Thursday, December 21

Merry Christmas from J.K. Rowling

The title of Book 7 was announced today by way of a game of hangman.

Thursday, December 7

Pearl Harbor Day

Instead of watching a movie, I remember Pearl Harbor Day by listening to one my favorite Adventures in Odyssey episodes, "East Winds, Raining." Wendell and I grew up listening to stories featuring Mr. Whitaker (Hal Smith), Eugene and Connie, and the original set of kids. If I happen across it on the radio now I listen with interest, but I don't recognize most of the inhabitants of Odyssey anymore. The Barclay family is long gone, and no one now remembers Jack and Oscar, Curt and Lucy.

In "East Winds, Raining", Connie's Uncle Joe reflects on his experience at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Listen to it here today and in the archives later.

Friday, December 1

Nerdy as a fan club

Look what I found when I googled my name (scroll 1/6 down). Andrew Osenga asked his blog readers to thank Christianity Today for their review of The Morning (listen to it here), and my note got published (sort of). And it's right above Mr. and Mrs. Osenga's!

Thursday, November 30

Her lamp does not go out at night

Perhaps if I had more controversial opinions this blog would generate more interest. Those bloggers who concentrate on politics and religion (or a mixture of both!) have comments by the dozen. Personal anecdotes and recipes just don’t get the heart pounding and nostrils flared, if you know what I mean. I like to keep this blog fairly lighthearted because arguing online is rarely helpful for me. I would rather talk in person about such things. I have, however, unearthed a strong opinion on a religious matter that I’m not afraid to share.

By way of Facebook I came across a group dedicated to the support of Ladies Against Feminism. Most of the articles I’ve browsed through seem to contain mostly good and true information and advice. “More Time In A Day” drew my attention because the desire to get everything done is something with which I struggle. Time management tips are always welcome, and this article contains some good ones. But this advice should raise a red flag:

Get up earlier and stay up later. This is the golden key to success for the round-the-clock homemaker! The famous Proverbs 31 wife and mother rose while it was yet night and let not her candle go out by night - meaning that she got up early and stayed up late…. By getting up earlier and staying up later, you can enjoy more time with your husband and children…. one thing’s for sure: you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labors!

Not only is this not what Proverbs 31 is telling us to do—it doesn’t even work! The author urges us to get a good night’s sleep, but how can we if we’re getting up earlier and staying up later in order to work? (Doing one or the other is great advice—but not both; that’s called “burning the candle from both ends.”) Last week I had a lot of things that needed to be done before I left for the holiday weekend, so instead of going to bed I stayed up late and worked until they were done. The next day I got up and went to work as usual. But instead of “enjoying the fruits of my labors,” I felt exhausted and had to go to bed early that night. Which I knew would happen, because I know my body needs sleep.

Proverbs 31 isn’t a list of things for women to complete in order to be virtuous. One read-through will show you it can’t all be done by any one woman. The principle here is to be hard working and diligent. But in order to work hard, our bodies need rest. Telling women the Bible says for them to get up early and stay up late to get their housework done is ridiculous. It goes against common sense and the true intent of scripture.

Wednesday, November 15

True or False

It’s time to play a little game called True or False. Determine whether the following statements are true…or false. Correct answers and explanations follow.

1. Christmas decorations may be put up whenever you feel like it.
2. Star Anise smells divine.
3. You can never have too much Bob Caskey.
4. It’s difficult to work a 9-to-5 and bake your own bread.
5. Hancock Fabric is a great place to meet friends.
6. Nicholas Cage deserves our respect.

1. False. Although I’ve begun planning for Christmas, it is not yet time to decorate. Always decorate for the holiday closest to you on the calendar. This means Christmas decorations may be put up on the day after Thanksgiving, but not before.

2. True. I picked up a 99 cent package of star anise at an Asian grocery in Ridgeland on Saturday. I left it sitting in the car while I ran some more errands, and when I came back my car smelled like pho. Some people may not want their cars to smell like pho, but it was fine with me.

3. False. I’m counting at least 7 barn dances called by Bob Caskey that I’ve attended in the past. Then there’s the time I saw him in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, wearing red pants. I’m trying to decide whether to attend RUF’s barn dance on Friday, and I’m thinking I need a break from Bob and his friend Charles.

4. True. What with all the time needed for rising, kneading, and rising again, I found it very difficult to get a loaf of oat bread made and baked. When I saw the recipe I imagined myself coming home from work to the wonderful yeasty smell of baking bread. Of course this couldn’t happen, because I was not there to bake it for myself to smell.

5. True. Who knew that I would run into three friends at Hancock Fabric? My mental associations of the fabric store are linked to memories as a child of (what seemed like) many, many hours spent wandering among bolts of fabric while my mom flipped through pattern books—feeling my brain activity shut down out of boredom. Now I’ll have to readjust that image. Cool people hang out at Hancock Fabric.

6. False. What is he thinking?

Thursday, November 2

Like the monarchs I just knew that we could fly

When I was invited to a costume party two days before Halloween I immediately began casting about for costume ideas. A few easy ones were eliminated when I realized that most of my winter clothes are at my parents’ house. Martha Stewart's instructions for making butterfly wings looked easy and fun, but neither Michael's or Target yielded crepe paper of any kind. "Okay," I thought. "I'll just paint the wings on brown wrapping paper." But the wire frame I constructed couldn't support the weight of the painted paper. The wings were beautiful but not functional. Unfortunately I realized this too late in the game for the perfectionist art major in me to give up and go to the party without a costume (the perfectionist art major is a stubborn and prideful girl). I am ashamed to admit that as my friends left for the party, I refused to go and instead began rummaging around the house for some way to make the wings work. I decided to sacrifice aesthetics for functionality and duct-tape bamboo skewers to one side. With this supporting frame in place, the wings held their shape perfectly. I added ribbon arm straps and was out the door.

Now the wings are hanging on my wall, serving well as a reminder of my own sinfulness and God’s love in spite of it. It’s a beautiful and painful thing to be smacked upside the head with your sin. He turned around my plans to show off, humbling me and reminding me to be thankful for friends who will put up with me even when I’m being ridiculous. I’m much like the wings—they’re really a big mess, held together with duct tape, wire sticking out of one side and staples showing—but there’s an amazing pattern (simplified monarch butterfly) that God designed.

Since I made the wings, references to them are popping up everywhere. Yesterday another blogger wrote, "I drove by a lot of trick-or-treaters to and from Wal-Mart. My informal research seemed to show that butterflies were the “it” costume for girls this year." So I was an it girl and didn’t even know it! My dad sent me this link to a review of a Sufjan Stevens show in Philadelphia. Evidently Sufjan and his band all wore wings! You can see pictures (and read a review of the same show from someone more familiar with his work here. Some might think Stevens takes himself too seriously. Wings? Come on! These people have obviously never worn wings themselves, or they would know how much fun it is.

