Saturday, May 31, 2008

Decision Theology At Its Worst

I just read an extremely sad post on Beliefnet's Baptist forum (which I read for the same reason that I occasionally check in with Rod Dreher's blog): The author has an autistic nephew who "can't accept Jesus as his personal Savior in any meaningful way," and is worried about the state of the child's salvation.

It was with a particular sense of responsibility and urgency that I decided to completely ignore the forum protocol restricting posts to other coreligionists and proclaim the Gospel -- that it's not about what we do or think or feel, but what God, in Christ, has done and does and will do for us, out of love. I encouraged the poster to replace an image of God as an angry, perpetually dissatisfied God just waiting to damn people with a God of redeeming, reconciling love and compassion, in whose embrace this child already lives.

This is Exhibit A of what Lutheran Christians can bring to the table of American Christianity, if they only speak up -- a strong proclamation of God's grace and liberation. Just the other day I encountered an online other who tried to argue with me that the "Gospel" message was "Repent or perish." Ach, mein Gott.

As Kelly Fryer says...the world needs what we have.

Kidding Around

Fellow Traveler and I have spent most of the past 24 hours shepherding our 2-1/2-year-old great niece, who visiting the area with her Army dad and his wife as they begin the process of moving back stateside from overseas. Keep in mind that my only significant background with children is having been one, once, and that it's been about three decades since FT's days of toddler wrangling. Were we crazy to volunteer to babysit? Kind of.

We began the weekend with an impressive list of Happy Happy Fun Time educational and entertainment options for the child; but the only structured, if that is the correct term, activity we wound up actually crossing off was a visit to a local petting farm. It was fun, and I think we are now the Coolest Aunties Ever. I was also able to draw, from the reservoir of deep memory, just about every kid song of my kindergarten days, and I made some points telling bedtime stories as well. And we were kept laughing by our charge's remarks, and nascent sense of humor; one of the funnier incidents of the weekend involved the child taking ownership of the dogs' discarded squeaky cow toy in the back seat of the Jeep, then squeezing it while announcing, "Cow faaahhhting!" followed by maniacal laughter.

But we -- including the four-legged residents of our home -- were nonetheless all quite ready to drop off the kiddo with her 'rents this afternoon, and we're still recovering from our experience as I write. I have a whole new appreciation for my parents having me relatively late in their lives; it's hard for even a tag team of two middle-aged broads to keep up with a toddler.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Five: Garage Sale Special!

It's that time of year when brightly colored new growth springs up on the roadsides of America -- GARAGE SALE signs. So the RevGalBlogPals ask:

1) Are you a garage saler?
Every once in awhile -- usually only when I'm looking for something in particular, like the other summer when I was in hot pursuit of a used Cardioglide. (Which is now providing habitat for spiders and dust bunnies in my basement.)

2) If so, are you an immediate buyer or a risk taker who comes back later when prices are lower?
I have learned, at least when it comes to good quality items, to buy it when you find it.

3) Seriously, if you're not a garage saler, you are probably not going to want to play this one.
(That wasn't really #3.)
3) This is the real #3: What's the best treasure you've found at a yard or garage sale?

I have what I would call a rustic nutcracker in the shape of a squirrel that I found at a garage sale. It sits on my living room end table, as an attempt to effect that "up north" ambience I'm striving for at Cold Comfort Cottage. I think it's cute, in a garage sale kind of way.

4)If you've done one yourself, at church or at home, was it worth the effort?
Our church always brings in major bucks at its annual Labor Day weekend sale. But the cleanup -- not so much the setup but the cleanup, and trying to figure out what to do with all the ju- -- I mean garb- -- I mean generously donated items that did not sell is always a headache.

5) Can you bring yourself to haggle?
Oh, yes. My favorite line is, "What's the friendliest price you'll take for this?"

