Monday, October 31, 2005

What Made My Day
You know what made my day yesterday? I had gotten up to church early yesterday morning to help the Sunday school kids prepare for the song they were going to sing during the Reformation service. Then I got everything ready for teaching Sunday school. So, I was in a tizzy trying to get everything together.

I began Sunday school by asking the five boys in the room for prayer requests and for things we could thank God for. Two of the boys kept going on about this great sleepover they had, etc., etc., (and they shall remain nameless).

And then one of the new boys in the group, who is nine years old, looked at me with these sincere eyes, and said, "I want to thank God that He let me be here today."

I just wanted to scoop him up and give him a hug because I was so glad he was there too. He had missed Sunday school the week before, and was just happy to be there that day. And I thought, wow, here is this sweet little boy thanking God for the simplest thing. And what a gift that was to me that morning to be reminded to thank God for being able to be at church.

Anyway, that's what made my day yesterday.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Happy Reformation!
Hi all -- hope you enjoy this fine Reformation weekend. We're celebrating by going to church twice on Sunday, plus going to Max's Allegheny Tavern for a fine German dinner.

Here's some great info on the Luther rose, which Martin Luther created as a symbol of the Christian faith. It's a great reminder of the basics. Last weekend, I put together a visual aid for the Sunday school kids to help them remember all the elements of Luther's rose to understand the the hope we have in Christ. So, happy Reformation to all!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Honoring our vets
Recently, I received an email with information about the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Some of the info was correct; a lot was made up. Here's the real stuff:

On Arlington and the Tomb of the Unknowns

On the honor guards or "sentinels" that serve at the Tomb of the Unknowns

It's interesting to look at the FAQs at the honor guard site. They do not, for example, live in a barracks underneath the tomb. They actually arrive at the Tomb in normal clothes and then get into their uniform. But it says that their short haircuts sometimes give them away.

And one fabulous fact: the marble for the tomb actually came from Marble, Colorado, my home state.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
I love Wallace and Gromit, especially Gromit, the dog side-kick. My family has enjoyed Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit movies for many years now. He created 3 short movies a while ago--at least 10 years or so: A Close Shave, The Wrong Trousers, and one other I can't think of. So, we were thrilled when we heard that he had made a full-length movie featuring these lovable characters. It's all done with clay-mation, which I think is just fascinating. We went to see the movie over the weekend, and I could tell each of those characters was handmade because you can actually see the fingerprints in the clay.

The story is silly and funny. Gromit, the dog who's always getting his master, Wallace, out of scrapes, is adorable. The emotion they are able to convey through Gromit's eyebrows alone is pretty amazing.

My only beef about the film (and this is fairly small) is that the elderly clergyman is portrayed like a raving lunatic. It's nice to see that the people of the parish gather in the church when there is a crisis, but the clergyman, of course, is not portrayed as some rational helpful person, but rather as a ...yes...raving lunatic.

Being married to a pastor, I am especially sensitive to this stereotypical portrayal of ministers because it is so common. Instead, in my experience, the many pastors I know are dedicated, rational, community-minded, helpful, kind, life-sacrificing men devoted to Christ and spreading the Gospel (and who do not recommend murdering were-rabbits with golden bullets!).

With that qualification in mind, go see the movie and enjoy Gromit's eyebrows.

Friday, October 21, 2005

More on Narnia
This time by one of my very favorite writers, Frederica Matthewes-Green.

Absolutely. Adorable.

This photo was taken by Erin Pence for the Sidney Daily News in Sidney, Ohio. I was trying to get a copy of the photo and emailed the publisher. Erin, the photographer, called me today. It was great to talk to her. Thanks, Erin! This is so cute! I think Erin should win some award for this. Seriously. I mean, cats don't exactly pose on demand.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ridiculous, to put it nicely
Avowed atheist author Philip Pullman has now weighed in on the beloved children's classic series of books The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis' 7-book series began with the tale The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and this December, the Disney company will be releasing the movie of the same title.

