Saturday, November 24, 2012

Far Too Easily Pleased

Now I am thinking about this:

If you asked twenty good men to-day
what they thought 
the highest of the virtues, 
nineteen of them would reply, 

But if you asked almost any 
of the great Christians of old 
he would have replied, 

You see what has happened? 
A negative term 
has been substituted for a positive, 
and this is of more than philological importance. 

The negative ideal of Unselfishness 
carries with it the suggestion 
not primarily of securing good things for others, 
but of going without them ourselves, 
as if our abstinence 
and not their happiness 
was the important point.

I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. 

The New Testament has lots to say 
about self-denial,
but not about self-denial as an end in itself.

We are told to deny ourselves 
and to take up our crosses 
in order that we may follow Christ; 
and nearly every description 
of what we shall ultimately find if we do so
contains an appeal to desire. 

If there lurks in most modern minds 
the notion that to desire our own good 
and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it 
is a bad thing, 
I submit that this notion has crept in 
from Kant and the Stoics 
and is no part of the Christian faith. 

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward 
and the staggering nature of the rewards 
promised in the Gospels, 
it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, 
not too strong, 
but too weak. 

We are half-hearted creatures,
fooling about with drink and sex and ambition 
when infinite joy is offered us,
like an ignorant child 
who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum 
because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer
of a holiday at the sea.

We are far too easily pleased.

C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory

I'd Rather Have Jesus

I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I'd rather be His than have riches untold,
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I'd rather be led by his nail-pierced hand--
I've been thinking lately about "Jesus and..."  Am I like that?  Do I need a value-added Savior in order to be content?
I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause,
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I'd rather be true to His holy name--
The list above contains earthly things, but I could make a spiritual list... Jesus and a commercial-free Christmas, Jesus and like-minded friends, Jesus and a loving family.  Is Jesus enough if I am forced to live in a world that rejects Him?  I know He is, but do I believe it?
He's fairer than lilies of rarest bloom,
He's sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He's all that my hungering spirit needs,
I'd rather have Jesus and let Him lead--
I have many of these other things, but am I willing to lose them and still worship Christ?

Christ is enough.  I believe it.  I haven't had much testing, though.  I pray that, whatever the future holds, the Lord will teach me that His grace is sufficient.

(Lyrics from "I'd Rather Have Jesus", written by Rhea F. Miller, 1894-1966.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Good Morning Christmas Playlist

Our "Good Morning Playlist" has been a household success.  We are now auditioning Christmas tracks to insert between our regular favorites.  As before, the music must have the ability to jump-start our morning, which excludes much contemplative Christmas music.  (I love it but it doesn't get the kids going.  I mean, they love it too, but not in the morning.)  Here is the hour-long Spotify playlist thus far, subject to change without notice!  Our regular tracks are in bold:

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (Mannheim Steamroller)
Every Knee Shall Bow (Twila Paris)
Christmas Don't Be Late (The Chipmunks)
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) (The Proclaimers)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (T-Bone Burnett)
Beautiful Day (U2)
Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley)
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas (Gayle Peevey)
O Come All Ye Faithful and Joy to the World (Canadian Brass)
Mary's Little Boy Child (Harry Connick, Jr.)
I Wonder as I Wander (John Rutter/Cambridge Singers)
O Holy Night (Bing Crosby)
Chorus Finale on Schiller's Ode to Joy from Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)
A Mad Russian's Christmas (Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
Walking on Sunshine (Katrina and the Waves)

Note the last three songs-- the last fifteen minutes remind us to do our last things and get into the living room for Bible or out the door for our appointments!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


