Monday, May 23, 2011

String Theory

From my latest catalog: "Wouldn't you love to understand string theory at a deeper level than is available from popular articles or even book-length treatments? Aren't you eager to look over the shoulder of a prominent string theorist at work-one who has a gift for explaining the subject to non-scientists and who has created computer -generated images to help make the concepts clear?" Ummm, no. Not really. Fermat's Theorem, matrices and Markov chains, transfinite numbers. I try to avoid those kinds of thoughts.
In the world of Runs With Scissors this is what string theory is about. Organizing my embroidery thread. For years I've kept hundreds of skeins of thread tucked away in numbered envelopes inside an old shoe box. Necessity is the grandmother of invention. Then I made the mistake of browsing the shelves at a craft store and noticed their string theory. So with a half off coupon I tried it.
For several days the after supper and the dishes I got all wound up. Around and around and around these cards went my threaded fingers. Spike tells me I get wound up a lot.

Of course, mais oui, I have floss cards from France. These are far more beautiful so I just keep them for fun on the bedside table in the guest room upstairs.
When you have wound and wound and wound all of the cards and placed them in the container which Spike thinks, by the way would be great for fishing weights, bobbers, and hooks, you end up with this:

One of my sewing heroes uses this same string theory. I was so pleasantly surprised to see that Salley Mavor over at keeps her thread the same way.

Makes me feel a little better. I am a novice.  Salley is the consummate pro, the uber-threader, the one over whose shoulder I would want to look when it comes to string theory. Buy her books and keep her rolling.
We want Salley to continue to crank out scenes like this:
And carriages for our babies the likes of which you have never seen. Does your baby's carriage have acorn tops for wheels? Me thinks not.

Right now Salley is stitching away on her panoramic vista called "Rabbitat." Can you even begin to fathom how many French knots make up the gorgeous mossy lawn?
I'd like to visit the Rabbitat. I'd like to visit Salley. That's another kind of dream trip. I'd call Weezie and tell her she has exactly one hour and twenty minutes to meet me at J-Town International because we're going to meet Salley and try not to drool on her incredible art. Weezie and I ooh and ahh over all she can do.
This is for sure what I'd call The Joy of String Theory. Want to sign up for class?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Dreamed a Dream

In my dreams Spike would walk through the front door and say, "Shirl, you need to take a few days off and go somewhere fun." I wouldn't argue. Not for a second. Then he'd say, "Call the girls and y'all take the little girls on a girl trip." If for whatever reason they couldn't go, I'd call Cindy, Tish and Tricia and tell them they have one hour and 20 minutes to get ready to meet me at gate D3. Actually, since we're dreaming, I'd get Cindy, Tish and Tricia and their girls to go, too. That would be a perfect dream.

Eight hours later we'd be checking in at 13 Rue des Ecoles on the Left Bank. We wouldn't even care if our rooms weren't ready because we have a routine. Drop the bags and across the Pont de L'Archeveche (The Archbishop's Bridge) and.....

.....voila! You end up behind Notre Dame Cathedral. It just takes your breath away. The first time I got to Paris I kept my eyes closed once the taxi got into the city center until we arrived at the hotel. I didn't want to see anything big for the first time from a taxi window. This was my first glimpse of something BIG. So, the routine is to walk by Notre Dame and across the street to......

...St. Chapelle. We'll go inside another day. Louis the 9th built this to house the crown of thorns. After cruising around the old palace grounds we may stop somewhere to watch the world go by or maybe to peruse....
...the market at St. Germain. It's open on Sunday afternoon and that's a good time to arrive in Paris. Looking at all of the delicious, colorful food makes one hungry for a treat.

So pick out one or two or ten or twenty. Haven't had a bad one yet though I do have favorites.

Anything would taste good wrapped up like this. Your first day in Paris is not a good time to try to order a mille feuille. The clerks behind the counter will laugh at your pronunciation. It's the feuille part that gives you fits.

No. The Arch de Triomphe is not on the agenda for that first afternoon. Unless W is there. If he is, then in my dream we would walk over there. After all, everything in Paris is within walking distance. (According to us.) Taking any more taxis is prohibited until it's time to head back to the airport.

Now it would be time for a light supper and that always happens at Cafe Bonaparte right across from the church St. Germain-des-Pres. The goat cheese salad is to die for. I'm dreaming of one right now.

