Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: The Dovecot

The Dovecot, Holman Hunt

Via Lines and Colors which has a nice bit of history about the painting.

Well Said: O my God, Trinity whom I adore ...

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.
Prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
This is at the end of the section of the Catechism about the Trinity. The entire section kept astounding me with the mystery of it all, but this prayer keeps drawing me back again and again. It is so perfect.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Green Onion Pancakes

This recipe isn't from the Chinese cookbook I reviewed today, but you can see why I'm giving a copy of the book to Hannah.

Whenever she makes these Green Onion Pancakes for us, we are in heaven!

Worth a Thousand Words: Portrait of John Singer Sargent

Giovanni Boldini, Portrait of John Singer Sargent
circa 1890
via Wikipedia
Not a portrait by Sargent. A portrait of Sargent. For a change.

Lagniappe: Sam Spade

Spade set the edges of his teeth together and said through them: "I won't play the sap for you."
Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon
Maybe you had to be there, but there is something about Hammett's writing that just grabs me. And this was one of those moments. I much prefer the book to the movie by the way, wonderful as all the acting was.

All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips

I was 12% into this book when I knew I wanted a copy for myself. I was 20% into it when I realized I needed to preorder multiple copies for those I know who cook Chinese food.

I've got several Chinese cookbooks and had sworn off ever buying any more. My favorite, The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo, never lets me down and has a lot of variety packed into it.

However, All Under Heaven was written with the same sort of clear instructions and approachable style. Additionally, it looked at the usual Chinese regional cuisine divisions (Sichuan, Hunan, Cantonese, etc.) more closely than I'd ever seen.

This means than you don't just read about Cantonese or Southern Chinese cooking, but also get to try typical Hakka dishes or try that of Taiwan's military families who came from different provinces and then gave everything a big stir to create their own distinctive cuisine. Some of the dishes sound like a familiar twist on our favorites like Silk Road Fajitas, until you realize that this was a traditional Northwestern Chinese dish. Some had a technique that I can't wait to try, like Shaved Noodles with Meat Sauce where you use an ultra-sharp knife to shave noodles off a block of pasta dough.

I loved Carolyn Phillips' writing, especially the accessible headnotes to each recipe. Her explanation of the different regions was always personalized at the end so that we got to share a little of her life in China too.

This book was provided in a terrible Kindle version by NetGalley. I assume the garbling of the recipes is because of NetGalley's conversion. My review is my own.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Jimmy Makes the Varsity

Illustrated by George Avison, 1928
I'm really ready for some football. And if the uniforms all looked like this I'd be even readier. Being as how I'm someone who is equally fond of nostalgia.

Well Said: Christ and a Pinch of Salt

To become new men means losing what we now call ‘ourselves’. Out of our selves, into Christ, we must go. His will is to become ours and we are to think His thoughts, to ‘have the mind of Christ’ as the Bible says. And if Christ is one, and if He is thus to be ‘in’ us all, shall we not be exactly the same? It certainly sounds like it; but in fact it is not so.

... suppose a person who knew nothing about salt. You give him a pinch to taste and he experiences a particular strong, sharp taste. You then tell him that in your country people use salt in all their cookery. Might he not reply ‘In that case I suppose all your dishes taste exactly the same: because the taste of that stuff you have just given me is so strong that it will kill the taste of everything else.’ But you and I know that the real effect of salt is exactly the opposite. So far from killing the taste of the egg and the tripe and the cabbage, it actually brings it out. They do not show their real taste till you have added the salt.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
This seems to me to be the perfect analogy. I myself, while living as a Christian, still sometimes have trouble visualizing things like "putting on Christ." This idea of "salt" has really sunk in and I think of it often.

Genesis Notes: Life Outside Eden

GENESIS 4:1-26
Now that we've looked ahead to see the fulfillment of God's promise, we'll return to Genesis itself where Adam and Eve have been expelled from the Garden of Eden and there is trouble outside of paradise.

CAIN AND ABEL

Cain and Abel with offerings; Cain killing Abel. English, 15th century.

Something I always wondered was why Abel's offering was acceptable and Cain's was not. I never noticed before that Abel's is described slightly differently until I read more carefully.
Cain's offering doesn't seem to be as impressive. It must have represented Cain's attitude towards God. Perhaps it was given in a perfunctory manner. Perhaps it was given grudgingly. Perhaps Cain consciously withheld the best of his harvest for himself and gave some of the less desirous or useful fruit in offering to God. It is important to recognize that God isn't arbitrarily picking one offering over another. He sees first the condition of the man's heart, then his offering. Abel worshipped God appropriately, so God had regard for him and his offering. Something was wrong in Cain, so God rejected his offering.
We see now also the same pattern of behavior that started with Adam and Eve, although at least they didn't sass God. Reading this with "new eyes" I found myself almost shocked at Cain's attitude when talking to God after murdering his brother. Also, it never occurred to me that Abel's blood "crying out" was any more than an expression. Here we see it has complexity of meaning.
God is giving Cain an opportunity to confess his sin and be accountable for it, just as He had done with Cain's parents in Eden. A Father's love always wants to hear an explanation of how things went wrong.

Cain lies to God, and then he becomes sarcastic. He disavows any responsibility for his brother's welfare, throwing off any constraints on his autonomy. In his pride, Cain has chosen separation from God and from men.

The blood cries out. It is alive. Although Abel has been murdered, somehow his life has not been completely snuffed out. Throughout the rest of Scripture, blood will have potent meaning for man's life, both natural and supernatural. It will come to represent the life of man, and, liturgically, the means of atonement for man's sin ("the life of the flesh is in the blood - it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life" Lev.17:11). Finally, in the Eucharist, it will become the presence of Christ in man.
Cain doesn't show any remorse or even regret. His primary concern is that he will suffer under his punishment and that someone will kill him. In this, he reminds us of Adam and Eve, who also showed no regret in Eden.
All quoted material is from Genesis: God and His Creation. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Seeing Salvation: Images of Christ in Art

Seeing Salvation: Images of Christ in Art

"The greatest artists, in representing the life of Christ, did something even more difficult: they explored the fundamental experiences of every human life. Pictures about Jesus's childhood, teachings, sufferings and death are—regardless of our beliefs—in a very real sense pictures about us." Seeing Salvation offers pointed insights regarding the relationship between artists' representations of Christ and the evolution of Christian culture. This sweeping account of centuries' worth of history is enlivened by a wealth of detailed observations.
This book is a wonderful look at how art has reflected the changing Christian beliefs through history. What elevates this book is that the writer is always respectful both of the reality of history and of the belief of the artists. The chapters range from the Incarnation to the end of time, with each ending on an inspirational note which ties the reader into the faith which inspired the art.

