Sunday, April 26, 2009

Recommended Recent Reads

I've been on the receiving end of two books from author-friends within the past couple of months.  A former student wrote one of them, chronicling her struggle with anorexia.  A blogger friend wrote the other, a collection of short essays about women in the Bible.  Both books were interesting and inspiring, both were about real women's struggles, even though they lived centuries apart.

Tiffany Schroeder Bartell's book, Healing a Hungry Heart, is honest, poignant, and, ultimately inspiring, especially for young women who struggle with the same issues of self-esteem and perfectionism that Tiffany did.  It is also instructive for people like me, someone who is "in" the book as one of her teachers who had no idea what she was going through at the time, although I remember wondering at things I now understand after reading the book.  Tiffany found her way out of the depths her despair and now helps others with similar struggles

Trudy Morgan-Cole's lovely devotional/inspirational book, Daughters of Grace, is the perfect book to give your mother, your sister, your daughter, your best friend.  But it is also a great book to share with the men in your life.  It's a collection of essays about 26 women in the Bible, their struggles, their triumphs, and how they relate to 21st century Christian women...and men, too.  Beautifully illustrated, the book paints amazing pictures of lives that inspire.  More to the point, Trudy's words paint the pictures clearly and beautifully.

Both these books are good reads--for you and a friend!

Friday, April 24, 2009

West Point travels

I've just returned from a 4-day visit to West Point.  To be honest, it's not a place I ever thought to visit, and I was only there for meetings, but am glad I had the opportunity to see this interesting and beautiful campus.  I learned so much, about the history of the school, but even more about our country.  I had no idea on some of it...

Tuesday afternoon, we took a tour of the campus.  There was so much to see and learn!  From the buildings to the chapels to the sports venues to the "million dollar view," it was all very impressive.

Wednesdsay morning, we spent time at the Jewish Chapel with the rabbi who happens to be a graduate from my father's high school alma mater (Greater New York Academy) and his and my college alma mater (Atlantic Union College) (both of them  Christian schools).  He was a physics major in college, but found his way to serving his country, first in Iraq and now at West Point.  

Rabbi Huerta talked with us (about 35 educators and pastors from all over New England and New York) about the language of The Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes.  The original language, that is.  Aramaic.  He reminded us of the inadequacy of the English language when it comes to shades of meaning.  For example, in English, The Lord's Prayer begins "Our Father."  A formal and rather distant term.  In the original language, it reads "My Daddy."  Such a different connotation!  Such a close and intimate reference!  Starting that prayer off in such a manner totally turns that prayer on its ear, doesn't it?!  His discussion on The Beatitudes was much longer (there are more of them after all), but was equally as astounding.  Maybe even more so.  It had all of us talking about it for hours afterwards.  Reinforced for me the importance of context and original text when you are dealing with translations...

Wednesday afternoon we toured the West Point Museum, the largest military museum in the country.  There were many, many fascinating items on display.  Much to my dismay and frustration, my camera battery went dead, and I forgot to bring my spare with me, so had to make do with my phone camera (which I was at least glad I had).  As a result, I was only able to preserve the impression of some of the amazing things I saw instead of the details.  

Some of the things that still stand out include a bomb like the one that was dropped on Hiroshima, a carved eagle captured from Hitler's holdings during WWII, a drum used in the Revolutionary War, pistols belonging to George Washington, a life mask of Sitting Bull, and more.

Whenever I see such memorabilia, I am filled with awe just being near evidence that amazing people really do live and change the world, one way or the other, literally affecting the way I live now.

Photos:  Cadets and the "million dollar view" of the Hudson River; inside the Cadet Chapel (flags are replicas of flags taken into major battles from the 1700s on); the book (scroll) of Esther on velum in the Jewish Chapel; Rabbi Huerta; life mask of Sitting Bull; giant carved eagle captured from Hitler.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fog on the Hudson

It was a foggy morning.  I sat in the Hudson Gallery of The Thayer Hotel at West Point (yes, the West Point) this morning trying to listen to the discussion, but all I could do was look out the window, fascinated by the way the trees stood out starkly against the fog.  

I wanted to get out of my seat and go outside and take pictures.  But of course I couldn't.  Instead, I tried to sneak pictures from where I was.  In essence, through a glass darkly.  And yet you get the idea, in spite of lights reflected in the glass.

Later, as the morning wore on and the fog wore off, the opposite bank of the river (the Hudson) began to emerge.  I can imagine this is spectacular in the fall.  Still, for having to spend 4/5ths of my spring break in meetings, there's at least a view to take me away.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Patriot Day Trilogy

Listen my children and you shall hear
of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
on the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Paul Revere's Ride

By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Here once th'embattled farmers stood.
Their flags to April's breeze unfurled
And fired the shot heard 'round the world.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Concord Hymn

If you're a patriotic sports fan living in New England, there is almost nothing better than Patriots Day, a day, celebrated mostly in New England states, that honors the bravery of the colonial soldiers during the battles of Concord and Lexinton on April 18, 1775.  On any givenyear, if you do it right, you can go to the 11 a.m. Red Sox game, catch the end of the Boston Marathon(it's the 113th running today) sometime between 1:30 and 2 (depending on who's pitching), take a leisurely stroll across town, grab something tasty to eat in Quincy Market, and then catch either a Bruins or a Celtics play-off game that evening.

Crazy as it sounds, I actually did that once, a number of years ago now.  Then, it was a Bruins game.  Today, it will be a Celtics game vs. the Bulls if you're so inclined.  Several times, I've done the 1-2, Red Sox and Marathon.  On top of all this, if you're a real early bird, you can witness the re-enactment of the famous battles and then go downtown for the atletic events.  The re-enactment starts before dawn when "Paul" and his friend "Samuel Dawes" ride "sound the alarm to every Middlesex village and farm."  As the sun rises, the British march on the two towns and the patriots rise to the challenge while hundreds, perhaps even thousands, stand along the way to gawk and marvel at the antiquated warfare tactics that set this country on the road to the democracy we now enjoy and flourish in.  And yes, I've done that, too.  More than once

No matter the weather (and it's often cloudy, overcast and/or rainy), there's nothing like this day for community warmth and friendliness.  It's one of my favorite holidays.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lonely (or vain) Turkey

This afternoon as I was about to go out the door from school, I saw what I thought, at first, was a big lump on the ground beside a car in the parking lot.  On closer examination, I realized that it was a turkey...huddled beside the car, looking at his reflection!  

While I watched, he pecked at himself, or gave himself a kiss???  Normally, we see a flock of turkeys, so maybe his was lonely and trying to make friends with the reflected turkey.  

He was so distracted with the mirror-turkey that I was able to get quite close before he got up and strolled away.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Instrument of God's Peace

Last weekend I watched a movie about a man I knew almost nothing about except that he wrote a prayer that has been beautifully set to music that I have played and sung many times.  I love the words, but never knew the story behind them until I saw the movie.  I've even been to the place where the author lived and worked.  It is as picturesque and beautiful a place as you might imagine, nestled in the int rugged mountains of Italy.  But it took watching the story of Giovanni Francesco Bernardonek and simultaneously finding myself in a dark enough place to crave desperately what he wrote about, that I came to understand what Francis of Assisi meant when he wrote this prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek 
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

It was more than 800 years ago that Saint Francis penned those words  No doubt they were very appropriate words for his time.  But I think they are just as important, and necessary, for us today.  Now, more than ever, we need to be understanding, we need to be looking out for each other.  With all the sadness andd stress of the world around us, there has never been a greater need for peace, the peafce of Jesus Christ.  And there has never been a better place or time than right here, right now.