Sunday, December 27, 2009

Surprised by Beauty

At the health care facility where I work, I'm daily confronted by sights, smells, and moans that are unspeakably sad. But surprisingly often, there are also scenes that bring tears to my eyes for their astonishing beauty. I want to stop in my tracks, circle my forefinger and thumb over my eye and frame the image in memory. I'll stand there wishing that I were a skilled and artistic photographer who could capture these moments that would inform and surprise the world. For who knew there could be as much beauty in a nursing home as in a museum, a cathedral, or a garden?

While observing these vignettes on the strength of the human spirit, I'll think of my friend Rodney Slate who actually is a skilled and artistic photographer, and wish he were there to document the images I'm seeing. His photographs tell strong and beautiful stories. Like the one above of his mother's hands.

If Rodney were there, I imagine he would capture the soft winter light falling on Mr. and Mrs. Hunt*. He'd probably focus on the familiar way the husband is holding his wife's hand. You'd see 52 years of loving still in Mr. Hunt's eyes. And you would sadly notice that emotion is missing from his wife's. In Mrs. Hunt's face, all that remains is a greater contentment in her husband's presence.

Another beautiful image could be captured of Corrine with her daughter. Corrine suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. One time I asked her if she'd like to go listen to some music and she replied, "On this planet?" I usually don't laugh at such lapses in cognition (or was it?) but that one had me chuckling. Corrine's daughter doesn't laugh though. She battles the foe of dementia for her mother with all the strength and determination of a heavy-weight prize fighter.

She constantly talks to her mother about family and friends, local and world events. To hear only the daughter's side of the conversation, you'd think Corrine was busy whipping up Christmas dinner for twenty back in her own kitchen.

I overheard one of these one-sided conversations a few days before Christmas. Corrine's daughter was showing her gifts that were going to be from Corrine. The daughter held up a herringbone monogrammed scarf and asked, "Do you think Aunt Martha would like this one? Oh, good. Let's wrap it up for her." I can't begin to describe all the love in that, but Rodney could capture it. You'd see the sweet yet steely desperation for normalcy in the daughter's eyes--the entertained but somewhat vacant look in the mother's. You'd see this woman courageously fighting to keep her mother with her one more day and you'd feel blessed to witness such determined love.

And then there's Ira. He's so frail and slow and bent over that you wonder how he even takes care of himself. Yet you can set your watch by this man. He comes to feed his non-responsive wife each meal as he has done every day for three years. Ira should be on magazine covers like a sports hero; paparazzi should follow him around to show the world how real men keep promises. Ira is a quiet soul; he doesn't converse much with staff or even look around. With head down, he walks straight to Rosemary. Three times a day. If Rodney were there, I'd ask him to record this image--Ira walking toward his wife.

How I wish Rodney had been there last Thursday when a bunch of rowdy kids from the YMCA sang Christmas Carols. Teenagers were in charge of them, and at first I thought how I would've managed things differently. But I would have been wrong. Their performance was lovely in all its spontaneous glory--like a field of wildflowers on a breezy day. There was one little girl whose straight red hair was cut in a pixie. She smiled a lot and added hand motions to some of the words--whenever the spirit moved her. What a little character. What a unique expression of God's goodness.

But the scene I most wanted Rodney to capture was when the kids couldn't think of any more songs and a leader said, "Okay, tell everyone bye." The crowd of 25 kids charged out into the wheelchairs and started hugging people. The old faces beamed and grew younger behind the embraces of this wild and happy choir. I even saw overjoyed tears wetting the cheeks of the ever-silent Molly after nuzzles from the feisty strangers.

This crazy little thing we call "love" is the most powerful force in the universe. It's the only power on earth that "never fails" according to Saint Paul. Maybe it doesn't always change things exactly like we want. But change things it most certainly does.

* All names have been changed to protect privacy.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Everyday Greatness by Stephen Covey -- Good Read, Good Reference

This is a very strong compilation of essays and quotations from a variety of people such as Maya Angelou, Thoreau, da Vinci, and Chuck Norris. The material is organized under categories such as respect, responsibility, perseverance, and gratitude. Amidst these mostly character development sections, I especially liked the final selection called "Blending the Pieces" which included essays and quotes on balance, simplicity and renewal.

