Monday, May 2, 2011

Asking the right questions: Why not me?

I have wept over the losses my friends and total strangers have suffered this past week, some of them gone from this earth forever. One thought came to mind continuously: why them and not me? Why all those beautiful trees swept away and not mine? Why those quaint little towns and homes, churches and businesses worked for sometimes for years and not ours? Why those children, husbands, fathers, mothers and grandmothers and grandfathers taken and not me and mine? I do not have a rational answer to these questions. I would like to think it is because somehow I deserve God's favor, but, with David, "My sin(s) (are) ever before my face." There must be other reasons that I can't comprehend.

Noah was righteous in the sight of God and God spared him and his family while destroying the rest of the world. I, however, sense my unrighteousness keenly. I love the Lord, but often my priorities become skewed and my conscience seared concerning areas of my life that I should address but tend to ignore.
I am undeserving of God's mercy; and yet last week, He chose to take some of His children home to glory and leave me, a poor, struggling sinner, here for a while.

"The Deluge," by artist Francis Danby c. 1837

Here are some thoughts that have come to me from all of this:

My first thought is this: Like many of the folks who died during these tornadoes I may not have any warning when God takes me from this life. God may choose to take me out of this life with a fraction of a second to cry out to Him or say good-bye to loved ones or I may have no warning at all. Therefore, I must strive with all my being to live like someone who expects to die. Not living with dread and fear of death in some sort of morbid premonition that the sword hanging over my head is about to fall any second; but rather in a way that looks death in the face without fear because of Christ’s salvation, saying with the poet John Donne, "Death, be not proud...for, death, thou shalt die." The only way to live like this is to keep short accounts with sin and with our brothers and sisters, confessing our faults quickly and thoroughly, asking forgiveness sincerely and striving to mend broken relationships. Joe likes to quote someone as saying, "Live in such a way that when you die, that's all you have left to do," living in such a way that you have no regrets at the end of life.

"Subsiding Waters of the Deluge," by Thomas Cole 1829
Secondly, I am faced with the cheerful though challenging thought that God isn't finished with me yet. He has left me here at least for today in order to accomplish something important for His glory. If you are reading this, you are also still alive, but you and I are dying. The newborn infant begins the steady march towards death with his first breath. What a gruesome idea, you may be thinking! What a morbid thought! It is a realistic and a sobering thought, is it not? God make us for Himself and our lives must have a sense of sobriety about them along with all the rejoicing that recognizes we will not abide on this earth in this frail body forever. When the new heavens and new earth are brought into being, then we will live in our re-created, perfect bodies on a perfectly recreated earth forever. Hallelujah! I can hardly wait sometimes.

my eighth grandbaby sleeping on her mama
 But then at other times, as I look into the faces of those I love or at the beauty of God's creation, I want to exclaim with the poet, "Oh, world! I cannot hold thee close enough." I rejoice in my family and my friends, in my gifts and graces as I employ them to encourage others. It distresses me to look around at the destruction wrought by tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanic activity, floods, mudslides, explosions, falling trees, wild animals, sickness and disease, the actions of sinful men and women, and I find myself thinking, "Why? Why does a perfectly good and sovereign God bring such things to pass? Why can't it all be perfect now?" He could make it all good if He would.

Joe and Honor Phillips at Kilmartin graveyard in Scotland
 Here’s where good theology comes into play. God is the sum of His perfections. He is His attributes. He is not only all-powerful, He is also all-wise, just, holy, good, true and all the rest. I acknowledge that I am a finite creature, created for and by Him for His glory to do His good pleasure. I must rest there and let go of questions that are futile and meaningless in the light of eternity and the vastness of an infinite God Who alone knows the end from the beginning. Isa. 46

Questions will come. We are created in the image of God Who is a personal being. Although He does not have a body or parts and emotions like His creatures, we are like Him in that we are personal, relational beings. We love to be loved. We crave interaction with Him and with other men and women. We glory in the work of our hands because God also loved His creation. When people we love or our works are destroyed, we grieve and suffer. The Bible recognizes this reaction as a natural one. We are told to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and grieve with those who grieve.” The Bible is full of many instances of those whose lives were devastated by loss, Job being a primary example. During these hard times, times of crisis, how do we handle the questions that come? When I have doubts and questions, griefs and sorrows, here’s what I ask God to help me do:

I try to focus my mind on what I know to be true about God, especially during times of crisis.

What do I know?