A really good book whether read for art, history or inspirational purposes.

Lagniappe: Arthur C. Clarke and Reader's Digest

I believe this [A Fall of Moondust] was probably Reader's Digest's first essay into science fiction, but I have never been able to bring myself to sample the result -- not because I fear that the Pleasantville editors may have butchered my deathless prose, but because I'm scared they may have improved it.
Arthur C. Clarke, introduction to A Fall of Moondust

Worth a Thousand Words: Flaming June

Frederic Leighton, Flaming June, 1895
I simply love looking at this gorgeous painting, the fresh and beautiful young woman, and thinking about the wisp of dazzling vista presented tantalizingly behind her.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words / Well Said: Three Kings in the New World

Adoration of the Kings, Diego de la Puente
Around 1650 Diego de la Puente, a Flemish-born Jesuit priest and painter working in Peru, created an altarpiece of the Adoration of the Kings specifically designed to allow the local congregation in the Jesuit church in Juli to find their place in the story. ...

Balthazar the Spaniard presents a case of Spanish gold coins. The black Gaspar offers myrrh. But it is the native Indian King Melchior who brings frankincense, the offering due to a god. And there can be no doubt that this king comes from Titicaca — he and his retinue are shown in front of one of the sacred mountains of Juli. They have the characteristic facial features of the Aymara people that can still be seen in the streets of the town. The king himself wears the headdress, fringe and costume of a local chieftain — who thus leads his people freely, long before their conquest by Europeans, from idolatry to the worship of the one true God.

Matthew's Magi have come a long way. From the catacombs to Lake Titicaca, artists have shown them with Byzantine emperors, German Kings, Medici bankers and South American chieftains. Yet throughout all the evident political manipulations, the meaning of these representations of the Magi remains constant: they behold and proclaim the utter universality of Christ.
Seeing Salvation, Neil MacGregor

Genesis Notes: Her Seed—Resurrection and the Tree of Life

GENESIS STUDY
The Agony in the Garden - Luke 22:39-46
The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy.

We finish the look forward with some more amazing revelations. Not only did this keep opening my eyes but it left me with a whole new appreciation for the deeper meaning of Jesus's sacrifice and the cross.

Titian, Noli me tangere (Don't touch me)

The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
Who was the very first gardener on earth? It was Adam, of course. God planted a garden for Adam and put him in charge of it. Adam, however, failed in his responsibilities. He did not keep that garden safe and had to be sent away from it. For Mary Magdalene to mistake Jesus as "the gardener" is a profound clue to us of what has actually happened in this Garden of Resurrection. He is, in fact, the "Gardener." He is the New Adam, who will not fail to keep His Father’s vineyard safe and make it fruitful. All things have been made new ...

Jesus, as the New Adam, had to re-trace the human steps leading up to the first Adam’s capitulation. For Him, it came down to a choice to obey God and suffer a torturous death or to avoid suffering, putting His own welfare first. We know that Jesus embraced His suffering. He entered fully and without reserve the step that would be the final and unequivocal proof of His love for God. This was the step man was originally designed to take ...

The devil does not have ultimate power of life and death. He is only a creature; God alone has that power.
These verses suggest that the "power" the devil has in death is the fear that it produces in human nature. The fear of death keeps men in bondage to the devil. How? Think of the scene in Garden of Gethsemane. The fear of death in Jesus had the potential to turn Him away from God’s will. In Jesus we are able to see that choosing God over ourselves can be painful. It is a kind of death to ourselves. In the case of Jesus, it eventually led to a physical death as well. Think of Adam in Eden. To resist the temptation of the devil would have required a death in Adam-if not physical, then surely a death to what he wanted to gain by eating the forbidden fruit. For Jesus to die and rise again strips the devil of his most potent weapon against man. If death could not hold Jesus, He is really the One with power over it. He was "bruised" in the process, but in another Great Reversal, the death of Jesus (and the appearance of victory for the devil) turned the world upside down, and the serpent slithers away with a mortal wound (see CCC 635).

The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59
We know that the first sacrament appeared in Eden, where men could have eaten fruit and lived forever. If Jesus, the New Adam, has made it possible for men to experience a new birth that restores them to the life Adam and Eve had before the fall, it should not surprise us to find that Jesus offers Himself as food and drink for those seeking eternal life. We have seen many signs in the New Testament that "the woman" and her "seed" came not only to battle the enemy but also to open a way for human creatures to return to the life of Eden. The Tree of Life was a prominent feature of that life; now we discover that the "tree" of the Cross (see Acts 5:30) has born fruit for eternal life. In the Eucharist, we eat that "fruit" and live forever.
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Girl in White

Girl in White (1905-1907), Ruth Pratt Bobbs

Well Said: Imagine They Were a Character From Dickens

Fr. Fulton had a deep love of Dickens. And he once confided to Fr. Michael that when he encountered people who were for whatever reason simply unlikeable (a rare occasion for this man so full of love) he would imagine they were a character from Dickens–and that made it alright.
I like that idea. I like it a lot.

A Movie You Might Have Missed #57: The Apostle

The hardest soul to save was his own.

The Apostle

Robert Duvall gives a tour de force performance as a zealous Pentecostal preacher hiding from his past. Now in a small Louisiana town, Sonny goes by the name of "Apostle E.F." and opens a new church with the help of a retired reverend.
Duvall gives us the story of a main character, Sonny, who is fully, tragically, joyfully human and who is always returning to God. Some of the scenes seem long but afterwards the viewer realizes that such immersion was needed to understand Sonny's world and soul.

At the end of this movie all I could think of was King David in the Old Testament. Beloved of God, loves God, inspirational, beloved by his people, and yet terribly a terribly flawed man who sent a trusting subordinate off to sure death so he could take his wife.

It is fascinating that Robert Duvall evokes these echoes in The Apostle, especially since watching the extras Duvall kept speaking of believers as "those people." He didn't mean it in a derogatory way but just that for him they are "other," a people who he is not a part of. He pulls it off because he's absolutely honest as a story teller and as an actor.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Princess Leia

Cover art by Mark Brooks for ‘Princess Leia’ #1 from Marvel Comics
via Not Pulp Covers

Well Said: Old Enough to Start Reading Fairy Tales Again

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.
C.S. Lewis
Preface to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Scott leads music practice but gathers too large an audience. ...

