07 December 2010

In this season, as in all seasons...

[This article is probably the most popular thing, I have ever written.  I wrote it first to use as our Christmas card insert; then it was published in the church newsletter as part of LIGHT! (Advent 2005) and I think it was published at least once again.  Lots of people have "borrowed" it and I've gotten it back in emails and other's cards; a few asked permission first.  I still love it and hope you will too.  In this season as in all seasons... by K Cummings Pipes]

It's that time of year. Everyone is or soon will be "making a list and checking it twice." I've even made a list of my lists. Rush, rush, busy, busy! The list is long and the time is short. I hope not too short for prayer and meditation in this season as in all seasons.

I want to make time to remember that long ago God's people waited in expectant hope for God to act, to redeem, to lead, to reveal. I want to remember that long ago, in a season of darkness, there was light.

I want to celebrate God's provision in the winter beauty of Creation. I want to remember that there was oil for Temple lamps. I want to see glorious light on Bethlehem's hills and hear songs of peace and good will. I want to look for the star that led the wise to an improbable manger where all power was wrapped in the weakness of a sleeping child.

In this season as in all seasons, I want to sing the old songs that are forever new and remember that "heaven came down and glory filled my soul... My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day..."

In this season, when days are short and the night is long, I want to remember and to wait in expectant hope.

30 November 2010

Advent Resolutions...

It started even earlier this year--the rush to the malls and big box stores, the rush to grab, to get, to buy.  Merchants couldn't wait for Black Friday profits and Americans could not manage to devote even one day to family and giving thanks.  [Although my family enjoyed a "Norman Rockwall" Thanksgiving at my cousin Natalie's lovely home.] 
In the world around us, the next few weeks will be driven by materialism, consumerism and overindulgence. "These are things the heathen run after... set your mind on God's kingdom and his righteousness." {Matthew 6:33}  Christians are called in all seasons to live lives that proclaim the-already-come-and-coming kingdom, to live each day in expectation of Christ's coming, to proclaim that Jesus came and Christ is coming. We are called be awake to what is truly important, to live worthy lives, and to walk as children of light even in a season of darkness.  We must keep Christmas without falling prey to the temptations which abound in the world during the holiday season.
 Some advent resolutions:
  • I will exercise the discipline of good stewardship.  I will give gifts without making debts.  I will remember that a gift is given; it is not exchanged.
  • I will focus less on myself and more on the redeeming work of Jesus and how I can continue that work in the world.  I will speak and do those things that point the way to the coming of Christ.
  • I will find time to remember stories of Christmases past, people who have blessed my life, people who have blessed the world.  One of the blessings of 60+ years is that there have been many Christmases and many blessings. 
  • Even in remembering, I will not dwell in the past but will seek wisdom and joy in the present.
  • I will be grateful for what I have rather than coveting what I don't.  I will say "Thank you." 
  • I will weep with those who weep.
  • I will share with others in the name of Jesus.  DMP & I love the Salvation Army bucket & bell.  We will give anonymous gifts to those who are in need who will not be able to thanks us and so will thank God.   
  • Worship, prayer, study, meditation will not be pushed from my life by the frantic rush, false deadlines, and intrusive noise of the world's celebration.
  • I will keep Christmas because the world and I need reminders that Jesus came and Christ is coming. We need encouragement to remember and to prepare for His coming. This season, with the natural world's shortening of light & increasing night and the fleshly world's temptations, is a season to seek spiritual renewal and to help other seekers find it.
Yes, I will keep Christmas while remembering that the point is not the rituals but the meaning they proclaim. If I am not awake to the meaning then I am in danger of turning precious rituals into just one more thing the pagans run after and joining in the chase.  I want to be wide-awake while I decorate an evergreen tree in red and gold to symbolize royalty, sacrifice, and eternal life.  When I arrrange my ceramic wise men, I want to be fully aware that "the wise still seek" and that the world's wisdom bows before that babe in a manger.  I want to light candles and shine light into darkness.  I will greet my friends, my family, and the whole wide world with peace and joy and love. 

Longer ago than I can imagine, the Prophets promised Messiah would come and Jesus came:  “In Him was life and that life was the light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness…”  and there is hope.

04 November 2010

What I'm Reading...

Politics, politics, too much politics.  Now that the election is over I intend to take a hiatus from politics.  "...a pox on both your houses" unfortunately puts a pox on my house, too.

I've started preparation for the annual Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) assault.  I've got to do it for my parents and it's a ministry to offer my help to the Keenagers at church.  2011 plan data is now available at the Medicare Plan Finder . Enrollment in 2011 plans is from November 15, 2010 to December 31, 2010.

The last month has seen lots of time devoted to wind energy information and contracts and letter from our attorney... Daddy signed the contract on Monday so now we wait and hope to reap the wind.

