dual personalities

In him we live and move and have our being

Yesterday I caught up on all the stuff I do to keep the home fires burning. However, I also caught up on a new puzzle I was working on before I left and that took up an alarming amount of time.

Zut alors!

Tonight we will toast per usual our January 19th birthday girls–our mother…

and Dolly Parton,

who share a birthday with the fictional character Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Our three favorite role models.

This was an interesting article about the problem with leaving the Church. “We can’t comprehend the love of Christ individually. There may be a time to leave the local congregation but never a time to leave the church.”

Genesis 1.21: like I always say about elephants, evolution cannot begin to explain whales.

This is wonderful. (Thank you, Anne.)

And I loved this scene from the book of Acts (17: 22-31) which I read in my daily reading:

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.  For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

When I was going through an old file, I found this New Yorker cartoon, torn out of a magazine in 1979.

Don’t forget to stop and look out the window today (but brush your hair first). There is a lot of Life going on out there: squirrels and birds and weather and the UPS man stopping by.

“If you listen very hard/The tune will come to you at last”*

Well, I am back from my short sojourn back east in Maryland. It was, of course, super fun and great to spend time with my darling daughter #2, DN and baby Katie.

Here are a few pics–although I didn’t take many and the precious babe was not often a willing subject…

We went to one estate sale and picked up an antique mirror for the new house. Otherwise, we stayed home and yacked and yacked for hours on end. We had Henry Mancini happy hours and ate some delicious food. We took some snowy walks and said hello to the neighborhood dogs. Perfect.

My travels went without a hitch or delay, so I am grateful and relieved. The OM did not burn down the house in my absence and was waiting for me at the airport when I arrived, so I have no complaints.

Thanks be to God.

*Jimmy Page

“Keep us forever in the path, we pray.”

Good Monday morning, friends. Daughter #1 here as my mother is traveling back from Maryland today. Early report indicate a wonderful time was had by all. Prayers for a smooth trip back to St. Louis today!

As it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I’m writing this on Sunday, the day when many churches dig into the hymnal to find something appropriate to sing, I thought I’d share the words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It always used to make me cringe listening to Episcopalians sing this hymn once or twice a year. And it never helped that it is not an easy one to sing.

The poem was originally written in 1900 for the 91st anniversary of President Lincoln’s birthday by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother. According to Wikipedia, the hymn is a prayer of thanksgiving for faithfulness and freedom, with imagery evoking the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the “promised land.” It is featured in 39 different Christian hymnals, and is sung in churches across North America.

Lift every voice and sing,
’Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers died.
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
’Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.*

Some months ago, out of the blue, I received an email from an English writer researching a book about Harry Phelan Gibb, an artist who worked in Paris during the early decades of the 20th century. In the course of his research my emailer had discovered that our grandparents, Arthur and Mira Chamberlin, had sublet Gibb’s apartment for a few months in 1921. This fact did not come as a great surprise, since we already knew that our grandparents were abroad at that time. Apparently, Gibb’s apartment proved uninhabitable due to an infestation of bedbugs, so Arthur packed up his pregnant wife and moved her to healthier digs in London, where our father was born a few months later. According to an announcement in the Burlington Free Press, Arthur was working as a correspondent for the “London Morning Express” at the time.

Out of curiosity, I looked up Harry Phelan Gibb (1870-1948) and discovered a perfectly competent English artist, who started out painting pleasing landscapes,

but then fell under the spell of Cézanne and began producing less conventional, post-impressionist paintings.

Unable to find a unique style of his own, Gibb never quite made it in the art world, although Gertrude Stein remained a staunch supporter and friend throughout his adult life. Like many struggling artists, he avoided financial ruin by taking on students. Not long after I received the above-mentioned email, I told my son James about Gibb and his studio, and since he (James) was bored out of his mind working from home due to Covid, he decided to look into the group.

One of Gibb’s students, a Canadian artist named Emily Carr, struck James as particularly interesting. Born and raised in British Columbia, Carr is known for her paintings of indigenous subjects and for the fact that she managed to go to Europe to study art at a time when few young women enjoyed such freedom. She spent 1910 studying in France, and at least some of that time with Phelan Gibb. Here is a photo of her from that period.

You can see a couple of the works she painted in France here. Carr studied with Gibbs only briefly and it seems that she developed her own independent style rather more successfully than he did. I like this painting called Indian Church, don’t you?

All of this brings me to my main point. Imagine my pleasure when I discovered this marvelous article about Emily Carr while exploring a favorite blog, At Sunnyside, whose author is a frequent visitor to this site!

Let us review the chain of relationships. A stranger’s email revealed a connection between our grandparents and an English artist, Phelan Gibb, who lived in Paris. Research into Gibb inspired my son to look into one of Gibb’s students, Emily Carr, and then we discovered Sunnyside’s post about the very same Emily Carr. As anyone can see, it IS a small world and we are all connected in unexpected and wonderful ways – sometimes by a shared past and sometimes by our present interests. We converge through art and literature, people and events. Laugh and call it coincidence if you must; I call it the steady hand of Providence.