Tuesday, October 24

The air is hot in Florida

It’s hard to believe that on Saturday I was on the beach making drip castles and getting sunburned, and on Monday morning I bundled into corduroy and denim, shoving my feet into brown leather shoes that have been packed away for months. I went to Florida this weekend with Paula, Leigh and Anna. We played hard, and I came back tired, refreshed and a little poorer. Paula’s aunt kindly allowed us the use of her weekend home on the bay. On Sunday morning I crept out to stand by the water and discovered that we seemed to be in the migratory path of some butterflies. When the first zoomed past my face, I didn’t think anything of it. But as I stood there looking out over the bay, dozens and dozens of orange and black butterflies flew past—all traveling parallel to the water’s edge and heading east into the sunrise. Where were they headed? I wondered. Maybe they knew that cold weather was coming. Making one last dash to the beach was the perfect way to say goodbye to summer. We drove the open Jeep on the beach, dug our toes in the sand and consumed mass quantities of seafood.

Now I’m back in Jackson, and the cool temperatures have rolled in, reminding me that it really is time to start making soup, planning holiday projects, and take up knitting again on that sweater I began this time last year. It would be embarrassing have to take it with me to my grandparents’ house at Christmas.

RELATIVE: Hey, Caroline. What are you working on?
CAROLINE: A sweater.
RELATIVE: Weren’t you working on a sweater last time you were here?
CAROLINE: Yep. Same sweater.

I don’t want that to happen, so maybe I can find the discipline to finish this one up before jumping on to something else. In my recent projects/reading/listening, here are some things I’ve found worthwhile and would like to recommend:

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.
This was a bestseller in the late 80’s. It’s the story of the friendship between two boys: the narrator, John Weelwright, and Owen Meany. Owen’s small size, “ruined” voice, dominating personality and unshakable belief that he is God’s instrument make him a fascinating character that kept me thinking about him and the story all the time I was reading the book and for days afterwards. I’m still thinking about it. If you’ve read this, I would love to talk about it. And if you haven’t, please consider it.

Cranberry Banana Oat Bread
I’ve made this twice lately. It’s that good. And easy.

Photographs and The MorningAndrew Osenga
Fall is time for Andy O.

Barkeeper’s Friend
I saw this on Martha Stewart’s TV show. “How do you keep your stainless steel pans looking brand new?” someone asked. Martha recommended Barkeeper’s Friend and demonstrated its cleaning power on some dirty pots. “Hmmm…” I thought. I have a wonderful set of stainless steel cookware I got for Christmas last year. But one of the pots got a brown stain cooked onto it some time ago that I had never been able to get rid of. “I wonder if this stuff would work on that stain?” I thought. So I got some Barkeeper’s Friend at Wal-Mart (under $2) and put it to work against the ugly brown spot. It scrubbed away in seconds. “You are kidding me!” I exclaimed. After all that internet research, trying different methods, and just plain elbow grease, all it took was one little can of white powder. So I’m telling you this, gentle reader, to save you the trouble I went through. Barkeeper’s Friend made all my pots and pans look shiny and new! Well, there you go, folks. It’s not called the felicity of unbounded domesticity for nothing.

Tuesday, September 26

The DA

I have to admit...this makes me a little bit giddy.

View more stills at Mugglenet.

Tuesday, September 19

When fall comes to central Mississippi

I was glad of my green sweater this morning as I rolled the trash can to the street in the early morning chill. The plants on the back deck, still wet from yesterday’s rain, looked ready to face a new day. While all my plants receive the same amount of attention, some thrive and others languish. After each rain one plant in particular looks as if it could take over the world. It floors me when I see it, its leaves seemingly twice the size they were before. I make a Kramer-like jump and gasp, “The Healthiest Plant Ever!”

Meanwhile, my mint has died on me for the second year in a row (if anyone has any mint-growing tips, please pass them on!), and the grassy plant from Eudora Welty’s garden is in its ebb. I think of it as the phoenix plant because it dries up to almost nothing before shooting out fresh green spikes and beginning over again. The first time this happened I was alarmed. After all, it’s not every girl who has a cutting from the Welty garden. What if I killed my one plant with a pedigree? As the pattern repeated, I relaxed. I know that what it really wants is to get out of its pot and into the ground, but alas, I’m a renter and must content myself with container gardening.

I find that seasons call for different kinds of reading. Nineteenth century Russian and British novels for winter (Dostoyevsky, the Brontes, Dickens), and Lucy Maude Montgomery is well suited for spring. But autumn is harder to pinpoint. I read Walker Percy’s The Second Coming last fall, and it fit perfectly. I felt Allie’s urgency to prepare her greenhouse before cold weather settled in. This year I am reminded of the Inklings—Lewis and Tolkien understood the pleasures of a chilly tramp through woods and countryside followed by propping one’s feet up in a comfy chair with tea or pipe. So I’m bumping The Narnian and The Two Towers up on my reading list.

Friday, September 8

Back in black

As I strolled up to the storefront of the Gap last night, a grin crept onto my face when I saw dear Audrey Hepburn dancing across the glass windows. At the same time I was delighted to see her, I felt a tinge of... jealousy, perhaps? Gap has no more right to appropriate her image for commercial purposes than does anyone else. If Audrey were alive, I don't know that she would tell us to shop there, and she certainly wouldn't try to persuade us that every woman needs to dress as she did. She was a firm believer in every woman finding what worked for her, and then sticking to it—though fashions will change, if you wear what is flattering, you will always be in style.

Gap is launching "the skinny black pant" this fall, and who better to show it off than Audrey Hepburn? A commercial featuring Audrey dancing out of the Parisian cafe in Funny Face onto a blank background, then back into Funny Face, is running on TV right now. Inside the store, I noticed the black pant paired with ballet flats and black turtlenecks. Audrey's clean, classic sense of style is one I've admired since the first time I saw Roman Holiday years ago. I just finished reading Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit by her son Sean Ferrer. It was a refreshing change from most Hollywood biographies; she led a simple, lovely and sad life. The book begins with her childhood in occupied Holland during World War II and ends with an account of her time working as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) ambassador, and a gentle call to action on the part of the reader.