1. I know that the God Who planned and carried out the redemption of His elect through the death and resurrection of His only Son has a perfect plan for my life and the lives of all His creatures. All my days were planned out for me before I was created. Neither I nor any other person can lengthen or shorten my life. I am safe in the hollow of His hand. Psalm 139:16

2. I know that nothing can thwart God’s plan. No one, not the most sinful man who has ever lived, not even Satan himself, can cause anything to go wrong in God’s universe, for God is in control. He is the one true and living God, sovereign over all His creation, the God of providence Who is able to deliver His people from their enemies. No man can stay His hand from doing all His holy will. Psalm 45:5f

I can only see the immediate scene, the winds and the waves that cause me to fear. Despite my brave determination, when I start to sink beneath the sea of my sorrow and doubts, Christ Himself comes to me, through His powerful Word and Spirit, and brings me up out of the waves. I cannot walk on water. I cannot calm the storms of this life, but Christ Jesus my Savior can. Psalm 138:7

Augustine said: “I toss upon the waves; but Thou dost steer – Thou Who standeth at the helm of all things Thou hast made.”

3. I know that God is working all these things together for our ultimate good and His glory as He said He would. Rom. 8:28

4. I know that God made me to live faithfully in the light of what I know to be true, trusting Him for each day's strength and looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith, to carry me through to the end of life, singing "Amazing Grace," and "Great is Thy Faithfulness," though death is staring me in the face.

5. I know I can trust Him, even in the dark.

Knowing all these things, I will not fear but trust the One Who knows the exact number of breaths I will take because He has mapped out my life for me.

 -- in the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral, Scotland
 May this be my daily prayer: “I believe, Lord; help Thou my unbelief. I am still alive -- show me what to do today.”

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Spring Writing Contest ... Come and Dine!

the heart-shaped tomato that changed my life
"The summer I turned 14, just two days before my birthday, Mama sent me out to the garden to gather the ripe tomatoes, bell peppers and yellow crook-necked squash. I didn't mind so much picking those soft, hot tomatoes sagging with juicy goodness from the heavily-laden vines; but when she told me to harvest the okra before it got too big to eat, I frowned. I hate cutting okra. Not only do the prickly spines make my arms and hands itch, the sap that drips from the cut my knife makes coats my fingers with its sticky goo, then the gnats, mosquitoes and flies seem to hover over me just waiting to nip and chew at my arms. Disgusting! I don't even like okra -- not even dipped in egg and cornmeal and fried up in bacon grease. Well, if I was starving I might eat a few cooked like that, but never stewed with onions and tomatoes.

"I have a confession to make though. Despite my less than perfect attitude, if I had not dutifully gone to gather the ripe tomatoes and other vegetables from the garden that day, life would have continued on its dull course without the amazing series of events that has led to all my happiness since. You see, on that day, I plucked a heart-shaped tomato and my life took a turn that I would never have expected and could never have planned."

Are you interested in my little story yet? I wanted to illustrate how it's possible to include food in a story without making it entirely about the food itself. Maybe I'll finish the story if enough people beg ;-)

Garden Delights

I wrote this little vignette to lead into our Writing Contest Rule #1: please write about food. Food can be at the heart of your story (pun intended since mine is about a heart-shaped tomato), or simply included in some way. You can base your story, poem or article/essay on whatever premise suits you, but food must enter into to it at some point. That should set your brain to ticking right away, I hope!

1. Food must be included in the story, essay/article or poem in some way.
2. Contestants must have taken "Mrs. Morecraft’s Writing Webinar," either I or II, or both.

3. Contestants may enter as many times as they wish, noting that there will be a $10. entry fee for each entry.

4. The word limit for each entry is 1,200 words.

5. The contest submission time-frame is from April 15th to June 30th. The deadline for submission will be midnight, EST, June 30th.

6. Submissions should be made in hard-copy form, printed on plain paper in 12 or larger font, one and one-half inch spacing, and mailed, along with a check made out to Rebecca Morecraft with $10. per submission to: 300 Wrights Mill Way, Canton, GA 30115. Be sure to allow at least five days' time for me to receive it if mailed in the continental US. If you would like, you may also submit your entry to  However, the hard-copy is required for entry in the contest.

Mrs. Rebecca Morecraft, the Poet-Laureate of the Vision Forum Quadricentennial Celebration at Jamestown, VA in 2007
7. Winners will be informed in an email of their achievements, so be sure to include an email address where you can be reached.

8. Prizes will include: editing by Mrs. Morecraft and her panel of judges, our efforts to have your winning entry published, either in a periodical or another venue, and various other books or prizes that will delight and inform, such as:

This would make a great first-place prize!
9. After the winners have been chosen and notified, the winning entries will be posted on my blog with the permission of the authors.
10. Have fun!

 Suggestions for writing a winning entry: follow my example and Edit, Edit, Edit!!! You are almost never through editing as you rearrange, find better words, correct misspelled words and grammar, check punctuation, critique and accept suggestions, read your work aloud and edit some more!!! I still edit work that has already been published!! Really, I do...

Mrs. Morecraft continued to edit her Jamestown 400 poem, "Remember & Persevere," even after she read it there!!

