a wonderful day. Here are two wonderful people.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Increasing light

Friday was winter solstice, so now, whenever it feels dark and cold, I can tell myself every day is a little longer -- there is a little more light every day.

Sleep tight

As snug as a pug in a rug.

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Iron bars a cage

I assembled the dog's new crate this morning. Last night I hauled the rather heavy box down from my car into my house.

"Step One," I said. "Get it in the house."

Then I sat on the couch.

"Step Two," I said. "Take a nap."

I slept until the wee hours, then was awake for a few hours, during which I did not assemble the crate, then slept again for some hours until slightly later than I had intended to get up.

But after walking the dog, I finally cut open the box and pulled out the crate, hoping it would not be as complicated for me as the wooden crate had been. And it wasn't. Basically, it was packaged collapsed, and you just had to unfold it and hook the pieces in a couple places.

I had bought a soft pad for the bottom. It is made for this crate but sold separately, and I put it in.

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Yesterday I had put in on the couch and put some of my dog's favorite blankets on top, hoping to make it smell familiar and good to him. When I put it in the crate, he was immediately intrigued and did go halfway in to sniff, but then he backed out again. So I got his little bed out of the broken wooden crate, brushed off the wood chips, and tossed it in. Then he went all the way in.

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When I leave the house in a little while, I'll put him in and shut the door. I hope it withstands whatever he does in my absence. If only he was calmer about it all.

In Richard Lovelace's poem, To Althea, from Prison, it says:

Stone walls do not a prison make
Nor iron bars a cage
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free
Angels alone, that soar above
Enjoy such liberty.

If only my dog could read poetry.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Pawshank Redemption

Yesterday, I left my dog at home while I went to work because I knew I had to go to court a couple times, and not just to hand some papers to my boss or to file documents in the clerk's office but to sit in the courtroom and wait for the proper time to talk to a judicial officer. I also thought I might work a short day. So I put the dog in the attractive wooden box I assembled for him this fall. He is not safe to let loose in the house while I'm gone because he does (ahem) inappropriate things.

As it happened, I ended up working a rather long day and, as I drove home, I felt compunction for what a long, sad day my dog must have had. I anticipated that when he heard me coming in the door his yipping and wild scratching at the door of his box would be even more frantic than usual.

I came in through the upstairs of my house and, when I opened the door at the top of the stairs, imagine my surprise when my dog greeted me enthusiastically on the spot.

"You got out?" I said, with displeased astonishment.

He cavorted happily.

I went downstairs and what to my wondering eyes should appear:

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"Holy. Cow." I said. He must have scratched so vigorously that he broke the wood and popped out one slat and loosened two others. Then he must have wiggled through the opening. A wooden slat lay on the floor; chips of wood were scattered around.

I was almost awed by his accomplishment. Then I felt a sense of dread. What damage would I find in the house? I walked all around my place, looking for unspeakable messes, and I found he had indeed done (ahem) inappropriate things, but not irreparable damage--except to his box.

Who would have thought this little guy could stage a violent prison break?

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I later found a package at the front door and guessed that the deliverer thereof probably rang the doorbell. Under the best of circumstances, the dog reacts to the doorbell with a high level of energy and action. After being in solitary confinement for a great many hours, I suspect the sound of the doorbell ringing was enough to send him berserk.

Today, he and I went to Petco to buy him a new crate--a metal one--which I must assemble tonight, as I can't leave him alone in the house until I'm able to secure him, and I do want to go to church tomorrow.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dropping by

It's been particularly busy at work for me. I hope to take a break starting this weekend until after New Year's. So far, we're having a rainy, mild winter. We did have a "dusting" of snow, as they call it, yesterday morning. I'm good with no snow because it makes driving to work a hassle.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waiting for the Light

Well, I guess we're one week away from winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. I will be glad when that's past and I can tell myself the days are getting longer again. It is hard to wake up in the morning when it is still dark outside.

I believe the church chose this time of year to celebrate Christ's birth because it is symbolic of the light coming into the world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A brief sort-of conversation

The phone rang tonight as I was finishing supper. I trotted from the kitchen across the family room to get it. I looked at the caller i.d. and it was a company that provides a service to my house. I wondered if my payment was late. I answered. A recording said, "Please continue to hold." I hung up. "I don't think so," said I.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Amen to that

I’ve always preferred the term “late bloomer” to “complete failure” . . .

Max Lindenmann, Diary of a Wimpy Catholic, Avoiding the Advent Trap

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Sunday of Advent 2012

Taize: "Wait for the Lord," Jacques Berthier, 1923-1994


Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart.

Descant verses:

Prepare the way for the Lord.
Make a straight path for God.
Prepare the way for the Lord.

Rejoice in the Lord always.
God is at hand.
Joy and gladness for all who seek the Lord.

The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
All the earth will see the Lord.

I waited for the Lord,
My Lord and my God.

Seek first the kingdom of God.
Seek and ye shall find.

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Time and space

From "Advent Retreat" at Sacred Space:

Ignatius suggests that whatever time you allocate to your prayer, you should be faithful to it, even if you are bored or find it difficult or distracting. Many people say ‘I don’t feel I’m getting anywhere’ but you are offering God your goodwill, time and space. God does the rest, deep in your being where you cannot notice what is going on.