BONUS: For the true aficionado: Please discuss the impact of Ebay, Craig's List, Freecycle, etc... on the church or home yard/garage sale.
I live in an amazingly computer-illiterate part of the country -- you would not believe how many people in the surrounds of Outer Podunk have never even touched a computer, let alone own and use one -- so for that population I don't think it's made much of a difference. But -- after PBS' Antiques Roadshow became a hit that reached even beyond the usual PBS viewer demographic, I noticed a rather dramatic drop in the number of vintage "finds" at sales and in local resale shops. I remember, pre-AR and when I was collecting glass hens-on-nests, buying a fabulous Anchor Hocking chicken candy dish for a measly $6 at a local antique store; the clerk kept staring at the price sticker and murmuring, "This is the sticker that was on the bottom when you picked it up...right?" and my assuring her that it was, all the while mentally high-fiving the glass gods for leading me to such a steal. I think that scenario has gotten rarer and rarer at household sales and in stores alike.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Living With "Crunch"

My maternal grandad, a medic in the War to End All Wars as well as amateur doctor of his household, firmly believed in the power of laxatives to cure most of what ailed humankind. It was in that spirit that I was regularly forced in my childhood to ingest Senokot, an extremely nasty tasting laxative concoction, to deal with my various physical maladies.

All of which is to say: I'm familiar with the concept of swallowing gross stuff because its purgative quality is good for me. Which is why I regularly read Rod Dreher's "Crunchy Con" blog on Beliefnet .

My personal take on Dreher is that he is a very frightened man whose screeds on the imminent destruction of Western society seem to fly in the face of the observation in 2 Timothy that God doesn't give us the spirit of fear. And I find it rather sad that he believes Fellow Traveler and I to be among the scariest barbarians banging at the gates of his preferred world. I would go so far as to say that he should probably talk to both his priest and a good therapist about the homophobia which obviously fuels so much of his writing.

But...having said distasteful as I find much of his blog, every once in awhile the man makes sense. And he does, in a way, here.

Hysteria aside, I think he's exactly right in that we have to stop our collective sniveling about the oil crisis and other current financial woes, and instead be proactive in finding solutions, beginning with our own living and consumption habits. This is not a temporary problem; we are in the midst of a major, permanent change in how our society lives and fuels itself. Humankind has faced this before and will undoubtedly face it again. We live in interesting times; may as well deal with it, as bravely and creatively as we can.

So Much Wine...So Little Time...

One of our pleasures this past weekend was touring Leelanau County's wine country -- an exciting place to be in part because we noticed several not-ready-for-prime-time vineyard startups in the area, promising more winery destinations in the future.

But in the meantime we stopped at two of our favorite wineries, plus a new discovery. We had great fun at Gill's Pier , which has a wonderful tasting room and knowledgeable staff -- and the winery's iconic dogs, Tiki and Sage, look very much like our own Cassie and Gertie. If fruit wines make you think of Boone's Farm, you need to try Gill's Farm Icebox Apple and Cheerio Cherry, both of which are complex, non-syrupy, refreshing, food-friendly wines. (The Cheerio Cherry goes great with roast turkey and pork, by the way.) I don't think we've ever had a bad wine here.

Another favorite along the wine trail is Longview Winery . We loved their Rustic White table wine, which has a subtle Chardonnay oakiness that raises it above the usual bland table wine. Their Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling are also great. If you like dessert wines, try their cherry wine with chocolate -- it's exactly like a cherry cordial.

Our new discovery was Shady Lane Winery in Suttons Bay, whose tasting room is in an amazing stone farm building we were told was originally a chicken coop. We enjoyed all their wines, and again were impressed with one of their table wines, Serenity. A bonus is that one can enjoy a tasting outdoors, with a sample of crackers and goat cheese or salmon spread from a local gourmet shop.

Two wineries we missed, sadly, this time around were Boskydel , the original Leelanau Peninsula winery -- fabulous wines, by the way -- and Victoria Creek , a newer winery that boasts being Leelanau County's first "green" winery powered by solar technology. Oh, well...there's always next year.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Good Eats Up North

We ate very well indeed up north -- even our do-it-yourself breakfasts with locally baked bread and black cherry jam -- but two restaurants stood out for us.

One morning we changed up by having breakfast at the Good Harbor Grill in Glen Arbor. FT had a Greek omelet, seasoned with Greek spices and filled with feta, tomato and spinach. I had crabcake eggs Benedict. These were both absolutely fabulous, and the cafe atmosphere is very cozy and charming, with the work of local artists and fun fishing and beach motifs on the walls. I also found myself eyeing our neighbors' wholegrain pancakes with some envy. The breakfast menu also includes egg or tofu scrambles of various kinds, and traditional egg/bacon/sausage plates with vegetarian meat analog options. We'd definitely eat breakfast here again; and the lunch menu looked promising as well.

