Wednesday, April 30, 2008

pretty amazing grace

Pretty amazing grace is what You showed me
pretty amazing grace is who You are
I was an empty vessel
You filled me up inside
and with amazing grace restored my pride

Pretty amazing grace is how You saved me
and with amazing grace reclaimed my heart
love in the midst of chaos
calm in the heat of war
showed with amazing grace what love was for

You forgave my insensitivity
and my attempt to then mislead You
You stood beside a wretch like me
Your pretty amazing grace was all I needed.

Stumbled inside the doorway of Your chapel
humbled in God by everything I found
beauty and love surround me
freed me from what I fear
ask for amazing grace and You appear

You overcame my loss of hope and faith
gave me a truth I could belive in
You led me to a higher place
showed Your amazing grace
when grace was what I needed

look in a mirror I see Your reflection
open a book You live on every page
I fall and You're there to lift me
share every road I climb
and with amazing grace You ease my mind

Came to You with empty pockets first
when I returned I was rich man
didn't believe love could quench my thirst
but with amazing grace You showed me that it can

In Your amazing grace I had a vision
from that amazing place I came to be
into the night I wandered
wandering aimlessly
found Your amazing grace to comfort me.

pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing

You overcame my loss of hope and faith,
gave me a truth I could believe in.
You led me to that higher place
showed me that love and truth and hope and grace were all I needed.

-Neil Diamond

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


There is a chill in the air today, but the sparkle of sunshine redeemed it for me. Everything is so fresh it takes my breath away!

Some might call these "swamp weeds", but I love them.

Can you imagine the watery melody of the stream weaving around these clumps of beauty?

I love the color of lichen.
Perhaps we could settle for this color in our living room. Too bad I couldn't replicate that texture!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I have known men who weep.

Strong men. Solid men.
Men who carry themselves as confidently in business suits as in work clothes. Men whose brows bend easily over their work; whose arms lift bales deftly and babies tenderly. They drive minivans, lawnmowers, golf-carts and pick-up trucks.

Sometimes, they weep.

Last summer, one man wept openly while sharing how a friend came to Christ. He wasn't planning to cry when invited to the front of the church to speak to us. But he did plan the months of long conversations with this friend and the countless hours of intercession on his behalf.

Then in the fall, after the leaves had fallen and biting frost had browned our North Country fields, another man wept before us.
His lovely wife sat amongst us, her arms wrapped around their tiny one-month-old babe whose heart was still learning to work properly. For weeks we had spread our collective prayers and held our collective breaths over this little one's life, and now her father was thanking us through copious tears.

This very morning, our youth group presented a short drama about God's fierce and redemptive love for us that bowled us over. Its effect was unexpected. As the lights flickered back on and we scrambled to recover ourselves emotionally, one of our dear pastors stood and addressed us.

"Does anyone here..." he inquired in a ragged voice, swallowing purposefully-
"Does anyone here remember being that broken?
He raised his own arm. Other arms followed. Time ground to a halt while we considered the enormity of His mercy.
"Can we remember being that bound?" he asked as his face crumpled in remembered pain.
Led by him, we sat in a silence which was saturated with a host of dark memories.

Oh, the praise that followed those tears!

I can think of another man who wept. The Bible tells me in John 11:35 that "Jesus wept." Although scholars declare this the shortest verse in the New Testament, they aren't counting the empty beats of contemplation that come after it.
For as much as I have thought about these other men and the effect their tears have had upon me, I have thought so much more about this Man and his weeping.

It leads me to selah, that mysterious Hebrew word sprinkled throughout the Psalms.
To stop and think about these things is a worthy pursuit.

So to all you strong men:
thanks for weeping.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Some things seem to get worse before they get better.


-one of our investment properties in Madrid.
Now that the faded and mismatched siding has been yanked off and some windows replaced, one might assume that this particular dilapidated house might look more like unto a shiny new penny. But nope. Rather, it looks worse.
However. I know by experience how these things go. I would describe myself as nonplussed over the situation, but I learned the true definition of nonplussed this week, and it is not applicable here. I always thought it meant "unaffected".

-our yard. Please know that I am over last week's rant, and am well into the "Do Something About It" stage. I raked old leaves, sticks, and junk with a vengeance yesterday while #1 Daughter took down some electric fencing. Hubby was on clean-up at the property next door, but he also trucked piles of wet leaves and weeds for me. While yanking off my trusty pair of garden boots and predicting the imminent discovery of sore muscles I didn't know I even had, I surveyed our progress.
Yup. Looks worse. It's a good sign, I say.

-the CFA band. We were a slouchy crew this afternoon. After dismissing the strings and the rhythm section (one drummer), I sat patiently amidst my woodwinds to work through their scores. I tapped out the beats while shelling out encouragement. We have a month to make ourselves presentable.