My family's gratitude list:
  • For church family, how comforting they are when you're sad
  • I am thankful for Skittles (the cat) reminding us to stay humble
  • Eternal life
  • Piano students
  • The art museum
  • My (birthday) party
  • Essay almost finished!
  • I am thankful for Vivaldi during math
  • My awesome wife
  • Friends and family
  • School 
  • My awesome kids
  • Cornflower! (on her birthday)
  • Cornflower again :)
  • Cornflower once more :D
  • My wonderful home
  • Proper food, clothing and shelter
  • Understanding teachers
  • School (different student)
  • Preservation (Bible doctrine)
  • The right to vote
  • Skittles
  • Honest and good leaders
  • Life
  • MUSIC!
  • The opportunity to homeschool my kids
  • Health
  • Liberty
  • Grandparents
  • Music
  • The pursuit of happiness
  • Silly kitties
  • I did good at drama club
  • Activities
  • Freedom of speech
  • Music (We love music!)
  • The right to keep and bear arms
  • Weird blots that look like rosebuds
  • Jesus
  • Cotillion
  • God
  • _______ College called me!
  • The Bible
  • Clean-smelling girlies
  • Flowers
  • Cats who don't bite
  • Chocolate
  • Exams (Will wonders never cease?)
  • Indoor plumbing-- hot and cold running water
  • Tape flags
  • Our hymn-singing heritage
  • The Resurrection
  • No tobacco dependency
  • Fall weather and color
  • Warm boots
  • Homemade pie
  • Singing
  • _______ (a best friend)
  • Music
  • Cleaning supplies.  Weird, I know, but how would we clean without them?
  • The ability to give
  • Good coffee
  • Clean carpet
  • I slept in!
  • Gnocchi
  • Family
  • The freedom to homeschool
  • Paper
  • Bacon
  • Christ who paid it all
  • Technology
  • Medical care
  • Justice
  • Music (again!)
  • Second chances
  • I have a job
  • New media/real journalists

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Carpets, College and Snowflake Dancers

I cleaned the carpets.  They look cleaner.  The Warrior Poet says 85% cleaner.  There are still spots.  I think it is more like 80%, but we agree that this nine-year-old beige builder-grade carpet has moved up to a 'B' in terms of cleanliness.

It took 7.5 hours.  My fingers are still sore from pushing the little red button, pulling the machine and picking hair out of the scrippy-scrubby brush.  We have tons of long hair at our house and it all lands on the carpet.  Our vacuum cleaner hardly picks it up.  Today I will be down on my hands and knees brushing the dining room rug.  I'm happy to do it.  I've wanted to take care of it, lo, these many months.

So.  Clean carpet.  Brushed rug.  I may even mop the linoleum today.  Then all my floor will look good at the same time.  Give me one moment in time when I'm all that I thought I could be.  Hee hee.

After cleaning carpets, I always like to go to my parents' house and sing hymns.  So there you go.  Monday evening we visited my folks, ate pre-Thanksgiving dinner and sang at least two hours.

Sopapilla cheesecake.  Yum.

Yesterday I contacted college admissions offices.  Aravis is really doing this thing.  Eee!   Three schools are waiting on documents. Two schools have everything needed.  One school said Aravis would most likely hear something by mid-December.  We submitted almost everything electronically.  Wild.  I am mailing two official paper transcripts today for the schools that require them.  I included, "Official" in the transcript title, signed the bottom, sealed the envelopes, and signed across the seals.  The admissions counselors said we did not need to have them notarized or stamped with a school seal.  High school homeschooling moms live for such inside info.  I realized yesterday I'll be doing this for the next nine years, Lord willing.  By the end of it, I may know as much about getting into college as a high school guidance counselor.

Today I will brush the rug, make gnocchi and pecan pie, hang Aravis' senior pictures, crack the whip on Mariel's final few exam questions (she was sick during exam week), think about tweaking school assignments for the new term, and put the rest of the furniture back in order.  Today I do everything I was hoping to do the entire week, lol.

Tomorrow we feast at Grammy's house.

On Black Friday we will get out Christmas decorations.  We are poor shoppers at the best of times. We dare not venture out during the competitive shopping Olympics.  Scary.  Instead, we decorate.  I think these snowflake dancers would look fantastic hanging from our dining room chandelier.  Of course, the directions are in Russian.  I think.  Anyway, I cannot read them.  I hope one of my crafty children will figure out the elegant little things.  And if I can't have them in my home, at least they exist somewhere.