The book is interesting enough to read straight through (in small doses), but would also make a great reference book for speakers or writers needing topical quotes. Though published by Thomas Nelson, Everyday Greatness does not exert an overtly Christian emphasis. The material does, however, strongly represent Christian values.

I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Heart Wide Open

Through the miracle that is Facebook, I recently connected with my favorite friend from back in the day--Karen Wiley Slate. We've been having a great time together after our ah-hem-cough-cough...--ty year hiatus. There are many things I love about Karen, but this one tops the list: She lives with her heart wide open and comes right out and says things, beautiful things like . . .

You are a dear friend.
It is a blessing that God brought us together again.
You are such a good writer.
I wonder if God has something in store for us to do together.
I love you.

Gulp. Why can't I say things like that? First? And she does it as easily as breathing. Thirty years can do things to people. Hearts can close up. Not Karen's. Karen's free-wheeling heart is a work of art.

And she doesn't just say things. She does things too. She made this amazing brunch for me one Sunday morning, just to celebrate our getting back together. Beautiful, huh. And there was fresh thyme sprinkled on the cantaloupe.

John Mayer's, "Say" reminds me of Karen and the way she speaks her heart without fear.

Oddly enough, Anne Lamott's instructions for writing a first draft remind me of her too. In Bird by Bird, Lamott says it's important to write a "shitty first draft"--to spew out exactly what is in your heart, just say the words, not caring about eloquence or grammar or anything. Then you have something real and worthy to work with. Karen lives this way, but somehow manages to skip the shitty part, going straight to eloquent.

I'm sure it's a gift. I'm hoping some of it will rub off on me.

Long live Facebook!

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

While working with screenwriters on the film version of his autobiographical book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller observed that his life really wasn't very interesting. He began striving to give his life the elements inherent in all good stories: conflict, heroism, sacrifice, and ultimately--meaning.

It's a fascinating journey that Miller takes us on. He begins by making major changes in his life: improving relationships, facing long-held fears, exercising his ice cream- and TV-loving body, setting and accomplishing specific and challenging goals--like hiking the Inca trail, biking across the country, and meeting his father.

It's all done in Miller's self-deprecating, insightful, humorous, think-about-God-in-a-way-you-never-did-before style. The book is entertaining and encouraging, but mostly, it is challenging. To think about one's life on earth as a story--with a beginning, middle and end, exerts a certain pressure to get it right.

One of my favorite lessons from the book is when Miller explains the screenwriter's tool for developing dramatic, memorable scenes. Miller tells the story of a family who when guests pull away from the dock at their lake house, the whole family surprises and thrills the departing guests by waving goodbye and then jumping into the lake--fully clothed. Maybe I won't ever bike across the country, but hey, I could jump into a lake with my clothes on. I could make a scene or two.

I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

Saturday, September 19, 2009

MeeMaw for an Hour!

I got to be Hannah's MeeMaw on Friday and it was so much fun! Since neither Tommie nor Mike could make it this year, Hannah asked me to come to Grandparent's Day at her school. I got to tell a story about Hannah to her class.

I told about the time that Roxie asked Hannah and Beth to help her put her false teeth back in. Beth just gagged, but sweet little Hannah said, "I'll find someone who can help you!"

This girl is the sweetest!!!

She's pointing to her message to me, "I love you Aunt Carol, Love Hannah".

I love you too, Hannah!!

Thank you, Hannah, for a wonderful time at your school! It was an honor to stand in for your MeeMaw for a little while!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Elvis Impersonator Impersonates God

David Chaney recently performed his Elvis Tribute at the nursing home where I volunteer. He was so convincing as the King of Rock 'n' Roll that one astonished little lady leaned over to me and remarked, "I thought he was dead."