En route home today we stopped in Frankfort to eat lunch at The Fusion, an Asian-fusion restaurant we really enjoy. Sadly, it was closed for the holiday -- but we did find a place to eat at a local institution that, amazingly, we've never visited before: The Betsie Bay Inn , an historic hotel and restaurant in downtown Frankfort, near the beach. The charming building has recently gotten a new paint job that's restored it to what I suspect nears its original Victorian glory; and the casual dining room is also vintage-cozy, done up in nautical colors and a maritime motif featuring model ships and framed antique postcards of the Benzie County area. We had a simple meal -- a corned beef rye panini with sweet-sour red cabbage and cheese. I had cream of pimento soup; FT had the house onion soup; both were outstanding. I appreciate restaurants located in lovingly restored old buildings; I also appreciate small touches like high-quality potato chips on the side of a sandwich, instead of the smashed and stale food- service chips that usually accompany lunch plates, that hint that if we ever visit the formal dining room for dinner we'll also get a good meal.

Two thumbs up for both of these restaurants.

The View From Up North

Cherry blossoms. Dune grass. Sailboats. Wooded hillsides in patchwork shades of green. Rows of grapevines.

We had a lovely time in the Leelanau. As always, we didn't have nearly enough time to do everything and go everywhere we'd planned. And, right now, we are both utterly exhausted as we face the coming week in the everyday world of Outer Podunk and surrounds. But it was worth it.

Whenever we travel up north, FT and I like to drive through the countryside and ponder the possibility of ever moving there. We'll see some modest cottage tucked away off the beaten path, or a quaint older home in one of the villages, and say, "We could live there..." "Oh, there's a nice place..." "I can see us in that house..."

Right now that seems like a pipe dream. It annoys me, in a way; this wanting to live somewhere else. Sometimes I wish I could be more content where we live now.

And sometimes I second-guess my love of northwest Michigan. This weekend, for instance, we found ourselves constantly contending with the sort of moneyed yet astoundingly tacky, conspicuously consumptive, rude vacationers whose East Coast counterparts my partner knew as "Massholes" when she lived in Maine. Our enjoyment of Leland's Fishtown, for instance, was so ruined by these people and their equally annoying, whiny/sullen children that we made one pass down to the docks and fled for the hills.

The great irony for me is that these Lexus-driving, Gucci-sunglass-wearing, Jimmy-Choo-shod denizens of a higher income bracket than I can ever hope to aspire to exhibit the same type of crassness, bovine conformity, complacency and empty-headedness as their NASCAR-watching, trailer-dwelling fellow citizens here in Outer Podunk. Yin, meet yang. There's no there there.

But on the other hand there are glimpses, up there, of a lifestyle we want to share. We love finding local cottage businesses with wonderful, unique goods, like the Great Lakes Tea and Spice Company in Glen Arbor -- we bought a variety of handcrafted seasonings and teas there for the same price as mass-market supermarket products. We bought locally roasted Fair Trade coffee that was also of equivalent price to the same-ol, same-ol -- and knew we were supporting a local small business as well as the coffee cooperatives with which it trades. We love supporting Cherry Republic, knowing that they dedicate a percentage of their profits to conserving local farmland. We bought asparagus at Norcronk's Farm's roadside stand, where you pays your money on the honor system, into a box, and bag and weigh your veggies yourself. We love the mix of entrepreneurship and artistry and social conscience that drives so much of the small business and farm culture up north. How I wish that could somehow be transplanted down here in the blue-collar belt of the state.

I read in our local paper last week that a half-dozen farmers in Podunk County and the county next door would like to start a farmer's market to support local, sustainable agriculture. Maybe the tide is turning here in the middle of the mitten; maybe some new ideas and new optimism can start to push through the malaise of the embittered auto retirees and backwoods underclass. In the meantime, though...we'll keep feeling the beckoning of Michigan's "little finger."

All Dressed Down and Nowhere to Go...

