Sunday, December 30, 2007

Soldiering On

I preached this morning at the little church in the Presbytery South of Here. Since I'm booked in for the next four weeks, I'll call it Daniels Run* Presbyterian.

Thrills and adventure arriving. As the crow flies, the church is close to two major divided highways. But by the lay of the land, it's in the back of beyond and the windy twisty roads can take you anywhere.

Especially when what you think is the church address is actually the number of the church secretary's house! So much fun driving up and down Daniels Run Church Road, attention split between trying to spot something, anything! that looked like a church and coming up with excuses and apologies for being late, when I knew it was my own fault, I shouldn't have hit the snooze alarm the second time this morning and why, oh, why did my dog have to lift his leg on the bookcase and the rug in the Kitten Room just as I was about to put my coat on and take him out to do his business anyway and put me even farther behind, but of course you can't tell a congregation you've just met that, it'll make them think you can't control your dog, for Pete's sake, let alone that you have no discipline about getting up in the morning, and-- oh! where was I?

Oh, yes, trying to find the church. Ended up going back down to the bottom of the road, to the feeder highway, to actually look at the Presbyterian Church Up Thataway sign and see how many miles it said I had to go. Vs. Google Maps' opinion, that is.

In the end, my being late didn't seem to matter. Most of the members got there after I did, and between coordinating the hymns with the organist (the same church secretary), getting the Christmas tree and the Communion Table candles lit (well, one of them), and so on, we got started around fifteen minutes past the time, which seemed to bother no one.

Singing the hymns was a further adventure. Good thing they were familiar carols. The organist is largely self-taught and does the best she can, but that doesn’t necessarily mean playing the notes when and for as long as written. I kept soldiering on, trying to give a lead, figuring that if she and I and the congregation came out together at the end of each line, we were doing pretty well.

So that was all right.

What wasn't all right was the feeling I had while I was preaching my sermon. It felt like nothing at all was happening. Nothing was coming back to me from the congregation. Or worse than nothing. It was almost the feeling I’d get if I’d been preaching a half hour and everyone wanted to get home and watch the football game. But I didn’t have a long sermon for them today. What was the problem? Didn’t know. I felt like I was just flapping my jaws. Couple of times, I found myself thinking, Is there any point in my going on with this? What if I should just stop?

But I told myself, No, I've got solid Scriptural meat and milk for them here, both pastoral and theological, and I have to lay it out for them whether they react to it or not.

Afterwards, there was one man, at least, who seemed very affected by what I'd preached. And everyone seemed very friendly and eager to see me next week.

So I guess you never know.

I just hope things loosen up during sermon time the next four weeks. It could be grim otherwise.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Are My Values Screwed Up or What?

Yesterday afternoon I came up with a number match for a contest at the local appliance dealer's and won two nights' accommodation for two at my choice of a selection of destinations.

You can read all about it here.

So my friend Frieda* and I are planning to visit Colonial Williamsburg in the spring.

But I am not that excited about it.

I mean, I'm not that excited about actually winning the scratch 'n' match.

No, I am more excited that furr teh furst tyme eber eber eber i aktooly haz gottid mee a nawt sekund in the comments on I Can Has Cheezburger.

That r pathetik.

(Teh kommint r parthetiks, 2).

*Rolls eyes at self*

I can haz persp-- purrspk-- hed awn strayt, plz?


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An Advent Evening's Entertainment

Yesterday afternoon my friend Hannah* dropped off her four-year-old daughter Letitia* at my house while she took her son Stevie* on an errand. Letitia had come to help me make Christmas cookies.

The Whistle, the Kittens, and the Bloooood-uh

First thing the child did when she arrived was to ring my Westminster chimes doorbell. Twice. Once inside, she proceeded to blow her whistle (a favor received at an afternoon preschool Christmas party) not twice, but repeatedly.

"Letty! Don't you want to see the kittens? If you keep blowing that whistle, they'll hide under the bed and they won't want to see you!"

"Why not?" (Blows whistle again.)

"Because it scares them."


"Because it hurts their ears." (Mine, too, Kiddo!)


"Because it just does. So stop it, okay?"