High praise for the impersonator and for Piedmont Crossing--supposing that they'd swing not only for Moon Pies and RC colas, but an afternoon concert with the real Elvis Presley to boot. Whether or not these precious folks from the greatest generation were aware of exactly who was performing, all of them had the best time I've ever witnessed them having.

They were young again. They flirted with Elvis. Flirted with one another. They chair-danced like I do in the car when no one's watching. Some could really put on the moves.

During Burning Love, Elvis pointed straight out at Ernie* and sang:

He's a hunka-hunka burnin' luh-uv,
Yeah, he's a hunka-hunka burnin' luh-uv.

Because of the way Ernie's eyes flashed back at Elvis, I could see it. Totally. Ernie, with his strong jaw, deep-set eyes, and mischievous grin was once somebody's major love machine. Now, I like to greet Ernie with, "Hey there, Mr. Hunka-Hunka Burnin' Love." Ernie just grins--denying nothing.

When the impersonator started singing Suspicious Minds, however, it wasn't David Chaney anymore. Wasn't Elvis the Pelvis either. It was God Himself and let me tell you, He was a-speakin' to me. I've heard God speak a few times before, but never so out of the blue like that, rarely that strong, and definitely not through Elvis lyrics.

I could feel a message coming for a second or two before it hit me, kind of like the electrical charge in the atmosphere before lighting strikes. God is so surprising, so creative, so weird sometimes. For real, who is like Him? Almost every line of the song pierced my doubting heart and reprimanded me--but not without hope. I also heard, "You can trust me, don't doubt my love, I've not gone anywhere."

Here are the lyrics; maybe they'll remind you, too, of something you need to hear.

We're caught in a trap

I can't walk out

Because I love you too much baby

Why can't you see

What you're doing to me

When you don't believe a word I say?

We can't go on together

With suspicious minds

And we can't build our dreams

On suspicious minds

Here you go again

Asking where I've been

You can't see these tears are real

I'm crying

Oh let our love survive

Dry the tears from your eyes

Don't let a good thing die

When honey, you know

I've never lied to you

Mmm yeah, yeah

is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
~Exodus 15:11~

* Name changed to protect privacy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Roots of Frugality

I'm not sure why I feel the need to use every last inch of yarn I get my hands on. I could understand it with luxury fibers, but I'm like this with wool unraveled from $3 thrift store sweaters and even acrylics. It's embarrassing to admit, but last night I caught myself staring at sample yarn cards--trying to imagine uses for two-inch pieces of mohair.

Maybe it started with Granny Norman. Before my chin cleared the kitchen counter, I watched her as she scraped butter off its wrapper, saying, "
A woman can throw more out the kitchen window with a spoon than a man can shovel in the front door." It took me decades to process that. I don't think I've ever scraped a butter wrapper, but I do the equivalent with yarn. I save the smallest scraps, hoping to find a use for them one day.

Maybe it's my seventh-grade teacher's fault. One Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Garrett invited a bunch of us girls to her big white house on Randolph Street (the one beside the old library) to make Christmas decorations. I can still see her thudding down the old home's narrow staircase into the living room and plopping a huge box in the middle of our work table. It didn't contain a single new craft
supply. Everything was a scrap she had saved from a previous project. It was full of yarn remnants, felt scraps, sequins, buttons, beads, and endless possibilities.

She taught us to choose the right combination to create things that turned out, well, beautiful if I do say so myself. I still display mine every Christmas. It's a narrow banner of white felt with the word NOEL in red letters. It has felt holly leaves and berries, each berry accented with a single red sequin. And the
pièce de résistance? . . . a red yarn tassel.

Maybe this waste-not, want-not mentality started with one of my favorite books as an adolescent,
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. There was something magical and empowering about Francie's frugality. When Francie's father lost his job (uh-gin) and was throwing money away at the local pub, she and her mother were wearing their coats indoors. Each hour they kept the furnace off, they'd put a nickle in a tin can hidden in the top of a closet. When Francie wanted a corsage for her high school graduation like the other girls, she got it--despite her alcoholic father. When she wanted to go to college, she made that happen, too.