That's how we felt Sunday morning, not going to church because there were so few churches to choose from in our immediate area. The nearest ELCA, Episcopal or UCC congregations were all about 30 miles away in various directions; and we didn't feel all that comfortable with our other local denominational choices (I personally don't feel welcome in a denomination that at least officially doesn't want me to commune at one of its services, no matter what it says about welcoming visitors, and that's not even getting into the Issue That Dare Not Speak Its Name).

If anyone with any pull in our synod or on Higgins Road is reading this, here is my humble suggestion for ministry in northern Michigan tourist country: If a start-up congregation isn't a viable option in a given area (which seems to be the case along the western side of Leelanau County), why not take the show on the road? Have some congregations within a 30- or 40-mile radius commit to holding a weekly worship service in some unserved resort town -- work with the community and find a friendly park or other open area or public building, and advertise your presence like you actually mean it. (Which I mention because this seems to be a weak link in local ministry endeavors.) No gimmicks or worshitainment; just a simple Eucharist service. Pitch a tent. See who shows up. I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"On Vacation" Friday Five

I am responding to this week's RevGalBlogPals challenge, most appropriately, from the comfort of a cozy resort cabin in Empire, Michigan, where we're spending this extended holiday weekend, enjoying the cherry blossoms and trillums and dunes and other delights of the Leelanau Peninsula.

1. Getting ready for summer, do you use the gradual tanning moisturisers ( yes gentlemen you too can answer this!!!), or are you happy to show your winter skin to the world?
I'm at the SPF 55 stage of life, so -- tanning no longer matters to me.

2.Beach, mountains or chilling by the pool, what/ where is your favourite getaway?
Right here. Directly behind our cabin are the Sleeping Bear Dunes. To the east are woodlands, vineyards and fruit orchards. Up and down the Lake Michigan coast are numerous little resort towns with an atsy, laid-back vibe.
3.Are you a summer lover or does the long break become wearing?
No long breaks here in the workaholic U.S. But I can say that I enjoy autumn vacations more than summer ones, shorter days notwithstanding -- I prefer the weather and lack of other tourists.

4.Active holidays; hiking swimming sailing, or lazy days?
Yes. This has been a somewhat lazy vacation, other than driving around the countryside, but we came prepared to go fishing, hit a driving range or putt-putt golf course or engage in other such fun.

5.Now to the important subject of food, if you are abroad do you try the local cuisine, or do you prefer to play it safe?
Oh, we always try the local cuisine. Up here it's whitefish fresh off the dock, cherries, local wines and asparagus. (Actually, FT doesn't eat asparagus, so this has been my solitary pleasure here. The village of Empire, by the way, just had an Asparagus Festival last weekend that was evidently quite the event.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Five More Days...

...and we'll be on vacation.

And I suspect that this is one of the songs we'll be singing en route:

Backyard Snapshots

Scenes from the Big House backyard...
This was one of my birthday presents to FT last esconced on her very own pondside stone.

One of our patio flower baskets, designed by're looking at neon fuschia geraniums, a pink-veined purple coleus, very dark purple pansies and tri-color and chartreuse yam vines.

This is a kind of technicolor potluck basket, featuring everything from red gerbera daisies and petunias to purple heliotrope and yellow and orange linaria.

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Youngest Fan

She's not a blogger...she's not yet old enough to read, let alone write...but today I heard from my youngest fan, FT's great-niece, who's about two-and-a-half. This past Christmas, when her military parents were visiting from Germany, I made major fan points with this li'l chickie by reading her the delightful made-in-Michigan children's book Stranger in the Woods.

As some of you may know, Fellow Traveler and I, in offline life, actually share a first name. The Young 'Un refers to us respectively as "Aunt ________" and "Udda ________." (Sounds kind early Anglo-Saxon, I think.)

FT's nephew and niece-in-law are back in the States, in Michigan, visiting FT's sister downstate. When FT asked to speak to Young 'Un on the phone this morning, the child's first query to her was, "But wheha is Udda _________?!"

Udda _________ is on her way to find another animal picture book.

Friday Five: "On the Road"

This week's RevGalBlogPals Challenge:

Name five places that fall into the following categories:

1) Favorite Destination -- someplace you've visited once or often and would gladly go again
Oh, that one's easy -- the Empire/Sleeping Bear Dunes/greater Grand Traverse region. And -- yay! -- we're going there again this Memorial Day weekend. This is my favorite place, period.