Julie sprinkles dirt on the commandant's shoes. Both of them wind up in the cooler, without a single baseball. So they pass the time by discussing The Great Escape. It's Episode 140 of A Good Story is Hard to Find.



Monday, August 22, 2016

Well Said: On Ray Bradbury's Birthday

"They began by controlling books of cartoons and then detective books and, of course, films, one way or another, one group or another, political bias, religious prejudice, union pressures; there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves."
Ray Bradbury, "Usher II" (1950)
Ray Bradbury shares a birthday with Hannah ... which I tend to forget. They both share the qualities of being smart as whips, logical, and never fearing to speak the truth. Hannah doesn't have nearly as many best sellers, but there's time.

Worth a Thousand Words: Gonna Get a Fish

Gonna Get a Fish
taken by Valerie, ucumari photography
some rights reserved

Happy Birthday Hannah!

From Coco Cake Lane
(scroll down to see many great dog cakes)
How did my sweet Hannah turn into a 28-year-old married lady?

She's been an incredible blessing in our lives over the years.

She's still the same sweet, kind, generous, loving person she's always been ... we are proud to be her parents.

Another thing that hasn't changed is her abiding love for animals, especially her dogs. Toddler Hannah and grown up Hannah would both like these dog cupcakes!

Friday, August 19, 2016

In which we become addicted to curry and a five day delay endangers our journey ...

... Around the World in Seventy-Two Days. Two more chapters of Nellie Bly's classic race against time are ready for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics podcast!

Worth a Thousand Words: Self Portrait with a Sunflower

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), Self Portrait With a Sunflower, Private collection
I always enjoy seeing the personal touches that artists put into self-portraits, especially in the more flamboyant pieces, such as the one above.

Which. I. Love.

Lagniappe: Refills

“Refills are free,” the waitress tells us with a frown, like she’s hoping we’re not the kind of people who ask for endless refills. I am already pretty sure we are exactly those people.
Holly Black, Black Heart

Genesis Notes: Her Seed — Birth of the Church

GENESIS STUDY
The Agony in the Garden - Luke 22:39-46
The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59
Created In God's Likeness - Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 15:53; Eph. 4-22-24; Col. 3:9

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy.

Ok, how many times can I say that these connections make perfect sense yet I had never "seen" them before I was introduced to studying "types?" If you thought the connections between Mary and Eve were amazing, they are nothing to those between Jesus and Adam. You just can't make this stuff up. What an unbelievable plan God works out through Jesus. Hear that sound? That's my mind blowing.

Crucifixion of Jesus, Marco Palmezzano

The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
Thorns in Eden were another evidence of God’s curse upon man, the punishment for his sin. They represented the difficulty man would experience in fulfilling his vocation on earth, having lost his supernatural grace. As the story of Genesis unfolds, the crown of thorns we see in this gospel scene will take on more significance (most specifically in chapter 22). For now, we can understand it to be another indication that Jesus is taking upon Himself the curse pronounced on Adam, even though He has retraced Adam’s steps and has not faltered ...

Jesus, having been scourged, stands there in a purple robe and crown of thorns. Pilate’s grand introduction is meant as mockery. The angry crowd is full of contempt for Jesus. And yet, this is a human being in which the image and likeness of God has not been lost. This is man as God always intended him to be-perfectly obedient and faithful to the covenant, no matter what the cost. In this gospel scene, Jesus is the only one with real human dignity. He is the New Adam, and Pilate’s announcement of "Here is the man!" heralds the beginning of a new humanity ...

Pathologists would tell us that a wound like this one, in its place on the body of one who died as Jesus died, would actually produce both blood and water. The Church has always recognized in this detail of Christ’s death a startlingly beautiful symbol of the birth of the Church. The water of baptism initiates believers into union with Christ; the blood of the Eucharist sustains them on their journey to God (see CCC 1225). In Scripture, the Church is frequently described as "the Bride" of Christ. The Lord refers to Himself as "the Bridegroom" (Mark 2:19), and heaven will be the marriage feast of the Lamb (see CCC 796). In Eden, as Adam slept, God opened his side to create Eve, his bride, a true helper for him and one with whom he would form a permanent union in body and spirit. As Jesus slept the sleep of death on the Cross, the wound in His side poured forth the sign of His Bride, the Church. Adam, tempted by the devil, did not protect his wife with his life, but "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her" (Eph. 5:25-26).
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Love or Duty

Love or Duty (1873), Gabriele Castagnola (Italian, 1828-1883)
via Books and Art

Well Said: Jezebel's Real Sin

I found this fascinating. It highlights again what happens when our eyes are opened by experience and context and we then turn them upon something old and familiar only to see it in entirely new light. It is from Agatha Christie's memoir of trips to Syria with her archaeologist husband shortly before World War II, Come Tell Me How You Live.
An immense dinner materializes in next to no time, and after it, tired and comfortable, with special delicacies in honor of holiday and Mac's arrival (Turkish Delight, preserved aubergines, bars of chocolate and cigars), we sit and talk, for once of subjects other than archaeology.

We come to the question of religions generally--a very vexed question in this particular part of the world, for Syria is full of fiercely fanatical sects of all kinds, all willing to cut each other's throats for the good cause! From there we fall to discussing the story of the Good Samaritan. All the Bible and New Testament stories take on a particular reality and interest out here. They are couched in the language and ideology which we hear daily all around us, and I am often struck by the way the emphasis sometimes shifts from what one has commonly accepted. As a small instance, it came to me quite suddenly that in the story of Jezebel, it is the painting of her face the or tiring of her hair that emphasizes in puritanical Protestant surroundings what exactly a "Jezebel" stands for. But out here it is not the painting and tiring--for all virtuous women paint their faces (or tattoo them), and apply henna to their hair--it is the fact that Jezebel looked out of the window--a definitely immodest act!

Crab Mac and Cheese

Hannah's been getting busy in the kitchen with Nigel Slater's Eat ... with delicious sounding results. Get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

C3 Auto - Not Your Usual Used Car Dealership

These days its a special pleasure when you find someone who actually cares about more than making a quick buck, especially when you're looking for a used car. We ran into the typical used car dealer stereotype and since we were first-timers in the used car arena, this made us extra wary.

Luckily we found C3 Auto. They specialize in clean pre-owned vehicles with low miles, priced below ten thousand dollars. They all come with clean CarFax reports.

More to the point, the people are great. You can't get better service, with no pressure, than we got from Brandon and Larry. They were easy to deal with, helped us find a great car, and overall made buying our first used car a pleasurable experience.