Or maybe it was either Jesus or my Grandpa Campbell. When Jesus fed 5,000 people with a two-piece fish dinner, He made sure the disciples took care of the leftovers. "
Let nothing be wasted," He said. So, I figure nothing means nothing. Fish, loaves, yarn, talent, whatever. My grandpa must have believed this too, because one time, as the family story goes, he ate a whole bowl of cornflakes after accidentally pouring buttermilk on them.

I guess I got it honest.

Do you have an odd frugal streak? Admitting it can be the first step.

Anyway, here's what I scraped together from one $3 wool sweater that I unraveled. I still have about 10 yards left over. And yes, I'm saving it because you just never know.

An Irish Hiking hat for Beth.

A pair of Kool-Aid dyed socks for Pos.

A Honeycomb looped scarf for Allie.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

God's Little Princess Devotional Bible by Sheila Walsh

Even though I think some "Christian princess" products for little girls are missing the mark, I like this little devotional Bible. It contains about 80 Bible stories, with devotional material designed for ages 4-7. The material is designed for a mom to either read to her daughter and sometimes for them to perform an activity together.

The issue I have with some "princess" products is that I think the world could use fewer "princesses" and more little girls who are learning to grow in the fruit of the Spirit. The devotionals in this book, while often referring to things little girls like to do (play dress-up, feel special, etc), it does do an excellent job of always focusing on what Godly princesses do--which is love and value others.

It took me awhile to understand the flow of the book. It would have helped if each devotional was titled on its first (Bible story) page. The devotionals ran together until I got used to the layout.

It' a cute little glittery hardback with real glass stones on the cover. The real gems are inside.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers for allowing me to review this book. I am a member of their book review blogger program.

God's Little Princess Devotional Bible (ICB): Bible Storybook | Bible | Thomas Nelson | Publisher of Christian Products

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Me Big Copy Cat

I went outside this morning to photograph a basket of yarn that Widya unraveled for me and noticed that some of my new perrenials are blooming! Most are from divisions my friend Karen gave me in the spring. Inspired by her blog ( where she showed blooms from her garden, I decided to be a big copycat and post some garden pics myself. My pics aren't gorgeous like Karen's but it was fun to take them . . . and I now need Karen's help remembering their names!

Is this a gerbera daisy? or an aster?

I'd like to knit something in these 3 shades of purple for Bella. She looks amazing in purples, pinks, and especially magenta.

Sidenote about nature-inpired knitting . . . My Ravelry friend Kay (needlenit) showed me this really good blog this morning from Sock Pixie: This color artist dyes yarns and creates projects inspired by fine art and nature.

And speaking of Needlenit . . . I wouldn't knit any new pattern without first checking on Ravelry to see if Kay has already knit it. She makes amazing improvements to everything she knits and supplies detailed notes on her project pages. The designers and magazine editors should hire her to test and improve patterns before publishing them because her changes are excellent and always make me wonder why the designers didn't think of them. She has a great eye for form and function.

Back to the blooms . . . I think this is Shasta Daisy with Blue Sage in the background, right Karen?

What is this yellow and green plant? Does it bloom?

This is the bee balm, right?

Love this delicate flower atop a spindly onion-like stalk; what did you call it?

Eureka! My photo expedition led me to the first ripe tomato of the year! It's not the first one we've eaten though. I cut up a green one the other night and tossed it in a veggie stir fry.

The perfectly sweet scent of my butterfly bush always reminds me of my perfectly sweet Anna.

Is this artemisia?

What did you call this, Karen? Will it bloom or is it a groundcover?

This sweet little plant looks promising; what is it?

Thank you again, Karen, for all these great cuttings! They've really beautified my perennial beds and they remind me of your sweet self every time I see them!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

100 Bible Stories 100 Bible Songs created by Stephen Elkins, illustrations by Tim O'Connor

I’ve seen beaucoup Bible story books over the years. I’ve purchased them for my children, edited them professionally, and now I’m buying them for my grandchildren. This one is simply magnifique! It contains 100 key stories that will provide a good basis of biblical literacy as well as 100 related songs with arrangements that are fresh and toe-tappin’ happy.