2) Unfavorite Destination -- someplace you wish you had never been (and why)
This probably isn't what the designer of this quiz had in mind, day on the way home from church several years ago, my mother in the car with me, I thought I'd be a wise gal and find an alternate route up north to the main highway running through Outer Podunk, instead of our usual circuitous route home. I'd Mapquested the area and found a road that appeared to be a fairly straight shot from church. But as I rode along the pavement disappeared...then several feet of road width disappeared...and suddenly I found myself bumping along a sandy two-track in the middle of a woods festooned with junked cars and rusty abandoned trailers, in a place I'll call Methlabville. I finally had the presence of mind to turn around and head back, although not before passing a couple of gunrack-bearing pickups filled with grizzly, tooth-needy individuals who practically channeled the Deliverance theme. I'm not particularly interested in revisiting this area of Podunk County again.

3) Fantasy Destination -- someplace to visit if cost and/or time did not matter
Oh, my -- where to start? I'd like to visit Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the more rural, village-y parts of England (FT nods enthusiastically); I'd like to visit northern Europe, including Iceland (although I might refrain from some Icelandic delicacies like rotten shark); I'd like to travel around the Mecklenburg region of northern Germany, where my mother's family came from, and the part of Bavaria where my dad's people came from before they emigrated to German settlements in Poland and Russia back in the 19th century; and I'd like to visit the Baltic countries, for the wonderful natural beauty and for what I'm told is the cool retro architecture and hip feel of the large cities there. Over on this side of the pond I would love to revisit Canada, this time traveling through the Maritime Provinces. And -- another yay! -- this fall I will be traveling to New York City for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and extended-family Thanksgiving dinner, and am looking forward to being in the Big Apple in general. (A goal of mine that weekend is to patronize the best deli in Brooklyn, our home base for the holiday -- deli nominations cheerfully accepted from my readers.)

4) Fictional Destination -- someplace from a book or movie or other art or media form you would love to visit, although it exists only in imagination
How geeky would it be to say Middle Earth? Specifically, I'd like to visit Lothlorien, home of the Elves.

5) Funny Destination -- the funniest place name you've ever visited or want to visit
Visiting Hell (Michigan) was a blast -- and I got out of Hell with a souvenir T-shirt to show for it, too. I've also been to Paradise (Michigan), where I enjoyed a pasty as well as the "Ya, fer sure, eh?" Yooper cadence of the friendly locals. I don't think I've been to Climax (Michigan) yet, though -- I guess if I can't remember I probably haven't.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Green and Risky Season

I know we haven't even hit Trinity Sunday yet, but my thoughts this morning turned to Pentecost.

I had some extra time at lunch and ran over to Cold Comfort Cottage to check on my newly planted onions and potatoes. The onions were half-dead-looking sets when I planted them, but have since perked up and maybe even grown a millimeter or two. The potatoes aren't doing anything right now.

Backyard gardeners and farmers alike know that planting is a risky business. A cold snap may freeze tender plants. A wet spell may rot seed potatoes. Too much hot and dry weather and seedlings may die a-borning. When I visited a local greenhouse this weekend to pick up some herb plants, the grower showed me how a very localized, unexpected hard frost had burned the top tier of leaves on most of his young tomato plants, right there in the greenhouse.

We church folk are wont to call Ordinary Time the "green and growing season" of the Church year -- that long, ritually uneventful stretch in the Church calendar when our attention turns to our living our faith into the everyday -- but it's also a risky season. Because we're called to live Christ in the world without knowing the result; without assurance of "success"; sometimes at great cost to us.

It's not easy being green.

An LC Fashion Editorial

Note to Louis Vuitton: Get over yourself.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Our Anniversary

Previous posts notwithstanding...we had a great weekend -- the third anniversary of Fellow Traveler's and my first meeting.