We go into the Kitten Room (formerly the Guest Room). I'd trapped the kittens there in anticipation of the child's coming. Otherwise, they'd run and hide among the boxes under the basement stairs and not be visible for hours.

The kittens Gwenith and Huw are hiding under the bed.

Against the far wall.

Of course.

"Get Creamie for me!" demands Letitia, using the name Gwenith went by the week or two she lived at their house. "I don't want Tiger! He scratches me!"

"Huw doesn't scratch me," I reply confidently. "C'mon, Huw, come, baby, come on, boy." I coax him out to where I can just-- uh! reach my left hand--ooh! in under the bed--and, uh, pff! get him around the shoulders and-- "Ouch!! he scratched me!" Got the second knuckle of my middle finger! Ow!!

But I didn't swear in front of the four-year-old. And I didn't let go of the little cat. Not till she'd petted him tentatively a time or two.

"Now get Creamie!"

We pull the bed out from the wall. And I scoop up a squirming, protesting, wiry bundle of pink and white fur.

"Can I hold her? I want to hold her!"

"Can you? She's gotten pretty big, hasn't she?"

Letitia regards the eight-plus pound kitten in my arms with new respect.

"No, I don't want to hold her since she's gotten that big!"

Just then, I noticed how badly my knuckle scratch was bleeding. "Come on, Letty, I have to get a Band-aid on this. We don't want to get blood on Gwenith, do we?"

We open the door. Gwenith and Huw escape and disappear. Downstairs. To the box storage under the basement stair landing.

Of course.

In the bathroom, I'm getting out the peroxide to disinfect my cut. Letitia lets rip a new one on her toy whistle. Tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

"Don't doooo that!!!!"

"Why not?"

"Because it hurts my ears, and if you don't put it away Right Now I'm taking it away and you may never, ever see it again. Okay?"


The Dog's Salute

With the child's help I get my cut cleaned and bandaged. Though it's still bleeding so much I'm worried we might end up with strange red streaks in the sugar cookies, and they won't be food coloring. But before I had much time to consider this, in walks Llewellyn, my part-collie, part-beagle, part-some-other-kind-of-hunting-dog mutt, and marked the excitement of the occasion by peeing on the bathroom floor. And finished it off by saluting the door jamb and the hall floor in the same fashion.

"Llewellyn!! Naughty! Naughty!! . . . No, Letty, stand right there! Don't move an inch!"

Fortunately, she obeys, and I clean up the mess with an old towel from the linen closet.

Well, at least it was on the vinyl and the wood, and not on the carpet. At least.

Maybe I should have taken him outside at that point. But there didn't seem to be any point to it, since he'd, well, seemed to have shot his bolt.

I thought he had, anyway.

Cookie Artists

And we wanted to get to the cookie-making business. So after we'd both thoroughly washed our hands, down we went to the kitchen. I covered her party dress (which she refused to change out of) with the apron I'd made in 6th-grade Home Ec class, and I donned the Philadelphia Orchestra apron I received, o lord, thirty years ago as a WFLN fund-raising premium. And weren't we a lovely pair of throwbacks!

And we had a lovely time. The dough was already made, so we took turns rolling out and Letitia wielded the cookie cutters. And acted as official dough sampler.

Cutting out cookies is a deliberate process with a four-year-old. Especially with a bright one like Letitia, who asks tons of questions and expects real answers to them.

"Are you a kid?"

Bless the baby! "No, not any more."

"Are you a teacher?"

"No, not right now. I used to be."

"What are you, then?"

(Oh, an unemployed architect. An out-of-work Presbyterian pastor. I don't know, myself, so how can I answer a four-year-old? )

I don't try. "Um, so, Letty, what did you do in preschool today . . . ?"

. . . More trees, holly, angels; also moons, dog-bone shapes, and dots. She's really keen on the dots.



"After Creamie and Tiger get all grown up, and they don't jump on things anymore, and they're all grown up, you think they could come to our house and be our kittens and live with us?"

"Uh, I think that's up to your mom and dad."

(Who would emphatically say NO. They're my kittens, thank you very much. You have two big cats of your own that your dad is allergic to already. So lay off my kittehs!)