The books have been cherished by readers for 50 years. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe appears on numerous lists of the top-100 books of the 20th century, or on lists of the top 100 novels OF ALL TIME. The books contain elements of Christian allegory.

However, with all the publicity over the new Narnia movie, people like Pullman become critical. (Scroll down to the end of that link to see what readers think of his statement.) He claims he does not object to the Christian overtones of the story, but to the lack of "Christian charity" in the books.

Yet again, here is a perfect example of someone who is not a Christian, and in fact is an avowed atheist, who is purporting to understand Christian doctrine. And his "understanding" is that Christianity is all about being nice. In other words, Christianity is about tolerance. Sorry, Philip, but you've got it wrong.

Apparently, in his view, it wasn't very nice for good to triumph over evil in these stories. And it wasn't very nice for Aslan (the Christ figure) to lay down his life to destroy evil, save the children, and redeem the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Julie needs
This is a silly but fun blog thing.

Directions: Type "(your name) needs" (with the quotes) into a Google search; cut-and-paste the first 10 responses that work. Just pull the answers right out of the excerpt Google shows you, don't click the link and search around. The only rule is that each one has to start with "(your name) needs."

Here's what I came up with:
Julie needs early start
Julie needs a Kidney transplant (I sure hope not--having enough trouble with root canals!)
Julie needs to work on her parenting (ouch!)
Julie needs a team of committed people to pray for her and her ministry ( comment)
Julie needs 15 attendees in an area to schedule a workshop
Julie needs to wrap a gift for her mother (probably true since my gifts are usually late...)
Julie needs some real hands-on comforting as the anniversary of that first
killing spree is drawing near (yikes!)

Julie needs one fencepost for every 2 feet (for my new field)
Julie needs 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily (another no comment--root canals and all)
Julie needs to learn and teach others how to avoid fad diets (yeah, so cut it out)
Julie needs to bite the bullet

Thanks to Pr. Scot Kinnaman for this silliness.

Monday, October 17, 2005

And a sad note...
I read in the newspaper this morning that a man--on his way to a funeral--was struck by a car and killed. This happened in Bangor, PA. Apparently, it was rainy and dark, and the driver, I guess, just didn't see him in time. There was nothing in the article about foul play. The irony of it all reminded me of Alanis Morissette's song Ironic from a few years back. That was one well-written song. Sad, though.
I read this article this morning in the newspaper. It has helpful tips for those who recyle cans, bottles, etc.

Recycling tips:

If it is raining, put paper meant for recycling in a plastic bag or save it for another recycling day. Wet paper sticks to itself and other recyclables and starts to deteriorate, making it difficult to sort.

Scrape recyclables clean, but don't rinse them or remove labels. Food residue and labels are burned off or otherwise removed in the recycling process, so rinsing is unnecessary and wastes water.

Either screw plastic bottle tops onto the bottles or discard them. These tops are recyclable, but when removed from the bottle, they become too small to efficiently sort. Recycling plants discard loose bottle caps.

Try not to break glass intended for recycling. Broken glass is too small to efficiently sort and is one of the most common things recycling plants discard.

When possible, buy products packaged in aluminum or recyclable plastic rather than glass. Glass is heavier and breaks easily, requires more fuel for transport and is less efficient to recycle.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

From Penn's Woods...
Today, we went on a nature walk with some of our Sunday school kids at a local park. It was fun, and turned out to be a lovely autumn day. I found this website that has great info on all of the trees in Pennsylvania (which is latin, by the way, for Penn's Woods). Apparently, there are only 57 trees indiginous to the state, and 5 others were brought in. We found lots of maple, oak, black walnut, and many others. The fall colors aren't quite at their peak yet, but the day was lovely nonetheless.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wallace and Gromit
So, I'm hearing awesome things about the new Wallace and Grommit movie. If you don't know about Wallace and Gromit, you must check them out. We have the videos from several years ago of their first movies, "A Grand Day Out," "Close Shave," and "The Wrong Trousers." They are terrific clay-mation and great fun.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Robert's Snow
Go here to look at ornaments decorated by all sorts of children's authors. On the second row of this page, you can see "Snow Angel with Chicken Wings" by Carol Baicker-McKee. She and I collaborated on a book about chicks, called Cheep, Cheep! which will be coming out next spring.