Judging criteria:

Each entry will be judged by the following criteria:

1. grammatical accuracy

2. strong, imaginative imagery that avoids using tired, trite phrases, jargon or slang (unless the dialogue calls for it)

3. good lead sentences and first paragraphs, where applicable

4. clearly understood development of the theme or thesis, where applicable

5. a strong concluding paragraph

6. good sentence structure with strong nouns, verbs and properly used modifiers

7. for rhyming poems, strict adherence to the chosen meter

8. for all poems, whether rhymed or blank verse, strong, palpable imagery appropriate to the subject

9. in poetry, skillful use of internal rhyme where applicable

10. themes that capture interest for both poetry and prose

11. did the writing grab and keep our interest throughout, or was the piece

      too rhetorical (instructional with little to keep interest in a storyline)

      too artificial (either too silly and unbelievable or impossible situations)

      boring

      too ‘wordy’

12. With articles and essays, did the writer make and prove a point well? Was the thesis sentence stated clearly at the beginning and logically proved throughout? Did the piece have a strong conclusion?

13. In all types of writing, did the writer strike a chord with us so that we wanted to keep reading and felt satisfied when we finished reading it? We were either entertained, inspired or moved? Or was the piece easy to put down, even before the end? Was it enjoyable?

This final point is often the deciding factor for judges. If your writing moves us in some way that keeps us reading, holds our interest and leaves us wanting more, your submission has more winning potential than a piece that follows all the rules but doesn’t inspire, delight or instruct. Learning to grip your reader's emotions, not through soupy sentimental writing but in a way that strikes a chord in the heart, is more given than learned. Ask God for this ability as you write.

My poetess/songwriter sister Judy Rogers

"And whatever you do -- whether you eat or drink or whatever you do --
do it all to the glory of God." I Cor. 10:31

My sister Judy Rogers personifies this admonition. She is and has been for over 30 years an example of godly womanhood to me and all who know her through her music. Judy's songwriting and singing abilities have blessed literally thousands of people around the world as she writes and sings incredible songs, based on Scripture and sung to music that God gives her as she labors over her music and prays. Judy was a terrible piano student. I know because I tried to be her teacher. She doesn't read musical notation. Her music is all in her head, ear and heart and God has blessed it to come out in songs with complex musical scores that could compete well with the music of many schooled musicians. But Judy's writing and singing isn't about acclaim. She writes beautiful poems put to music to honor and glorify King Jesus, as well as in direct submission to her husband who first asked her to put the Shorter Catechism for children to music over 30 years ago.

Is that why you write? To glorify God? Or do you want people to sit up and take notice of you and say, "Wow, that girl is so intelligent and can write so well!" If you seek to honor yourself, God may decide not to see your goals met. But if you are diligent, as my sister has been and as I try to be, honing the gifts and graces He has given you to the best of your ability to bring Him glory, He sometimes sees fit to give you success. My prayer is that success will be yours in full measure as you write to make a difference in the world for Christ.

Maybe you won't win a place in this little writing contest. Don't be discouraged. All writing errors can be corrected. All writers can improve. Please don’t be despondent if your name doesn’t show up in the list of honorable mentions or in the winner’s circle. Keep journaling, writing letters and reading good writers as well as continuing with the vocabulary building and writing exercises we’ve brought to your attention. As you apply the suggestions we’ve mentioned in our classes and those you discover through other resources, attempt to apply them to your own writing. Keep reading your poems, essays, articles and papers aloud to your friends and parents and ask for suggestions for improvement. Submit them to various magazines that publish young writers -- learn from any comments they may make concerning your submission.

As you read great books on a variety of topics from many different eras and perspectives, your base of knowledge will be broadened and your ability to analyze and think expanded. Learn from these proven writers how to construct good sentences, find strong nouns and verbs as the building materials, how to use modifiers accurately, how to use discernment when describing a scene depicting emotions, how to write dialogue and especially how to create tangible, palpable imagery.

Remember that more is not better. Simple, clean writing is almost always best. Did you say what you mean and mean what you say? Sincerity and simplicity are key ingredients. Do you know your subject matter well enough to write about it? More research may be necessary before a word ever hits the page. Remember the pre-writing skills we studied during this last webinar? Mapping, asking yourself questions and other word-association techniques will boost the possibility of a winning entry.

Take time to smile at someone -- every day!
Read well-written books and take notes on all these topics -- this is perhaps the best way to improve your own writing. Don’t be too sensitive – don’t be afraid of criticism. In fact, ask for it all the time.

Ask anyone who will listen to your writing, “Does that make sense to you? What do I need to add? What do I need to take out? How could this be written to convey my point better? Do I need to re-write this or just start over?”

You will never improve as a runner if you don’t run or as a singer if you don’t sing or a rider if you never get on a horse. You will never become a better writer if you only practice writing skills occasionally. Write every day. Read every day. Ask the Lord to help you improve for His glory and He will.