Audrey Hepburn continues to influences us even after her death. "After so many drive-in waitresses becoming movie stars, there has been this real drought, when along come class; somebody who actually went to school, can spell, maybe even plays the piano. She may be a wispy, thin little thing, but when you see that girl, you know you're really in the presence of something," said director Billy Wilder. After my library reading and Gap shopping, I’m thinking about two things: First, what can I do to aid those in need? If unbelievers can work to help children in poverty, how much more should Christians be moved to action. Prayer first, then maybe Blood:Water Mission as a starting place. And secondly… maybe I should get some skinny black pants.

Friday, September 1

Free Derek Webb

No, this isn't a movement to get our favorite bald guitar player out of jail. Beginning today, Derek's latest album Mockingbird is available to dowload for free, in its entirety, at Why is Derek doing this? I'll let him explain that. So what are you waiting for? Head over to right now, and while you're there spread the word. After all, it's free!

Thursday, August 17

Don't mention the war!

My roommate and I hosted a German girl for a few days this week. She was visiting a friend of Sarah Jo's and gamely camped out in our living room in between visits to the Bass Pro Shop, New Orleans and the local Waffle House. Kat was very cool, fascinating to listen to, and I wish I could've gotten to talk more with her. She was so cool, in fact, that my awkwardness was all the more funny in comparison.

Yesterday evening we were sitting around the dining room table talking. Somehow the topic turned to Americans' perception of European women as not shaving their legs. "Oh no!" she exclaimed. "That's not true! Some older women, perhaps, but most younger people do. See!" she said, offering her own legs as proof. We wondered how the custom came into general practice, and I mused that it was probably during World War II, when there was a nylon shortage. American women shaved their legs and drew lines down the back to fake the look of nylon stockings. Halfway though my explanation, I thought, "Oh no! Don't mention the war!" and remembered the most popular episode of the BBC's most popular sitcom: Fawlty Towers "The Germans."

Basil Fawlty, played to perfection by John Cleese, warns everyone at the inn not to mention "the war" when he hears that a party of Germans will be coming to stay. After a head injury (my memory is fuzzy on just how he got hurt—was it a falling moose head?), Basil escapes the hospital with a head bandage that makes him look even crazier than usual. He then proceeds to break his own instructions, mentioning the war at every opportunity and upsetting his guests greatly. When they ask him to stop dwelling on it, he politely reminds them that they started it. “We did not start it,” protests the German. “Yes you did, you invaded Poland,” Basil replies. He ultimately winds up goose-stepping around the dining room, finger held to his nose and long legs flailing, in the funniest impersonation of Hitler on televsion.

All this flashed through my mind while I sat at the dining room table with Kat. "Augh! The one thing you shouldn't mention to a German, and you brought it up!" I thought. The conversation moved on, and nothing else eventful happened. Was it awkward? Yes. Was it funny? Oh, yeah.

Wednesday, August 9

Friends? I'll give you friends!

The Wonder Years is the first TV show ever to make me consider piracy. I grew up watching it with my family from beginning to end, and it holds a fond place in my heart today. I even remember watching the second episode in Clio, Alabama—my parents crying from laughing so hard at Coach Cutlip attempting to explain the facts of life to his gym class. The fans have been waiting, but Fox has yet to release The Wonder Years on DVD, and—as this article reveals—it won’t be coming out any time soon. This is due to complications with copyrights the extensive soundtrack is bound to produce.

Realistically, we can’t expect the episodes as we saw them on TV to be released on DVD without some music substitutions, but for those of us who remember songs tied directly with scenes from the show, this isn’t a satisfying solution. The Denver Post article refers to a scene my brother and I distinctly remember: Kevin climbs a tree outside Winnie’s window to look in on her after she’s been in an accident, while Bob Seger sings “We’ve Got Tonight.” Would this scene be the same without him crooning “I know it’s late/I know you’re weary/I know you’re plans don’t include me”? Certainly not! Or the summer party when it dawns on Kevin that the reason Winnie’s been acting strangely is that her parents are on the verge of splitting apart. “Are you going to Scarborough Fair?” Simon & Garfunkel softly ask, and Daniel Stern narrates, “That summer Winnie Cooper struggled to keep her head above water.” And what would The Wonder Years be without its unofficial theme song, “When A Man Loves a Woman”?

Then there are the moments that stick out in your memory, but you don’t know who was singing the song. When this happens, I turn to The Wonder Years Music Guide, as detailed a report as any OCD fan could ask for. When I think of waiting years for patched up set of episodes with replaced music, I recall a quote from Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility: "Perhaps Margaret is right. Piracy is our only option."

EDIT 1: Edited for accuracy! 8/10
EDIT 2: Watch the ending of "The Accident" on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 1

And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore

Last night I finished reading a fascinating book about Gilbert and Sullivan, whose comic operas were all the rage in the late 19th century. William S. Gilbert wrote the libretto and Arthur Sullivan composed the music for over a dozen operettas. The best known are The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance, from which my blog title comes. I've loved Gilbert and Sullivan since I first saw a performance of Pirates at USM as a kid, so it was very interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at life in Victorian England, particularly the business of entertaining. Gilbert's sharp wit and Sullivan's rousing scores complimented each other so well.

In 1878 Sullivan’s airs were heard everywhere, and Gilbert’s jokes were repeated like Napoleon Dynamite quotes. One of the best known comes from Captain Corcoran of the Pinafore:

CAPT. Bad language or abuse,
I never, never use,
Whatever the emergency;
Though "Bother it" I may
Occasionally say,
I never use a big, big D—
ALL. What, never?
CAPT. No, never!
ALL. What, never?
CAPT. Hardly ever!
ALL. Hardly ever swears a big, big D—
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more,
For the well-bred Captain of the Pinafore!

Gilbert & Sullivan and Their Victorian World says that “What, never?” “Hardly ever!” was repeated so much that the editor of a paper in which it appeared about a dozen times in a single issue roared at his writers that he never wanted to see that joke in print again. “What, never?” they replied. “Hardly ever,” he answered helplessly. You can hear a sample of the song at the Gilbert & Sullivan Archive.

If you get a chance to see a G&S performance, don't miss it! Meanwhile, here is a self-portrait Gilbert—who was known for his volatile temper and verbal barbs—made as a gift for a child. Each confession is signed "W.S. Gilbert."

I hate my fellow-man.
Everybody is an ass.
I am an overbearing beast.
I loathe everybody.
I love to bully.
I am an ill-tempered prig, & I glory in it.
Confound everything.
I like pinching little babies.

Monday, July 31

"Books...are like lobster shells..."

"...we surround ourselves with 'em, then we grow out of 'em and leave 'em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development." The title quote is from Lord Peter Wimsey in Dorothy Sayers's The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. I’ve been tagged by Micah.