Home repair/maintenance considerations.  I'm  thinking of replacing my dishwasher before it breaks (it's old enough to be near the end of its expected life span) because I seriously covet a Bosch dishwasher with its leak guard and enclosed heating element.  This unthrifty fit was brought on by what I thought was a leaking dishwasher but what proved to be a leak in the 53-year old plumbing behind the wall.  I love my 1957 ranch but...  While I've got a handyman here to replace that small piece of pipe, he's going to repair the minor water damage, reinforce the cabinet base, and replace the kick board.  When all that's done and my kitchen is back in good working order, I really don't want to have to deal with another water-leaking dishwasher, so I'm trying to convince myself that it's really an sound economic decision to get the thing I want to get now. 

It's not only the autumn season,  it's catalog season.  Every day brings a half dozen catalogs, slick glitterings to tickle my materialism.  I just can't resist browsing through them although I'm such a procrastinator that I really don't indulge in actual buying very often.  I always think I'm going to find perfect gifts for everyone on my list without having to go out into the crowded malls.  It's so much fun when UPS brings stuff to me.

An American ChildhoodIn my Annie Dillard Reader I'm enjoying large selections from An American Childhood.  Kindle I'm fascinated by comparing her growing up as a town kid in a northeastern city (Pittsburgh) and my own American childhood on a farm in West Texas.  My days were filled with many more chores than hers but we each had ample time to think during our days and nights.  Like me, she had an entertaining mother.  Her mother told jokes; mine sang and danced around the kitchen, and read and recited poetry.  Like me, she was pretty much allowed to choose her own reading and to pursue her own interests with minimal parental supervision.  Libraries and baseball are common to both of us.

Wright, N.T.: Surprised by Hope.  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, previously blogged, continues to surprise me.  I'm surprised at how easy it is to highlight on my Kindle and retrieve references and I'm surprised by how very much I needed to rethink.  2413 "Bodily resurrection is not just one odd bit of that hope.  It is the element that gives shape and meaning to the rest of the story we tell about God's ultimate purposes."  2855 "As with God's kingdom, so with its opposite, it is on earth that things matter..."  2996 "...heaven and hell are not, so to speak, what the whole game is about.  This is one of the central surprises in the Christian hope....  The New Testament, true to its Old Testament roots, regularly insists that the major, central, framing question is that of God's purpose of rescue and recreation of the whole world, the entire cosmos."  Wow!  anyone with any interest at all in matters eternal needs to read this book.  I'll have to buy hard copy to share with DMP because he absolutely refuses to even try to read my Kindle.

Chiffolo, Anthony F. & Hesse, Rayner W. Jr.:  We Thank You God, for These.  Blessings and Prayers for Family Pets.  New York:  Paulist Press, 2003.  Illustrated by Andrew Lattimore.  I got this book back down from the shelf to search for a quote for a sympathy note when a dear friend lost her beloved pet and have been enjoying it.  I love to read the dog quotes aloud to Miss Mandy Whitepaws.

The Literary Guide to the BibleThe Art Of Biblical PoetryAlter, Robert: The Book of Psalms. A translation with commentary. New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.  DMP gave me this book for Christmas and it was forgotten and buried in my stack.  In fact, I had already put it back on my want list before I found it.  Christmas all over again.  [The image at left is a clickable link where Amazon will let you look inside and browse this book.  I sampled this book on my Kindle and read the introduction there before I put the book itself on my list.  For reading the psalms, I found this one of those rare instances where the Kindle just didn't work.] This is my current bedside book.  I read a couple or three psalms each night before sleep.  Robert Alter, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at U. Cal. Berkeley, is a formidable scholar from whom I have learned much having read both The Literary Guide to the Bible and The Art of Biblical Poetry.  Alter is enriching my understanding of the Psalms and expanding my Hebrew vocabulary.  His translation attempts to be readable poetry in English while maintaining much of the psalmic poetics.  I think he succeeded brilliantly.  Introduction xxix  "Biblical Hebrew is what linguists call a synthetic language, as opposed to analytic languages such as English."  In his introduction xxxi, Alter described his translation process from the Hebrew as  "emulating its rhythms... reproducing many of the effects of its flexible syntax, seeking equivalents for the combination of homespun directness and archaizing in the original, hewing to the lexical concreteness of the Hebrew, and making palpable the force of the parallelism that is at the heart of Hebrew poetry." 
While the introduction and commentary are excellent and of great interest to a scholar of the Psalms, the translation itself is wonderful devotional reading.  From the 4th Psalm, v 6-8: 
"Offer righteous sacrifices
and trust in the LORD.
Many say, "Who will show us good things?"
Lift up the light of Your face to us, LORD.
You have put joy in my heart
from the time their grain and their drink did abound.
In peace, all whole, let me lie down and sleep.
For you, LORD, alone, do set me down safely."
Alter's use of "lift up" in v. 6 as a "gesture of divine favor (as in Priestly Blessing)... common in biblical idiom" is one example of a better reading to be gleaned from his translation.  Most, perhaps all, other English translations say "let" which is a far weaker, less evocative phrase. 
Alter found the "syntactic link" of grain and drink in v. 8 "obscure." My knowledge of Hebrew is certainly not strong enough to enable me to comment on syntax but I suggest a connection to v. 6 "righteous sacrifice" since both grain and wine are offered in joyful harvest festivals and as individual sacrifices of thanksgiving.    As a Jewish scholar, Alter would not approve my Christianizing the Psalms but this translation recalls to me the Eucharistic moment when the host and the cup (grain and wine) are lifted up.  This book is full of such tidbits to keep me happily reading for a long, long time.