Thus begins the season of gratitude and peace.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Amadeus: a cautionary tale of pride and lust

Last night Mariel and I watched Amadeus.  (I recommend parental preview before watching with your kids to verify that it meets family viewing standards.)  Last time I watched it I think I was fourteen or fifteen years old.  I got so much more out of it this time.  I think Mariel, who is fifteen, got more out of it too than I did when I was her age.  (Further evidence of her superior education...)

I want to talk about the fictional Salieri.  (He was a real person, but the storyline in Amadeus is fictional.) He was court composer to the Emperor of Austria-- the Holy Roman Emperor, as he was known.

In the movie, young Salieri has a strange idea.  He thinks humans are in a position to bargain with God.  He vows that if God will make him a great composer, he will be completely chaste, humble and industrious, glorifying God in all his music.

Well, the Lord does not choose to do that, although Salieri thinks at first that he has.

He thinks God has answered his vow by causing his father to die.  He calls the death a miracle that changed him from "a frustrated boy in an obscure little town" to a citizen of Vienna, the city of musicians.

Salieri seems to have always been a bit off.

Anyway, he becomes court composer and honors his vow of chastity, industry and humility.  He is a good composer, but not a great one.  He also admires Mozart, whom he had never met.  Then they do meet, and Mozart turns out to be a vulgar, low, common person.  Salieri is appalled.

Apparently Salieri has made some rules about who is allowed to be amazing and who is not and God is not honoring his standards.

He tries to deny the genius of Mozart's music, but he cannot.  Time and time again he is astonished at its brilliance.  God is allowing this disgusting man to create beauty.

(At this point in the movie I wonder why Salieri does not realize his own presumption and pride, but it is always easier to discover another's sin than to comprehend your own.)

Actually, Mozart seems to me a person with both good and bad points.  Sadly, his daemons overcome his virtues in the end.  This is a tragedy.  And Salieri, who is in a position to help, instead succumbs to his own daemons and participates in Mozart's demise.  This is also a tragedy.  Mozart trusts him to the end, although Mozart's wife most emphatically does not.  She sees Salieri's true heart early in the movie.

Blinded by envy, Salieri is never willing to be a part of the beauty by helping Mozart.  Far from helping, Salieri actually encourages Mozart's madness by pretending to be the ghost of his father, whom Mozart believes is tormenting him into writing a Requiem.  Mozart eventually dies.  Salieri ends his life in the madhouse.  The one gave himself up to decadence and the other to pride.

I wonder what the Lord had to say to them in Heaven?  "Welcome.  Your sins are forgiven.  I love you and died for both of you.  I grant you peace.  Torment yourselves no more, but live with me in glory."

Oh, that they had allowed themselves the enjoyment of the earnest of that inheritance on earth!

(My apologies for the several updates.  Darn these tenses!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life as a Raid or Great Adventure

What is right with the world has nothing to do with future changes, but is rooted in original realities."
--G.K. Chesterton, What is Right with the World

The news is depressing.  Strangely, I almost wish it was already January 1st.  I just want to know what is going to happen with the fiscal cliff.  And what will happen in the next decade with foreign issues like terrorism and domestic issues like healthcare.  Worry, worry, worry.  I need to stop reading the news so much.  I do not need up-to-the-minute coverage.

I already know what is ultimately going to happen.  The Lord will come in the clouds and every knee shall bow and we will all go to live with him in glory.  Before that, we will live on earth and deal with the good and evil under the sun and be delivered in or through trouble.  "In this world you will have tribulation, but be not dismayed. I have overcome the world."  We will draw closer to him or we will rebel.  He will sustain us through pain and sorrow or we will forget him and lose that earnest of our inheritance.  Yet when we die we will be with him.  Who or what can separate us from Christ Jesus?  No one and no thing.  Not even our very own selves.  Let me not forget this.  But if I do forget-- I am a sinner, Lord help my unbelief! I will still ultimately be united with my Savior.

Do I really need detailed information on what will happen in the coming months?

Chesterton, again:  "We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults. The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one's life. But anyone who shrinks from this is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being."