Love Locked Out

After the first two sheets of cookies were in the oven, I set up the gates to bar Llewellyn from the kitchen. Did not want him jumping on the counter for samples. He moped and whined, but too bad. He's not getting any if I can help it.

Juvenile Chemistry, or Chaos Cubed

We had the first sheet of Round Two filled and were starting on the second, when the doorbell rang. It was Hannah and Stevie, come to help with cookies, too, and to eat a snack meal of chicken nuggets (her provision) before she took the children home.

Well. You know those elementary-school experiments where you poured vinegar on bicarb of soda to make a volcano? Or better still, those dorm-party episodes where you really shook up the beer cans for the fun of watching them spurt across the room when the pop top was pulled? That mildly describes the effect of plunging six-year-old Stevie into the mix.

Two children is not one child plus one child. It is a whirlwind squared. Cubed. Dodecahedron'd. Stevie demanded a piece of the action (and of the cookie dough). Letitia, crowded out, began to do the spaghetti-leg whine. Stevie lost interest in baking and ran down the basement to try to find the kittens. Letitia joined him and they proposed pulling out all the boxes to make the kittens come out. No. We get them back upstairs and send Stevie into the living room with treats to play with the dog. He does. For about three minutes. Then comes back into the kitchen (about collapsing the dog gate as he does) to brag that he's going to get a set of Yugi-Oh! cards for Christmas, Yes! Yes! Yes!

Next thing we know, both kids are down on the basement landing, with Stevie proposing to play some imaginative but hazardous game with a large flashlight I keep there, while his sister gleefully egged him on. His mother and I run to investigate. He won't give the flashlight to his mother. He won't give it to me. Not even with our Stares of Death coming at him from two directions. "No! No! I'm keeping it! No! It's my Secret Weapon!"

"Stevie," I say, "put it down!" He turns it on instead.

"Stevie," says his mom, struggling with him to get it away, "turn it off and put it down!"

Actually, I know the thing is hard to turn off. He does get it extinguished-- then it comes back on again. "Hahahaha, look! It's magic!!! I'm the only one who knows the secret! It's miiiiieeenn!!"

"Stevie, this is my house and I did not tell you you could touch my things." Did I make any useless threats? Did his mother? Hell if I know. I think it was only his bafflement at not actually being able to control the thing that made him put it back and come upstairs.

So we send him into the living room again. Where he entertained himself sliding on the fake Pergo. I'd hoped to finish the last sheet of cookies so I could get them in the oven then out for the chicken nuggets to go in. But clearly there was no time. Something was about to spontaneously go ablaze, and it wasn't the gas in the oven.

To be fair to Stevie, he's one of those kids who bounces off the walls when his blood sugar is low, not when it's high. And it was lower than a sidewalk crack at the moment. He needed protein, and he needed it now.

So, chicken nuggets into the oven, with one sheet of cookies! Nuggets out, and the last two sheets of cookies go in! Mom opens the fridge to organize drinks. Stevie sees two bottles of blue flavored water in there that I bought one day in thirsty desperation and pulls them out, demanding them for his sister and himself. I consider one split second: no, too much artificial junk. Too much for me, way too much for them. "No," I tell him.

"No! No!" (with manic giggling) "They're ours! They're ours! We brought them! We can have them! Right, Mom? They're ours, they're ours, they're ours they're ours they're ours they're ours!!!!!"

"No, Stevie, they are not. They're mine, and you're not having them. And I do not appreciate your taking them out of my refrigerator without permission, and then lying about it. You keep that up, you won't be able to come back and see the kittens for a loonnnng time!"

"No, no! We brought them, we brought them!" Giggling, darting, feinting, till I got the blue bottles back and put them where they belonged. Hannah gets glasses of water on. Time to sit down and eat, and the kids are wrestling each other on the living room floor! "Come on," calls Hannah, "time to wash up and get to the table!" They go on wrestling. Somehow she manages to untangle them and get them seated. More or less.

The Oven Rebels

Just then, Eeeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeee!!! Eeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeeeee!!!

"FIRE!!!" screams Stevie! "Run for your life!!! Run! RUNNN!!!" And he and his sister go pelting off to the front room, bellowing "Fire! fire!"

Eeeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeee!!! Eeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeeeee!!!