1. One book that changed your life: The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard
2. One book that you've read more than once: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (what a heroine!)
3. One book you'd want on a desert island: (besides the Bible) The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
4. One book that made you laugh: Revenge of the Baby Sat by Bill Watterson (I know it’s a comic strip, but really—is there anything funnier than Calvin and Hobbes?)
5. One book that made you cry: Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (I am not proud of this fact.)
6. One book that you wish had been written: Time, Dirt and Money by Olive Ann Burns (the unfinished sequel to Cold Sassy Tree. She died before it could be completed.)
7. One book that you wish had never been written: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
8. One book you're currently reading: Gilbert & Sullivan and Their Victorian World by Christopher Hibbert
9. One book you've been meaning to read: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
10. Tag somebody: Paula

Monday, July 24

Good music comes to Jackson

Matthew Perryman Jones played at Hal & Mal's Thursday night, and I was privileged to hear him and his excellent band. I was familiar with Matthew through his contributions to the Indelible Grace albums and his membership in the Square Peg Alliance, so I was excited to hear that he was coming to Jackson. Former Normals member Cason Cooley joined him on keyboard along with a (as yet unidentified) drummer and bass player. Matthew played songs from his new album Throwing Punches In The Dark, from which you can hear a few songs here. When the last notes of every song sounded, I thought, “Oh, no—keep going!” I guess it’s good to leave your audience wanting more, but it felt more like a appetizer of MPJ (is that just too Jonathan Taylor Thomas to abbreviate?) than a full meal. Derek Webb was right when he described Matthew’s voice as “mysterious and earnest.” Mysterious indeed, and it intrigued at least this listener. Does anyone else think he looks like "Jesus" in this photo? (He didn't in person.)

Monday, July 17

"When I decide to woo a woman I won't be single."

Everybody's talkin' about it! David Hogue and Guitta Chaiban got married this weekend, surrounded by beautiful flowers, scrumptious food and drink, lovely hymns and—best of all—dear friends. When the Louisiana Hogues and Lebanese Chaibans meet, much fun ensues. I agree with Paula and Nathan; it was probably the most fun wedding reception I’ve ever attended. I love that we can have a worship service glorifying the Lord and thanking him for bringing these two together, and then have a party complete with Lebanese dancing.

One of my favorite moments from the night was just after David and Guitta pulled away in their limo. We were all standing around in the parking lot when someone’s car alarm started going off. In seconds, Guitta’s family were clapping on the off beat of the alarm and dancing in the parking lot. It was amazing.

Thursday, July 13

I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.

The Baby Name Wizard is a fun place to be if you’ve got some time to kill and have a curious mind. Type in any name, and the pink and/or blue graphs will indicate its usage per million babies as well as its overall ranking from the 1880s to the present.

I enjoy analyzing the data. What are the general trends? I’ve noticed that A names are rising in popularity. Names beginning in B remain consistent. C names for boys are on the up while names for girls are moving down. D and F names are on the downward slope. E name for both sexes were huge in the late 19th and early 20th century, and have experienced a spike upward recently. And so on and so forth.

Some names shot to the top from out of nowhere: Jason, Heather, Ethan and Jennifer—if you’re my age you probably had at least two Jennifers in your class. Some quickly fell out of favor: Barbara, Robin and…Kanye. I’m also surprised to see many names I think of only as girl names were used for boys between the 1880s and 1930s—in small numbers, mind you. But whoever heard of a boy named Doris? True to Shel Silverstein’s song, the Baby Name Wizard reports “The name SUE was not in the top 1.000 boys’ names in any decade.” Shirley for boys dropped out of the top 1,000 in the thirty years between 1930 and 1960. Paula and Tuan, I don’t know if you’ll be glad or not to know that John is at it’s lowest point ever at number 18 in 2005.

We might be surprised at some names making a comeback. Believe it or not, Hazel is on the upswing. Sonny has had a rocky history and Westley is very mysterious. Did The Princess Bride bring it out of obscurity in the 1980s? I’m pleased to note that most of my personal favorites—the ones I’m hoping to use someday—are on the low end of the popularity scale. Sure, every kid wants a spellable, pronounceable name, but who wants to be one of three Emilys in her third grade class? Maybe that's a bit reverse snobbish of me.

How does your name place? Were you named as part of a trend, or were your parents rebels?

Tuesday, July 11

It is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you.

These are words that no girl wants to hear: "You'd be perfect for Mr. Collins." I grinned with glee when I came across these BBC Pride and Prejudice quizzes yesterday, but my face soon fell when the results were tabulated. My perfect match is MR. COLLINS? Every feeling revolts! Never mind that I have the creepy wave practiced to perfection. That doesn't mean I want someone waving at me that way. Everyone knows he's the silliest man in all of England. So what prompted the BBC to come to this conclusion? I'm afraid it was my answer to this question: What does your ideal man write in his Valentine card? I answered "He doesn't give one," because I am not a big fan of Valentine's Day (we'll save the reasons why for another post). But just because I don't like Valentine's Day doesn't mean I would like Mr. Collins!

Besides, I have another reason for believing we would not go well together. It seems I am most like Lizzie, and as she said herself, "You could not make me happy, and I am convinced I am the last woman in the world who could make you so." What a relief!

So, dear readers, what are your quiz results?

Tuesday, June 20

Do my Irishmen come cheaper by the dozen?

I’ve discovered that part of the joy of rereading favorite childhood books based on real-life events is finding out more about the “true story.” What did Pa and Ma and Laura and Mary Ingalls really look like? The internet has made this kind of information much easier to find. Just do a Google image search and you’ll see that Pa really did have wild hair. (Ignore the Michael Landon pictures.)

Tonight I will finish Cheaper By the Dozen, another “based on a true story” book. My best friend Paula and I loved this story when we were growing up, so reading it makes me think of her. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth raise a family of 12 children, employing themselves as guinea pigs in motion study and efficiency. Mr. Gilbreth’s irrepressible sense of humor is unforgettable, and the book is still funny.

This time through, I realized just how intelligent and influential in the world of engineering both Mr. and Mrs. Gilbreth were. Google their names and you’ll find articles about their contributions to motion study. I get the idea that much of what we take for granted about how things work today is due to theirs and others work. That garbage can with a foot pedal, for example…

I found that Daniel Gilbreth, the fourth of the six sons, died at age 88 last week. Ernestine, Fred and Bob are the remaining three of The Dozen. The picture above shows them at The Shoe, their summer home in Nantucket, which was made from two lighthouses that were moved to flank another house.

I’ve been told that once you have three children, they take up all your time anyway, so why stop there?

