Thursday, January 10, 2019

Tracking the Reading, Book 2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Maybe I should throw out the disclaimer that I'm will not be writing scholarly reviews of literature; just recording my off-the-cuff reactions to books as I read them, mostly just to document that I AM reading through my book stack.

And book number two wasn't even ON the bookstack.

On a whim, I borrowed a book from my son in law, the Princess's hubby, on New Year's Eve.  With my kids all being huge Marvel geeks, and kinda pulling me along with them (I've even been into the Spiderverse already), I thought it might be a good idea to read some of the lore that plays into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU, to the savvy).  Neil Gaiman is a name that is familiar to me, although I honestly haven't read any of his other works.  And it is interesting that his introduction to the Norse mythology was...Marvel Comics.  He, quite simply, is recording Norse mythology in a modern voice, after searching and researching and reading and studying what  there was available.

The characters really aren't like the MCU representations,  but that's ok.  They felt, well, more Norse.  More mythic.  I felt very much like I felt after reading the adventures of El-ahrairah from Watership Down....stories told over and over, with a little spice added or different emphasis made by each teller of the tale.  Some were funny, some were gruesome, some were somber.  Ragnarok is shattering and heartbreaking but there is hope.

It was an easy read;  the language is not high blown or archaic.  If you're determined that the MCU version is not to be disturbed this won't work for you...but the roots of Thor's MCU story are clearly  here.

And, to folks who might not understand why I'm talking about Norse Mythology in a Bible Study Blog...well,  it does interest me to see the difference between the gods venerated by other cultures and the God of the Judeo-Christian world.  Just my personal quirk, I guess.  And it was the second book of the year.

My general reading had fallen way, way off.  Well, my Bible reading did, too, although not as badly.  I was at least somewhat intentional about Bible reading.'s to 2019 and reading again.

And  now I can return the book to its owner.  That's important, y'all.  Always return the book.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Least Favorite Task

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Not gonna least favorite, most dreaded task that must be performed on an annual basis is boxing up Christmas.

Denuding the tree, wrapping lights, boxing up the ornaments, squishing the tree back into the storage bins, sweeping up shed needles (even with an almost 30 year old fake tree...there are still shed needles...), cocooning the porcelain nativity...all the necessary stuff to transform the house back to its ordinary self.

Some years, I don't even want to get it out, set it up, hang it, drape it...because I don't want to have to take it all down in just a few weeks. Which always go by at the speed of light, usually without anyone outside of the family even seeing the festoonery.

But something occurred to me about the un-decorating task that I haven't really thought of before.

It's the UNdecorating, the reboxing and re-storing of all the Christmas trimmings that makes them special.  If they were up all year, why, we would soon get to a place where we didn't even see them anymore.  Getting them out is always a treat, preparing for the holiday.  It's something of a celebration of Christmases past to pull out the ornaments and decorations that we've accumulated over the years, or those that we've had since our first Christmas together...even some that are older, like my half-dozen faded and cracking small Shiney Brites that once hung on my grandma's tree.

But that celebration isn't what MAKES them special.  It's the fact that we do put them away when the holiday is over..the careful wrapping, boxing, packing and storing that keeps it all nice for the next season.  That is the honor that makes all of it set apart for something special.

It' the rest in a line of music, or the white space on a painting.  The contrast space that keeps everything from just running together into a dingy hodge podge. 

And, you know, that is the definition of Holy.  Set apart. Special.  Not ordinary.

Kind of an interesting line of thought that the thing I like doing the least is the very thing that imparts holiness to the decor of the season.

What if those tasks I dislike in general are also about imparting holiness?  Elevating something above the ordinary?

What if I set about them as if they were acts that impart honor instead of just drudgery that needs to be done?

What if I changed  my whole paradigm?

Could I really do it?  I mean, am I capable of that much shifting?

I don't know.  But maybe I should give it a try.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Tracking the Reading - 2019

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
I've been reflecting on the pile of books I wrote about back in October.  (Pause for mental processing of how long ago that post was...I honestly thought I'd written it in early December).

I need to be intentional about getting through that stack.  So, by way of being somewhat accountable, I thought I'd do a little post as I finish a book this year.

The first one up I'd saved to read over Christmas break and I actually read it Tuesday evening, so it's the first book of the year.

And, full disclosure, I actually know the author but I'm sad to say that, although we're facebook friends and just live a few miles apart, we move in completely different circles and haven't seen each other in years, which is more an indication of how crazy busy life can be than anything else.  But I ordered my copy from Amazon, same as anyone.

And I really enjoyed the book.  Of course, I am pretty partial to anything that involves A Christmas Carol, so that was already in its favor.  Dixie imagines Bob Cratchit's back story...and does a particularly good job of answering the question, 'Why on earth didn't the poor guy just get another job?'  You may or may not agree with how she handled his relationship with Jacob Marley, but it does add an interesting layer to her story.  It was a quick read; I started reading after the kids left around 8 PM and finished it without staying up excessively late, with a smile on my face.