14 October 2010

What I'm Reading...

When one is a reader much time is spent in collecting, maintaining, and getting rid of books.  These activities  reduce the time available for actual reading but books as a tactile experience have been a source of joy to me since...  well, since before I learned to read. 

A number of books from my collection were borrowed and used as decoration at a baby shower for my good friend Tricia. I took the opportunity to rearrange my collections.  All of my children's literature [except for the rabbit books and a few oversized books] has joined my Victorian author collection evelynwhitakerlibrary.org in the antique amoire in the living room.  I've also been adding archival covers to book jackets and decorative covers which somewhat diminishes that lovely tactile experience.
We bought the Eastlake piece while DMP was in the Army stationed in Maryland.  There were really super antique auctions and shops but unfortunately not a lot of money.  I planned to use it in our dining room as a china cabinet but it has spent 32 years in our living room holding our special (or sometimes merely decorative) books. At the same time I bought a similarly styled dresser intending it also for the dining room to hold my collection of table linens and function as a cocktail or beverage buffet. It lives in the guest bedroom/office.  I still have dining room dreams but DMP says that I might as well let go of the vision we saw in a lovely shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  I will never have a dining room to hold that beautiful table for 18 (the dealer said there were 2 additional leaves) with its three sterling silver candelabra. 
A girl can dream...

Oh well, if I spent that much time entertaining, there would be much less time for reading.

Having mined the water on our family farm, we are hoping to reap the wind
I've read and am continuing to read much about wind energy and wind farm contracts.  Windustry.org is one good place to start.   As a family, we've decided to participate in a community wind farm and all of us are excited about the possibility of having an income source even after the water is gone.  My brother, along with his son, has been very helpful and is doing a super job of not only acquiring information and making contacts but of being point man for our family.  After much study and even more talk, we all agreed that it was a "win-wind." 

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Wright, N.T.: Surprised by Hope.  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, Harper-Collins, 2008.  This is the book selected for Sunday Bible study in the Open Door class which I'm reading in a digital edition  on Kindle.   My recommendation:  read it, read it, read it. Kindle location 1174  "There are, after all, different types of knowing.  Science studies the repeatable; history studies the unrepeatable....  History is full of unlikely things that happened once and once only." 1209 "Sometimes human beings--individuals or communities--are confronted with something that they must reject outright or that, if they accept it, will demand the remaking of their worldview."  1235 "The most important decisions we make in life are not made by post-Enlightenment, left-brain rationality alone."  1333 "All knowing is a gift from God, historical and scientific knowing no less than that of faith, hope, and love..."  1564 "Creation was from the beginning an act of love, of affirming the goodness of the other..."  1803 "What creation needs is neither abandonment nor evolution but rather redemption and renewal; and this is both promised and guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  This is what the whole world is waiting for."   1831 "In our own day the problem is... flat literalism, on the one hand, facing modernist skepticism, on the other, with each feeding off the other."  1856 "Part of Christian belief is to find out what's true about Jesus and let that challenge our culture."  1896  "...if the ascension is true, then the whole project of human self-aggrandizement represented by eighteenth-century European and American thought is brought to heel."  1901 "At this point the Holy Spirit and the sacraments become enormously important since they are precisely the means by which Jesus is present."  2248 "...God's world, the world we call Heaven....  is different for ours (earth) but intersects with it in countless ways, not the least in the inner lives of Christian believers." 2397  "The ascension and appearing of Jesus constitute a radical challenge to the entire thought structure of the Enlightenment (and of course several other movements).  And since our present Western politics is very much the creation of the Enlightenment, we should think seriously about the ways in which, as thinking Christians, we can and should bring that challenge to bear."

Being informed and transformed by reading N.T. Wright, I am very happy with the Christmas card which DMP and I will send this year.  As usual I "preview" the readings for Advent and select Bible verses.  DMP and I select a card and choose a verse.  I love that our card this year will celebrate Jesus' coming to earth not only as the Babe of Bethlehem but as the Redeemer who will bring resurrection and a new heaven and a new earth.  From the 96th Psalm:  "Let the heavens be glad, Let the earth rejoice...  Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for He is coming."