Thursday, June 15

Martha, Martha

In Brian Habig’s final message at RUF Summer Conference, he read this quote from a book called Between Walden and the Whirlwind by Jean M. Fleming.
In the twenty-some years I’ve been a Christian, I’ve received instruction on and been challenged to read my Bible daily, pray without ceasing, do in-depth Bible study regularly, memorize scripture, meditate day and night, fellowship with other believers, always be ready to give an answer to the questioning unbeliever, give to missions and to the poor, work as unto the Lord, use my time judiciously, give thanks in all circumstances, serve the body using my gifts to edify others, keep a clean house as a testimony, practice gracious hospitality, submit to my husband, love and train my children, disciple other women, manage finances as a good steward, involve myself in school and community activities, develop and maintain non-Christian friendships, stimulate my mind with careful reading, improve my health through diet and exercise, color coordinate my wardrobe, watch my posture, and “simplify my life by baking my own bread.”
Those of us with perfectionist natures know just what she means. I have wondered the same thing many times (minus the husband and kids part): How in the world can I do all of this and do it well? It is easy to compare ourselves against the strengths of others and feel that we're not measuring up. Habig went on to preach on Jesus' visit to Mary and Martha's house in Luke 10. He pointed out something that I'd not thought of: how countercultural it was for Mary to sit at the rabbi's feet and learn from him. Meanwhile, Martha, who truly does believe Jesus is the Christ, is feeling the pressure to meet a standard of hospitality. But where did the pressure come from? Jesus didn't create it. It's in her own head, coming from a cultural expectation. The only thing that will make the voices of perfectionism stop, Brian Habig says, is knowing that all your doing put Jesus on the cross, and that the cloak of his righteousness is on you instead.

Listen to it here.

Friday, June 9

Slow summer

It seems that most of us are taking a summer vacation from blogging. I don't have anything insightful to say, but here's an update for my faithful readers (hey, Mama!).

While I was eating my blueberries and wheat chex outside this morning, a bug fell into my cereal bowl. That was a lot to deal with so early in the morning, but I managed to fish him out and deposit him in the trash.

I've been listening to Brian Habig's RUF Summer Conference messages on the iTunes podcast, which prompted me to make a library trip for Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor. Maybe Habig is a great speaker, or maybe he just knows how to pull from the best sources—either way, I've been enjoying these.

Last night I finished A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle and started Leaving Cold Sassy, the unfinished sequel to Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. Also in progress: Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. My brother and I read these in elementary school, and it is a relief to discover that yes, they're still funny. As long as I keep reading from the children's section, I'll make my 50 Books A Year goal easy!

Four words: Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos. I first saw this recipe on indie/Indelible Grace musician Katy Bowser's website ages ago and have been making them ever since. Beans, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat tortillas—so much fiber goodness that there's cheese on top to keep things from getting out of hand. If you make them, use less water than it calls for and let me know if you use the prepared mustard, because I don’t even know what it is.

Thursday, May 25

Andrew Osenga: The Morning

I've ordered my copy of The Morning. Have you?

Wednesday, May 17

Mother's Day

My dear friends Paula and Tuan welcomed their little (or not so little, at 8 lb., 11 oz.) man-child John Atticus yesterday afternoon. He's a handsome fellow, and all the family are doing well. I made some banana bread for the occasion. Everyone give the new parents your congratulations and read this essay on babies by G.K. Chesterton.

Thursday, May 11

Jane Eyre is everywhere!

Did you know that no fewer than eighteen movie versions of Jane Eyre have been produced? According to IMDB, the first five were silent. A 1934 version saw Jane as a platinum blond, and in 1944 Joan Fontain and Orson Welles took on the roles of Jane and Mr. Rochester. Not much information is available about the 50's and 60's versions, but in 1970, George C. Scott played Rochester. This was followed by a BBC production in 1973.

Now, rumors abound on the discussion boards at Pemberley that this was the best version of all. However, no one seems to have actually seen it. It seems pretty sketchy to me to pin all our hopes on a BBC video from the 70's, but it has recently become available on DVD for the first time. So we shall see.

I have seen the 3 most recent versions: Franco Zeffirelli directed Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt in 1996, and A&E produced a version the next year. Last night after the storm (there's nothing like ominous weather for a Bronte story) we watched the BBC's 1983 production. At first I thought "Oh, no. Four hours of atrocious sound quality and lighting design from The Young and The Restless." But Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke both delivered fine performances, and Jane Eyre is such an amazing story that I got caught up in it. At 4 hours, much of the dialogue is kept from the book, which makes me happy. Only occasionally did we say things like (as Jane and St. John walk by a stream), "Oh, no! We're not going to be able to hear them over the waterfall!"

Now I want to read the book again, and I'm looking forward to the new BBC adaptation currently in production. This one features Georgie Henley (Lucy in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) as young Jane. The press release mentions "the visionary John Eshton." Just who that is, I'm sure I don't know.

Out of 18 adaptations, none seems to have arisen as the accepted definitive version. All the ones I've seen have different strengths and weaknesses. Do you have a favorite? Can there be too much Jane Eyre? The senior boys who teased me when I read the novel for fun in 11th grade would say so. But they were idiots.

Tuesday, May 9

I'm my own grandpa

Time for another New Music Tuesday! Asthmatic Kitty announced a while back that it would release the unused material from Sufjan Stevens's Illinois as The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album! 4 of the tracks have since been leaked on the internet, and can be found various places (one is here).

I tracked them down after I saw unfamiliar track names on Sufjan's page. allows users to download a plugin that records music data from most media players. It catalogues everything and builds a music profile based on your listening habits. Neighbors are generated based on shared musical taste. This is a good system for finding new artists recommendations tailored to your past listening history. I started an account ages ago, didn't use it for a while, and had problems with data submission. Since I'd never liked my username (pseudonym27), I just decided to start over with a new account. It took about 400 tracks to generate neighbors, and I wondered if my old account would show up when they were created. Sure enough, pseudonym27 is HarrietVane's top neighbor. Too bad the only person with my musical taste is me.

So if you have an internet connection and listen to music on your computer, consider giving a try.

Friday, May 5

No, no. Do not be a hero.

Apple has released a new series of ads: Why you'll love a Mac. Watch them here. Some of them are a little stupid, but "Viruses" and "Restarting" made me laugh. Does anyone else think the actors look somewhat like a young Bill Gates and much younger Steve Jobs?

Thursday, May 4

I have no illusions about my looks. I think my face is funny.