We had a lovely romantic dinner Saturday night at our very favorite restaurant in the whole world. On Sunday we hit a bucket of balls at a local driving range until it started raining, then treated ourselves to ice cream, then went home and won a couple of silver medals in Wii crossbow; in the evening we went out to the local establishment where we first met, and had the same meal -- Buffalo wings with bleu cheese dressing. We came back and played Wii golf until we pooped out. In the meantime our CSA flower lady made a lovely bouquet of purple tulips and chartreuse lady's mantle to enjoy this week; and the kids called to wish us Happy Mother's Day.

If You Meet a Reality-Show Christian on the Road...Become a Buddhist

This week one of Beliefnet's features is "Top 10 Reality Show Christians."

My reaction: Ecccch.

What If You Threw a Fair and Nobody Came?

A caregiving fair...hmmm...there's an oxymoron, i'n't it?

I spent much of Saturday -- a lovely spring day filled with flowering crabapples and green grass and blue skies -- at a regional fair intended for persons who care for their elder loved ones.

Unsurprisingly, no one showed up. Well -- maybe 30 people, not counting the organizers and vendors, showed up.

So we insiders spent our time schmoozing with one another, swapping promotional freebies and staring down the hallway waiting for crowds of caregivers seeking our counsel to appear.

I attended the keynote speech, which was about caring for parents with dementia. At the end of it, I felt like throwing myself into moving traffic -- and both my parents are dead. I also heard that 1 out of 8 adults are destined to develop dementia in their old age...which was interesting, considering that the vendor sitting directly in front of me had a display pointing out that the vast majority of adults 75 or over experience no significant cognitive impairment, and that keeping one's mind and body active are added protections for one's cognitive ability. Well, which is it? (And where is that laptop mahjong game when you really need it?)

By lunchtime I'd had about enough, so I took a dandelion break wandering around the general neighborhood of the venue. When I got back -- quelle surprise -- still no caregivers breaking down the doors to hear about how their life sucks, and how their loved ones' lives suck, and here's a complimentary chocolate bar and ink pen and five pounds of depressing literature to take home to further ponder the suckiness of you and your loved one's miserable lives.

Note: Keep in mind that these were my impressions after my daily dose of Lexapro.

There are days when a subsistence existence selling T-shirts and cottage caretaking up in the Leelanau starts looking really good. This day was one of them.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Why My Spiritual Life is Like My Cell Phone

We switched cell phone contracts the other week, and I am now the new owner of a sleek new metallic-sea-blue LG slidey phone that does just about everything but toast my English muffin in the morning.

Or at least it would if I really understood how to use it.

As it is, I can call out on it, and I can answer calls...I can add phone numbers to the directory...but most of the rest of it is a great mystery to me, even after repeated trips to the manual for guidance. Last week, for instance, I took a photo of my lovely Friday bouquet, with every intention of e-mailing to myself and posting it here...but darned if I can figure out how to do what was a fairly simple procedure on my old phone. I thought I had activated my voice mail, but whenever I try to get into my mailbox I'm told that my passcode number (the same number that I used for my old phone)isn't the right one. Some menu functions on the phone I just avoid altogether, because I'm not quite sure what they mean.

This morning on my way to work -- having realized that I'd forgotten my new cell phone, perhaps unconsciously accidently-on-purpose -- it occurred to me that the spiritual life is like...well...a cell phone. There's so much good and useful stuff, so much potential, packed into it; but sometimes it seems easier and safer and less confusing to confine oneself to the most rudimentary actions.

A Spirited Friday Five

This week's RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five:

Thinking about all the gifts of the spirit and what Peter said of the "last days"......

Have you or anyone you know:

1. ...ever experienced a prophesy (vision or dream) that came true?
When I was a child I dreamed that an old silver poplar stump at the edge of our lawn suddenly sprouted a new shoot; in the dream the sprout grew before my eyes like a stop-motion film. Well, the next spring this indeed happened, and the idea of "prophesying" this event sent a shiver down me timbers, so to speak, at the time. But in retrospect I suspect that my dream had more to do with my early botanical observational skills, watching a lot of nature programs on TV, perhaps a dash of Isaiah stuck in my young head from the Advent lectionary and the fact that silver poplars are weedy, invasive things that you really can never get rid of.

2. ...dreamed of a stranger, then actually met them later?
Not really...unless you count dreams of a faceless, not-quite-defined love interest...which, to my amazement and delight, did come true.

