Saturday, December 22, 2007


Then, one FOGGY Christmas eve,
Santa came to say,
"Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

So, Rudolph is going to be pressed into service this year, eh? Visibility on the way to town today was about a tenth of a mile; that's how it's been for most of the week. On the way home a half hour later, visibility was about 100-120 feet. You couldn't see the next telephone pole until you were halfway there from the telephone pole you just passed. You couldn't see the houses alongside the road.

Tonight, Andrew learned how important "Stop Ahead" signs are. When you pass the "Stop Ahead" sign and it's too foggy to read it, but you know what it says because you're familiar with the roads, and then you drive
and you drive
and you drive,
knowing that stop sign is going to pop up any second,
but it keeps not showing up.
And then --BOOM-- there it is.
And there'd be no way to stop in time if you hadn't seen the "Stop Ahead."

Santa is going to need Rudolph for sure.


Most of you won't care, but maybe Rachel and Katie might. It might help them on their recipe site. I found some code for things I want to type that aren't on my keyboard. Okay, so some of them are math, and the girls won't care about that. But, hey, they can humor me. They'll need SOME way to ask me questions via e-communication when they're teaching algebra to their kids someday.

First you type the ampersand and pound-sign (shift-7 and then shift-3) followed immediately by the number. And then, poof!, your sign magically appears it your blog.

162 is the cent sign ¢
169 is copyright ©
174 is trademark ®
180 is accent-mark ´

176 is degree °
188 is quarter ¼
189 is half ½
190 is three-quarters ¾

177 is plus-or-minus ±
178 is superscript 2 (squared) ²
179 is superscript 3 (cubed) ³
215 is multiplication ×
247 is division ÷

More symbols are available here.

Sugarless Oatmeal-Banana Cookies

Normally I have no use for a "healthy cookie." If you want healthy, eat a carrot or apple. If you want a cookie, have it be a real cookie. Not a low-fat or low-sugar or low-anything concoction, but a REAL cookie.

But these good. And there's not one thing bad for you. Gosh, these are just as good for you as a rice pilaf or a veggie stir-fry. The only problem with this recipe is that it calls for 3 ripe bananas. It's mighty hard to get bananas all the way to good-n-ripe in this house without having them consumed/inhaled before they're baked into goodies. But if you DO manage to find some ripe bananas, this recipe is much more non-guilt than is banana bread. And just as tasty!

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies
350º for 15-20 minutes
makes 30 (use two or three greased cookie sheets)

1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
2 cups quick oats or rolled oats (uncooked)
1/2 cup raisins or craisins
1 tsp vanilla
3 ripe bananas, smashed and smooshed

Mix all ingredients. Let stand about 5 minutes for oats to soak up liquid (longer if using rolled instead of quick). Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes. Let cool a minute or two before removing cookies to cooling rack.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Today I had to stand around for a while, outside a dressing room in a department store. While waiting, I noticed all the people in the store at this time of year. This may sound dumb, but it struck me how much prettier the women at church are.

In the store, there were a few pretty females, but a lot who weren't beautiful. The girls and women at the store may have had the make-up and the clothes and the hairstyles that are supposed to make us females beautiful. Compared to the women at church, a greater percentage of the women at the store would "have what it takes" to be in a women's magazine. And yet, most of them just weren't as pretty as the normal-lookin' women that I hang around with. There's something in the faces of my friends (whether aged 15 or 45 or 75) that betrays a kindness and a friendliness. And that something makes a person more attractive, even to strangers.

Andrew was asking a week or so ago about wrinkles and smile-lines, and we talked about how 60-70 years' worth of personality ends up etched in the kind of wrinkle-lines on a person's face. That's why we can so often look at an older person and assess whether the person looks nice or cranky. But that wouldn't explain why personality (brashness, gentleness, arrogance, patience, etc) shows up in the face of a teenager or young mother.

Psalm 111

The works of the Lord are great.
His work is honorable and glorious.
He has made His wonderful works to be remembered.
He has declared to His people the power of His works.
The works of His hands are verity and justice.

That's a whole lot of references to God's works, all in one psalm. It's so easy to think of God's works primarily as feeding us (verse 5) and powerful acts (verse 6). But the psalm looks entirely different when you start thinking of His work on the cross: His righteousness (verse 3) and His compassion (verse 4) and His promise (verse 5) and the redemption of His people (verse 9).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cardiology Visit

The echo showed beautiful results from last year's surgery. There's the tiniest bit of leakage from the homograft, better than the doctor could've hoped for. The pulmonary arteries and the ventricles are perfect. The doctor said there's nothing her heart can't take as far as sports activities -- except maybe tackle football or high-school wrestling. (Like we were going to have her involved in those boy sports anyhow???)

Doc's only concern is Maggie's weight gain. It's common after surgery, but it's something to start taking seriously. She got speeches today (from somebody other than Mom) about veggies and exercise.

Instead of going "lub-DUB," Maggie's heart goes "lub-swish-DA-DUB" and the doctor explained to me what the sounds were, and that it sounds just like an atrial septal defect (in case Matt wants to take a listen to the current sounds).