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper Perrennial Modern Classics)I continue to nibble at my Annie Dillard reader.  Living like Weasels (1974)  is as nearly perfect as reading gets.   The short essay describes her encounter with a weasel and offers a meditation about choice and necessity.  It concludes:
"I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.  Then, even death, where you're going no matter how you live, cannot you part.  Seize it and let it seize you aloft...  lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles."

SEASONS (a group of women meeting monthly to read and discuss theology): 
Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A NovelRice, Anne: Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt. New York:  Ballantine Books, 2005.  A competent retelling of the story richly embroidered with the senses (you can taste the bread, feel the water of the mikvah, smell the smoke of the sacrifice) and the creation of a very believable family dynamic.  I don't care much for this type of fiction and wouldn't have read it if not for SEASONS but I did enjoy and do recommend it.  I plan to donate Out of Egypt to the church library.
Long ago, I considered writing a book on the 1st Century, including the childhood of Jesus, the hidden life of Christ.  Rachel Crying for Her Children was my working title.  The project was put away and forgotten--I often find I satisfy my creative impulses by researching and planning without actually having to write a book.  Probably an indication that I'm better suited to be a librarian than a writer.  I much enjoyed revisiting this material and was pleased to  see in Rice's Author's Note and in the bibliographic materials on her website  many of the sources I had researched.  I will also take a look at a couple of titles which Rice recommended:  the translations of Richmond Lattimore and at John A. T. Robinson:  The Priority of John
                                                                                                            So many books, so little time...

25 September 2010

What I'm Reading...

When I start a novel, any novel but especially a good one, I want to read it all the way through from start to finish with as few interruptions as possible, which is of course not at all possible most of the time.  Vacations are an exception.  Earlier this month while on vacation, I indulged in a fiction binge:

Lady Audley's SecretBraddon, Mary Elizabeth:  Lady Audley's Secret, Kindle downloaded from  Project Gutenberg.  Braddon (1857-1915) first published her "sensation" novel about bigamy in 1862 and it was a sensation of the popular sort, going through nine editions in the first year.  I was surprised at how much fun it was to read this book--a murder mystery with a bit of romance and family dysfunction.  The character of Robert Audley (the nephew/sleuth) and some of the book's tone remind me a bit of the much later comic novels of P. G. Wodehouse.  A quote re. Lady Audley's relationship with her adult step-daughter:  "There can be no reconciliation where there is no open warfare. There must be a battle, a brave boisterous battle, with pennants waving and cannon roaring, before there can be peaceful treaties and enthusiastic shaking of hands."    Another favorite:  "Sir Michael Audley made that mistake which is very commonly made by easy-going, well-to-do-observers, who have no occasion to look below the surface.  He mistook laziness for incapacity.  The thought because his nephew was idle, he must necessarily be stupid.  He concluded that if Robert did not distinguish himself, it was because he could not.
"He forgot the mute inglorious Miltons, who die voiceless and inarticulate for want of that dogged perseverance, that blind courage, which the poet must possess before he can find a publisher; he forgot the Cromwells, who see the noble vessels of the state floundering upon a sea of confusion ...  and who yet are powerless to get at the helm...  Surely it is a mistake to judge of what a man can do by that which he has done....  The game of life is something like the game of ecarte, and it may be that the very best cards are sometimes left in the pack."

The Essential Charlotte M. Yonge Collection (27 books)Yonge, Charlotte M.:  The Heir of RedclyffeKindle downloaded from Project Gutenberg, first published in 1853 and the best selling of Yonge's novels, "the most popular novel of the age."  Yonge (1823-1901) used profits from her  books for charity.  Her father told her upon the success of The Heir of Redclyffe "that a lady published for three reasons only: love of praise, love of money, or the wish to do good."  She is sometimes called the novelist of the Oxford Movement and was a life-long Anglican Sunday Schools teacher.   I read this book long ago, probably in imitation of  Jo March in Alcott's  Little Women.  I enjoyed reading it again.  Yonge is  a bit "preachy" even for my taste (despite my complete sympathy with her religious views and, as readers of this blog have undoubtedly noted, my predilection for all things theological) but dear Charlotte does go on and on and on and...  Perhaps that's one more thing I have in common with her.