With a bowl of real French onion soup. Talk about comfort food. Especially if in your dream trip you arrive in November.
In my dream trip it's getting dark and we're all feeling as if we've been awake for about 100 hours, which we have, but who cares since it's a dream? Gotta get those walking legs going just a little longer so why not walk by the Louvre at night. It's a beautiful sight.
If you pay attention you might spy something you recognize through the windows at the Louvre. I never ever dreamed I'd be window peeping at the Louvre. But there she is!
The first afternoon and evening of my dream trip has been delightful. The girls all enjoyed it, too. But we're very tired and ready for a good night's sleep. There's a lot to do tomorrow. But for now, it's sweet dreams. In my dream trip.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting Reddi for Grandparenting

Each time one of the girls has a new baby I'm just floored with all of the new baby gizmos. Heated wipe boxes, shopping cart covers, bottle drying trees, little chewy containers that hold chopped fruit. It's a wonder my children ever made it to kindergarten without all this paraphernalia. If you're about to become a grandparent for the first or the twenty-first time, I have a shopping list for you. Forget all that new fangled stuff. You need to concentrate on other things guaranteed to make you a granny any child would like to visit.

You see, I had one of those grandmothers. One of those fun grandmothers. In her pantry at the back staircase was an old jar from my great grandfather's store. The jar was filled with miniature marshmallows, the perfect treat for a little bitty toddler. I have my grandmother's marshmallow jar. And her marshmallows. I'd show you a photo except you'd collapse. I've had the jar and the marshmallows for 30 years and the marshmallows were beige when I got them. It's kind of like King Tut's tomb now. Just gotta keep 'em. Wal-Mart sells an almost identical jar AND the marshmallows. White, fresh, fluffy ones. Keep it on your counter for quick treats, tasty rewards, and needed bribery tools.

What's really necessary is a can of Reddi-Whip. Let the children's parents worry about carrots and protein. Your job is to produce smiles like the one modeled below. All it took was a can o'cream. See that smile? He knows what's about to happen.
And while they're extra tasty and fresh, a large bowl of strawberries. "Can you feel the love tonight....."
Each pint-sized contestant selects the berry of his or her choice.
And let the fun begin. This is what is known as the art of squirting "Big Hair."

Did I just hear someone say, "Don't give them that! It will spoil their supper!" P'shaw!  Spoiling one's supper is kind of like losing a ball game. Like I always tell Spike when LSU gets walloped, "Don't worry. They can try again tomorrow." Supper is kind of like that every now and then. These children can eat a big supper at home tomorrow with their parents.
Doesn't this look like a lot more fun and wouldn't it taste better than broccoli and a pork chop? I mean, really.

Then if you need a little variety or need to move to a new food group like whole grains, you can always squirt "Big Hair" on a powdered sugar do-nut. He's forgotten all about that broccoli.

He may never eat broccoli again. Spike doesn't eat it. Maybe his granny fed him a "Big Hair Do-nut." If you insist on some healthy aspect of this delicacy you can always add a strawberry to the stack. Or as Erin would say, "Add a little ham and it would be a complete meal."
That's a good job, Benj. Eat that do-nut all up so you can have some dessert. Wait til you see what we have for dessert. We're just getting to the good stuff.
 Are you Reddi?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I've Been Thinking: The Ministry of Mentoring

"Most Christians would rather die than think-- in fact, they do," said Bertrand Russell, mathematician, philosopher, social critic and all-around fun guy. That statement clearly indicates he never met the women of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS. Actually, we should probably take a break every now and then. My friend the CE Director and I have a standing dialogue. When she answers the phone I say, "I've been thinking." Then she shrieks, "Oh no!"
Romans 12:2 reads "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." Being conformed to the image of Christ is a process of the heart and mind that is transformed by the Word of God. In response to that Christian "mindset" our Women in the Church ministry and the Christian Education ministry provide numerous opportunities for us to rub shoulders and lives with other women in order to serve as iron sharpening iron. It's called mentoring.

While many are trying to forget high school English in these days near graduation you may still remember Telemachus, son of Odysseus, who was left in the hands of Mentor while his father marched off to the Trojan War. The very word "mentor" means to cause another to think. Just what are we encouraging one another to think about? The Gospel.

The apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2 writes, "But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness--God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our lives because you had become very dear to us." Mentoring is stewardship of the Gospel. How?
1. A mentor is approved by God. God confirms or commends His people as stewards of His word in order to protect it as Paul later writes in Titus 2. "...that the Word of God may not be blasphemed." In the faithful day to day living of our lives the truth and fruitfulness of the Word should be evident.
2. A mentor is entrusted with the Gospel. To put into trust is to invest and the stewardship of the Gospel is performed with full confidence that what will result is the multiplication and maturation of believers.
3.A mentor speaks not for the pleasing or praise of men, but to please God who tests our hearts. The primary goal of mentoring is God's, not our own. The fact that God tests our hearts is a conviction, a guard against self aggrandizement and a comfort in that He knows the motives of our heart at all times.
4. A mentor ministers with sincerity. Flattery is sinful insincerity used to manipulate the heart and affections of the hearer toward the flatterer or toward the hearer. Its aim is to make one or both think more highly of herself than she should, but especially to the benefit of the flatterer. Mentoring is not about increasing self-esteem. It is about filling another with the truth and practicality of the scriptures.
5. A mentor seeks to promote the spiritual well-being of the other but is not a demanding superior. The apostles fought this battle all the time as they shooed away from Jesus those whom they determined to be pesky interlopers. Mentors always have the glory of God and the good of His people foremost in their ministry.
6. A mentor is gentle as a nursing mother cherishes her children. Not how I tend to think of Paul. We love because God first loved us. The sin-cracked love of man is nothing to be compared with the enduring, complete, nourishing love displayed on the cross of Christ.
7. A mentor shares the Gospel. Every woman's greatest need is the Gospel of Christ. My Sunday School teacher's lessons this semester have been how the answers to life's greatest questions are generally found in our theology. A mentor knows and gives the life-giving Word of God. Anything else is merely advice.
8. A mentor lives life with the other. "...we shared not only the Gospel, but our lives..." Being a mentor is not just giving someone a book. It is living the Book with them. It is "follow me as I follow Christ." The Gospel in the Word and the Gospel in a life are a powerful force that changes the lives of men and women, boys and girls, now and forever. Mentoring is a partner in the process of sanctification.

How can this happen? How can I be a mentor or how can I be mentored? While we don't want to try to engineer relationships, we can nevertheless provide platforms where the opportunity for rubbing shoulders and lives is made possible. Bible studies, discipleship groups, community groups, book clubs, prayer groups, crafts for missions or shut-ins, etc. all provide a platform for women to get to know one another beyond the "Hi, I'm fine how are you."  If you'd like to mentor someone, pray that the Lord would send you one. If you don't want to mentor, you'd better not pray for this to happen! God sends his sheep. And don't forget living in the niche. We sit in the same pew each Sunday, visit afterward with our personal friends, hope the sermon speaks to our needs, and lunch with those who make little or no demands. It's called comfort zone. My challenge is that instead of looking for your niche be the niche for someone else.

And one more something to toss in. Remember Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18? Paul came and stayed "some time" with them as they together made tents and headed for Paul's evening preaching at the synagogue. Later they came upon Apollos who was a fine preacher of one sermon. Aquila and Priscilla taught him a better way, a more complete Gospel. Their mentoring ministry was a family way of life. And how about Elizabeth as she mentors Mary the mother of the yet to be born Jesus. Talk about ministry in a time of crisis. Elizabeth served as counselor to the mother of the Wonderful Counselor who intercedes for us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. All of our mentoring and counsel must, like Christ's, be awash in prayer and partnered with the Holy Spirit.

This is probably enough thinking for one day on this subject, so I leave you a few bullets:
*Be obedient to answer the command to mentor in Titus 2.
*Be available. You can't be everything to everyone but you can be something to someone.
*Be purposeful while not excluding the work of Providence.
*Be biblical in what you say and live.
*Be real. There's more than enough phony baloney out there as it is.
*Be yourself. God has given each of us a unique ministry.
*Be a good listener.
*Be aware of your every day need for the Gospel.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Question of the Day: Why Friday the 13th?

There is nothing to fear! According the bible study teacher that I heard Tuesday night, Christians can remove two words from their vocabulary, luck and coincidence. I agree. We belong to a Sovereign God who preserves and governs all of his creatures and all of their actions. The truth of Romans 8:28 endures. God works all things for our good and His glory so you can forget rabbits' feet, stepping on cracks, and being fearful of walking under opened ladders.
But I will forever avoid black cats.
 Make that ALL cats. 

 Cannibal still believes in Friday the 13th.
I've been watching the calendar for a blog post about Friday the 13th. It all began long ago in a land far away in a castle filled with knights. No, not these two. However, they would have made the process much more enjoyable.

The knights of which I speak are the Knights Templar and their Grand Master Jacques de Molay. Their task as Templars was to guard pilgrims and the road from Jerusalem to Acre. Sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church, the Knights participated in the Crusades and gained by the sword great wealth and many enemies.

Jacques de Molay quickly rose within the Templar ranks as simultaneously the effectiveness of the Crusades fell. The power and wealth of the Templars became the focus of the attention France's landowners, Pope Clement V, and France's King Philip the Fair.
In 1305 Philip the "Not-So-Fair" made a decision to discredit de Molay and the Templars both to the public and the church. You see Philip owed the knights a vast sum of money and the tension between the land owners, the church and the king over wealth sort of came to what would later be known as a "Waterloo." By 1307 Philip summoned the knights to Paris. It was actually Friday, October 13th, 1307, when the Templars were arrested and thrown into the dungeon. Neither Friday the 13th nor the Templars were forgotten.