Please pray for me as you think of me. I have a few big writing projects that I’d like to complete this summer. Pray that God will give me the freedom of time and the exact words to complete what I’ve begun for His glory.

How do you know who you really are till you walk around in a pair of red cowgirl boots! Yee-haw!Fun!!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Welcome to our Online "Welcome Spring" Tea Party!!

Tea party fun!

I'm so very excited to welcome Spring this year -- I love the new life bursting forth all around me.
And I'm happy to welcome my lovely daughter Mercy home from a nearly three-month trip to Africa and Europe. She shared a little of her reaction to her adventures with us during the webinar session Thursday evening. We look forward to more stories and photos on her blog once she updates it.

Mercy and a new friend in Nairobi, Kenya

I promised to post some of the recipes you shared with me -- here are a few:

Iced Sugar Cookies

The McKellar Girls' Sugar Cookies
6 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp. salt
In a large bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. In another bowl, measure out and mix dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture a little at a time until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for two hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out on a floured counter to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Bake for 8-14 minutes. When cool, decorate with glaze icing.

Cherish, Feliciti and Thea McKellar brought delicious cookies to our tea
Here are some recipes for the tea party from Emily Nicholas, one of my students who lives "down under." She says, "I have chosen some traditional Australian recipes." They sound delicious!

(Lamingtons are said to be named after Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland from 1895 to 1901.)

The cake is easy to handle if it is a little stale; day old cake is ideal. Sponge or butter cake can be used. Lamingtons can be filled with jam and cream, if desired.

6 eggs
2/3 cup castor sugar (I think you call it superfine sugar.)
1/3 cup cornflour
1/3 cup self-raising flour
2 (180g or 6 oz. )cups desiccated coconut, approximately

Icing ingredients:
4 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
15g (about 1/2 oz.) butter, melted
2/3 cup milk

Grease 23cm (9 in.) square slab pan. Beat eggs in medium bowl with electric mixer about 10 minutes, or until thick and creamy. Gradually beat in sugar, dissolving between additions. Fold in triple-sifted flours. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Bake in a moderate oven about 30 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool.

Cut cake into 16 squares, dip squares into icing, drain off excess icing, toss squares in coconut. Place lamingtons on wire rack to set.

Sift icing sugar and cocoa into heatproof bowl, stir in butter and milk. Stir over pan of simmering water until icing is of coating consistency.

Makes 16

Here's another one that sounds so good. I love knowing the history behind the recipes. Thanks, Emily.

Anzac Biscuits
(Variations of Scottish oatmeal biscuits were made at home and sent to soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in World War I. However, the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT, suggests that they were not named Anzac Biscuits until after World War I, when they were made and sold as fund-raisers for returned soldiers.)

child's thistle and violets tea set on faux-painted tea table
Ingredients: 1 cup rolled oats                                              
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup coconut
125g (6 1/2 oz.) butter
40g (1 1/2 oz.) golden syrup (A cheap sugar syrup here in Australia but probably very expensive in the States. You could use molasses or corn syrup, but I think a mixture of both is closer to the consistency, taste, etc. of golden syrup.)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon boiling water (sounds weird, but your tablespoon is only 15 ml, while ours is 20ml.)

Combine oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut. Combine butter and golden syrup, stir over gentle heat until melted. Mix bicarbonate of soda with boiling water, add to melted butter mixture, stir into dry ingredients. Take teaspoonfuls of mixture and place on lightly greased oven trays; allow room for spreading. Cook in a slow oven 20 minutes. Loosen while warm, then cool on trays.

Makes about 35

(Remember to check the conversions in measurements from the Australian/British to American measurements.)
from Emily Nicholas
Bendigo, Victoria, Australia

a lovely tea party guest helps herself to another cup

This one sounds so simple and really yummy!                   
Mini Tea Tarts
from Mikaela Vaughn

-1 package filo shells
-Several fillings such as vanilla or chocolate pudding, and vanilla or berry yogurt.
-Toppings: Whip cream, chocolate chips, berries, or coconut.

Fill the tarts and place them on a pretty plate. Then decorate the tops however you like. They are so easy to make, and very delicious.
Thanks to all of you for the recipes -- if you'd like to share your recipes or photos from your own tea party, send them to me at and we'll try to include them in a future post.

Here are some more photos from the tea party we held at my house -- thanks to my great photographer, Marissa Schmidt! She's soooo good, isn't she?

my favorite demitasse cup and saucer

Italian wedding cookies -- from the Bowman girls

mmmm! chocolate cake -- always a favorite

a chintz-flowered china cup in a gloved hand -- lovely
Feliciti McKellar graced our day with her violin presentation
Check back tomorrow for more photos!!
Here's one more recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Drop Scones

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon ( I put a little extra in! )
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into ¼ -inch pieces
1/3 to ½ cup raisins
½ cup canned pumpkin*
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons milk ( approximate )
1 cup powdered ( confectioner’s ) sugar
* When purchasing canned pumpkin, make sure there are no spices or sugar added.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray a large baking sheet with vegetable-oil cooking spray. ( You can also cover the baking sheet with parchment paper.)