"Don't worry," I say calmly, "that smoke detector always goes off when I've got something in the oven. It's just because the oven's dirty. I'll just push this button-- here-- and it should shut up."

But it didn't. Eeeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeee!!! Eeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeeeee!!! Eeeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeee!!! Eeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeeeee!!!

"FIRE! FIRE!" shout the children. And the damn smoke detector still won't shut off. I take it down. I can't remove the back to loosen the battery. It keeps on screaming. So do the kids. Wonderful.

I resort to putting the thing in the living room out of range of the dirty oven smoke, and take my place at the table. Hannah has the kids seated, and Stevie proclaims, "I'm saying grace!"

"No!" Letitia replies bitterly, "you said it last time!"

"Well, I'm saying it!" And he does, including a touching line about "Dear God, help us to do the things we should." At which this ordained clergywoman managed not to laugh hysterically. How could I? He's a child! With my friend his mother sitting right there! Besides, I believe in total depravity from before birth, oh, yes, I do! So how could I be disappointed or surprised?

"Why does he always get to say grace?" whines Letitia. "It was my turn!" Hannah about has her mollified when suddenly, Eeeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeee!!! Eeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeeeee!!! Eeeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeee!!! Eeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeeeee!!!

It's the bloody upstairs smoke detector! Good grief! The oven's only on at 350 degrees! Yeah, I could smell the drips burning a bit, but still!

Hannah squelches the children while I go squelch the upstairs detector by opening a window. I sit down again and start eating when, Beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep!

"Shut uuuupppp!!!" roars Stevie. Oh, gosh, is that what I'd just said? Did he get that from me?

"No, it's just the timer for the cookies. It's time for them to come out of the oven. I'll get them on the rack and up out of the dog's way and-- Oh, no!"

Our lovely cookies. They were burnt black and brown, the color of a Rottweiler. But nowhere as nice smelling as your average large fierce dog.

Just what I need. I'm ready for my big Christmas baking campaign, and the oven thermostat goes out. Again.

The Meaning of 'Naughty'

Oh, well. I shoveled the carbonized remains onto the racks, figuring Llewellyn couldn't possibly be interested. And he wasn't. During dinner. During dinner, he lay calm and well-behaved next to my chair. Waiting.

Somehow, Stevie and Letitia managed to get some food into their little stomachs. Hannah and I began to clear up, and here came Stevie into the kitchen, seated astride my mutt and shouting hilariously, "Ride 'em, cowboy!!"

That tore it. I rescued Llewellyn and took the child very firmly by the shoulders and gave him a stare he couldn't possibly misapprehend. "Stevie. Don't. You. Ever. Do. That. Again. You understand? Llewellyn's a good dog, but you do that to him and he may think the only way to defend himself is to bite you. And I do not want you to get hurt. Do you understand? . . . Okay."

About that time, his mother, who'd been dealing with his sister, came in and realized what he'd gotten up to. 'That's it," she said. "You get on this stool and sit here until we go home!"

"Oh, nooooo! You're going to tie me to the stoooool! No, no!" Yeah, right. I keep my bondage ropes right next to the dishwasher detergent.

"Knock it off with the drama queen act! Your momma said sit, and you're gonna sit!"

Said Stevie's mother, "I think I've changed my mind about those Yugi-Oh! cards. I'm taking them back."

He flew off the stool and struck a tragic pose at her feet. "No, no, I beg of you!! You can't! You can't!"

"Get back on that stool, or I definitely will!"

Just then, Llewellyn, taking advantage of the diversion, jumped up on the counter and began chomping away on the burnt Rottweiler cookies.

"Llewellyn! No! Naughty! Naughty! Naughty!"

"What does 'naughty' mean?" inquired Stevie from his perch.

"What you've been all evening," I replied grimly.

The Doggie, ReDoo. Sort of.

Hannah retrieved the kids' coats and after a little more silliness and histrionics, Letitia and Stevie were got into them. We made sure they had all their stuff, and arranged for them to come back on Friday to ice the cookies and make some more. We said our goodbyes and I was walking them to the door, when--

"Llewellyn!! Naughty dog!"

"Wha'd he do? Wha'd he do?" in tones of anticipation and wonder from the children.