We also discussed the necessity of the next appointment and its timing, in case of not having insurance coverage then. We know what to watch for, and that if we don't have insurance, there can be some allowances made (by the doctor, but not by the hospital).

Hot Dogs

Oh, they're full of salt and fat and mystery meat and other things I don't want to know about. They're terrible for you.

Last Saturday, the tree was put up at a sister-congregation, and they served hot dogs to the workers. When I was there for Bible class today, they were trying to clean out the fridge. They sent home hot dogs and white-bread buns with me.

Oh, yum! Oh, melting away in deliciousness! Hot dogs are awful. But they TASTE sooooo good!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Psalm 24

Somehow, the sections of this psalm always seemed so disjointed to me. The first section is about the Lord making the whole world. The middle section is about holiness being necessary to come into God's presence. And the third part is "Lift up your heads" which shows up in many Advent hymns, and thus seemed to me to refer to getting our hearts ready for Christ's coming. The pietist in me sure saw this psalm as referring to our efforts at spirituality.

But what if verse 3 ("Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?") is connected to verses 7 & 9 about "lift up your heads, o gates, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in"? If Jesus is the one with "clean hands and a pure heart," then He is the one who "may ascend into the hill of the Lord." Jesus is the one who receives blessing and righteousness from God. So --yoohoo-- somebody meets the requirements for coming into the holy place [in the middle section of the psalm] and therefore, naturally, the doors need to be opened for Him [the last section].

In addition, He may stand in the holy place --He may enter into God's presence [the middle section] with the blood of atonement-- because He is the one who is "strong and mighty in battle," the one who fights, the one who defeats the enemy [the last section].

Hey, maybe this psalm hangs together a little more than I thought for the past few decades!

Where I Live

I love it that there are no city lights close by, and the sky is dark, and we can see stars. I love it that we can watch a meteor shower and have even seen the Northern Lights this far south.

I love my beautiful hardwood floors. I love it that I can get more hardwood floors as soon as I can manage to find the time and energy to rip out more carpet.

I love it that I can see the horizon. The horizon to the west is about 13 miles away, and to the east it's about 6 miles away. We can see the sun make its trek across the sky, setting way down there in the south now, past the garage. We can see it start to move north next week until at Easter it will be setting behind the tree that's smack dab straight out the front window. And in summer it will be way up there in the north, beyond Paul's bedroom. Although I learned this science in school, it didn't gel in my brain until I lived with it, watching it out my window year after after.

Seeing the horizon also means we can see the storms approaching, and judge whether the rain will be here in 10 minutes or 30. We can watch the lightning dance and flitter its way from Rockford to Beloit to Janesville to Madison. We can see from the shape of the clouds whether to expect huge gusts of wind such that we need to hide lawn-chairs in the garage.

On a mostly-sunny, partly-cloudy day, I love watching the isolated shadows of those few cumulus clouds crawl across the hayfields and the bean-fields.

I love that my bird-watching is more than robins and finches and cardinals. I love watching the red-tail hawks hunting and the turkey buzzards floating on the warm updrafts of air. I love watching (and hearing!) V's of sandhill cranes migrating.

And most of all, I love marking the passage of time by the wildflowers that are blooming. I love knowing when the St Johns-wort is early, or the wild roses are late. I love the ribbon of chicory and Queen Anne's Lace that lines the country roads in July. I love the phlox of spring, the soapwort of summer, and the goldenrod of fall. The inexorable flow of one flower's season to the next flower's month is a beauty and a comfort and a sturdiness that can't be known in the city like it can in the country.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wisconsin Homeschooling News

Two weeks ago, a district court of appeals declared that it is illegal for a public school to run a charter e-school and take in out-of-district students. Some homeschoolers will agree and others will disagree. The big problem, though, is some of the reasoning used by the court. Legislation will be coming to sort and settle this matter. It is likely that homeschoolers will be caught up in the trouble. We need to be on our toes, paying attention to what's happening, because it's very likely that there could be changes coming that would effect homeschoolers.

Homeschoolers need to ensure that public e-schoolers (kids who are enrolled in the public school, but who do their work at home via computer) are NOT confused with homeschoolers. Homeschools are PRIVATE schools. They operate under the private-school law. Public e-schoolers, even though they're at home in their living room, are PUBLIC school students.

Homeschoolers also need to take this opportunity to remind legislators that we do not want favors and help from the government. We want to be left alone to make our own decisions about the education of our children. There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. If we are offered tax breaks or any other help from the govt, we need to remember that strings will be attached, and we will no longer have the freedom to choose an education that is best-suited to our children's needs and interests.

For more information, please check out the WPA website. Please circulate the information to other homeschoolers. We may need to be very active in January or February to protect our excellent law. Any groundwork that can be accomplished now, ahead of time, would be good.

Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

I stewed one of Karin's chickens overnight. That always makes me immensely popular with the cats. They smooch my legs. They look at me with loving eyes. They proclaim that they are the BEST kitties and surely love me so much that they deserve for the chicken to be dropped on the floor. Not the whole chicken?? Well, okay, they'll settle for bits. Not bits of chicken either?? Can we at least lick the pot when you're done?? Please? We're such GOOD GOOD kitties!