3. ...seen a wonder in heaven? (including UFO's)
Meteor showers are a wonder, to me. As are total eclipses. Double rainbows. The northern lights. Sandhill cranes. Bald eagles. The other day a military jet came zipping past the treetops near Cold Comfort Cottage waaaay too low for my comfort level; that was a wonder, albeit not a good one.

4. ...seen a "sign" on the earth?
Does this count? A church in the area had, on its roadside signboard, "Under the Same Management For 2,000 Years!" I thought that was rather clever.

Seriously: Once, many years ago when I was in college, some friends and I were at church for one reason or another, when we happened to look outside and saw a resident of the mental health group home down the street doing the Thorazine shuffle down the sidwalk, muttering to herself as she sprinkled a box of Morton salt onto the cement. After a few moments of silence as we watched, one of my companions quoted, "'You are the salt of the earth.'" It was one of those things-that-make-you-go-hmmm-moments.

5. ...experienced knowledge of another language without ever having studied it?

Let's see...I used to be able to carry on a fairly understandable two-way conversation with the late Cody using his unique repertoire of growly Dog-lish. But as far as human beings, no. Although now that I am the owner of a nifty new cell phone with enhanced text-messaging capability, it would be nice to suddenly be able to type in txt msg without spending twice as much time thinking about abbreviations as I'd have spent typing the whole word in the first place.

Bonus Question: What would a modern day news coverage of the first Pentecost have sounded like?
I'm guessing there probably wouldn't be any news coverage of it, in order to save time for really important news like celebrity baby bumps and who got kicked off Dancing With the Stars this week.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Sad Day For Michigan

Our Supreme Court has just declared, thanks to the anti-same-sex marriage amendment to our state Constitution, public-sector benefits for same-sex partners unconstitutional. Read about it here .

This is punitive, plain and simple. It has nothing to do with "protecting the institution of marriage." It has nothing to do with keeping down health insurance costs. It's all about "Let's go after the gays." It's bigotry enshrined in state law.

Thank you, Christian conservatives, for hurting families across the State of Michigan, in your eagerness to manifest your contempt for gay people through the legislative process. I hope you're happy dreaming about all the extra sparkles you've earned for your heavenly crowns by being such kick-ass Real Christians.[tm]

P.S. If you think your activism is going to make us leave the state so that you don't have to live next to us or pay taxes that support services we use or otherwise deal with us...sorry. Ain't happenin'.

P.P.S. If you think your activism is going to somehow convert us to heterosexuality...bad news; it ain't.

P.P.P.S. If you think that we are not in your own faith communities, clinging to Christ despite everything his followers do to us in his name...wrong again.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fire Rainbow

Just in time for pal Turkey sent me this photo of a "fire rainbow," a rare meteorological occurrence. Pretty cool, no?

Wii-ing and Watering While Rome Burns

In the wake of unrelenting bad news -- bad news about oil prices and world hunger and local economic depression and the growing prospect of President McCain -- I do have one small glimmer of positivity to report:

I earned a silver medal playing "Link's Crossbow Training" on the Wii.

No joke. My partner, who won a sharpshooting medal in the service, and who regularly beats me in Wii darts, is quite impressed.

This game is sorta kinda like a scarier "Lord of the Rings," with ogres, flying monsters and other assorted enemies to shoot at, interspersed with some amusing target-practice exercises. I'm a little frightened that I enjoy it so much.

Actually, I've been doing other things as well. Planting: That's an optimistic activity. My nascent herb garden is looking good, with additions going in day by day, and in fact I've started an annex over on the relatively moist and partially shady west side of my garage, to accomodate herbs with that preference. I put in some potatoes and onions behind the garage; no high expectations, but we'll see. (I do loves me those Irish Cobbler 'taters, which you can't find in the supermarket.)

My most recent odd obsession, one that I haven't yet acted upon: Growing my own mushrooms. The other day I saw a morel mushroom kit online; supposedly all I need to supplement my own meager backyard harvest (made more meager, I'm sure, this year by my idiot snowplowing guy, who scraped about a foot of soil from the backup where they like to grow)is a four-by-four plot of dirt with amendments "you can probably find in your yard." (Although my skeptical self is focusing on that word "probably.") How cool would that be? Or a crop of criminis or shiitakes?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday Five: Waitin' and Prayin'

Here's the RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five for this week:

Part of the Ascension Day Scripture from Acts 11 contains this promise from Jesus;

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Then he was taken from their sight into the clouds, two angels appeared and instructed the probably bewildered disciples to go back to Jerusalem, where they began to wait and to pray for the gift Jesus had promised.