I've started Wright, N.T.:  Surprised by Hope.  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, Harper-Collins, 2008.  This is the book selected for Sunday Bible study in the Open Door class which I'm reading in a digital edition  on Kindle and I'm hopelessly behind the class in my reading.  I'm greatly enjoying the DVD discussion by N.T. Wright and the discussion questions.   A few years ago I read this author's  The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God--Getting Beyond the Bible Wars (2006) and would put it on my short lists of books that made a significant difference in my world view because it finally made clear to me the questions asked by post-modernist thinkers. p. iv "Almost all Christian churches say something in the formularies about how important the Bible is.  Almost all of them have devised ways, some subtle, some less so, of ostentatiously highlighting some parts of the Bible and quietly setting aside other parts."  p. xi "How can what is mostly a narrative text be "authoritative"?  [How can we] "speak of the Bible being in some sense "authoritative" when the Bible itself declares that all authority belongs to the one true God, and that this is now embodied in Jesus himself."  p. 14 "My present point is that these older ways of thinking about the world have left their mark on the study of the Bible, on the way it has been taught... and that these ways of thinking have themselves become discredited in the mainstream culture."  p. 16 "integrity consists not of having no presuppositions but of being aware of what one's presuppositions are and of the obligation to listen to and interact with those who have different ones."  My copy of this book is very heavily highlighted and I recommend it with enthusiasm.  I'm hoping that I will be able to enjoy reading N.T. Wright as much on the Kindle with bookmark/highlight tabs as I did in print with my yellow highlighter in hand.

Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters I continue reading Annie Dillard (previously blogged) and greatly enjoyed revisiting Total Eclipse and An Expedition to the Pole from Teaching a Stone to Talk.  I found her short story The Living a bit odd and disturbing, as Dillard can be.  I'm reading a collection of her works on my Kindle.  Dillard is one of the finest nature writers I've encountered and I greatly enjoy her writing style and her powers of observation.  She makes unexpectedly connections and helps me see how intricately all of life is interwoven.  Interwoven--what a great name for the book I'll never write.

The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond SixtyAnd as previously blogged  I'm reading through everything by Carlyn G. Heilbrun who will undoubtedly merit a blog dedicated solely to her one day.  I recently finished The Last Gift of Time. Life Beyond Sixty. This author gives voice to my thoughts and I know no other author (who did not live in the 19th Century) who mirrors by interior life and thoughts so well.  p.2  "...aging might be gain rather than loss, and... the impersonation of youth was unlikely to provide the second span of womanhood with meaning and purpose."   p.4 "Perhaps I am one of those who are born... blessed with the gift of eternal old age."  p. 35 "As Sartre said, not to choose is to have already chosen.  The major danger in one's sixties--so I came to feel--is to be trapped in one's body and one's habits, not to recognize those supposedly sedate years as the time to discover new choices and to act upon them."  p. 120 "What one remembers is, I think, a clue to what one wants to be."  p. 137 "To find unmet friends, one must be a reader, and not an infrequent one.... Reading--like those more frivolous lifelong pursuits, singing in tune, or diving, or roller-blading--is either an early acquired passion or not:  there is no in-between about it, no catching up in one's later years."   and p. 182 "Life seemed simpler because I was young and simple."  p. 150 quoting Samuel Johnson:  "the enduring elegance of female friendship." ...perfectly describes the relationship of a woman reader with a woman writer whose work she has encompassed, reread, and delighted in."  Thank you to my "unmet friends for that "enduring elegance:  Jane Austen, Evelyn Whitaker, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Grace Livingstone Hill, Beatrix Potter, Christina Rossetti,  Annie Dillard and, yes, Elaine Showalter and Carolyn G. Heilbrun.

I finished the second of the poetry books DMP gave me for Christmas last year.  Gluck, Louise: Averno.  New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux,  2006.  She is an excellent poet and I'll probably keep  this book on the shelf and may reread it in a year or two but it was much to dependent on the Persephone myth to be quite my cup of tea.  full text available at the floating library

I'll close this month's reading list with another quote from Carolyn G. Heilbrun (p. 182): 
"True sadness which is not nostalgia can, I have found, be dispelled by reading: by that same literature which seemed, in my youth, to hold both excitement, wisdom, and all I could discover of truth; and by today's newly perceptive books.  Lifelong readers continue to read, finding in books... the means to enjoy life or to endure it." 

04 September 2010

Celebrating our 39th Anniversary

September is a month of firsts for us.  In those days, school started weeks later than it now does.  I first arrived at Rice U. in Houston on 10 September 1967 and first met DMP at the college class party of Central Church of Christ on Saturday 16 September.  We  had our first date two weeks later, a football game--Rice vs. Navy.  Rice won.   We enjoyed many, many dates over the next four years--football games, basketball games, bridge, movies, dinners, Baskin-Robbins,  the zoo, MFA, college open houses, Brown Jones formals, Roundelets, Rice Players, Galveston, Westbury Square, long walks around campus--and we spent lots of time with each other that weren't dates while he tutored me in math and physics, while we worked in college theater productions, while we spent time with friends on campus, while we worshiped at Central and worked with the children at the Drew Street Mission.  Most, if not all, of our friends considered us an "item" almost from that first September.  A few weeks ago my friend, Jo S., asked when David and; I started going with each other exclusively.  She was shocked when I told her, on 17 June 1971, the day he asked me to marry him.