The one who was begging last night (the older one) happened to be unavailable when I was picking off the meat this morning. So we called, "Rosie, Rosie, Rosie." It has a different sound from "Kitty, Kitty, Kitty" which is the call to the older cat, our huntress. (Of course, by now they're beginning to learn to come when the other is called ... so as to be able to stick your nose into her business bowl.

Maggie always asks about why I didn't call "Kitty, Kitty, Kitty." I try to intercept the question and hush her, because no matter how quietly you say those magic words, the cats will hear and come a-runnin'. So we've taken to using the abbreviation "KKK" for the magic words. For me and the older kids, those letters still bring to mind the Ku Klux Klan, but I imagine it won't be long before my first thought on hearing KKK will be something to do with greedy cats and stewed chicken and/or roast turkey.

Can you even imagine what my kids are going to do when they see "KKK" on a CLEP test or a college history exam?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Stuck But Unused Stamps

At the post office today, I learned something new. If I had an unused stamp that was attached to a self-addressed stamped envelope that a business had sent us, or if I mistakenly attached a stamp to an envelope with the wrong address, I used to snip it off and glue it onto another envelope. The postmaster today wouldn't accept it. He told me that it is fine to bring in the envelope with the unused stamp attached, and they'll refund the money or give me a new stamp. But any stamp going into the mail must be attached to the current envelope and cannot have been stuck onto anything else first.

Okay. That's good to know for future reference.

But today it took all my gumption not to burst into tears in the post office over that 82 cents.

So I proceed to the welder's place to pick up my pots whose handles had fallen off last week. When his assistant fetched my order, I asked her how much I owed her. I expected somewhere between $5 and $10, and I really have no clue if I was anywhere in the ballpark. But Denise told me I didn't owe them anything; it was "a donation to the cause." Overwhelmed, I thanked her. Granted, it was probably no big deal to them who fix great big honkin' pieces of machinery. A little handle on a little saucepan maybe isn't any more to them than sewing on a button would be to me. But it meant a lot to me that they did the repairs out of kindness, without cost to us.

And a few minutes earlier I was stressing over 82 cents.

Leaking Roof

And in the "What Next??" department...
A year ago I told the folks at church that the church roof was leaking. Nothing was done. In September, the turkey-dinner committee discovered that the kitchen roof was leaking. The decision to repair was made that week. Bids were obtained, and within 3 weeks the repairman was hired.

He didn't come do it. The roof isn't fixed yet.
Can't be fixed now. Not until spring's thaws.

We had a relatively warm day last week. Almost 30. Because the roof is flat and black, that was enough sunshine to start melting the snow and ice. The church kitchen started getting wet again. The ceiling and walls and cupboards are being damaged. But most of the stuff is safe; dishes, glasses, counters, and silverware are designed to be washed, which means they can get wet without being ruined.

But now Gary's study is leaking too. He keeps books in there. And a computer. This is not good. Books should not get wet. We're trying to figure out where the contents of his office can go.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Doublespeak" Revisited

Last week I wrote about the intent of the congregation here to maintain a full-time ministry. Well, Gary was making a hospital visit to one of the officers of the congregation, and they were chatting a bit about the previous week's meeting. That revealed the reasons behind my confusion.

I gotta admit upfront that I think the pay-scale suggested by the district office is high. It's a rare pastor who gets paid the recommended salary. I think a whole lot of congregations aim for somewhere around 75-90% of what's recommended. So when Triune suggested that they'd try to pay Gary 30% of the recommended pay-scale (but that we ought not be caught off-guard if/when it turns out that they only pay 15-25% of scale), it seemed obvious to me that he'd have to be looking for a secular job that would provide at least $25,000 in income. It seemed obvious to me that they wouldn't be expecting a full-time commitment from him if that's all they can provide their pastor.

Turns out that they are. From their point of view, they aren't dropping the salary that much, so there's no reason to think the pastor should change from being available 24/7 to being available only in the spare hours when he's not at a [different] full-time job. So of course he can't get a full-time job.

So that's where their communication didn't quite get through to me initially. We just came with different assumptions.

And the Mountains in Reply

Angels we have heard on high,
sweetly singing o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply,
echoing their joyous strains:
Glory be to God in the highest!

The mountains? The song says "the mountains." The mountains are singing too? I always used to think that the mountains were just the big wall for the angels' song to bounce back from. That's what an echo is, right?

But ...
Romans 8 tells us that the whole creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. The creation groans and labors, waiting for deliverance from the futility to which it was subjected.
And ...
Jesus told the grumbling Pharisees that if the children were not praising Him on Palm Sunday, then the rocks themselves would cry out in praise.
And ...
in Psalm 98 (and others) we pray things like: "Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord."

And the mountains in reply,
echoing their joyous strains!


We are anxious here to get back to more than 9 hours of daylight per day. I find it interesting, as we approach the 21st, that the collect for the week is imploring Jesus to "hear our prayers and to lighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation." And I found it likewise interesting that the antiphon for the 21st is

O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting:
Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.