On May 4, 1929 Audrey Hepburn was born as Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston in Brussels, Belgium. As a child during World War II, she assisted the resistance by conducting dance benefit concerts and carrying messages. Although she dreamed of being a dancer, discouragement from teachers directed her to pursue acting. She won an Academy Award for her first starring performance in Roman Holiday and went on to make such films as Sabrina, My Fair Lady, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. After retiring from acting, she became an ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund and died in 1993. She would have been 77 today. I am celebrating our shared birthday by practicing good posture, smiling graciously, speaking 6 languages, and cracking eggs with one hand. Or trying to, anyway.

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

In a recent survey by National Geographic, 48% of people between the ages of 18-24 surveyed couldn't locate the state of Mississippi on a map. One third of those surveyed couldn't identify Louisiana. Days after reading this, I'm still shocked. Even being smacked by a hurricane hasn't made the rest of the country aware of the South. The article goes on to outline plans to improve education in geography, but I'm not sure that's going to help. In my church's after school tutoring program I've been working with a 6th grader. One day we took a break from the times tables and played with a puzzle map of the United States. It had the different regions in colored blocks, and I thought it would be too easy for someone her age, but she had some trouble with it. I guess I shouldn't be, but I was surprised at how much she didn't know, and even more at how little she cared. As we moved on to labeling a blank map of the U.S., I uncomfortably realized how many states I was unsure of. I get confused in the Midwest, where everything is rectangular, and in the Northeast, where everything is so small and close together.

Although better education is necessary, the root of this problem of ignorance is that we just don't care. Most of us don't see the need to learn about things that (we think) don't concern us. Even as a I sat down to write this post, I had a hard time thinking of anything except myself, which brings to mind questions about the nature of blogs. It's easy to see how the worst become little shrines to self, the same way we tend to skip right to the supplication part of praying and forget the adoration, confession and thanksgiving. Ben and Caleb have been mulling over this some, and it's something I'm still thinking about. Meanwhile, I try not to begin posts with "Today I..."

Thursday, April 27

In which we will never use any baking powder except Rollings Reliable

Domesticity abounded last night as I devoted an entire evening to making a layer cake. At 12, I kept my family well supplied with desserts, but those days have long been gone. So it was with some excitement and trepidation that I made a careful search for a recipe with just the right balance between easy and challenging—no cake mixes, but no candy thermometers either. I finally settled on "Louella's Coconut Cake" from The Mitford Cookbook. Martha McIntosh, the editor, grew up in Mt. Olive as well, and I know she is a cook to be trusted. The whole process took about 5 hours, but before you dismiss me as completely crazy, bear in mind that this included a lot of time warming (eggs and butter to room temperature) and cooling (cake layers) and a trip to the grocery store for 8 more ounces of sour cream, as well as breaks for supper and to read The Fellowship of the Ring. The result? A gooey mound of sugar, coconut and various dairy products that will probably send us all into diabetic comas. So I plan to serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness.

Wednesday, April 26

I would like you to dance (birthday)

Twenty-three years ago today a legend was born. When Mr. and Mrs. Benson found a baby boy in their handbag after leaving the cloak room at a Clinton, Mississippi train station, they little knew how young Nathan—as they came to call him—would change theirs and other lives. Early exploits included watching cartoons and letting his imagination run away with him. Nathan later came to be known for roles such as “Great Uncle Bob,” “Kermit the Frog,” and “Cedric Diggory.” He now divides his time between Hinds and Belhaven, where he lives with his two roommates and a large pink bear.

Tuesday, April 25

New music Tuesday

Nashville musician Andrew Osenga is beginning to put songs from his upcoming album The Morning on his website. Listen to After the Garden and Santa Barbara now, because they'll only be up for a few days. The Morning releases May 16 along with a re-mastered version Photographs, his first solo album after The Normals disbanded. Photographs will also have new art, which is exciting to me because I never thought the first release looked very professional. This looks great, though—and captures the flavor of the album well. I’m still digesting the new songs, but it’s exciting to hear Andy cut loose like the rock star we know he is. Makes me think of The Normals (sniff). “I miss those days…”

Tuesday, April 18

In which every chapter is better than the one before

The quote for today comes from Andrew Osenga:

One of the greatest aches is a few moments after snapping out of a reverie. Maybe heaven is like snapping out of real life and into the reverie forever.

Monday, April 17

Goober and the art of love

There's nothing like negative publicity to pique curiosity. On Thursday I read another blog in which a guy tried taking eHarmony's free personality profile, only to discover at the end that he didn't have any matches. "No matches! Are you kidding?" I thought. And then: "I wonder if I'd have any matches." A few mouse clicks later I'm filling out a personality profile. I tried to be as honest as possible, but I did use an assumed name. How embarrassing would it be to run into someone you know on a site like that! A little over an hour later, I finish the survey. When I send my final results, a bar moves dramatically along the bottom of the screen while images of happy couples embracing and an explanation of why eHarmony is superior to other matching sites flash above.

Aaaaand... I have two matches. One is from Meridian, and the other is from Jackson. What are the odds that out of all 8 million eHarmony users, my only matches live within an hour and a half of me? This seems pretty fishy to me. Over the weekend, I seem to have become more compatible, because when I checked it this morning, I had seven more matches, about half of which were from the northeast. A couple of them sound like okay guys, but some of the language makes me laugh:
Below are some of the important interests that you and Sean share:
Oh, yeah, walking is a great way to begin a relationship! I bet he breathes and eats too!

One important thing to know about eHarmony in case you're at all interested in it—I try these things out so you don't have to—is that they make no differentiation between subscribers and those on the 7-day free trial. I have no intention of subscribing, but my matches don’t know that, and I can’t communicate with them until I fork over the money. In other words, a new user could be used as “bait” to get some guy to subscribe, only to find that he still can’t communicate with her because she was only on the free trial. I tried to remedy this situation by putting “I am not a subscriber” in my profile.

So no matter how appealing Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan make an online romance look in You’ve Got Mail, I’m not going to be jumping into the world of online dating any time soon. "Goober, you were on a date—you weren't taking medicine."

Tuesday, April 11


Overheard at Twin Lakes last weekend:

Male Guest: Did you know that R.C. Sproul was in this week?
Female Guest: (Unimpressed) Where?
Male Guest: (With confidence) Here.
Female Guest: (Now suppressed excitement) Really?

Unnamed Chaperone: Beer is the most disgusting stuff on earth, and I don't understand why anyone would want to drink it.
Me (thinking): Mmmmmmm... beer.

Thursday, March 23

Are you telling me that this sucker is nuclear?

The last time I watched Back to the Future, I made an exciting discovery. "That's your mug!" my roommate exclaimed as the camera panned across Doc Brown's untidy garage. A white Pyrex mug sat on top a stack of papers just above Einstein's overloaded dish of canned dog food. She was right; I have two mugs and four teacups in the "butterfly gold" pattern Pyrex manufactured in the 60's and 70's. I bought them at a garage sale for 10 cents each. If I had any idea of getting rid of them, it was gone now. "I have Doc's mug!" I thought gleefully.