"He pee'd on the floor, again. Here in the front room. No, Letty, don't walk there, you'll step in it! Stevie, keep back! I'll get a towel . . . There. Now you can get to the door. I'll clean the rest of it up after you leave."

"Why'd he go to the bathroom on the floor?" Stevie inquired.

"Probably because you kids were so wild and loud he got too upset and excited and couldn't hold it in."

And with that charming judgement I said goodbye to Letitia and Stevie and their mother and she took them off home to their beds. Where I hope they settled down and actually slept.

But it occurred to me after they left that Llewellyn could just as well have lifted his leg on my grandmother's antique lamp to get revenge for being shut out of the fun in the kitchen. But if consideration for the dog's bladder will help Stevie and Letitia keep the mania level down in my house, a little misplaced justice isn't-- misplaced.

An Advent Meditation

I got more towels, and cleaned the dog's offering off the fake wood floor. I dumped the burnt cookies in the trash, cleaned the kitchen, and watched the kittens emerge shellshocked from the basement.

And I contemplated how different being a mother is to being a teacher or childminder who only has to deal with kids' craziness a few hours at a time and then can let them go home and out of her responsibility. I still wish I could have had children of my own. But oh, would I, could I have had the backbone to stand up under the job?

I'm sure that Jesus' mother Mary had more kids. The little brothers and sisters started coming, and she didn't have time to notice how perfectly-behaved her Firstborn was. She was just darn grateful that He gave her no trouble and was such a help with the younger ones.

That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. Blessed Advent, everyone!

Monday, December 17, 2007


I was wrong about which George Hanover it was who is reputed to have stood for the Hallelujah Chorus. It was actually George III's father, George II. "Our" King George didn't take the throne for another nineteen years (or seventeen, if it's the first London and not the first Dublin performance that's in mind).

My musings about the widespread nature of the practice here in daughter America still hold, however. According to this link, some New Zealanders, as they approached new republican status vis a vis the British crown, were saying the custom should be stopped!

Anyway, mea culpa for having my historical facts crooked. But at least this correction gives me an excuse to post a view of this year's Heinz Hall Christmas tree!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Despite wind, weather, and sloppy roads I made it into town this evening for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra-Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh performance of Handel's Messiah.


I've been acquainted with Messiah as a work since I was in high school or before. I've sung it in performance once or twice, and innumerable times in Messiah sing-alongs. And it always seemed to me that there was this great gray gap between "His yoke is easy" at the end of Part I and "Worthy is the Lamb" at the end, broken only by the Hallelujah Chorus and maybe the "Rod of Iron" and "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" arias.

But life and experience alter many things, and tonight it was those parts I used to blur over that made the most impression on me. "He was despised." "Thy rebuke hath broken his heart." All those parts that tell how Jesus the Christ was rejected and rebelled against by the people He came to save. That's how it is. No redemption without suffering, no crown without the cross. Angels announcing "Glory to God!" to shepherds and a Child born unto us are all very well-- but that good news means nothing without what followed thirty-three years later.

There were some college-aged people in my row who left at the intermission, before those parts were sung. Maybe they thought as I used to. Maybe they were too young to understand.

But I hope not.


I've read that it was King George III who leapt to his feet at the first performance of the Hallelujah chorus, so impressed was he. And all his subjects present followed suit, and so have audiences thereafter.

Yes, that George III.

You'd think it would be considered unpatriotic for us Americans to assume and keep up the custom. But I'm glad it isn't. Farmer George, despite his political myopia concerning certain trans-Atlantic colonies, wasn't wrong (or mad) all the time. And this is one time he was very right and sane indeed.

And tonight in Pittsburgh, we stood.


I would say the PSO chamber musicians and the Mendelssohn Choir did very well.


Considering that conductor Julian Wachter chose to take the tempi so fast, he resembled a Presbyterian preacher with a half-hour's worth of sermon whose elders have told him he'd better not go over fifteen minutes--or else. Very marcato, very clipped, scarcely a largo or a tenuto the whole evening.