In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. With pastry blender or two knives, cut butter into flour mixture until particles are the size of small peas; stir in raisins. NOTE: When making scones, work the dough quickly and do not over mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, 1/3 cup milk, and egg. Fold wet ingredients. Stir just until mixed.

NOTE: Scones can be cut into any shape you desire. Use a dinking glass to make circles or cut into squares or wedges with a knife. Dip the edges of the cutter in flour to prevent sticking. Do not pat the edges of the scone down, instead leave the cuts as sharp as possible to allow the scones to rise in layers. OR… Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet, 2 inches apart to allow for spreading, making 10 mounds. ( I ALWAYS get more out than that.)

Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, frost while still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

While scones are baking, combine 3 tablespoons of milk and powdered sugar until a thin frosting is obtained. You may need to add either more milk or powdered sugar for the correct consistency.

Yield: 10-15 scones

from Megan Knudten

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My favorite romantic poem ...

The Chancel and Crossing of Tintern Abbey, Looking Towards the East Window, by JMW Turner, 1794. Tintern Abbey was a monastery founded in 1131 and rebuilt in the 13th century. Abandoned in 1536, it was left to decay for two centuries. Artist Joseph Mallord William Turner paid two visits to the site, and it inspired him to paint this piece which juxtaposes the smallness of man alongside and wildness of nature, the unstoppable power of which has reclaimed this man-made edifice. The haunting abbey was a popular muse for many Romantics; it also inspired William Wordsworth’s famous poem “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.”
(taken from "The Art of Manliness" blog, March 4, 2011)

The funny thing about this poem is that is was really written for Wordsworth's sister, not his wife! But, nevertheless, my dear husband and I read it as young lovers and so I think of it as romantic! I hope you enjoy it. For an analysis of the poem, go to this web address:

Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey

by William Wordsworth

Five years have passed; five summers with the length

Of five long winters! and again I hear

These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs

With a soft inland murmur.—Once again

Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,

That on a wild secluded scene impress

Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect

The landscape with the quiet of the sky.

The day is come when I again repose

Here, under this dark sycamore, and view

These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard tufts,

Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,

Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves

'Mid groves and copses. Once again I see

These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines

Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,

Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke

Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!

With some uncertain notice, as might seem

Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,

Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire

The Hermit sits alone.

These beauteous forms,

Through a long absence, have not been to me

As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:

But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,

Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;

And passing even into my purer mind,

With tranquil restoration:—feelings too

Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,

As have no slight or trivial influence

On that best portion of a good man's life,

His little, nameless, unremembered, acts

Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,

To them I may have owed another gift,

Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,

In which the burthen of the mystery,

In which the heavy and the weary weight

Of all this unintelligible world,

Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,

In which the affectations gently lead us on,—

Until, the breath of this corporeal frame

And even the motion of our human blood

Almost suspended, we are laid asleep

In body, and become a living soul:

While with an eye made quiet by the power

Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,

We see into the life of things.

If this

Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft—

In darkness and amid the many shapes

Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir

Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,

Have hung upon the beatings of my heart—

How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,

O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods,

How oft has my spirit turned to thee!

And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,

With many recognitions dim and faint,

And somewhat of a sad perplexity,

The picture of the mind revives again:

While here I stand, not only with the sense

Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts

That in this moment there is life and food

For future years. And so I dare to hope,

Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first

I came among these hills; when like a roe

I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led: more like a man

Flying from something that he dreads, than one

Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,

And their glad animal movements all gone by)

To me was all in all.—I cannot paint

What then I was. The sounding cataract

Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,

Their colours and their forms, were then to me

An appetite; a feeling and a love,

That had no need of a remoter charm,

By thought supplied, nor any interest

Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,

And all its aching joys are now no more,

And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this

Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur, other gifts

Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,

Abundant recompense. For I have learned

To look on nature, not as in the hour

Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes

The still, sad music of humanity,

Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power

To chasten and subdue. And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still

A lover of the meadows and the woods,

And mountains; and of all that we behold

From this green earth; of all the mighty world

Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,

And what perceive; well pleased to recognise

In nature and the language of the sense,

The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,

The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul

Of all my moral being.