In my spare time I like to meditate on the complexities of the space-time continuum as presented in the Back to the Future trilogy. So did Derek Webb when he was my age, judging from this journal of his from 1998. Here Derek exposes what may be called a “fatal flaw” in the logic of BTTF. He begins with a recap of the opening scene in Part II, in which Marty, Doc and Jennifer travel to 2015. While there, Marty buys a sports almanac with the idea of taking the statistics back with him to 1985. When Doc discovers this, he warns Marty that the time machine was not invented for the purpose of gambling and throws away the almanac. An aged Biff retrieves it from the trash and uses the Delorean to deliver the almanac to himself in 1955. He then returns to 2015 and slinks away. When Doc, Marty and Jennifer return to 1985, they find all the changes that have taken place since 1955 Biff was empowered with the almanac (i.e. rampant wickedness). Derek continues:
doc puts together what, this is important: marty suggests that they simply go into the future and make sure old biff doesn't get the book, so that way he can't go back and give it to himself. doc then correctly points out to marty that if they go into the future of that point and time that they will be in the future of THAT POINT AND TIME. in other words, there's no point in going into the future from where they are, because in reality biff is already powerful and possesses the almanac. doc shows with a diagram how when old biff gave himself the sports almanac he altered future reality, and it skewed off into a tangent reality which he labeled "1985 alt." rather, doc and marty would have to find out when exactly young biff (from 1955) received the sports almanac, go back in time to that point, and keep him from getting it. interestingly, doc then says they'll have to let old biff (from the future) think that he succeeded in giving himself the almanac so that he'll leave with the time machine and return the vehicle to 2015.

all the pins are now in place; if i may, allow me to knock them down.

…if the rules that doc brown set up in the above scene are true, then doc and marty would have been stuck in 2015 trying to get the young jennifer and get back to 1985, and none of the rest of this could have happened…here's the problem: ...once old biff got to 1955 and successfully gave himself the almanac, there's absolutely no way that he could have gotten back to where (or i should say WHEN) he started. he would be trying to do exactly what doc brown just told marty that they couldn't do. at the point where the biff from 1955 possessed the almanac, old biff had altered future history. he created an alternate reality that would at that moment be in operation. if he tried to get back in the delorean and go back to the year 2015 where he was a poor defeated old man, he would've be able to do it. he could only go into the future of the alternate reality that he had created the moment he handed himself that book.

i hope you are beginning to see the problem... doc, marty, and jennifer would either be stranded there in the future with no transportation home, or disappear from existence altogether (a threat that we saw in the first movie with the picture that marty had of himself and his brother and sister on vacation).
It's an excellent point: once a change is made, there is no going forward to the circumstances you left. We see a positive example of this in the first movie, when Marty returns to 1985 to find his father's annoying laugh erased...from existence. Yet the point raises more questions on the nature of time travel:

Could the Delorean be classified as a sort of cloning device? Example: Marty watches himself outrace terrorists at the Twin Pines Mall. Has Marty's DNA been replicated?

And the converse: how does the process of being erased from existence occur? We see Marty's siblings slowly fade from a photograph and Marty himself begin to disappear while playing the guitar. If Marty had been erased, would not the traumatic experience of watching that happen have had further life-altering consequences on the people at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance?

And finally, why does Doc Brown look the same no matter how old or where in time he is? Has he discovered a process for halting or slowing down the aging process, which he keeps from Marty? Did he share it with Principal Strickland, who also seems not to age?

If you have any insight or ruminations on these or other time-travel questions, by all means—do share.

Wednesday, March 15

Maniac Magee and the kingdom of God

In my library visits lately I've been sticking mostly to the children's section. It occurred to me a while back that it wouldn't be a bad idea to read more of the Newberry Medal books. Last night I finished the 1991 winner, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.

Jeffrey Lionel Magee is orphaned at a young age, and when he can't stand to live with his loveless aunt and uncle any longer, he runs away (literally) and begins a new life. When he runs into a new town, he quickly becomes known among the other kids, who give him the name "Maniac"; he runs like the wind and can catch anything. He becomes a legend for his ability to untie any knot, running on railway lines, knocking inside-the-park homeruns and other crazy things—like always having a book under his arm, doing dishes without being told, and his utter disregard for the division between East End and West End.

Maniac lives a reckless life. He’s constantly searching for a home, someplace to be his address. Until he finds it, he stays with a black family, an old man, the buffalo pen at the zoo, and a broken home with three white boys and a drunken father. What struck me most about Maniac’s personality, which is irresistibly appealing to most (but not all) of the people with whom he comes in contact, was his utter fearlessness. He does all these crazy things that no one else dares because he’s not afraid of the outcome. He not only sits in the yard of the most feared man in town, but knocks on his door, converses with him and comes back laughing.

“All Christians should be like this,” I thought suddenly. “Our lives should be characterized by a lack of fear.” Maniac lives and loves recklessly, knowing he has the freedom to love across differences—whether they be race, age, or socio-economic. Because of that, he stands out, and everyone wants to be with him.

This is hard for me to get my head around because I am so prone to worry. I have worried for as long as I can remember, and it’s difficult to imagine what my life would look like without any fear in it. But reading a book like this gives me something to start with. When Maniac Magee lives fearlessly, his friends fall in love with him, and his enemies become his friends.

Monday, March 6

A series of unrelated links

The group of Nashville musicians I enjoy have banded together in a who-knows-how-much more organized form to become the Square Peg Alliance. Their first show together was last Wednesday; photos can be seen here.

Visit Donald Miller's website to hear him read the first chapter of his latest book To Own a Dragon to a live audience. Funny stuff.

I saw this interactive personality test on Caleb's blog and thought it would be interesting. What do you, dear readers, think of me? No, really...I want to know! It also made me think of the name game in Lemony Snicket's The Slippery Slope:

Rather handy in the kitchen
Limited atonement (wait--wrong acrostic)

The words don't have to actually describe you. They don't even have to be adjectives. Try it; it's fun!

The bonus quote for today is from Leo Tolstoy: "A Frenchman is self-assured because he regards himself personally both in mind and body as irresistibly attractive to men and women."

EDIT: Here's one more. I found this awesome video of The Simpsons opening acted out by real people. The band teacher looks just like his cartoon counterpart, but Marge's hair isn't blue. Or very tall.