DMP left almost immediately for Army ROTC summer camp.   I got a job and planned a wedding; I was not one of those girls who had spent her entire life planning a wedding, until I met DMP I was not even sure that I intended ever to be married.  We chose the Saturday of Labor Day weekend because it was convenient for me to get at least one day off work, he would have a long weekend from grad school, and our siblings who were all in school would be able to come.  The wedding would have to be in Houston and, indeed, we wanted it there so that our Rice friends could conveniently be with us.   Our decision was reflective of several things that have defined our lives:  (1) Houston is our home, (2) Central is our church, (3) our friends are as dear to us as our family, (4) Rice is important to us. 

It was a simple, inexpensive celebration.  My mother made my gown and my sister's gown.  David's mother made his sisters' gowns.  Andrea made her gown.  The flowers were real.  [If real flowers are too costly, use fewer or skip something else.  There should be nothing fake at a wedding.]   I carried red roses on the white Bible my mother had carried on her wedding day, marked to Ruth's "whither thou goest" passage as it had been at her wedding.  My attendants each carried a single long-stemmed red rose.  The men in the wedding party wore white carnations.  Our mothers wore orchids.  The church had two large white seasonal arrangements, mostly gladiolas.  A friend selected music  (mostly Bach) and played solo piano prior to the ceremony.  We processed to Tchaikovsky's piano Concerto in B-flat and recessed to Beethoven's Ode to Joy.   There was no photographer since we both felt that was a distraction and an unnecessary expense.  (We were wrong.)  One of DMP's roomies and our head usher took photos.  Several of my aunts and cousins snapped a few pics; some of which I didn't see until decades later.  Since no one in DMP's family took any photos there are very few pics of him.

I was not in any sense a "bridezilla" because it never occurred to me that it was "my" day.  David and I both thought, and still think, that a wedding is about family and community and it marks only the beginning of a marriage and not the most important day of our lives.

What was important to us was what would be said, what words would constitute the covenant.  The ceremony was short and uniquely ours.  I walked down the aisle promptly at 4:30 p.m. because we are rarely late and it seemed good to us to start our life together in a timely fashion.

Our ceremony with a few more pics:

Reading:  Genesis 2:18, 21-24

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will provide a helpmeet for him.” …And so the Lord God put man into a trance, and while he slept, the Lord God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh over the place. Then He then built up the rib, which He had taken out of the man, into a woman. He brought her to the man, and the man said:
Now this, at last—
bone from my bone,
flesh from my flesh!—
She shall be called woman,
for from man was she taken.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother is united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

Reading:  Ephesians 5:21-33

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, be subject to your husband as to the Lord; for the man is the head of the woman, just as Christ also is the head of the church. Christ is, indeed, the Savior of the body; but just as the church is subject to Christ, so must women be to their husbands in everything.

Daddy & me
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for it, to consecrate it, cleansing it by water and the word, so that he might present the church to himself all glorious, with no stain or wrinkle or anything of the sort, but holy and without blemish. In the same way men also are bound to love their wives, as they love their own bodies. In loving his wife a man loves himself. For no one ever hated his own body; on the contrary, he provides and cares for it; and that is how Christ treats the church, because it is his body, of which we are living parts. Thus it is that (in the words of Scripture) ‘a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ It is a great truth that is hidden here. I for my part refer it to Christ and to the church, but it applies individually: each of you must love his wife as his very self; and the woman must see to it that she pays her husband all respect.

David, will you take K to be your wife to love, to honor, and to cherish from this day forward?
K, will you take David to be your husband to love, to honor, and to obey from this day forward?

(David and I agreed that our experience said that we usually agreed but, when we did not, neither of us resigned our position gracefully.  After much discussion we decided to go with the old-fashioned "obey" understanding that it was predicated on the Genesis and Ephesians readings.  That decision was tested pre-marriage when we opened our combined bank account and debated the name.  I wished to keep my own name; he felt strongly that I should take his name.  I finally agreed "for the sake of our children."  Ironic.  Although I am sometimes addressed as Mrs. David Pipes, I never think of myself in those terms.  I am, as I have always been K Cummings and I add Pipes only as a courtesy to my husband.  But truly, the marriage ran more smoothly than the courtship.)
Reading: I Corinthians 13

The vows which we wrote:
David [turned pale and silent for a loooong time before he remembered what to say.  The minister had no copy of the vows so I would have had to prompt him.  A bit unwise, that]:      Because I love you and believe in you, K, I want you to share my life. I will protect and care for you as your husband in times of joy and of sorrow. I will put love first, being patient and kind, never selfish nor quick to take offense. I will keep no score of wrongs, nor gloat over mistakes, but will delight in the truth. Through the Spirit of the Lord, there is no limit to my trust in you, to my hope for you, and to our love’s endurance.