These snowflakes are sent to a lot of children's authors who then decorate them with all sorts of media. They go on auction in December, and all the money goes toward cancer research. This is a neat one by Tomie de Paola called "Round Yon Virgin, Mother and Child."

A Pastor's Wife
Got a nice comment from another pastor's wife at her blog site. It's so nice to hear that parents and kids find my little books useful! I especially liked her post from another PW who lived 100 years ago.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mommy Promises
For those of you who know me, you know I'm not super great at self-promotion. But I know people do like to hear about my upcoming books. There are some Christmas books coming out this year, which I'll write about in a few weeks.

But today I want to talk about Mommy Promises. I had such a great time visiting with my editor and the designer for this book last Friday. How cool is it, also, that the designer is expecting her first child? Anyway, this is a book I wrote last spring about all the promises a mom makes to her children. The CPH website says it'll be out on 12/15/05. It might be a nice Mother's Day gift idea for next spring.

The designer, Karol, did a terrific job with the colors and all the neat little touches that go into making a picture book. And the art is fabulous. There's no image available yet on the CPH website, but I can tell you that the book is filled with beautiful autumn colors, and the children in the artwork are precious.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Pittsburgh Bands
Who knew that Pittsburgh was a hotbed of terrific bands?? I'm listening right now to some songs from the new Bill Deasy CD, which you can hear here. Another local band is Good Brother Earl, which hubby and I really like. Check them out. And of course the Clarks are from Pittsburgh. Cool, eh?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Whispering Arch
Today, I was in St. Louis with a group from a writing conference, and we had lunch at union station. While there, someone showed us a cool feature in the architecture called the whispering arch. This very ornate arch is built over the doorway to the grand hall. The way the architecture turned out, the arch creates the perfect avenue for sound waves to travel. If you stand facing the wall, you can speak very softly, and someone standing on the opposite end of the arch can hear you perfectly. It is so cool. While we were experiementing, people kept walking by, looking at us like we had really lost it. So, we showed them too. Here's a so-so link to the place.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Christian Writing
My husband over at Burr in the Burgh wrote today about Jeb Bush in Florida encouraging school children to read C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Apparently, there has been some controversy over this incredibly terrific idea.

It got me thinking about being a Christian writer myself. I write either decidedly Christian materials that are catechetical in nature, teaching children about the faith. Or I write stories that are (hopefully) fun, use word play, and usually end up with some message about helping each other, but do not spell out the Christian message. But I usually won't mix the two. I won't produce something with a watered-down Christian message, since that's not Christianity at all.

Our vocations are to do whatever we do to help our neighbors, and to do the best we can in that vocation. That's why I always encourage aspiring writers to join critique groups, attend writing conferences, read books on writing, and write, write, write. Improving the craft of writing is the main job of an aspiring writer. Be the best writer you can be, while producing wholesome and excellent materials.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

What the....??!!
Now I've read it twice. This morning in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I read that a chimpanzee in a Chinese zoo has quit smoking. I've been trying to find a link to it online, and can't find anything else about it. Apparently, the chimp has been smoking for something like 15 years, and the way the zoo keepers got him to break his habit is by providing music therapy. What???!!! A chimp is

So then I'm looking online again for this story and find this. An Austrailian chimp now has to kick his habit too?? This is really freaking me out.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The quiet church
This evening, I spent some time in the church sacristy putting together three flower arrangements for church tomorrow. Some tireless helpers in our congregation plant and take care of dahlias in the garden which I can see from my kitchen window. They are now really coming in, so I put together three arrangements. I like it in the church in the quiet before Sunday morning. My favorite moments, though, are on Good Friday, when I come into church the back way. The sanctuary is bare and black, but the back hallway smells like Easter with lillies just waiting for Sunday morning. Sometimes it seems like it's the preparation and waiting that make the gathering around God's Word and Sacraments even more precious.