Is it any wonder the principle of worse/better is being pulled out of my hat?

Thursday, April 24, 2008


You can find me outside today, you betcha.

If you are aching to know more about what we did and what we saw in Boston, click on to my pictures link.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Everyone who knows me will not be surprised.

I lured my favorite family into The Boston Museum of Fine Arts today. Oh baby.
I'll tell all at a later time. I promise!

the race

Hubby was one of 25,000 participants in the Boston Marathon yesterday.
He didn't need to chase greatness, though, because his family already knows how great he is.

Ah, sweet success!
After the race, we dined at The Island Hopper (Thai and Malaysian cuisine) and chilled out with frozen smoothies.

Hubby did very well with his time, re-qualifying with less than a minute to spare.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Boston Marathon

All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go....

but I'm not leaving on a jet plane.
The whole fam is hopping in Hubby's black suburban and booking it to Bean-Town, though.
Tomorrow Hubby will be running the Boston Marathon. Yippee!

I say yippee NOT because I enjoy watching the runners stagger through the finish line, fainting, bleeding, and sometimes doing worse stuff (not MY guy!)....

because we all get to cheer him on with a dose of family spirit (not to mention pride).

We also get to a) stay in a hotel for three nights
b) eat out for every meal
c) walk the Freedom Trail
d) review our American History
e) visit shopping squares, museums, and historical sights

And so on.

Ta-Ta for now!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

it makes me mad all over again

Two posts in one day?

It's like this: I had to get this off of my chest.

While cleaning up my photo-file, I came across some pictures taken the other day when I was in a bad mood. Rather, my mood was fair-to-middlin' when I stepped outside to document the arrival of warmer weather. It soured quickly when I took a stroll around our yard.

The first sight to greet me was piles of crushed gravel that the snowplow deposited on the lawn. Of course, it was mixed thoroughly with snow then.
Here it is in it's pure, unmixed state:

Next, I came upon last year's burn barrel. In the background is a rotting willow tree and an assortment of wind-tossed and soggy paper stuck in the hedgerow.

This is not a posed picture. Completely un-retouched.

Moving along, we find our blue boat draped in a green tarp.
(The latest in spring colors!)

A few squishy steps away, one can view the back of our barns, along with what seems to be a cartload of something that never reached its destination.

Did someone take an emergency phone call?
Remember they were boiling pasta?
Dash for the bathroom, or what?

It's like the Rapture came or something.

Doesn't the stable look so entirely sad? The stables have been empty since last fall.

I cringe at the fake brick siding that peeps out from behind the green gate. Otherwise, without the horses to wallow in the spring mud, it's not too bad.

This brings me to the scene that made me scream.

Hubby and #1 Daughter come to the back of our property to burn scrap wood. Obviously, this chair didn't make the cut --as it had more use left in it. I thought #1 Daughter was back here doing her chores, but I can only deduct she left her notebook and junky shoes out here so she could don proper footwear to go running instead.
(or maybe that Rapture thing again....)

I'd run, too.
Wouldn't you?

Coming full-circle around our property, I glean-- no, I grasp, clutch, and altogether cling to hope that our circa 1830 farmhouse really looks this idyllic to the passersby.

After all, the speed limit is 55 on our road, and who really has time to snoop around when driving?

Even coming closer, one would never guess the horrors that await nearby. One might also never guess what the insides of our barns and garage look like.

But I didn't have the heart to go there.

Perhaps in a few weeks, things around the yard won't look so creepy.

Please tell me that your yard looks just as bad or worse.
Please tell me that when it "greens up" a bit and creeping vines take over, these things won't bother me so.
Please tell me that you're coming over with your six kids, rakes, cranes, and dump-trucks to have a Clean-Up Day.
Please tell me that when I erase these images from my digital camera card, that they will disappear in real life.

I'm gonna go try it.


My students announced that today "felt" like a day off from school.
I know what they mean.

We have been cranking out a tightly-packed schedule--even up through breakfast this morning where Friend #112a joined us for some hang-out time with our guest minister.
After serving a breakfast casserole and apple-cottage cheese pancakes and making sure there was fresh coffee in everyone's cup, I headed out into the sparkling sun for a walk.

(Outta my way, everybody. I need my space.)

I pushed my tired and complaining body on to the top of the hill, through the maple grove, and up to the green barn where sometimes a cow bellows without warning from within and makes me jump out of my skin. When this occurs, I automatically pretend I tripped over something just to cover myself. Even though nobody is around for a mile or so.

I don't know why.

As for my students, they are doing light schoolwork today, just as I am doing light housework. A little math, a dab of science, and a touch of review here and there will have to suffice, as we are just plumb tuckered out from a weekend of special meetings, extra social engagements, and late-night dining.