Nor perchance,

If I were not thus taught, should I the more

Suffer my genial spirits to decay:

For thou art with me here upon the banks

Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,

My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch

The language of my former heart, and read

My former pleasures in the shooting lights

Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while

May I behold in thee what I was once,

My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,

Knowing that Nature never did betray

The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,

Through all the years of this our life, to lead

From joy to joy: for she can so inform

The mind that is within us, so impress

With quietness and beauty, and so feed

With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,

Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,

Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all

The dreary intercourse of daily life,

Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb

Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold

Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon

Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;

And let the misty mountain-winds be free

To blow against thee: and, in after years,

When these wild ecstasies shall be matured

Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind

Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,

Thy memory be as a dwelling-place

For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,

If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,

Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts

Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,

And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance—

If I should be where I no more can hear

Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams

Of past existence—wilt thou then forget

That on the banks of this delightful stream

We stood together; and that I, so long

A worshipper of Nature, hither came

Unwearied in that service: rather say

With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal

Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,

That after many wanderings, many years

Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,

And this green pastoral landscape, were to me

More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"The Veterans of the Battle of Bunker Hill" by Daniel Webster

"The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17, 1775"
by John Trumbull, 1786

"This burst of eloquence is from Daniel Webster's celebrated oration, delivered on the occasion of the laying of the corner-stone of Bunker's Hill monument on June 17, 1825. It was the 50th anniversary of that battle in the presence of a vast multitude of people, among whom were Lafayette and the survivors of the battle." -- paraphrased from Swinton's Fifth Reader and Speaker, (published 1883), p. 321f

I hope my webinar students will read this speech through several times carefully. The first time, simply read it for the sense of the words. What is Mr. Webster saying? Why do you think he chose the particular words he chose? Are there any long, difficult words in this speech or are most of them short and familiar? Why?

The second time through, notice the imagery -- take note of metaphors, similes and personification, in particular. Are his word pictures strong? Why?

The third time you read it, notice the sentence structure. Are the sentences mostly long or short or a combination of both? How is the speech structured? Does he make his main points first or build up to them? See if you can make an outline of the speech.

The final time through, read the speech aloud, slowly and with emphasis on the words which you think he may have emphasized as he looked out at Lafayette and the other survivors of this momentous battle. Read it in front of a mirror and rate your delivery. How is your posture? Are you looking your 'audience' in the eye? Are there effective pauses in the right places? When you think you've perfected your delivery enough, practice reading it in front of your family and ask them for suggestions. You may be called on to deliver an important speech some day. Here's a chance to develop confidence.

If you have time, try to commit a portion of this important speech to memory.

"Venerable men! You have come down to us from a former generation. Heaven has bounteously lengthened out your lives, that you may behold this joyous day. You are now where you stood fifty years ago, this very hour, with your brothers and your neighbors, shoulder to shoulder, in the strife for your country. Behold, how altered! The same heavens are indeed over your heads; the same ocean rolls at your feet: but all else how changed! You hear now no roar of hostile cannon, you see no mixed volumes of smoke and flame rising from burning Charlestown. The ground strewed with the dead and the dying; the impetuous charge; the steady and successful repulse; the loud call to repeated resistance; a thousand bosoms freely and fearlessly bared in an instant to whatever of terror there may be in war and death--all these you have witnessed, but you witness them no more. All is peace.

"The heights of yonder metropolis [Boston], its towers, and roofs, which you then saw filled with wives and children and countrymen in distress and terror, and looking with unutterable emotions for the issue of the combat, have presented you today with the sight of its whole happy population, come out to welcome and greet you with a universal jubilee. Yonder proud ships, by a felicity of position appropriately lying at the foot of this mount, and seeming fondly to cling around it, are not means of annoyance to you, but your country's own means of distinction and defense.

"All is peace; and God has granted you this sight of your country's happiness, ere you slumber in the grave. He has allowed you to behold and to partake the reward of your patriotic toils; and he has allowed us, your sons and countrymen, to meet you here, and in the name of the present generation, in the name of your country, in the name of liberty, to thank you.

"But, alas! You are not all here! Time and the sword have thinned your ranks. Prescott, Putnam, Stark, Brooks, Read, Pomeroy, Bridge [these were all distinguished officers in the battle of Bunker's Hill], our eyes seek for you in vain amid this broken band. You are gathered to your fathers, and live only to your country in her grateful remembrance and your own bright example. But let us not too much grieve that you have met the common fate of men. You lived at least long enough to know that your work had been nobly and successfully accomplished. You lived to see your country's independence established, and to sheathe your swords from war. On the light of liberty you saw arise the light of peace, like 'another morn, risen on mid-noon;' and the sky on which you closed your eyes was cloudless.

"But ah! Him! [Warren] The first great martyr in this great cause! Him! The premature [untimely] victim of his own self-devoting heart! Him! The head of our civil councils, and the destined leader of our military bands, whom nothing brought hither but the unquenchable fire of his own spirit! Him! Cut off by Providence in the hour of overwhelming anxiety and thick gloom; falling ere he saw the star of his country rise; pouring out his generous blood like water, before he knew whether it would fertilize a land of freedom or of bondage! How shall I struggle with the emotions that stifle the utterance of thy name! Our poor work may perish, but thine shall endure. This monument may molder away; the solid ground it rest upon may sink down to a level with the sea: but thy memory shall not fail. Wheresoever among men a heart shall be found that beats to the transports of patriotism and liberty, its aspirations shall be to claim kindred with thy spirit."