Dallas car buyers, give them a shot!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Boston Beaneater King Kelly

Michael J. "King" Kelly
via the Library of Congress baseball album on Flickr

Well Said: The Religion of the Word

Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book." Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, a word which is "not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living" (St. Bernard). If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "Open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures" (Cf. Luke 24:25).
Catechism of the Catholic Church
I was mentioning this to someone recently about Christianity being a religion of "the Word" and not "the book." I'd read it somewhere else and so was delighted to find it in my morning dip into the Catechism.

Yes, two weeks and I'm still reading a little each morning. A new record!

FTD + UPS = Wilted Flowers

I don't know what genius at FTD thought that UPS would be a good way to deliver flowers.

Books, yes. Canned tuna, yes. Anything that is hardy enough to take being on a truck from 7 in the morning until reaching its destination at 4 in the afternoon.

But not flowers. Not delicate, living organisms.

The first delivery, when I thought their specification of UPS odd but figured that they'd worked it out, wound up with practically dead flowers on my mother's doorstep. All but 2 gave up the ghost by the next day.

The replacement delivery, set up by an aghast and sympathetic FTD representative on the phone, suffered the same fate. Not quite as wilted, perhaps, with a few more living the next day.

It wasn't as if I were trying to get orchids delivered. These were sunflowers, some of the hardiest flowers around.

Overall, FTD's experiment is a gigantic failure and one that assures I will avoid them like the plague in the future.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

H-E-B's coming to Dallas. And there was much rejoicing ...

I've been longing to shop at H-E-B just about forever. At least since Hannah was at A&M and kept telling me of their many delights.

And now they're coming to town!

What's better than that? It will be at Mockingbird and Abrams ... 5 minutes away. Let the celebrating begin!

Worth a Thousand Words: Coast Guard

Coast Guard
by the talented Karin Jurick
This makes me smile even as I see the last days of summer slipping away.

Well Said: God speaks through one single Word

You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.

St. Augustine

via The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 102
"since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables"

Wow. Now there is something to meditate upon.

Body and Soul, But Truly One

Lately I've been troubled by seeing people say things like "I am a soul. I have a body." or "My body is like a car that I drive around." This is often evoked in aid of fighting racial prejudice. I get it. Beauty is only skin deep and so forth and so on. It comes from a noble impulse.

But it troubles me on a deeper level. It feels like a rejection of the body in favor of the soul. And that is an ancient idea rearing its ugly head again. Gnosticism in modern form.

Bishop Robert Barron sums up neatly, with a current example. (Emphasis added.)
Gnosticism was, and is, a multi-headed beast, but one of its major tenets is that matter is a fallen, inferior form of being, produced by a low-level deity. The soul is trapped in matter, and the whole point of the spiritual life is to acquire the gnosis (knowledge) requisite to facilitate an escape of the soul from the body. ...

In justifying the transformation that he has undergone, [Bruce] Jenner consistently says something along these lines: “Deep down, I always knew that I was a woman, but I felt trapped in the body of a man. Therefore, I have the right to change my body to bring it in line with my true identity.” Notice how the mind or the will — the inner self — is casually identified as the “real me” whereas the body is presented as an antagonist which can and should be manipulated by the authentic self. The soul and the body are in a master/slave relationship, the former legitimately dominating and re-making the latter. This schema is, to a tee, gnostic — and just as repugnant to Biblical religion as it was nineteen hundred years ago. For Biblical people, the body can never be construed as a prison for the soul, nor as an object for the soul’s manipulation. Moreover, the mind or will is not the “true self” standing over and against the body; rather, the body, with its distinctive form, intelligibility, and finality, is an essential constituent of the true self. Until we realize that the lionization of Caitlyn Jenner amounts to an embracing of Gnosticism, we haven’t grasped the nettle of the issue.
Bishop Robert Barron, Vibrant Paradoxes
Our bodies matter. Try thinking noble thoughts and rising above when you've got a 24-hour bug. It reminds us that our body and soul are inextricably intertwined.

That, after all, is one of the most wonderful and mind blowing things about the Incarnation. Jesus became man. GOD became man, body and soul together.

Did Jesus get the flu and lie limply after throwing up? We don't think about that but it's very possible because illness is part of the human experience and no one is more human than Jesus.

When he was resurrected his body mattered so much that he still had the marks of crucifixion. And he was still body and soul ... eating fish more than once to prove it. Jesus shows us that the whole package matters. It's one of the reasons Catholics clothe the poor, feed the hungry, built hospitals to help the sick, visit prisons, and do so many other corporal works of mercy. Our bodies matter.

Heck, the final resurrection will reunite our bodies and souls. That's how much our bodies matter.

Undoubtedly, body and soul are different but in a mysterious way they are also one. On that note I'll leave you with this bit from the Catechism.
II. "BODY AND SOUL BUT TRULY ONE"

362 The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.

363 In Sacred Scripture the term "soul" often refers to human life or the entire human person.230 But "soul" also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God's image: "soul" signifies the spiritual principle in man.

364 The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.
365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.

Hendrick ter Brugghen, The incredulity of St. Thomas

Best Mapo Tofu

There's a new blogger at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen. My oldest daughter Hannah!

She posted a great sounding recipe, Best Mapo Tofu, that might help cure my usual problem with tofu ... I find it chalky tasting (or something like that). But this sauce sounds so flavorful it might do the trick.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Well Said: A Kick in the Teeth

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
Walt Disney

Worth a Thousand Words: Roman Fish Market


Albert Bierstadt, Roman Fish Market. Arch of Octavius
Via Lines and Colors where you'll find some delightful details enlarged for your enjoyment.

Scaramouche - full of swashbuckling goodness

Jesse, Paul, Maissa and I discuss Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini at SFFaudio podcast. Join us!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Weekend Joke

An elderly man in east Texas had owned a big farm for several years. He had a large pond in the back. It was properly shaped for swimming, so he fixed it up nice with picnic tables, horseshoe courts, and some fruit trees.

One evening the old farmer decided to go down to the pond, as he hadn't been there for a while, and look it over. He grabbed a five-gallon bucket to bring back some fruit. As he neared the pond, he heard voices shouting and laughing with glee.

As he came closer, he saw it was a bunch of young women skinny-dipping in his pond. He made the women aware of his presence and they all went to the deep end.

One of the women shouted to him, 'we're not coming out until you leave!' The old man frowned, 'I didn't come down here to watch you ladies swim naked or make you get out of the pond naked.'

Holding the bucket up he said, 'I'm here to feed the alligator...'
Via Traces of Texas.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Coast of Vormsi Island

Coast of Vormsi Island
taken by Remo Savisaar
I want to go to there.