Thursday, March 2

Even better than the Soggy Bottom Boys

"This must be the fun thing for Presbyterians to do," my friend said last night as we sat waiting for Alison Krauss and Union Station to take the stage. Every few minutes, someone else we knew would amble in the balcony entrance.

Whether you're Presbyterian or not, it was a great show. Alison and the Station sounded clear and sharp, although their between-songs banter was hard to pick up from where I was sitting. Perhaps that's just as well. I know more now about near-geographically-extinct elk in Tennessee than I needed to. They played a good many songs from their latest release, Lonely Runs Both Ways, and most of the hits from past records. Jerry Douglas, perhaps the best dobro player alive today, brought down the house with a medley of tunes from his most recent record, The Best Kept Secret. Wow...that man can play.

And I don't have to tell you that Alison can sing. They ended with rollicking rendition of "Oh, Atlanta," followed by on encore of "Down to the River to Pray" and "A Living Prayer." Oh, it was lovely.

Monday, February 27

We shall meet, but we shall miss him

It's just now beginning to sink in that Don Knotts is gone. When he left The Andy Griffith Show after five straight Emmy-winning seasons, it never recovered from the loss of it's funniest cast member even though it finished its run in the number one spot. In a sea of situation comedies with forced humor, TAGS stood out as a character driven comedy. We laugh at Barney, not because he told a joke, but because Barney is funny.

I was raised on The Andy Griffith Show, and a more healthy TV diet couldn't be found. The quotes are so embedded in my memory that they come unbidden in everyday life--whether it's a party with friends ("Dogs, Andy, nothing but Dogs. If you flew a quail throw this room, every woman in here would point."); checking the rearview mirror before backing out of a parking space ("Any old tramps down there?"); or remembering spelling rules ("I before E except after C, and E before N in chicken").

Thank you, Don Knotts, for working hard to keep Mayberry from becoming a regular sin town...and for keeping us laughing.

ANDY: I'd say we're better off than a lot of people. Got a roof over our heads, Aunt Bee--finest food you ever put in your mouth--Barney for a friend. Yeah, in some ways I'd say we are rich.

BARN: You see Opie, it ain't only the materialistic things in this world that makes a person rich. There's love and friendship...That can make a person rich.

Thursday, February 23

Tonight in the line at the merchandise store

Christ is still haunting the South. If you need a reminder of this, just go to a Wal-Mart in Mississippi on a Wednesday night. I went last night for groceries and noticed that the attendance was way down from the usual weekday crowd. "Where is everybody?" I thought. Then it dawned on me: they're at church. I'm usually there myself on Wednesdays, but Redeemer called off activities due to their missions conference this weekend. I was mulling over the significance of this when I passed the book section. I noticed that it was divided into three main areas with shiny cardboard signs above each. They were: Magazines, Romance, and Bibles.

Although Wal-Marts stock basically the same items, there is some variation with different locations. For example, the Flowood Wal-Mart has a wider selection of Asian ingredients than the Richland location. They know what sells, and if it doesn’t, they don’t keep it. So what does this mean for the magazines, romance novels and Bibles? Something tells me that's not the general reading categories in the Wal-Marts of, say, New York or Los Angeles.

Tuesday, February 14

The moon was bright this weekend

If you’ve ever looked at a Madeleine L’Engle bibliography and thought, “The Chronicles of Narnia reading-order debate is nothing to the confusion of the Murry-O’Keefe-Austin storylines,” do not be alarmed. You are not alone. I read the “time quartet” about the Murry family (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, Many Waters and A Swiftly Tilting Planet) years ago, and decided last week that it was time to tackle the other stories. After some internet research to clear up the mystery of In What Order Do I Read Madeleine L’Engle’s Books, I bravely selected The Moon by Night and took it to the library front desk. I say bravely because I’ve chickened out of checking out this particular book before, embarrassed by the 80’s teenagers holding hands on the cover.

Yes, Madeleine L’Engle does write in the “teen fiction” genre—in The Moon by Night a 14-year-old girl is pursued by two 18-year-old guys—but she transcends it, and what would be forgettable fluff in someone else’s hands becomes something to contemplate. Especially when your pastor preaches on the very same ideas the next day.

The Moon by Night takes its title from Psalm 121:
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

While on a cross-country camping trip with her family, Vicky Austin meets Zachary Gray, whose background and philosophy are very different from everything she’s grown up hearing. In the course of the story, Vicky tries to reconcile the evil that is so obviously in the world—the Jewish holocaust, for example—and the Biblical promise that God will watch over his people. Anne Frank’s mother prayed this psalm, and she died in a concentration camp. So while the book is a coming of age/summer romance story, it is also a meditation on the sovereignty and goodness of God. How can a good God allow these things to happen, and how can a God who allows them be good? L’Engle doesn’t answer these questions neatly, but allows room for the eyes of faith to see things differently.

I had been mulling over these things all weekend when I sat down in the pew on Sunday evening. So I couldn’t help grinning when our pastor began his message on what psalm? 121. The sovereignty of God, huh? He went on to say that we lie when we say that there is no danger, or that we have no fears because, after all, we’re Christians. We lie when we think those problems we do have can be solved with a formula (most “Christian fiction” is particularly bad about telling us this). We also lie when we think that God doesn’t care. God is too wise to be mistaken, and too good to be unkind.

In thinking about Zachary Gray, who is probably my favorite character in The Moon by Night despite his flaws, I realized that to communicate with an unbeliever—or anyone, really—we need to be honest and quick to listen. Zachary was drawn to Vicky, even though he thought faith in God in the face of evil was absurd. Would he have kept hanging around her if, the moment he challenged her belief, she started quoting scripture that “proved” he was wrong? When I was reading, at first I thought, “Come on, Vicky. Say something. There are answers for these questions.” But now I’ve come to see that listening was one of the best things she could have done.

Thursday, February 2

Movies about books

Warner Brothers announced today that filming for Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix will begin next week. More big news is the casting of the role of Luna Lovegood. Evanna Lynch, of Ireland, was chosen from among 15,000 UK teenagers in an open casting call three weeks ago. She seems to be a huge Harry Potter fan, judging from the fact that she was first in line at the bookstore the day The Half Blood Prince was released. Mugglenet also reports that Tonks, Bellatrix Lestrange, Delores Umbridge and Mrs. Figg have been cast.

Disney announced yesterday that pre-production work for Prince Caspian has begun. This press release indicates that Andrew Adamson will direct again, and the four children will return. It's set for a Christmas 2007 release.

Friday, January 6

Why, he's only a great cat after all

There is an excellent article posted today at about the marketing campain selling The Chronicles of Narnia, to Christians, and what we can learn from Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. Read it here.