*William James

Humble and contrite

I recently watched The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944) starring Frederic March as Missouri’s favorite son. It gives a sanitized look at the great man’s life but it is really pretty good. It inspired me anyway to take down “Life on the Mississippi” from its place on the shelf and I have been reading it.

Not surprisingly, it is very good and extremely readable. Have you read any Twain lately?

I have also been following the Gospel Coalitions’s daily “Read the Bible” plan and so far so good (12 days in!). I am currently reading a chapter a day of Genesis, Matthew, Nehemiah and Acts. (I am taking notes, because my memory is so bad!) Breaking it up this way is a good idea, since you don’t get bogged down in the Old Testament and you also see how everything in the OT points to the fulfilling of its prophesy, the coming of our savior, Christ Jesus. As Don Carson says, “When you read, remember that God himself has declared, ‘This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word’” (Isa. 66:2).

It is easy to see why 19th century American writers were so good–they were immersed in the Bible, steeped in its vocabulary and vivid visualizations. So many of today’s writers write as if they grew up watching made-for-tv movies and not reading much. This does not make for good literature.

I found this article about C. S. Lewis and Billy Graham on the subject of Angels to be interesting. And here’s what Calvin thought about Angels. “Calvin’s view about angels is indeed not spectacular in the sense that it offers new and unexpected insights into the world of angels or presents an impressive and new, reformed angelology. But on the other hand it can be called spectacular in the sense that for Calvin, angels play a greater role in the life of the believer than could be drawn from the spirituality of the average Reformed believer.”

This is an interesting article. “Put simply, cancel culture is a culture of bullying. What starts with a difference of ideas ends with a willful public destruction of other human beings. Those who claimed to be the ones bullied have now become the bullies themselves, all because of a shift of power…Power is the critical concept, here. Cancel culture is based on the assumption that power—not truth—is the only way to drive cultural change.”

I am leaving tomorrow to visit daughter #2, baby Katie and DN in far-off Maryland, so wish me luck and traveling mercies. I’ll be flying…

…no choo-choo trains for me this time! I can’t wait to see everyone and check out their new house!

Love that red jumper made by her great-grandmother!

Up in the land of the ice snow.

This weekend, I took a brisk walk to the new pedestrian bridge near the Capitol that takes visitors over the train tracks to a new park right on the riverfront. It was about 15 degrees in the sun, but I had on my big puffy coat with the faux-fur trimmed hood, so I was toasty(ish).

There are trails for walking and although it is not a terribly scenic time to visit the river’s edge, I am looking forward to Spring days when I can escape the office in the afternoon for a little sunshine.

The new bridge/park provides a fresh perspective on the river in Jefferson City. Before this, you could really only view it from a high bluff and with the train tracks directly below.

I love when there are chunky pieces of ice in the river. Somehow, ice flowing down the river doesn’t seem real to me. Like, it might happen in a fantasy book or a cartoon, but not real life. Last year, five miles upstream, there was a giant ice jam that caused water levels to drop on the Missouri River. Nature is wild.

So, while I’m not technically up in the land of the ice and snow like the blog post title indicates, we’ve at least got the vibe.

“My thanksgiving is perpetual”*

Today is the feast day in the Anglican Church of Mary Mitchell Slessor (1848-1915), a Scottish Presbyterian missionary in Nigeria. She is most famous for having stopped the common practice of infanticide of twins in Okoyong, an area of Cross River State, Nigeria. She was 27 and had been a factory worker for 14 years when she heard that David Livingstone, the famous missionary and explorer, had died. She decided she wanted to follow in his footsteps. Her’s is quite the story. More here.

Today is the 76th birthday of John Piper, theologian, pastor, and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, MN. I have quoted him quite a bit on this blog and he has been quite influential in my spiritual walk. He does not mince words. Here are his 10 reasons to read the Bible every day. And here’s a clip from his famous “Don’t Waste Your Life” sermon.

I would toast him, but he’s a Baptist and might not approve of that. He would probably not approve of me making that little joke either. I confess I am always fighting my “allergy to seriousness.” But I am serious about my admiration for John Piper.

In other news, I did another puzzle over the weekend.

This was a fun one for obvious reasons. It inspired me to watch Errol Flynn in San Antonio (1945), a Warner Brothers technicolor western, but it was disappointing.

Although still in his prime at 36, Flynn is giving about a 50% effort and that is not enough. Plus, I never thought Flynn and Alexis Smith had much chemistry and the supporting cast is the WB B team. I expected more from the Alan LeMay/W.S. Burnett screenplay. Well, you win some, you lose some. C’est la vie.

Finally, here’s a positive story about good things actually happening in Chicago. “We understand that God is sovereign in all things, including the trials we went through during our leadership transition, COVID, and the individual trials in the lives of our members. We understand that ultimately it is in God that we live and move and have our existence (Acts 17:28), and that he is sovereign over every human heart, head, and hands (Prov. 16:9Isa. 46:9–10).”

*Henry David Thoreau

You and I will meet again

God has blessed me with some great friends and Nicki was a true blessing to me for over thirty years. She died last week after a slow slide into Alzheimers, so it was a long goodbye, but heartbreaking nonetheless. After my mother died when I was 32, I sorely needed an older, wiser friend. Nicki entered my life at just the right moment a few years later and became that friend. 