Well Said: All the kingdoms of the world belong to a fallen spiritual force.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we find the account of Jesus’ confrontation with the devil in the desert. After tempting Christ with sensual pleasure (“turn these stones into bread”) and with glory (“throw yourself down and the angels will hold you up”), the devil entices him with the alurement of power: “all these kingdoms, I will give you if you but fall down and worship me.” What is most interesting about this final temptation is that the devil couldn’t offer all of the kingdoms of the world to Jesus unless he, the devil, owned them. Indeed, in Luke’s account, this is made explicit. Satan says, “I shall give to you all this power … for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish.” I don’t know a passage in any of the literature of the world that is as critical of political power as that one! All the kingdoms of the world belong to a fallen spiritual force.

Whereas many (if not most) cultures both ancient and modern tend to apotheosize their political leaders, the Bible sees right through politics and politicians. One of the most important contributions of the Scriptures to contemporary politics, at least in the west, is this deep suspicion that power tends to corrupt. The institutionalization of this suspicion in complex systems of checks and balances is a healthy outgrowth of the Biblical view.
Robert Barron, Vibrant Paradoxes

Genesis Notes: Her Seed — Jesus

GENESIS STUDY
The Agony in the Garden - Luke 22:39-46
The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59
Created In God's Likeness - Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 15:53; Eph. 4-22-24; Col. 3:9

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy.

The previous posts about "the woman" made it clear that Mary had innumerable links to Eve. This summary that amazes me every time I read it. I mean, how much clearer can you get? In the immortal words of This is Spinal Tap: none, none more clear.
  • Eve’s conversation with a fallen angel leads to the loss of God’s likeness in human flesh; Mary’s conversation with an angel leads to the Incarnation, God taking on human flesh.
  • Eve, left exposed by her husband, talks herself out of being embarrassingly gullible in believing God’s Word about the forbidden fruit; Mary, full of grace through the work of her Son, chooses God’s will for her life, knowing the potential for embarrassment over her unusual pregnancy.
  • Eve, having broken the covenant she and Adam had with God, hears God’s curse on her life, which will be pain in childbearing; Mary, having accepted God’s plan, hears a voice of blessing on her and her childbearing.
  • Eve, Adam’s helper, assists him in entering the devil’s bondage; Mary, at the wedding in Cana, assists Jesus in showing Himself to be the Messiah Who had come to free Israel.
  • Eve becomes the mother of the dying; Mary, the mother of the living.
  • Eve is expelled from Paradise; Mary appears as the Queen of heaven.

Her Seed — Connecting Jesus to Adam
Now we are free to examine Jesus' connection to Adam in fulfilling the promise of "her seed." We see that God performs His surprising renewal through reversal once again. I must say that I felt pretty silly for never noticing all the times Jesus is connected with a garden.


Via Bad Catholic

The Agony in the Garden - Luke 22:39-46
It isn’t just a coincidence that Jesus happens to be in a garden when He has to make His decision to choose God’s will over His own, no matter what the cost. This is the moment when Jesus completes His work as the New Adam. The first Adam was silent and passive in the face of temptation. Jesus, well aware of what it will cost Him to obey God, puts the will of the Father first. The pride of the first Adam is replaced by the humility of the Second Adam. If Adam shrank from the danger in his Garden, giving into disobedience, Jesus rises to the challenge of the danger in His Garden, surrendering Himself perfectly to God’s plan. The undoing of the devil has begun.

In Genesis 3, God tells Adam that his face will be covered with the sweat of his toil as a punishment for his disobedience. Adam’s dominion over the earth, meant to be a source of joy for him, instead will bring him suffering. For Jesus to sweat "like great drops of blood" in His Garden is a vivid picture of Him taking on Himself the curse placed on Adam. The first Adam’s disobedience was punishable by suffering and death. Jesus, the Second Adam, in the agony of the Garden, begins to experience it. The sentence pronounced so long ago is now being executed ...

In these verses, we see a picture of Jesus doing precisely what Adam didn’t do. He was afraid, but His fear led Him to call down help from His Father. This is the test of love that Adam could not endure. Love has to be a real choice, which means that it must be tested. Love of God leads one to continue to trust Him and to seek His help in the midst of the most threatening circumstances. It is a conscious, willful choice to believe in God’s goodness, no matter how contrary the evidence. This anguished cry of Jesus, with tears, fills His Garden with the sound of faith. It was a cry that reached heaven, undoing the silence of the Garden of Eden.
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again

Seven Revolutions

How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again
by Mike Aquilina and James L. Papandrea
As we present them here, the seven revolutions changed the world by changing human relationships, in ever widening concentric circles, beginning with the individual and extending outward to the world. A revolution of the individual affirmed that all people are created equal, in the image of God, and no one is expendable. A revolution of the home affirmed it as a place of safety and love, where women and children are not to be exploited. A revolution of the workplace affirmed that people are not property, that they must be free to choose their work, and that they must be given the free time for worship, for artistic expression, and to enjoy loved ones. A revolution of religion taught the world that God is love. A revolution of the community taught people to love their neighbor. A revolution of the way people thought about life and death rejected the culture of death and affirmed a culture of life and of hope, encouraging people to stand up for human rights. And finally, a revolution of government set up the ideal that rulers should serve those whom they rule (not the other way around), and that all people should enjoy freedom of religion. In short, the seven revolutions can be understood as cultural revolutions that gave the world a concern for human rights in two general categories: the protection of all human life, and the protection of each person's dignity and freedom.
I've been saying for a long time (with a singular lack of originality, I know) that we are living in times similar to those in which the first Christians lived.

Seven Revolutions spells out that truth in ways I hadn't even been aware of. Mike Aquilina and James L. Papandrea show what the pre-Christian world was really like and how everyday Christians, living out their faith, created a groundswell that gradually turned into a cultural revolution. Living in our post-Christian world, we too face a secular culture which doesn't understand our values and, therefore, misinterprets us and our faith.

The book not only covers past history but looks to the future with concrete ideas for converting our culture. It is a necessary read for anyone who isn't clear on the positive good Christianity has had and for those who aren't sure how to bring that good back into our world today. I found it heartening.
Maybe you've also heard that the Church is no longer relevant to the current generation. This is ridiculous. First of all, the mission of the Church is not relevance. Second, the definition of what is relevant changes by the moment and depending on the person, and the focus on relevance is in many ways a symptom of the very relativism that is part of the problem. Having said that, even if the Church is perceived as being out of touch with the current generation, the problem is with the generation, not with the Church. Was Jesus being irrelevant when he called his own generation adulterous and sinful? (Matthew 11:16-17; 12:39-45; 16:4; 17:17; Mark 8:12, 38; 9:19; Luke 9:41; 11:29-32). Jesus shows us that part of the Church's mission is to call each generation back to the Christian definition of relevance—which means the affirmation of life, in reverence to life's Creator.
This book isn't just for Catholics but for Christians of all sorts. Highly recommended.