Many nice details went into the creation of this book. Its size is perfect for holding with a child in your lap. Its padded cover is squishy and fun to touch.

With the exception of the Wise Men story (which shows the Magi at the stable in Bethlehem rather than a house in Nazareth) the text and illustrations are biblically accurate. It isn’t easy to retell a Bible story in one paragraph and keep it meaningful—not to mention engaging for children, but most stories meet the challenge. Teachers will appreciate that each story includes full references—even multiple ones for each Gospel account.

I like the way certain words are colorfully highlighted to either bring subliminal attention to them or to provide discussion tips for the adult. (For example, in the story of the prodigal son, the following words are highlighted: two, money, hungry, traveled, father, God, forgiving.

The illustrator put a lot of emotion and whimsy into the work that children will appreciate: flabbergasted prophets, worried fishes (is Jesus gonna step on us?), and happy-to-be-found sheep.

The main lesson of each story is synopsized and then followed by a life application challenge: “I will follow Jesus and tell others about Him.”

It would be nice if the stories and songs were all numbered 1 through 100 so that you could follow up any story by going directly to that song, or vice versa. There is a good index, but it would be easier if everything were numbered. Perhaps getting the second CD to display its tracks 51-100 was technically impossible.

I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

Friday, May 29, 2009

The American Patriot’s Bible edited by Richard G. Lee

This beautifully-created version of the New King James translation would make a great study Bible for any student of United States history. Its presentation and family record pages would also make it useful as a family devotional Bible. This Bible contains many features that teach the reader the spiritual significance of key events in United States history.

I was very impressed with the historical scholarship as well as the spiritual application that the editor brought to this work. This Bible contains all the standard study features of a NKJV Bible such as notes, concordance, and Bible maps. The meat of this special edition, however, is in the thematic introductions to the 66 books, the 254 articles, and the 12 sections that delve deeply into how the teachings of the Bible are connected to U.S. history. These in-depth studies are enlightening, but it’s also fun to read the shorter notes that are scattered though out--to learn interesting things such as how the prophet Malachi influenced Hamilton’s writing of the Federalist Papers and on which verses U.S. presidents chose to place their hands while taking the oath of office.

In so profound a work of scholarship (not to mention that this is indeed a Bible), I feel shallow commenting on one of my favorite things about this edition . . . but it is graphically very beautiful. The 48 full-color insert pages are gorgeous and the large typeface as well as the two-color treatment throughout the rest of the book makes it particularly enjoyable to read.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers for allowing me to review this study edition of the Bible. I am a member of their book review blogger program.

A You Tube video featuring The American Patriot's Bible

The American Patriot's Bible (NKJV): The Word of God and the Shaping of America | Bible | Thomas Nelson | Publisher of Christian Products

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Power of a Sincere Compliment

Shortly after Christmas, someone on Ravelry started a forum thread titled, "What is the best compliment you ever received as a knitter?" Over a hundred responses quickly followed. Some of the compliments were received during the recent gift-giving season, but many were years or even decades old, yet still fresh and sweet in the minds of the knitters.

I smiled, cried, and laughed out loud at the poignant range of expressions that had touched these knitters' hearts. Here are some of my favorites:

The woman who had spent all year knitting hats for each family member and said she would never forget the feeling of seeing her loved ones all sitting around the Christmas dinner table still wearing their hats while they ate.

The hilarious mother who asks for one of everything her daughter makes. She has even tricked her by requesting socks for the "pregnant daughter of a friend" and then kept them for herself. Gotta love her.

The woman who is happy (and hopeful) because her estranged sister still requests hand knits for her children at Christmas.

The young woman whose little sister texts her every time she wears the hoodie she knit for her--telling her how much she likes it. She said it brings tears to her eyes each time.

The woman whose grandmother was a master knitter who didn't give compliments freely. When her grandmother moved into a nursing him, she acquired her stash and knitted her a lap blanket from it. The grandmother didn't ooh and ahh over it, but held it up, glared at it, and critiqued it. When she was done, she told her granddaughter that she had a gift and that she was proud of her.