Events like this (see previous two posts) are wonderful and glorious and all, but they don't tend to help anyone get up in the morning. And no matter what spiritual planes we all attain, dirty laundry and dirty dishes are still generated at the same old clip.

Highlight of my afternoon: an extended perusal of the latest issue of this, our family's favorite mag. In between articles, I may cat-nap.

If someone catches me at it, I could always say I was "in deep contemplation".

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

presbytery meetings

Our library chairs grace the stage,
along with this lovely lady who leads us in worship:

Since a picture can be worth a thousand words, I'll be quiet now.

Monday, April 14, 2008

the best meetings of the year

Some events are really, really hard to write about.

To distill into mere words how I feel about the latest meetings at our church? Too hard! Almost impossible! Please don't ask me to do it.

Oh, all right already. I'll try.

Each spring for over 25 years, our pastors have invited men (and women) to minister at special evening meetings which are open to the whole congregation. These men and women, some of whom we know personally and some of whom we have never met, travel from all parts of the country and come geared up to bless us. Over a series of four consecutive evenings, they briefly share from the Word and then get down to business.

They are prophets.

No, they don't have long beards or carry large sticks. They wear regular clothes and (I would assume) put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us. They eat eggs over-easy for breakfast, some of them. One prophet we know likes to belt out seventies tunes, karaoke-style, for fun. Plain ole 'regular folk, I say. With the difference being this: God has given them a gift and the gift is for us.

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up..." Ephesians 4:11-12a

God has given prophets to the church to prepare us for service and to strengthen the congregation. He did not give us prophets to tickle our ears with flattery or to perform fortune-telling tricks. I can appreciate those that would initially shy away from this whole idea of prophecy, as the world is rife with counterfeits. (Boy, is it ever!)

Good advice and it's free: Don't let counterfeits rob you from experiencing the real thing.

In the atmosphere of prayer and worship, specific members of our congregation come forward for ministry. They have requested this and have been prepared with instruction and prayer. Young couples, high-school seniors, men and women who have served faithfully in our church for many years, new believers, they sit among these prophets and God shows up.
It can be a scary experience! --until you hear the words of love and assurance that are spoken.

"And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. " 2 Peter 1 :19

It is light work to pay attention to this stuff. We sit straight up in our folding chairs, we do.

We in the congregation are transfixed and enriched by God's words to the recipients. If we are intimately acquainted with the person receiving prayer, even more so! Hurts and fears are lovingly addressed. Dreams and desires are confirmed. Personal giftings and areas of service are proclaimed and explained. Callings are identified. The Bible is always at hand and the scriptures are applied liberally and personally. A few surprises are always thrown in, which bolsters my theory that God is more fun than we generally give Him credit for.

Without prompting, voices from the gathered crowd murmur yes and amen. Spontaneous applause and a smattering of stomps and back-slaps fill the hall, too. When we aren't moved to tears, we are laughing with joy.

What can I say; we are a demonstrative bunch.

"He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church."
1 Corinthians 14:5b

To edify means to build up, to strengthen.

God wants His people to be serving Him whole-heartedly. He desires us to be strong. He wants us to know His unconditional love. Consistently, year after year, these are the thoughts that are impressed upon me when I leave these meetings.

"Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:20-21

One of the things that excites me the most is the drive home after the meeting. We are hosting one of the guests in our home, so we get to illumine him with all kinds of cool info.
These regular guys I told you about? They really don't know a thing. They got nuthin' on these people they are praying over, I'm telling you.

"You know that first couple? They have a heart for the Muslim people. So all that stuff about God using them to break down the walls of dead religion and planting God's love among different peoples? That was such an encouragement to them They are moving overseas next summer to do that very work!"

"Those words about heritage spoken over that young man? Well, his dad is our pastor...
God is already using his musical gifts. But those words about leading worship will call him higher."

"Thank you for speaking such healing over this one. She has been so hurt from rejection in the past."

On and on it goes.

I knew it would be hard to capsulize these meetings. It's the best I can do, really. And there is so much more to say, but I have a household to run here. And a prophet to feed. (p.s. this one likes dinner after late-night meetings and last night, it was take-out pizza. See? Regular guy.)

If this post piques your interest and you live within a 300 mile drive of Madrid, New York, you can make it to tonight's meeting. 7 o'clock sharp.

Friday, April 11, 2008

an interesting life

things I did this week:

-made spicy lamb stew.

-took hour-long walks almost every day.

-sent a letter and a gift to a far-away friend.

-stared in amazement at what surely must have been a peregrine falcon. He was huge!