And if you live in Dallas, it's at the library. Go borrow it!

Worth a Thousand Words: Flowers

Victoria Dubourg, Flowers
via Arts Everyday Living
I don't love still life paintings but I do love this.

Well Said: God said everything in his Word

In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word— and he has no more to say … because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.
St. John of the Cross
I felt a distinct absence in the time I had been devoting to reading a canto a day of Dante's Divine Comedy. What better to fill it with than the Catechism? I have tried before to read through it and fallen far short of the mark. So far, very early on, I am finding it extremely rich, insightful, and rewarding.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lagniappe: Champagne and Truth

Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector.
Graham Greene
It's funny because it's true.

Worth a Thousand Words: La Lettre

La Lettre (The Letter). Émile Munier (1840-1895).

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hard Sayings by Trent Horn

Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible DifficultiesHard Sayings
A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties
by Trent Horn

Have you ever read something in the Bible and just scratched your head, or been challenged by a skeptic to explain a seemingly scandalous verse?

Trent Horn can help.

In Hard Sayings, Trent looks at dozens of the most confounding passages in Scripture and offers clear, reasonable, and Catholic keys to unlocking their true meaning.
Trent Horn addresses questions like the Bible being full of "bad" history, women being portrayed as less valuable than men, or that God is a murderous tyrant. Each chapter breaks down the reason for the questions and shows the Catholic explanations that help shed light on these objections. This  book would especially be good for someone who was teaching RCIA or who continually is having the Bible held up as a mass of contradictions.

Horn breaks down the confusing passages into three groups:

  • External Difficulties - when the Bible seems at odds with modern knowledge
  • Internal Difficulties - when there are contradictions between passages or 
  • Moral Difficulties - where evil actions seem endorsed by God's commands
As he works through the sections and objections, Horn is also methodically educating the reader about the Bible as literature. This culminates in his Bible-reading rules. These include things like reading passages in context of the larger work, checking your translation against the original language, and that the authors weren't divine stenographers.

I knew many of those concepts, but a few were new when thinking about discussing the Bible. For example, the Bible is allowed to be a sole witness to history, incomplete is not inaccurate, and the burden of proof is on the critic, not the believer.

Hard Answers is an accessible, balanced work that I'll be keeping as a reference. Definitely recommended.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Animals' Picnic

The Animals' Picnic, illustrated by G.H. Thompson, c. 1900
I'd love to have this book. What a treat it would be considering the wit and joy of this cover.

St. Peter asks Scott and Julie to define faith. ...

Julie puts on her sunglasses and takes a HUGE step backward. Scott tries to ask Siri but can you believe there's no signal in Paradise? Beatrice wonders how she got stuck with this pair. Episode 139, the last part of Dante's Divine Comedy: Paradiso.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Lagniappe: Why I like chickens and pigs ...

It may be helpful if I preface this by saying that the author had been saying his horses' tetchiness over windy days wears him out. Though I think this works on its own too...
This is why I like chickens and pigs. In a high wind, pigs lie close together at the back of their house, snoozing, straw pulled over their heads. The chickens sit on their perches knitting and doing their accounts.
Verlyn Klinkenborg, More Scenes From the Rural Life

Worth a Thousand Words: Bookplate of Charles P Searle

Bookplate of Charles P. Searle (1904). Sidney Lawton Smith, 1845-1929, engraver.
Etching with engraving. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
We all want this bookplate, don't we? I know I want that library. I also love that the reader's book is engraved with a large CPS. Click on the image to see the details better.

Genesis Notes: The Woman: "Seeing" Mary

GENESIS STUDY
The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy.

This look at Revelation and the Catholic interpretation of it may challenge Protestants the most. Yet, it does answer the common protest that veneration of Mary isn't Scriptural. This shows the basis for Catholic belief in Mary's protection of the Church and of us individually.

Madonna on the Crescent Moon, Peter Paul Rubens

A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7
The dragon aimed his earthly wrath at "the woman" first. She was protected from his fury by God. So, being angry with the woman, the dragon then went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, those "who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus," which is the Church. Here we are able to see in dramatic detail just what God meant in Gen. 3:15 when He said He would put "enmity" between the serpent and the woman. In this scene from Revelation, she becomes the direct object of his assault, as he lashes out in anger as his time dwindles away. Who is this "woman"? Certainly she is a figure of Mary and the Church. Apocalyptic literature presents special interpretive challenges, but we can see why Christians throughout the ages have read this passage with Mary in mind. The point to note is how determined an enemy the dragon is of both the woman and her offspring. The woman is safe, but her offspring are terribly vulnerable while the dragon's time lasts. No wonder the Church has, down through the ages, given thanks for the special protection and advocacy which Mary gives to her children. This tender relationship is nurtured in the numerous Marian devotions that characterize Catholic life ...

Objections among Protestants to Marian dogma and devotion are usually rooted in their conviction that the Catholic Church teaches many things about Mary that simply aren't in the Bible. They are convinced that Mary has an exaggerated position in Catholic thought, either from over zealous pagan evangelism in the early centuries of the Church or from sentimentality over women in the Middle Ages or from a faulty understanding of redemption since the Council of Trent.

It was not always this way. At the time of the Protestant Reformation, in the 16th century, Protestants continued the 1500-year old tradition of reading the biblical references to Eve and Mary the way we have in this lesson. Even Martin Luther believed that Scripture accorded Mary a unique place in the human story. As time went by, however, a kind of Christian minimalism set into Protestant thought. Some of that was no doubt provoked by excesses and distortions practiced by some Catholics. Because of some abuses which seemed more like superstition than true Christian faith, Protestants gradually insisted on removing everything and everyone in Christian tradition that was not absolutely necessary to salvation. Jesus, of course, is necessary to salvation, so He is always at the center of the Protestant vision of redemption. Mary, we must remember, is a gift to the Church, as we saw in John 19:23-27. Gifts can be declined or left unopened or stored away and forgotten.

Modern Protestants, perhaps not knowing the history of the Church or even their own early history very well, have not been taught to "see" Mary in the Scripture as the New Eve. They are unaware of the fact that during all the years of Christian history before the Reformation, faithful Christians read the Bible this way. They do not realize that a Mary-less vision of redemption is a historical novelty. Mary appears to them to be an intrusion into an icon that has only Jesus in it.