Maybe I exaggerate. But not by much. The later it got, the more prestissimosimosimo he went. In the middle of the "Blessing and honor, glory and power" chorus, I heard a man in the row above me whisper to his wife, "He's taking it too fast." I glanced around. His wife was waggling her fingertips together in a rapid motion, like the beaks of ravenous birds. It summed up the conductor's technique very aptly.

You can get certain musical effects with that approach. Maybe you could argue they would be authentic Baroque effects. But go too far, and you no longer have music-- only effects.

The soloists? I liked the bass-baritone the best. The mezzo seemed to have trouble with her phrasing-- she never seemed to hold a line. I don't know if she was fighting a cold, or doing it on purpose.

All the soloists had good tone and intonation. But none of them really filled the hall. Maybe it was the acoustics.

Maybe I wish I could afford to sit closer and find out!

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I've picked up my final grades for my AutoCAD 2008 class from the tech school website. And thanks to my final push to get some extra-credit work in, I kept the final mark up to a quite decent level, thank you very much.

So now, how shall I proceed?

Do I simply write new letters to the firms I contacted before, informing them of this Portentious News? Or do I revise and totally reissue my architecture resume with a whole new letter (and a whole new purchase of 24 lb classic laid ivory bond)?

Either way, do I simply put down that I "successfully" completed the course? Or do I blow my own horn louder than that and say I "achieved marks consistently above the class average" (assuming that's true-- was last time I looked-- but I'd better make sure)?

I figure I should definitely emphasize that I'm immediately ready to use my new AutoCAD skills to a firm's benefit. After all, my lack of expertise in that area is, I suspect, a big reason why I haven't gotten all that much response from my August mailing. And there's no use wasting stamps if the new edition won't rectify the problem.

Hmmmm. Maybe (given my shortage of good paper) I'll split the difference. New resumes and letters for the big firms within shorter commuting distance, and letters only for firms farther away and for those I suspect aren't so CAD happy.

And dropping a word in the ear of the people at my old firm won't hurt, I imagine. Even if I'm 95% sure I wouldn't want to be hired back there . . .

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Drought Has Broken!

No, not in Georgia. Sorry.

No, the drought regarding pulpit supply assignments.

I haven't preached anywhere since the 16th of September. All the pastors in my presbytery were back from their summer vacations. And all the churches in the Presbytery Over the Border where I was filling all the vacant pulpits last winter and spring have now got fulltime called ministers. Or they've made long term arrangements with Certified Lay Pastors or retired ministers in the same presbytery.

Got a couple of drip-drops in October when one church in the POB engaged me for the 4th Sunday in Advent. And another one booked me for Easter Sunday.

But nothing else.

Till 6:58 this evening.

When I got a call from the pulpit supply arranger for a church in the Presbytery South of Here. And they had five preaching slots open from the 1st Sunday in Christmas all the way through January! And no scruples about the same pulpit supply filling all of them!

So thank you, Jesus! I get to preach Christmas and all of Epiphany short of Transfiguration Sunday! Showers of blessing indeed!

Re: Decorating

I maeded me a Label Cloud!

And I didn't deleeted it! LOL!

. . . I wish there'd been colors in the RBG chart I used that were a wee bit closer to the ones on the template, but the ones I have will do for now.

(Hey! I wonder what happens when you enter arbitrary color numbers into the HTML? Do you get new and amazing shades-- or does it just spit it out and tell you, Try again?

Not now. Maybe later.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Hector Berlioz!

In honor of the 204th anniversary of the birth of composer Hector Berlioz, I present this clip of my kittens and dog appreciating the "Scene at the Manger" from his L'Enfance du Christ.

Vois leur gaîté!

(C'est la musique magnifique! --Even if my study is a mess.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

i can has sacrilege?

Not sure how it is, that I can get through fifty-odd Christmasses with their trappings and customs, when suddenly something will just go Boiiiingg! and I'll think, "I. Cannot. Stand. That."

Not anymore. Not this year. Not ever again.

It hit me the other day in our town's biggest gift store. This shop has great stuff if you want festive linens and platters and folk-arty salt-and-pepper shakers and hand-blown glass ornaments shaped like fruit and that sort of thing. But I got wandering amongst the Nativity scene displays and noticed how many of them feature big-eyed mindless-looking children or goofy animals or any number of permutations and combinations on sickly-sweet kyewt.