I had three young children and a 12-year old marriage. She became my spiritual advisor and then my ‘spiritual friend’ to whom I told everything. She understood all my ups and downs. She knew my sins of commission and omission and she still loved me. She taught me many things. She taught me the power of prayer and the spiritual practice of the daily examen. She taught me to lower my expectations when it came to other human beings. Most importantly, she taught me to depend on God and not on people.

She was an impressive person. Beautiful, poised, a shining light in the community and a pillar of the Episcopal Church, she still had time for me. Wherever we went for lunch, she ran into someone she knew. She knew literally everyone. Being her friend gave me confidence. When I became the director of my flyover institute, she started taking classes and she brought her friends. She was always positive and supportive. She knit me a prayer shawl when I was going through chemotherapy.

I hadn’t seen her since we all went home to flatten the curve in March 2020, and by then she was fading fast into the shroud of Alzheimers. Now she is in Paradise with Jesus.

I won’t say goodbye my friend
For you and I will meet again

A red-winged hawk is circling
The blacktop stretches out for days
How could I get so close to you
And still feel so far away?
I hear a voice come on the wind
Sayin’ you and I will meet again

I will also note the passing last week of film director, Peter Bogdanovich. If you have an hour, I recommend you watch this YouTube video of a lecture he gave at Hillsdale College in 2020, where he talks about John Ford. He is already suffering with Parkinsons’s, but it is a fascinating presentation.

Into paradise may the angels lead thee, and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.

Double your fun

The holiday festivities are well and truly over, and we have returned to reality. Poor James threw his back out on Tuesday and has been confined to his bed and forced to survive on chocolate and ibuprofen ever since. I had my booster shot yesterday, so we’re taking things slowly around here and finding ways to cheer ourselves up. So far, we’ve come up with two foolproof solutions to the January doldrums.

First, play with your Christmas presents. My BFF gave me this wonderful Leo Messi action figure that really kicks the ball! Just pull back the plastic tab on his left foot and wham-o, you score!

If your Christmas presents didn’t include such a gift, you can always watch Messi on Youtube. We agree that there is something mysteriously uplifting about watching him play. Start 2:06 into the video and you’ll see.

Second, go find a Yul Brynner movie you haven’t seen yet and settle down to watch. I guarantee you won’t regret it. Last night James and I enjoyed The Double Man, a 1967 classic in which master spy, Dan Slater (Yul), travels to Austria to investigate his son’s death in a skiing accident. Here he is on the cable lift questioning Gina Ericson (Britt Ekland), one of the last people to see the boy alive, and he will stop at nothing to get answers…

We like his Tyrolian hat, but later he switches to a balaclava. Is there a pandemic?

No, there are TWO Dan Slaters! Which is the real one? It’s a Russian plot!

This movie has everything: a jaunty 1960s soundtrack, some enthusiastic oompa-band-led night skiing, glamorous parties, Russian bad guys, and a couple of good chases. Of course, none of that would matter without Yul’s feline walk and gravely voice. He owns every scene.

There. Doesn’t reading about it make you feel cheerier? Think what watching Yul will do for your mood and have a great weekend!

Hallelujah the earth replies

The Star of Bethlehem by Burne-Jones

Today is Epiphany which marks the final celebratory day of Christmas. So let’s all sing “We Three Kings,” which was written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. in 1857. At the time of composing the carol, Hopkins served as the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, PA. He wrote it for a Christmas pageant. It was the first widely popular Christmas carol written in America. (Bonus fun fact: Hopkins gave the eulogy at the funeral of President Ulysses Grant in 1885.)

We all learned this hymn as four-year olds for our first Christmas pageant, which back in the day, was in school. We thought it was very cool–so dramatic and kind of spooky with the gathering doom–and all that sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying. I think they turned off the lights and we turned on our little candle-looking flashlights for a special effect. There was no misunderstanding the end of the story for the baby in the manger. Here’s the BYU men’s chorus singing it:

Meanwhile I have packed up all of my Christmas decorations and taken them to the basement. However, I keep finding strays…

This always happens. C’est la vie.

If you are in need of a spiritual pick-me-up, I recommend watching The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) which tells the story of the real-life Gladys Aylward (1902-70), a former English domestic who became a Christian missionary in China in the 1930s.

In 1940 she shepherded more than 100 children over the mountains to safety at the height of the Sino-Japanese war. Ingrid Bergman is 100% believable as the missionary and her relationship with Curt Jergens as the Chinese Colonel, although embellished, is very romantic. Robert Donat, in his final role, is terrific. What can I say, when I watched it last night, I cried through the whole movie. (Some time ago I read the book by Alan Burgess, The Small Woman, on which the film is based, and it is very good too.)

This weekend we will celebrate daughter #3’s birthday which is actually today–bonne anniversaire!–thus wrapping up all the family birthday’s between November 28 and today.

I pray for the day ahead and that I might bring Glory to God, in word, thought and deed. I thank God that his mercies are new to me every morning. I thank God that his grace is sufficient for all situations that I may encounter.