If you, like me, enjoy all things Christmas Carol and, like me, don't have a problem with 'how it might have been', it's worth a read.

And that's one book off the stack, to which I've added at least three more since that post...

Yes, I'm definitely going to have to be intentional about my reading this year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

An Epic Christmas Present

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

My Sweet Babboo and I got married in 1980.  One of the wedding gifts we received was an antique-styled cookie tin.  Oh, it came from Penny's or Sears or some such place, but it was a great storage bin for home made cookies.

We didn't travel to Indiana for Christmas in 2000...that was one of those 'Christmas on a Sunday' (oy.  see note below) years that just made holiday travel tough... normally, there's a weekend on either side of the holiday for travel, but when Christmas falls on a Sunday it's just rough logistically.  So, with the extra time that year, we made an assortment of Christmas cookies...spritz cookies, rolled and cut and iced was a big family project.

And, of course, those cookies went into the cookie tin.

Now, that was the year that we decided that, since we weren't going home, we could travel down to Jacksonville, Florida and attend Morning Star Ministries' New Years Conference...that ran from, oh, Friday night through Sunday night.  When we left town, we still had half a tin of cookies, so we took them with us to nosh on whilst we were down there.

The conference was awesome; a catalyst for us as a family, but when we got home, we realized we'd left the cookie tin and remaining cookies on the counter in the kitchenette of our hotel suite.

Bummer, man.

Sometime around Thanksgiving, the kids were all sitting around the table reminiscing about various things and that weekend came up.  And whenever that weekend comes up, whatever else we mention we always mourn a bit over the forgotten cookies.  I commented that I really missed that cookie tin...but, well, what's past is past, right?

Yesterday, we unwrapped our Christmas gifts.  One gift was 'saved for last'.  It was to me from The Artist...the 30 year old older son, and everyone else knew what it was.

Y'all.  He managed to find an identical cookie tin to the one we'd left behind 18  years ago.

Jaw on floor.

That may be the single most epic Christmas gift I've ever gotten.

That's a great start to the year...resurrection, restoration, however you want to look at it.

The boy did good.

ETA Note:  I totally misremembered that.  Christmas was on Monday that year; I think, in retrospect,  we just wanted to try 'Christmas at Home' instead of traveling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ruminations on Advent

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Contrary to my intentions, I'm not doing an Advent series this year ....there are several reasons why I just couldn't get it done this trip around the sun.  I've done what I consider to be some pretty good ones in years past...they're linked up on the sidebar if you're feeling in need of some Advent tradition.  I'm kinda reading through them again myself, because, well, I need to read them again.

But I did have a thought hit me this morning as I pondered on how we, as a society, have pretty much given up Advent as a distinct season.  Oh, I know, there are still some liturgical leaning churches who do the Advent liturgy and such, but ask any passing Joe on the street what holiday season we're in and they're most likely to say 'Christmas'.  Unless, of course, they're Jewish and say 'Hannukah'.

I think it's kind of interesting that both Advent and Hannukah use candles to mark the time.  Not that that actually has anything to do with what I've been pondering, but it is a nice little side note.

No, what hit me this morning has to do with the eschatological  nature of Advent...that we are not just looking for the birth of the baby but the return of the King.  We use the approaching celebration of His birth to also prepare for the day when he comes again.

And suddenly, I wondered...have we as a culture given up the observation of Advent precisely because we can't tolerate the idea of that return?  That it's ok to focus on Christmas and the sweet baby but...thinking about the King returning is...well, too much?   That the season of preparation is much easier to handle if it's not so much for the returning King but the return of Santa Claus?

Because we would, like, have to live as though what we did matters.   Not just the kids, who are hoping to be on the nice list, but the adults. The Scripture has a repeating theme about servants called in to give an account of how they conducted the king's business in his absence.

Oh, I know, I'm probably overthinking the whole thing, but...maybe...we each do need to consider what account  he or she will present on that day.  With no self-deception to hide behind, none of us will be able to claim we didn't know the truth we were shown.

O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go.  
("Oh Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel, verse 3)

And he that testifies to these things  says, "Surely, I am coming soon."  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus! - Rev. 22:20, ESV.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Is [Fill in the Blank] Sin?

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Ok, I know it wasn't an apple.  Work with me.

 My social media feeds are abuzz with controversy.  Who decides what's sinful and what isn't?  How can anyone possibly expect another human being to pronounce, 'Yes, [whatever] is sinful.'  It doesn't matter how many Bible verses spell out the certainty that [whatever] is clearly offensive to God and specifically named as not to be practiced by God's people, the public reaction is that '[Christian person] has declared that [whatever] is sinful!  How narrow minded and judgemental [Christian person] is!   Why, I know many people who [whatever] and they are fine, loving people!  Obviously, God won't condemn someone just because they [whatever]!'  On the other hand, if [Christian person] values relationship with folks who do [whatever] and wants to maintain that relationship with the possibility of having a positive influence on them and hedges around the question, the 'Christian public' responds just as negatively.  '[Christian person] missed a chance to Speak Up for Truth!  How could anyone who claims to be a Christian not know that [whatever] is clearly offensive to God! (lists Bible verses)'

To quote Admiral Ackbar, 'It's a trap!'