Like this one here

(Courtesy of It Came Upon a Midnight Weird's "Cavalcade of Bad Nativities")

And it's like my eyes were opened. I just wanted to yell, "NO!! Enough! Don't you know what you're making a sentimental farce of there? Do you realize who it is you have the temerity to represent in that ridiculous, minimizing, idolatrous way? It's the eternal holy Creator God of the Whole Freaking Universe who's allowed Himself to go through the mess and pain and hassle of human birth and human life and human death! That's Almighty God there in that manger, not a blinking teddy bear! And no, He's not come to bring sweetness and perpetual kyoot, He's here because we human beings made such an infernal muck of the world He gave us and now He has to come in person and straighten our gosh-awful disgusting mess out by Himself!"

The birth of our Lord is beautiful. It's awesome. It's overwhelming. It's stupendous. It's humbling.

But it bloody well isn't kyewt.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


No, not the house, the blog.

I really don't [didn't] like the long, trailing tag list I've got [I used to have] on this site. I've seen other Blogspot blogs with assemblages of tags in fonts of various colors and sizes, and think I, why can't I have that, too?

But it's hard to add a feature to your blog if you don't know what it's called so you can search for help on it.

Well, just the other day, I found out that's called a "tag cloud." Hurray! I entered it into the Blogger Help search engine. And the results directed me to the Technorati site, where I made me a tag cloud for another one of my blogs,

Hmmm . . . Seems to have picked up the tags, but the colors are [were] off. And what's with this "top tags" business? I want all of them, so I can get rid of the long tag list!

So I tried Blogger Help again. This time, a fellow user's comment took me to This site gives me more options about background, colors, etc.

But what is this? ZoomCloud hasn't converted my tags, it's culled words and phrases from my posts and their titles! Not too useful, when you like to play with metaphor and quotation as I do. And there's still that everlasting tag list hanging out on my blog. Not what I want.

Well, I'll leave it for now. I have actual decorating to do, for Christmas and on my house in general. But if any helpful readers could direct me to a site that can make me the cloud tag widget I need, I'd be ever so grateful.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Both Heaven and Earth in Lytel Space

Yesterday afternoon was the deadly-deadline for submitting the last of our assignments and projects for Introduction to AutoCAD 2008.

I was up all night the night before finishing the required work and then seeing how much headway I could make on the extra-credit parts. By 2:50 PM I had one EC drawing done, but there was No Way on God's Green Earth that I was going to get it dimensioned and labelled and still make it 26 miles down the highway to get it printed and handed in before the end of the school day. Besides, I had to meet some of my community choir colleagues at 4:45 PM, thirty-five miles back up north again, to carpool to our first performance of the season at a Light Up Night festivity.

So cutting my losses, there I was scrambling round my office to gather things up, trying to remember what I needed to take to campus to get everything I'd completed in.

Then I remembered: I needed one thing only. My thumbdrive. My last assignments, my final project (with extra-credit submission), everything I'd done all term was contained on that one little 2" x 1/2" x 1/8" device.

Res miranda! Not that long ago, who would have thought that so much could be contained in such a wee bit of metal and silicon! What a marvel!

And there are much smaller and more capacious devices than my thumbdrive-- tiny mp3 players, implantable chips, things I know about but can't even name. It really is a modern scientific miracle.

But "miracle" is an elastic term. And is this really the first time in human history that such a thing has been? If I really want to marvel at much and more contained in less and little, I'm a fool not to look at the season we're about to celebrate.

For see what happened at the first Christmas. The second Person of the Trinity: the eternal Son of God, who fills the universe and by whom the universe and all things were made and are sustained: this immense and limitless Being condescended to be contained as an embryo in the womb of a young virgin mother. All That . . . in so little!

Our modern material science has figured out a lot, but it will never comprehend the marvel of what happened then.

There is no rose of swych vertu
As is the rose that bare Jesu,

For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in lytle space,
Res miranda.

By that rose we may well see
That He is God in persons three,
Pares forma.

The aungels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis Deo,

Leave we all this wearldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth,

Alleluia, res miranda,
Pares forma, gaudeamus,