K:            David, because I love you and believe in you, I will live with you as your wife, sharing with you all things. I will be a comfort to you and will endeavor to make our home a house of peace in both joy and sorrow. I will put love first, being patient and kind, never selfish nor quick to take offense. I will keep no score of wrongs, nor gloat over mistakes, but will delight in the truth. Through the Spirit of the Lord, there is no limit to my trust in you, to my hope for you, and to our love’s endurance.

David:      K, take and wear this ring as a symbol of our union.
K:             David, take and wear this ring as a symbol of our union.

Terry K. pronounced us husband and wife in the name of Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  (The state of Texas had to be content with the marriage certificate and was not mentioned.)  No one gave anyone permission to kiss anyone.  David lifted the veil and graced me with the most chaste kiss ever seen at a wedding.
Terry offered a very few words of joy and admonition and a prayer of blessing concluding with these words:

The Lord bless you and keep you:
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
May the Lord implant his Spirit within you and grant you length of days, vigor of body, deep and abiding mutual understanding, companionship, and love, increasing with the passage of years and in the fullness of peace.

It was a prayer to which we said "amen" and which we have found truly answered in our life together.

And they lived, not unhappily, ever after...
 or at least for the next 39 years, to date.

26 August 2010

Always. Sometimes. Never.

Taking my cue from Chelsie, I made a list:

I Always...

1) read three or more books at time and finish every book I start--eventually.
2) begin the day with at least 2 large cups of coffee.  Black & strong.
3) say yes to ice cream.
4) fasten my seat belt before ignition.
5) have an opinion, even if I'm not very interested in the subject.

I Sometimes...

1) wish I were more adventurous  (or at least less sensible and cautious) and knew how to have wild, crazy fun.  But then I'd probably have less time to read.
2) put an Earl Greyer teabag in my cup, pour in the hot java, and enjoy bergamot coffee.
3) talk too much and too loudly.
4) imagine entire worlds of people (living, dead, literary, completely made up in my own mind) and have long discussions with them.
5) change my mind.

I Never...

1) paint my nails.
2) wear a watch--since they won't run if they touch me anyway--and I believe that time is a purely theoretical concept, is finitely elastic (like a rubber band, it stretches and stretches until it breaks), and is too precious to waste.
3) really enjoy travel, although I like to think about it and plan for it and pretend that I'm going to do it someday.
4) tire of Impressionist art or say no to any museum.
5) finish my "to do" list.

17 August 2010

What I'm reading...

In a recent post, I said that I don't read mysteries but anyone looking over my reading list would see that I do.   Previous posts have included books by
I  read mysteries if they have been recommended by someone who knows what I like to read (usually DMP) and I'll read a second by an author who appeals to my sense of humor or offers me a view into  history or who feeds me literary tidbits.  Since DMP must go to Murder by the Book, now celebrating their 30th anniversary, at least twice a month, I come across such books rather frequently.  I've indulged in a fiction binge of several mysteries:

Rituals of the SeasonMaron, Margaret:  Rituals of the Season. New York:  Warner, 2005.  This is one of the later books in the series which began with The Bootlegger's Daughter and DMP thought I'd enjoy the chapter heading quotations from Florence Hartley's The Ladies Book of Etiquette, 1873, which may be read on-line at the Open Library.  Two quotes:  "Many believe that politeness is but a mask worn in the world to conceal bad passions and impulses, and to make a show of possessing virtues not really existing in the heart; thus, that politeness is merely hypocrisy and dissimulation.  Do not believe this; be certain that those who profess such a doctrine are themselves practising the deceit they condemn so much...  True politeness is the language of a good heart."  "Among well-bred persons, every conversation is considered in a measure confidential...."    DMP's timing was great since I'd just read a Hartley quote in the Ph.D. thesis of Sonya Sawyer Fritz.  A bit of Maron's humor from p. 36:  "So what is the difference between a spinster and a old maid?" "Well, as Doris would've said if Herman hadn't stopped her, a spinster ain't never been married.  But an old maid ain't never been married ner nothing." DMP was correct; I did enjoy Maron's mystery and may have the chance  to read her again (I'll certainly scan her chapter headings) since he acquired most of the out-of-print earlier books by asking me to find them for him.  I used abebooks.com, one of my favorite sources, and was able to order from two vendors that I have used frequently:  owl books and seashellbooks.com.