Prayer is a joy to some of us, and a chore to others, waiting likewise can be filled with anticipation or anxiety....

So how do you wait and pray?

1. How do you pray best, alone or with others?
I value communal worship as well as private my answer is "yes."

2. Do you enjoy the discipline of waiting, is it a time of anticipation or anxiety?
I'm a terrible waiter.

3. Is there a time when you have waited upon God for a specific promise?
It wasn't a promise...but I recall, as a college undergrad, earnestly waiting for God to visit me with a Pauline knock-me-off-my-horse moment of vocational clarity that would lead me to a career. To which God said, in God's Deus absconditus way, What am I -- a Ouija board? Go figure it out yourself. Twenty-some years later, I'm still figuring.

4. Do you prefer stillness or action?
I am cursed with the Lutheran-church-basement-lady need to be useful. I have a hard time being still either physically or mentally.

5. If ( and this is slightly tongue in cheek) you were promised one gift spiritual or otherwise what would you choose to recieve?
To borrow a phrase from my Pentecostal friends, I'd want deliverance from the Demon of Procrastination. Out! Out! Get thee behind me! Out!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Good Food Fast

It was my turn at the stove tonight. We wanted pasta, and I wanted something fast. So here is what I did: First I soaked a handful of sundried tomatoes and chopped them up after they'd softened. Then I sauteed a couple cloves of garlic in olive oil, then added a bag of baby spinach and stirred the mixture until the spinach was nice and wilted. I added the tomatoes, stirred some and then set this mixture aside.

Meanwhile, I made a lighter faux Alfredo sauce by heating a can of evaporated fat-free milk, then adding a half-cup of shredded Parmesan/Asiago/Romano cheese and a couple grinds of pepper. (You could use reduced-fat Parmesan, could.)

I grabbed some fettucine out of the cupboard -- in this case some mushroom fettucine we'd picked up during one of our foodie excursions -- and cooked and drained that.

I mixed the hot pasta into the spinach and tomato mixture, then added the sauce.

This was pretty darned good. And I can see any number of variations on the theme.

Simple Fisherfolk

Have I said that I love Discovery Channel's The Most Dangerous Catch?

Well, I do. (And not just because it gives me opportunities to join in the Discovery Channel's catchy "boom-dee-yadda" promotional song. Sing it, Fellow Traveler: "I love the whole world/it's such a special place/boom-dee-yadda, boom-dee-yadda, boom-dee-yadda, boom-dee-yadda...")

This reality show, unlike so many, actually deals in reality -- the lives of crab fishermen off the Aleutian Islands. The spotlighted skippers include a Joe Cool neo-Viking; a tattooed biker-hippie; a totaly gonzo, type A wild man with the nervous system of a firecracker and a serious tobacco jones.

Their days are charted in long streaks of boredom punctuated by spikes of gleeful excitement, crushing disappointment or terror. Rogue waves...maiming on-deck accidents...empty crab pots...all in a day's work, out on the Bering Sea.

These guys smoke and drink too much. They cuss. They yell. I'm thinkin' they'd probably flunk the average catechism test; I'm guessin' they've never seen "The Bridge" or said the come-to-Jesus prayer.

But I'll tell you what: On the first episode of the season, we saw them gathered around their radios, quietly and solemnly listening to a local clergywoman giving the annual blessing of the fleet and praying for thier protection. When the radio transmission cut out, they looked positively stricken.

I suppose that persons who spend a lot of mental time sorting the sheep from the goats would accuse these fishermen of practicing a Christianity of convenience; of exhibiting the "no atheists in foxholes" syndrome. Personally, I find these men's honesty and vulnerability in the wake of nature and circumstance compelling. Maybe that's why Jesus liked to hang out on the docks.

Truth be told, I would rather spend five minutes in prayer with these tough customers than five hours engaged in happy-clappy Team Jesus cheerleading with Real Christians[tm].