Catholics can take confidence in the fact that, as we have seen in our lesson, there are strong scriptural reasons for retaining the icon of Mother and Son in our hearts and minds down through the ages. Being good students of Genesis, we would fully expect that when God conquers His enemy and restores man to a life of blessing, that life would be presided over by a New Adam and a New Eve, ordering everything as it was always meant to be.
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Friday, August 5, 2016

"It's not going to be easy, but it's going to be awesome!"

Gleason, the newly-released documentary that tells the story of former NFL player (and New Orleans Saints legend) Steve Gleason's battle with ALS, is a film filled with insightful and arresting moments. For me, however, none shone more brightly than the moment when Steve looks into the camera and tells his yet-unborn son (and us, the audience) that the journey he is about to undertake is "not going to be easy, but it's going to be awesome."

He's right. ...

The whole film is ... filled with amazingly powerful and wrenching moments, and amazingly beautiful ones. And with moments that are both at the same time. Because suffering as completely and as destructively as Steve does is (and will never be) easy, but the sacrifices and the love of his friends and family and the power of Steve's will in the face of such adversity are indeed "awesome" to behold.
Joseph Susanka's review does what I would have said was impossible. It makes me willing to watch a film that I already know is full of tough moments.

What We've Been Watching: Kind Hearts, Joy, Small Act, and Doris

KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS
(1949)
Louis Mazzini's mother belongs to the aristocratic family D'Ascoyne, but she ran away with an opera singer. Therefore, she and Louis were rejected by the D'Ascoynes. Once adult, Louis decides to avenges his mother and him, by becoming the next Duke of the family. Murdering every potential successor is clearly the safest way to achieve his goal.
We were both delighted way beyond expectation by this classic comedy. We knew that Alec Guiness played 8 parts but we didn't expect the wonderful script full of nuances which left us slightly shocked (in a happily funny way). We didn't expect the subplots which gave the film comic depth and kept us interested. We didn't expect the skill with which Dennis Price and Joan Greenwood smoothly played their parts. We certainly didn't expect the twist at the end.

This is definitely a movie that isn't watched enough these days.


JOY
(2015)
A story based on the life of a struggling Long Island single mom who became one of the country's most successful entrepreneurs.
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Joy Mangano, a self-made millionaire whose business empire was based on inventing the Miracle Mop. We were surprised at how much we enjoyed this.

Many film critics said they thought it was too chaotic but to us that was part of the point of the movie. Without the endurance tests that make up Joy's life could she have stuck with making her miracle mop a best seller?


A SMALL ACT
(2010 documentary)
A young Kenyan's life changes drastically when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he founds his own scholarship program to replicate the kindness he once received.
The good deeds we do, however small, can be important in a way we can't imagine. That is the overall message of this small but heartwarming documentary about Chris Mburu. He came from a tiny Kenyan village but, helped by a $15 monthly donation from a Swedish woman he never met, was able to go to secondary school. From there he won scholarships, began a successful career, and was able to begin his own educational foundation.

We see him tracking down his benefactor and finding they had unimagined connections. We also see three children striving to win a scholarship from Chris's foundation and the difference it would make in their lives.

It is unexpectedly riveting and may just inspire you to do your own small act of kindness to help an unknown child somewhere in the world. We ourselves went to Unbound (formerly CFCA) and began sponsoring an elderly Filipino lady who just needs $36 to make life better.


HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS
(2015)
A self-help seminar inspires a sixty-something woman (Sally Fields) to romantically pursue her younger co-worker.
A charming little film which was a thousand times better than The Intern which had 70-year old Robert DeNiro as an intern imparting wisdom to entrepreneur Anne Hathaway.

Perhaps that is because this movie was shot incredibly quickly on a shoestring so they didn't worry about tying up every loose end. They also didn't make every person "consistent." The characters display all the blind spots and inconsistencies of real people.

It was refreshing and, as many have noted, Sally Fields is the engine that makes it work. She is wonderful in this. It's a simple little film without a lot of layers but it does offer an enjoyable peek into a thought provoking world.

Worth a Thousand Words: Sun Worshipper

Sun Worshipper
taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar

Well Said: To try and then to fail ...

Joe said, "But to try and then to fail--"

"Is that so terrible?" Glimmung said. "I'll now tell you all something about yourselves, something that every one of you possesses: a quality in common. You have met failure so often that you have all become afraid to fail."

I thought so, Joe thought. Well, so it goes.

"What I am doing," Glimmung said, "is this. I am attempting to learn how much strength I have. There is no abstract way of determining the limits of one's force, one's ability to exert effort; it can only be measured in a way such as this, a task which brings into view the actual, real limitation to my admittedly finite--but great--strength. Failure will tell me as much about myself as will success. Do you see that? No, none of you can. You are paralyzed. That's why I brought you here. Self-knowledge; that is what I will achieve. And so will you: each about himself."

"Suppose we fail?" Mali asked.

"The self-knowledge will be there anyhow," Glimmung said...
Galactic Pot-Healer, Philip K. Dick

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What I've Been Reading: Pancakes, Espionage, and Burgers

Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in FrancePANCAKES IN PARIS
Living the American Dream in France
by Craig Carlson


This was a really enjoyable memoir. Craig Carlson is living the dream with his Breakfast in America diner in Paris, but getting there required a heckuva lot of determination. First there was his dysfunctional family upbringing. Then there were the continual obstacles from acquiring backers to maneuvering the French legal system to overcoming the myriad headaches of running a restaurant in a foreign country. It is to Carlson's credit that he took a licking and kept on ticking ... and that he tells us about it in a sweet, humorous, wry style that never drags you into the doldrums. He made me think of Dory in Finding Nemo, "Just keep swimming." Surely that is the attitude he himself had to cultivate to overcome everything in his way.

I found his story greatly inspiring and gave it to my husband to read, knowing he'd be interested in the intricacies and insanity of French business. What is interesting is that as he reads, we have begun bringing up Pancakes in Paris to each other as a reminder that tenacity counts, that there is joy to be found in hard times, and that the connections in life can surprise you. And also that, if nothing else, even on our worst days at least we're not dealing with French business regulations.

Book provided by NetGalley. Opinions provided by me.


Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE
by Gail Carriger

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.
What a delightful book, especially as read by Moira Quirk. I was put onto this series by Jenny and Rose's conversation at Reading Envy.