Daniel Webster

Friday, February 25, 2011

Everyday Language and Salads

"If your every-day language is not fit for a letter or for print, it is not fit for talk. And if, by any series of joking and fun, at school or at home, you have got into the habit of using slang in talk, which is not fit for print, why, the sooner you get out of it the better." -- Edward Elliott Hale, April 3, 1822 – June 10, 1909

What's the Christian life all about? Well, first and last, grace...lots of it overflowing, bounteous, free...

After that, sanctification, or growing in grace, putting off and putting on. In a word, (which is one of my favorite terms): refinement.

I'm all about language these days so I listen carefully to what I read and hear. Television and magazine ads just love sound bites, as they try to say more in concentrated words...short, pithy words. Intellectuals try to impress us with their long words and provocative terminology. We as Christians need to think carefully about the words we use, in everyday conversation, in the words we fill our minds with and in the writing we offer the world.

The term, gravitas, or 'weighty' best describes the kind of words with which we as Christians need to be most familiar--words that convey deep meanings, not words that are reflective of the godless culture around us. Are you infected with the slang of this ungodly culture? I admit, it's extremely difficult to avoid it and in not avoiding it, we are all infected, to one degree or another, by it. I challenge you to cast it off. Make it a goal this year to put off the language of this ungodly culture and put on the 'language of Canaan.'

Refinement project: clean up your language. Adopt words with godly 'gravitas.' You and all around you will be glad. And you will most likely honor the Lord as you succeed.

However, heavy, meaningful words aren't necessarily the long, apparently impressive ones. Sometimes less is more--here's an example from the 19th century. Here's a poem about short words that I read last night during our webinar. The author was Joseph Addison Alexander (1809-1860) who was a student of Charles Hodge at Princeton Seminary in the mid-19th century. He later became a colleague of Dr. Hodge as a professor at the old Princeton. [Sadly, the modern Princeton has become very liberal.]

Charles Hodge said of his colleague, "In the death of Joseph Addison Alexander we have lost our great glory and defense. Permit me to express my own individual convictions. I regard Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander as incomparably the greatest man I ever knew--as incomparably the greatest man our church has ever produced. His thorough orthodoxy, his fervent piety, humility, faithfulness in the discharge of his duties, and reverence for the Word of God, consecrated all his other gifts. He glorified the Word of God in the sight of his pupils beyond what any man I ever saw had the power of doing."

The Power of Short Words

by Joseph Addison Alexander

Think not that strength lies in the big round word,

Or that the brief and plain must needs be weak.

To whom can this be true who once has heard

The cry for help, the tongue that all men speak

When want or woe or fear is in the throat,

So that each word gasped out is like a shriek

Pressed from the sore heart, or a strange, wild note

Sung by some fay or fiend? There is a strength

Which dies if stretched too far or spun too fine,

Which has more height than breadth, more depth

Than length.

Let but this force of thought and speech be mine,

And he that will may take the sleek fat phrase,

Which glows and burns not, though it gleam and shine;

Light, but not heat—a flash, but not a blaze!

Nor mere strength is it that the short word boasts:

It serves of more than fight or storm to tell—

The roars of waves that clash on rock bound coasts,

The crash of tall trees when the wild winds swell,

The roar of guns, the groans of men that die

On blood stained fields. It has a voice as well

For them that far off on their sick-beds lie,

For them that weep, for them that mourn the dead;

For them that laugh, and dance, and clap the hand.

To Joy’s quick step as well as Grief’s slow tread,

The sweet, plain words we learn at first keep time;

And though the theme be sad or gay or grand,

With each, with all, these may be made to chime,

In thought or speech or song, in prose or rhyme.

Perhaps some of you will remember from our first webinar taught last fall that Anglo-Saxon words are the strongest in the English language. In this poem, of the 289 one-syllable words employed, only 23 are not of Anglo-Saxon origin. [Would you like to know which are not? Here’s the list: round, brief, plain, cry, pressed, strange, note, fay, fine, force, phrase, serves, coasts, voice, dance, joy, grief, theme, gay, grand, chime, prose and rhyme.]

While we're on the subject of chopping and cutting, whittling down our words and phrases to size, maybe we should take a break and chop up a salad. Here's one of my favorites:

Mixed Baby Spinach and Arugula Salad


1 box of organic baby spinach and arugula
one of the following (or all three, if you prefer):

cherry tomatoes
red bell peppers
dried cranberries

feta or goat cheese crumbles
almond slivers
Asian ginger dressing


Put the mixed greens in a salad bowl and add either cherry tomatoes, sliced red bell peppers or dried cranberries. Sometimes, I add all three. Sprinkle liberally with feta or goat cheese crumbles and almond slivers. Add the ginger dressing and dig in! I could eat this till the cows come home! (Uh-oh, there goes my reputation as an English teacher -- I told my class not to use old worn-out cliches!)