For seven long years they endured torture designed to extract confessions that would solidify Philip's claims and discredit the Templars in the eyes of the church and the aristocracy. King Philip coerced Pope Clement into condemning the Knights Templar and the property and money that could be located was divided according to King Philip who maintained that he got only his Philip the "Fair Share."

During the seven years of torture de Molay never disclosed the location of the remaining wealth of the Knights Templar. On March 18, 1314, at a special trial, a forged confession was presented which de Molay promptly discredited. That in and of itself was an act punishable by death. King Philip ordered him burned at the stake.

It was at this location on the Ile Aux Vaches (Cow Island) just below the Pont Neuf in Paris that de Molay was executed.
As the flames curled around him he requested that his hands be left unbound that he might die with hands raised in prayer. Shortly before his death it is reported that he cursed Pope Clement and King Philip summoning them to appear before God the Supreme Judge before the year was out.
"Let evil swiftly befall those who have wrongly condemned us--God will avenge us."
Almost exactly a month to the day after, Pope Clement V was dead and Philip the Fair was killed in a hunting accident within six months. Both men were indeed dead before the year was out. I believe you'd be hard pressed to convince those two that there's no such thing as bad luck on Friday the 13th.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mary, Mary, Quite........Lovely

Mother's Day is yet to arrive but I know it will be a happy and thankful one because of them.
And because of these five.

But whatever you do, don't forget three more.

Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

My friend, Marilyn, and I were talking and writing about the legacy of Christian mothers and grandmothers and she asked me what I hoped mine would be. My first thought was that I really don’t want it to be about me because it’s not about me. Yes, I want those children to know how dearly I love them, what joy they have brought to me, that I love the Lord Jesus Christ and fully expect that they will, too. If I had to choose one message to leave with them it would be this from Deuteronomy 30:19, 20 as God uses Moses to tell the children of Israel:”I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendents may live, that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell in the land that He swore to your fathers.” I want my grandchildren one day to meet me in heaven so that we’ll together see the King of Glory dwelling in the land He promised our fathers.

Thinking about grandmothers with Marilyn has caused me to think about my dear grandmother again. Here is how I picture her from the years we had together. She was something. I remember watching her as she sat on the side of the bed praying. She'd whisper her prayers aloud. Oh, how I wish I could hear those prayers now. Or better yet, pray with her! It is a great source of joy that one day she and I will together watch the King of Glory as He passes by.

Here she is with two of her three sisters.

Each of the four girls was named for a queen. Isn't that lovely? Helena Venet is seated with my grandmother Mary Elizabeth to her right and Anna Leona to the left. Evidently baby sister Charlotte Antoinette was napping or something.  The sisters grew up in Forreston, Illinois, at the turn of the century.

                                 My grandmother on the right with her sister, Helena.

Their parents reared them in the Dutch Reformed Church. Her daddy was the postmaster, pharmacist, and dry-goods store owner.  Is she not adorable? And talk about a hair bow. She'd make a great First Pres Day School girl, wouldn't she?

The sisters graduated from college (Valparaiso) back in the days when few women did. She was a sharp little tack and skipped a few grades along the way. This is her high school graduation picture from 1911 when she was 16 years old. I have her dress!

My grandmother was probably about the 800th baby girl in her family named Mary. Here she is with her grandmother Mary and her mother Mary Anna holding my mother Mary Joyce. My elder sister is Mary Nan, my second baby girl is Mary Kelly and her first born is Mary Margaret. I've often wished I'd gotten the name. Oh well. I've been given so much there is no room for complaint.

With so many of my friends becoming grandmothers, in honor of Mother's Day I'm going to begin posting ideas for "effective grandmothering." (That's code for valuable fun.) You'll be seeing this little face when I post a grandmother idea. How darlin' is my friend, Francie, dressed as a 100 year old woman in honor of the 100th day of school? Wouldn't you like her for your granny? You'd better behave or she'll rap your knuckles with her cane.

I'll close this post with one of Gramma's poems. She had memorized hundreds upon hundreds of stories, poems, plays and readings. Over the course of her 96 years she also kept a daily journal of the day's weather, the mail she and Grampa received, the main news headline of the day, what they had to eat and any family news worth mentioning. Yep. I have those journals, too, and they are one of my treasures. Here's the poem:

Guest, you are welcome here, be at your ease.
Get up when you're ready, go to bed when you please.
We're happy to share with you such as we've got.
The leaks in the roof and the soup in the pot.
You don't have to thank us or laugh at our jokes.
Sit deep and come often, you're one of the folks.