Steampunk, vampires and werewolves are all part of this world, although the focus is really on the adventurous and unladylike Sophronia's adventures at finishing school. That's where one learns deception, espionage, and "the other sort" of finishing. Combining that idea with true Victorian sensibilities leaves lots of room for humor and Gail Carriger is masterful at the understatement which leaves one snorting with laughter (however unladylike that is).

I really cracked up when Sophronia has to go on the lam, steeling herself to the fact that her ankles are visible to all the world. And I now know how to disarm a werewolf using my two best petticoats. So there is that.

A lot of fun and I can't wait for the second book to get to my local library branch.


The Bob's Burgers Burger Book: Real Recipes for Joke BurgersTHE BOB'S BURGERS BURGER BOOK
Real Recipes for Joke Burgers
by Loren Bouchard

One of the delights every week on Bob's Burgers is seeing what the Burger of the Day is. They are all wonderfully punny and also give you a little insight into Bob, that frustrated, creative gourmet. Leave it to a blogger to begin coming up with actual burger recipes and then to the Bob's Burgers team to turn them into a cookbook.

Granted, I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but a surprising number of them made my mouth water. There is an extraordinary amount of care put into this book, which many might think is a throw away marketing effort.

There's new art adapted to the burgers. There are jokes worked into introductions and the recipes themselves, which make it sound as if you're in the kitchen with Bob or the family. There are the recipes themselves, overseen and reworked by two culinary folks to be sure all the kinks are worked out.

All in all it both entertains and promises delicious meals to come.

Worth a Thousand Words: From the River's Edge

Henri Biva (French, 1848-1929), From the River’s Edge
via Arts Everyday Living

Well Said: Living without failing

It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case you fail by default.
J.K. Rowling, Harvard commencement speech

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Well Said: Making us Christians, not mathematicians.

One does not read in the Gospel that the Lord said: "I will send you the [Holy Spirit] who will teach you about the course of the sun and moon." For he willed to make them Christians, not mathematicians.
St. Augustine

GoodReads, you used to be cool!

I stuck with GoodReads through the Amazon buy, through the censorship of reviews, through several redesigns ... but this last redesign is the straw that breaks this camel's back. And it's practically making me cry to say that. (Probably a good thing I get less attached to social media sites, I guess.)

Anyway I'd appreciate tips on alternatives if anyone has a favorite. I'm familiar with LibraryThing but that's the only one.

Worth a Thousand Words: Gary Cooper

Gary Cooper as The Virginian
via mardecortésbaja.com's post on the novel

Navigating the Tiber by Devin Rose

Navigating the Tiber
How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith
by Devin Rose

Devin Rose draws from his own experience as a convert and shows you how to help your friends and family members make the "crossing" to Rome by journeying with them, offering the information, arguments, and most of all the prayerful support they'll need to reach their spiritual home.

I rarely, if ever, have Protestants coming to me for information about the Church. However, it did occur to me that I do know a fair number and if they ever do come knocking at my door then it would be really helpful to have this book for direction and insights.

Devin Rose lays down a sort of road map to help Protestants understand the theological issues that may obstruct or confuse as they journey toward Catholicism. Reading this also helped me to see just how very different beliefs can be between differing sorts of Christianity. Each chapter has personal examples which not only inform but lighten the tone as we meet Rose's different friends. I also liked that each chapter ended with a prayer and one or two reading suggestions.

I really liked the author's charitable tone, the insistence on being a friend, and the reminder that helping someone find the Catholic faith means that you too will have to grow.

I have to say that by the time I ended I was exhausted. It made me glad that most of the questions I receive have to do with the secular interpretation of Catholicism. However, this is a book I will definitely keep just in case I have a Protestant friend dipping a toe into the Tiber.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Genesis Notes — The Woman: From Jesus' Lips

GENESIS STUDY
The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy.

I never really thought anything about how Jesus addressed His mother but the following two snippets of study make it crystal clear. The use of "woman" is a direct connection back to Genesis, the first woman Eve, and the "woman and her seed." For Him to deliberately us that word again when being crucified makes it even more powerful as to how important it was to make this connection.

The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11

Marriage at Cana, c. 1500, Gerard David, Musée du Louvre, Paris
For Jesus to address His own mother as "woman" in this context takes us right back to Gen. 3:15. We know He could not have meant any disrespect for her, so we must understand that it has special significance. For Him to ask her what she wants of Him is to heighten the dramatic power of the episode, and John doesn't want us to miss any of its meaning. It is clear that Jesus has every intention of granting Mary's request. What follows is a collaboration of the two of them that produces the very first sign of Jesus' Messianic mission in Israel. Mary acts as advocate ("they have no wine") and mediator ("do whatever He tells you"). Jesus changes water to wine, a miracle rich in Messianic overtones. What has John done in this episode? He has given us the grown-up icon of the Woman and her Seed. With language meant to call to mind the Garden of Eden, he has enabled us to see in Jesus and Mary the New Adam and the New Eve. The work of the Messiah has begun. [Note: According to The New Bible Dictionary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1965), one site in Israel thought to be that of ancient Cana is marked by springs of water and groves of fig trees, much like a Garden we know.]

The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27

The Crucifixion, seen from the Cross, by James Tissot, 19th century.
John's gospel is the only one to preserve this scene from the Crucifixion. Is the exchange prompted by sentiment or expediency? Is Jesus worried about what will happen to His mother when He is gone? Or is there deeper spiritual significance in this episode? Actually, the gift of a familial bond between Mary and John rockets us right back to the Garden of Eden. There we remember that the first Eve was called the "mother of all living," but before she had a chance to begin a family, she and Adam were expelled from Paradise. The original family plan for humanity was for Adam and Eve to preside over children who could enjoy the blessedness of the Garden and eat freely of the Tree of Life. Disobedience brought death into the human story, so Eve's motherhood was bittersweet. She became the human mother of the dying. That hope of blessed family life in the Garden was shattered.

Shattered but not lost. When Jesus, as He is dying, establishes this new family between Mary, the New Eve, and John, the only one of the Twelve at the foot of the Cross, He elevates Eve's motherhood to a supernatural fulfillment. Mary's motherhood will extend to all those who are in union with her Son, as John showed himself to be. Just as God becomes the Father of all who are born again into new life in Christ through baptism, Mary becomes their mother, by this gift from Jesus. This new "family," of course, is the Church-all those "who hear the word of God and do it," just as Jesus described it in Luke 8:19-21; see also Rev. 12:17). We can see that it was Jesus' intention to share Mary with His followers. Her motherhood in the Church is a powerful sign of God's plan to recover what was lost in the Garden (see CCC 964).
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.