-painted a friend's bedroom. "Ivoire" and "Dutch Tile Blue". It was a calming experience.

-rehearsed a Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto. A lot.

-led a band rehearsal.

-finished reading A Midsummer's Night Dream. We found our copy under the couch.

-finished listening to a 3 CD set of expository teaching on the Book of Revelation with my darling students. To quote Brian Regan: "It was good, but it wasn't a thousand dollars-good." After over three hours of teaching, we finally reached verse 8 of chapter one.

Go ahead. Ask me anything about Revelation 1:1 through 1:8.

-ate lunch at the Hometown Cafe. (Tuna Melt with a side of Fries. Hence, the long walks.) Full disclosure: I ate breakfast there this morning, also. (Cheese Omelette and Whole Wheat Toast)
If there was another place in Madrid to catch a quick meal, I would still go to Hometown.
I like their cookie-jar collection.

-prepared the guest room for weekend company.

-attended a choir rehearsal and belted out "Ride On, King Jesus" like Ethel Merman.

-tonight, I will attempt to sneak in to the second act of an opera performance. #1 Son has a cameo appearance with his violin.

Looking over this list, I was struck by the observation that I lead an interesting life!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

two artists

Some art is beautiful because it is fraught with energy.
Leaping, dancing, thrusting, jabbing....
Reeling, spinning, plunging, surging....
Romping, pouncing, swerving, exulting!
I am transported by these simple drawings! Some were done by a young friend of mine (five years, one month, one week, and 6 days old, to be exact).
The others?

They were drawn by some guy whose signature you might recognize.
See below.

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
-Pablo Picasso

Sunday, April 06, 2008

hot & cold

On Saturday, it was my pleasure to turn this jumbled mound of veggies--

--into a jump-up-and-slap-your-grandma bowl full of this:

Actually, the final result was not as fiery as planned. One never knows with supermarket hot peppers. Unless, of course, you go for a scotch bonnet. Then you know you are in for it.

Heavens to Betsy, those puppies are scorchers.

I do not envy these people.

They departed about an hour ago on a 20 mile trek. Hubby is running; his side-kicks are riding bikes. I think it is his last long run before the Boston Marathon and he needed a little entourage to keep him peppy.

You know, it looks rather balmy outside, but don't let that wiley Mr. Sunshine fool you. Although it is above 50 degrees, the whipping winds spoils everything.

Friday, April 04, 2008

my plans are in His hands

Yesterday I received a letter in the mail. (You know, the good old-fashioned way.) It was postmarked St. Louis and the handwriting was Friend #12's.

She had brain-stormed about her summer and possible plans for the fall.
"Could you be praying about these things for me?" she asked.

What a joy to read her list.
There were brave and audacious things written there!
And you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be praying for her and cheering her on
as she pursues them.

She inspired me to consider my summer plans, too.

-I vote for a big garden this year. Last year I didn't put in a garden. Although it seemed like a wise decision at the time (I was on my way out the door for a three week trip to Spain)--I sorely missed having free fresh produce in August!

-Another trip to Spain is on my horizon. Maybe.
The possibility has rumbling around in my head for weeks now. I don't want to go just because I can. I want to go if it's what is best.
( Italy! That's a place I would go "just because I can".)

-Does May count as summer? I doubt it. But I hope to spend Mother's Day in NYC. There, my family would attend this and hopefully hang out here. And eat someplace very cool, of course!

-It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. K-A-Y-A-K-I-N-G.

-How about evening dinners by candlelight with my family and other faces I love? Lounging on the screen porch, playing board games, going barefooted, eating berries, I could go on and on.

What is on your radar-screen for the summer?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

all about Sarah

Last week in our Sunday morning class, 48 women and teenage-girls learned a bit about Ruth.

Ruth, of Old Testament-fame, has an entire book of the Bible named after her! Even if you aren't the type to read the Old Testament, I challenge you to check this book out. It it a very readable account of a very amazing woman.

This coming Sunday, it is my turn at the helm and I'm all about Sarah. She was so much more than Abraham's laughing wife.

If you can join us at 9:15 am this Sunday morning, please do.
Consider yourself invited!


The late afternoon sun managed to crawl past the dust and grime on the front windows and alight upon this, one of my favorite objects.

This funky vase was a gift from one of the choirs I used to accompany in Albany. It was presented to me with flourishes and speeches after my last performance with them, as I stood humbly on a table (perhaps so they could all see me?) and inwardly protested their kind words.

"See all the faces on it?" someone inquired.
"That's all of our eyes on you!"

The joke was that the choir members were often berated for watching me, the pianist, instead of the conductor. I couldn't help but give cues with my chin, elbows, and eyebrows.

In general, I don't have emotional attachments to mere things.
But this quirky vase is very special to me.