The girl whose little brother only said "thanks" when she gave him a hat, but never takes it off--even indoors, and calls her a knitting ninja to his friends.

The woman who, after her father passed away, found the gloves she had knit for him more than 15 years prior. They barely had a thread of the original brown wool left in them. He had been patching them with different little bits of yarn for 15 winters.

My favorite compliment that I've ever received as a knitter came from my daughter Anna--even though she called the wool and silk scarf I made for her “an insult.”

I was about a week late finishing her Christmas present and so when I finally sent the scarf, I included a note requesting admission to a fictional club that she and her husband used to joke about belonging to when they were in college. It was called the “Slackass Losers Club.” Here’s Anna's thank you email . . .

From: Admissions Committee, SAL
Re: Application
Status: Denied

Dear Ms. Layton:
We appreciate your interest in SlackAss Losers. We accept a limited number of new memberships each year, and these are reserved exclusively for slackass losers. Your Christmas present's belated arrival does not qualify you for membership. Exquisitely crafted, hand knit gifts (especially beautifully designed scarves that cause the recipient to Oooh and Ahhh for hours after opening, and wear around the house despite the temperature being in the 70s) are an insult to everything we stand for at SAL. Please refrain from re-applying to SAL in the future.

Membership Services

I wasn't the only one who loved Anna's response. My post received more "love" and "funny" clicks than any other post on the thread!

Here's another knitting compliment that I really like. This poetic thank-you was given to Mara Mori for the socks she knit for the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

    by Pablo Neruda (translated by Robert Bly)

  • Mara Mori brought me
    a pair of socks
    which she knitted herself
    with her sheepherder's hands,
    two socks as soft as rabbits.
    I slipped my feet into them
    as though into two cases
    knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin.

    Violent socks,
    my feet were two fish made of wool,
    two long sharks,
    sea blue, shot through
    by one golden thread,
    two immense blackbirds,
    two cannons,
    my feet were honored in this way
    by these heavenly socks.

    They were so handsome for the first time
    my feet seemed to me unacceptable
    like two decrepit firemen
    firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
    of these glowing socks.

    Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
    to save them somewhere as schoolboys
    keep fireflies,
    as learned men collect sacred texts,
    I resisted the mad impulse to put them
    in a golden cage and each day give them
    birdseed and pieces of pink melon.

    Like explorers in the jungle
    who hand over the very rare green deer
    to the spit and eat it with remorse,
    I stretched out my feet and pulled on
    the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

    The moral of my ode is this:
    beauty is twice beauty,
    and what is good is doubly good
    when it is a matter of two socks
    made of wool in winter.
And, if I might add a thought to this beautiful ode . . . Beauty is also "twice beauty" when appreciated.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

$1 Sun Dress for Allie

Since Emily Post considers it poor manners to let slip what you spent on a gift, I'm guessing it's a major faux pas to actually blog about it. But Anna will like the dress I knit for Allie even more when she learns how little I spent on it. She's weird like that.

Like our hip, green friend who could have any wedding dress she wanted, but found a classic "Jackie O" gown at Goodwill for $20. A clerk saw how amazing she looked in it and how excited she was and reminded her, "Honey, you don't have to tell anyone how little you spent."

She replied, "Are you kidding! That's the best part! I'm going to tell everyone!"

So, without admitting to be cheap (only environmentally conscious and hip) here's how I knit Allie a cotton sun dress as well as a bear with a matching dress--all for about a dollar. But first, isn't Allie darling!

I started with an XL women's 100% cotton sweater that I found at a thrift store for $3. I'm glad the soft green color worked for this project because you can't dye cotton with food-grade dyes.

I unraveled it and have enough yarn left over for at least three more dresses. I'm knitting one for Bella now.

I made the bear from an XXL men's 100% wool sweater from Goodwill for $3.75. The bear used only a fraction of the yarn from this big sweater. This wool can easily be dyed for socks, hats, fingerless gloves, or more bears. (Princess has excellent taste in fibers.)