Stop expecting other people to make God-like pronouncements.  They are going to fail. Period.

Somebody could have asked Eve, 'Is it wrong to eat fruit?'

Oh, wait, someone did.  

And the answer, of course, was, 'No, it's not wrong to eat fruit. But it is wrong to eat  that fruit.'

Why was it wrong to eat that fruit?  How was it different than other fruit, which could be enjoyed freely?

That fruit, my friends, was poisonous.  It was forbidden because it was deadly. Hazardous.  Harmful.
Oh, it wasn't presented that way, no no no.  There was an agenda that resulted in it being presented as appetizing, aromatic, desirable. As something that would allow the partaker to become fully who they were meant to be.  

Which implied that God was trying to keep them from being fully who they were meant to be.  

The soul-killing sinful decision is hidden there.  And it is, really, at the core, completely a different issue than 'Is [whatever] sinful?' as if the action/attitude/ lifestyle, etc were the crux of the issue.  No, the crux of the issue is this...Who has the authority to determine what is right and what is wrong?  

If God is the authority, then it doesn't matter what the fruit is, what it does, how it smells or looks or tastes or anything else.  He said 'No', so we leave it alone.

If the individual is the authority for him/herself, then forbidding one fruit out of the whole orchard doesn't make sense.  If we can eat that one and that one and that one, why not that one?  If I think it's good for me,  well, isn't it?  It's not fair! Why should anyone...even God...tell me what is best for me?

And that, dear reader, is what is sinful.  Setting myself above God in the 'who knows best'  category.   EVERYONE has a [whatever] in his/her life.  Some are more visible than others, but we all have them.  And we all falter at them...sin is ubiquitous.  The question we embrace the [whatever] as our identity and then get mad at God when He says [whatever] will keep us eternally separated from Him...and even more angry at the folks around us who are trying to point out that [whatever] is not good?  Or do we renounce [whatever] and believe that God has a better plan, even if we don't know what it looks like?

In the end, it's not about what you's about who you embrace as God and the results of that decision. 

Embracing God does mean that you will leave that fruit...the [whatever] in your life...alone.  Because He really does know what's best.

For further reading, I suggest the first 3 chapters of Genesis, the Gospel of John and the book of Romans.

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Little Time Away

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Craziest thing in the world...head out of town between Thanksgiving and Christmas for a little 'Down Time'.

But sometimes, well, you take it when you can get it.  Our 38th wedding anniversary was in August, and, well, that was an exceptionally busy month,  followed by more busy months... around the middle of November I looked at the calendar and looked at My Sweet Babboo and said, 'If we're going to get away, we're gonna have to do it the week after Thanksgiving.  The next break after that will be February."

So he got online and began looking to see what was available.  He found a cabin on Lake Chewalca, a state park about 4 hours south of us.     We didn't know anything at all about the park, but it said the cabin had a lake view and, being a state park, it was affordable.  So he booked it, and last Thursday we headed out of town, with a rather rainy forecast.  But that was ok.  I was just ready to do nothing.

We had phone reception, but no WIFI.  Which was just fine.

The cabin was built in the 1930's.  The whole park, from the building of the dam for the lake to the cabins and other buildings, was a CCC project.
As it turned out, our lake view looked straight across the lake to the dam...which is barely discernible  in the gap in the trees.  We did a bit of hiking before the rain moved in, and discovered that the dam was actually at the top of a pretty little gorge, just above where a grist mill had been in the late 1800's.  We clambered over way more rocks than I probably should have, given that I'm on PT for Achilles tendonitis, going up and down some pretty steep inclines.  But it was surprisingly picturesque.

The gorge continued to drop at least twice as much again...the sound of the water rushing over the rocks was lovely.

We hung out in the cabin whilst it rained on Saturday.  It was, like, 70 degrees despite the rain, but the compressed fire logs add more ambiance than heat and we went through almost a whole box over the weekend.

Despite predictions of more rain, it was a gorgeous day on Sunday. After attending a church in the area pastored by some friends and having a lovely chat with them over lunch, we did a teeny bit more hiking, mostly to find evidence of how much the lake level had risen and dropped with Saturday's precip.  Looked to be about  6 - 8 inches...and it knocked a LOT of the color out of the trees.

Chewalca State Park is apparently a mountain bike racing venue;  there were  strange hazardous-looking features scattered throughout the trails, and I watched a couple of college guys go barreling down a trail that I couldn't have navigated on foot without a sturdy stick to help.  Amazing.

We really enjoyed our weekend and, despite some slight issues with the cabin, hope to go back sometime in the future.  When I'm not on walking restrictions for my ankles.

Now to shift focus to holiday happenings.  But at least I had a chance to destress and catch my breath a bit with my favorite guy.