What high town am I assaulting with my existence if I whine and fret?

I must fly in the face of gloom.  I am off to make beds and do dishes and wash clothes and generally redeem household things and comfort family and friends.  Open siege on disorder!  Let me know when my strength is required for greater things; right now I am building my house.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I want to post more.  A lot of life is happening at our house.  Some I can share and some I cannot.  I wonder if I can post every day for the next few weeks?  If I do, and I hope I will, my posts will probably contain meandering thoughts rather than anything coherent.  Bear with me. :)

This morning we read Ann Voskamp's post, "When Your Christmas Stretches You".  I highly recommend it.  We generally do not have the hectic Christmas most people experience.  Some of our family do not celebrate Christmas and most of them live far, far away.  We visited them last year and this year will stay home.

Without going into much detail, I will say my family is dealing with hardship right now.  I've been open on this blog about our debt, and thankfully we are pretty much finished paying it off.  We have a few doctor bills and a family loan that should be done in a couple months, provided our income level stays the same.

Our income has been going down for the last couple years.  It continues to slide.  This is one sad thing that is happening to us.  Dave Ramsey would say we have an income problem, not a budget problem.  The amazing part is that we are still current on our bills.  I don't know how long that will last, but I know who holds tomorrow.

The reason for the income problem is the Warrior Poet's health.  He is a salesman and is struggling to sell while in pain from back problems.  I have taken on quite a few piano students to offset the loss.  I now teach every weekday afternoon but Friday.  I love it.  I can't believe I get to do something I love to help us through this tribulation.  It feels like cheating to me.

This thought makes me realize that I do not really believe God delights in giving good gifts to his children.  It isn't cheating that God gave me a love of music and parents that could afford to let me take piano lessons and who left me alone to develop my skill without a lot of nagging.  It is a gift from God that I do not deserve but that he was delighted to give me.  God is still giving to me and helping me give to my family in a way that expands my soul.  Nurturing my students' love of music is a soul-expanding exercise as well as a discipline and I get to do it almost every day.  How glorious.

Back to Christmas.  I don't really know what is going to happen this year.  My parents gave us a tree since we aren't going to visit the Christmas tree farm.  They even gave us pine-scented air freshener so the house will smell right.  No, I do not deserve it.  That is why it is called a gift.  Not cheating or being lazy. Why do I think like that?

I pray that the Lord will help me defeat this devilish thought and see his good gifts for what they are.  Satan, get thee behind me.  It is true that the life of grace stretches us, like Ann says.  I don't feel like I am living all that graciously, but the Lord is stretching me, teaching me to give up expectations, to await his gifts with open hands and no requirements, either for my work or for his gifts.  No deal-breakers, because I am not bargaining with God nor am I earning my way.  My work should be my love for him manifest in action.

My dreams have to become his dreams, perhaps my dream of our life is not what he has for us.  Like Heidi, I have to give up my hoarded basket of hard, stale bread and wait on the Lord, who brings fresh loaves, enough for today's meal and a promise of more tomorrow.

Another thing.  Many people are dealing with worse problems than ours.  I cannot tell you the hardships some of our close friends have to walk through.  I feel guilty that I am so upset about our situation.  We are all together.  We are all healthy, except the Warrior Poet's back.  Our family and friends are showing God's love to us, constantly helping us.  I am a dramatic worrier, that is true.  I need help replacing that worry and the guilty feeling that follows.  It is true we will not be satisfied until we are in the presence of the Lord, but I want to take life minute by minute and rejoice in the Lord and the little things while working like anything to improve our lot.  Lord, help me to do it, and not to glory in my work!  But to glory in your provision.  And help me to love my friends that are experiencing hardships, to be your hands and feet for them.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Building a Tree

Today we went to the Kimbell for a lesson on architecture.  Little La's building intrigued me, so I am breaking the bloggy silence with a photo essay.

Building is much more friendly with two.  

"What is it going to be?"  
"A redwood tree."

Toothpick branches

Tissue, toothpicks and glue

It begins to resemble a tree.


To be continued, perhaps...