I embroidered the daisies with the pricey Cotton Rich that Bobbie gave me on Valentine's Day. I messaged a fellow Ravelry member who had white Cotton Rich in her stash and we made an even trade--some of my lemon for her white. Cost was only postage--about $1.

You know you have an expensive hobby when suppliers use in-your-face marketing blurbs like, "And you thought college was expensive." (I saw that in a Vogue Knitting ad the other day.)

The nicest yarns are definitely worth it, though. It only makes sense to work with the best yarns you can because of the time invested in projects. But when nice yarns can be harvested from high quality garments, that's cool too! More money saved for airfare to see Allie!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

In the Footsteps of Paul by Ken Duncan

I won't read the book of Acts the same way again. Thanks to Ken Duncan, Saint Paul now seems real. Maybe not like “Yo, Bro, what up with thee?” but definitely a flesh and bones man.

In the Footsteps of Paul wasn’t what I expected, and even though the amazing photographs engaged me, I felt a little disappointed . . . but only at first.

I was expecting a more linear representation of Paul’s travels, perhaps a small map on each page with text like, “Paul stayed here for three months, wrote to the Galatians, and then sailed away to. . . .” Something concrete to help me make peace with those Bible maps I attempted to entertain myself with during sermons when I was ten.

Whoa! What was I thinking! After reading this gorgeous book, I see that my original concept is probably impossible and quickly would have become tedious.

Now that I’ve told you what this book isn’t, let me tell you what it is! It is a collection of absolutely stunning photographs of cities Paul visited, objects and landmarks he may have seen, and historic art through the centuries. The variety of photographs was masterful and didn’t become tiring. Modern cities, ancient landscapes, recreations of objects like the basket Paul rappelled in, mosaics and more kept me guessing and provided a fascinating mix.

Each page shows a related quote from the New Testament. I love the way these verses contain highlighted words that give emphasis to the struggles and triumphs that Paul experienced in each location. Words like expelled, persecution and filled with joy. Yep, all from the same verse.

Many pages also include a quote about Paul from notable Christians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Billy Graham, C. S. Lewis, and Beth Moore. Such a varied collection of folks and yet the bond of brotherhood weaves their thoughts together seamlessly.

And that’s another thing I liked about this book--all of its elements flow together so well. People, places, things, quotations, and works of art spanning twenty centuries--and yet it forms a cohesive, beautiful thing. The result is not only an enriching river of information and inspiration about this esteemed apostle, but a greater picture of God’s power and grace to work in the lives of all of us fleshy, boney people.

The editor in me can’t help but note that the page numbers for the acknowledgments were incorrect. And, I would have liked for the maps to have been more accessibly placed in the back of the book.

This is a beautiful book that didn’t meet my expectations, but far exceeded them. Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers for allowing me to review it. I am a member of their book review blogger program.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Socks for Pos!

Pos's FB status said, "Steph is an icicle!" When we chatted, she explained that winter had arrived early in Cape Town and that she was so cold she couldn't feel her little toes. I've not seen my sweet Pos in almost 5 years and thought it would be fun to make her a pair of wool socks that would reach across the miles and give her a big hug for me. She said she'd like them to be colorful and funky, so here's what I did . . .

I found a 100% wool TALBOT'S sweater at Goodwill for $3.75. Very nice and soft!

Unraveled it...and ended up with a basketful of yarn.

Made two 150-yard skeins and used grape, black cherry and lemon-lime KoolAde to dye the blue yarn the colors Pos chose--red, purple, blue and green.

Rolled up each skein in plastic wrap.

Steamed them for about 30 minutes to set the dye.

After they cooled, I rinsed the skeins in cold water.

Hung them up to dry.

One skein and one ball ready to knit.

To maximize the funkiness, I'm going to make the cuffs, heels, and toes blue.

Finished the first sock on April 29. It's short on Beth, so I think it will fit Pos's 22cm foot perfectly. Pos, I'll wash them before I send them to you!