I'm planning to read and re-read the non-fiction books by one of my favorite authors, Carolyn G. Heilbrun, and thought that I'd start with three of the Kate Fansler mysteries which were first published under the pseudonym of Amanda Cross:

  • In the Last Analysis (Kate Fansler Mysteries)In the Last Analysis.  New York:  Fawcett Books, 1964.  "I didn't say I objected to Freud... I said I objected to what Joyce called freudful errors--all those nonsensical conclusions leaped to by people with no reticence and less mind." p. 1 "She had learned as a college teacher that if one simplified what one wished to say, one falsified it.  It was  possible only to say what one meant, as clearly as possible." p. 8  "...there's only one test for discovering what you really want:  it consists in what you have."  p. 159  "He probably thought I was writing a novel and he answered my question in the most long-winded and technical way possible.  But then doctors are always indulging either in incoherence or oversimplification--if you want my opinion, I don't think they even understand each other."  p. 209

  • Poetic Justice.  New York: Fawcett Books, 1970.  Filled with delicious W.H. Auden quotations and an excellent depiction of university life during my undergraduate years and some feminist issues.  "unready to die... but already at the stage when one starts to dislike the young."  p. 3  "I have nothing against young people--apart from the fact that they are arrogant, spoiled, discourteous, incapable of compromise, and unaware of the cost of everything they want to destroy....  I prefer those whom life has had time to season."  p. 41    Kate to Reed:  "You... are my greatest accomplishment.  I have achieved the apotheosis of womanhood.  To have earned a Ph.D., taught reasonably well, written books, traveled, been a friend and a lover--these are mere evasions of my appointed role in life:  to lead a man to the altar.  You are my sacrifice to the goddess of middle-class morality..." p. 107  "It may serve, in these frantic days of relevance, to remind you of the importance of the useless."  p. 110  "When formality went from life, meaning went too.  People always yowl about form without meaning, but what turns out to be impossible is meaning without form.  Which is why I'm a teacher of literature and keep ranting on about structure."  p. 133  "...'the only earthly joys are those we are free to choose--like solitude, your college, certain marriages.'  'And what about unearthly joys?' 'Ah, those, if we are fortunate, choose us.  Like grace.  Like talent.'" p. 135

  • The Theban Mysteries.  New York: Avon Books, 1971. Antigone, dodging the draft, and an  up-scale New York girls' school.  "No one pretends anything any more, which I suppose is a good thing, although I can't help sometimes feeling that the constant expression of emotion in itself becomes the cause of the emotion which is expressed."  p. 12  "What is troubling... is that he is rude, unwashed, inconsiderate, filled to the brim with slogans, and outrageously simplistic.  Alas, he also right."  p. 25   "Nothing ages more quickly than the absolutely up-to-date....  the latest in everything, age[s] like a woman who has had her face lifted:  there is not even character to set off the ravages of time." p. 27  "There is nothing so uncomfortable as seeing both sides of the question."  p. 89  "For myself, I've discovered that when I ask myself what I should do I always tumble into confusion.  The only clear question is to ask oneself what one wants to do.... It sounds like [self-indulgence] certainly, but oddly enough, it isn't.  The 'should' people are really indulging themselves by never finding out what they want.  It has taken me many years to learn that discovering what one wants if the true beginning of a spiritual journey."  p. 125
The Auden quotes in Poetic Justice are probably what inspired me to grab my well-worn Pocket Book of Modern Verse, edited by Oscar Williams, for bedside reading, all 628 pages.  I have a few favorites but, by and large, I am out of sympathy with Moderns:  "Terrence, this is stupid stuff..."  A.E. Houseman.  Found a smile and an apt description of the Parliament (Rice's NCAA Bulletin Board):  "...owls raving--Solemnities not easy to withstand... The owls trilled with tongues of nightingale.  These were all lies, though they matched the time..."   Robert Graves.  My final reading for this paperback with it's yellowed, brittle pages--some falling out--and it's broken spine. I kept it far longer than necessary for sentimental reasons:  Larry McMurtry taught my section of English 100 at Rice and this little book is where I met and got to know:  Auden, Thomas Hardy as a poet rather than a novelist, Houseman, Dylan Thomas, William Butler Yeats, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I'm considering a replacement. 

I'm finally returning Peterson, Eugene H.: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Discipleship in an Instant Society. 2nd edition. Downers Grover IL: Intervarsity Press, 2000, to my Psalms study shelf.  This a very rich book offering commentary on the Psalms of Ascent, Psalms 120-134.  Many quotes from this book will one day be added to my Psalms notes but this one is worthy of mention here:  "Those who parade the rhetoric of liberation but scorn the wisdom of service do not lead people into the glorious liberty of the children of God but into a cramped and covetous squalor."


Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives (Vintage)David Eagleman:   Sum: Forty tales from the Afterlives.  New York:  Vintage Books, 2009.  The author majored in British and American literature at Rice before  earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience.  A funny, thoughtful delight which is less about Afterlives than about our perceptions of life.  A couple of quotations:  "She was always leery of apostates, those who rejected the particulars of their religion in search of something that seemed more truthful.   She disliked them because they seemed the most likely to float a correct guess."  "...your memory has spent a lifetime manufacturing small myths to keep your life story consistent with who you thought you were.  You have committed to a coherent narrative, misremembering little details and decisions and sequences of events....  you are battered and bruised in the collisions between reminiscence and reality."

So many books; so little time.