I promised several things during the class last night--recipes, the poem I read by Joseph Addison Alexander, a spell-binding speech by Daniel Webster at the 50th anniversary of the Bunker Hill battle with Lafayette present. I will deliver all of these; but first, I want to invite you to a very special tea party at my house. During our last webinar session on Thursday evening, March 24th, I will host a 'cyber tea party' and invite you to hold real ones in your own homes that day or evening. Take some pictures and post them with a link so we can enjoy your tea parties, too. Mine will actually be held next Wednesday, replete we hope, with musical offerings by the young ladies who have been invited, dainty tea party finger foods, girls in pastel shades and lace and maybe some hats! We'll read poetry, hear some music and discuss 'polite moments.'

In connection with this event, I'd love to share some of your favorite tea party finger food recipes on this blog and during the webinar. Please send any you'd like for me to share to this e-mail address:

Daniel Webster's speech tomorrow, Lord willing.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Rhyming List of Things I Love

Birch Knob near 'South of the Mountain' in
Dickenson County, Virginia...
my home
Rhyming verse is NOT really poetry! But it's a lot of fun...

Things that I love

Things that I love? Too many to name!

But here’s a listing, just the same:

The silent swoop of owls at night,

Hugging you, up close and tight,

Babies’ drooling smiles and coos,

Little boys with scuffed-up shoes,

The echo of the thrasher’s call,

Crimson and golden leaves in fall,

Winter’s hush with falling snow,

Springtime’s soft and greening glow,

Cliffs and crags on mountain heights,

Stunning sunsets that fade to night,

Crashing waves with cresting foam,

Winding roads all leading home,

Small town folks with friendly faces,

City lights in far-off places,

Beech trees with their clinging leaves,

Those who live what they believe,

Milton, Calvin, Joe and Bach,

Friends who like to hear me talk,

Family dinners, special dates,

Trips to Europe, chocolate cake,

Cottage décor, hardwood floors,

Ceilings smooth and solid doors,

Country churches with lofty spires,

Thundering preachers, cathedral choirs,

Christmas trees, Thanksgiving turkey,

Roibos tea and biltong jerky,

Strong black coffee and the fruit of the vine,

Cold iced tea in the summertime,

Black Labradors and calico cats,

Leather-bound books and broad-brimmed hats,

Sandalwood soap and bay rum cologne,

Cuddling up with my honey, alone,

Reading great books that inspire and teach,

White sand, walking on a wind-swept beach,

Living each day at a leisurely pace

Finding real people behind each face,

Handwritten notes from friends far away,

Quilts and silver and pewter trays,

Thrift stores and tea towels and antique laces,

Making the most of my gifts and graces,

Living each day like it was my last,

Forgetting, forgiving hurts long past,

Giving all glory to God above,

Living by this: the greatest is love.

Pictures of places I’ve been with friends,

Friendships so deep they can never end.

Being called ‘Mama’ and ‘Grandmommy,’ too,

Red leather boots and comfortable shoes!

Linen and cotton and cashmere and wool,

Working in flowers with gardening tools,

Dark sweet cherries and brown crusty bread,

Freedom in Christ, dispelling dread,

Watching the sun come up at dawn,

Knowing that I am my husband’s crown.

Seeing the joy in each day’s hours,

Watching my grandchildren bud into flowers,

Knowing for certain that Christ is King,

Feeling His power as I pray, speak and sing,

Letting the things of this life grow dim,

Finding my all in all in Him.



Revised, 2.17.2011


Always revising...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"My dear friends..."

How I love words!

Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved to be read to -- by my grandfather, my parents, my aunt (who taught me to read). That kind of love just has to be passed on. It was no surprise when all four of my children decided to major in English in their various endeavors for higher education. One almost has his doctorate in American literature! Wow! I'm very impressed. Beyond that, they all just love to read. Not just anything, the popular 'best sellers' of any given month, but books that have eternal significance.

What's on your reading list? I hope the Bible is number one. After that, you should be reading books that will expand your mind, make you think and impact you in positive ways, not trash. There. I said it. Don't waste your time reading garbage, for lots of reasons. One, you will be dragged down to its level. Two, you will start to think like the rest of the world that hasn't even tasted the grace of the Gospel. Three, your actions will reflect your thinking: "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

You can access archived posts on this blog listing books, (just a few of them), that I recommend. I didn't come up with these lists on my own. I accessed lists from various books of lists (Christian ones) and from teachers I trust. I hope you own most, if not all, of these books or at least have borrowed and read them.

Teach your children to love good literature from their earliest days. They will attain to your high standards or be 'dumbed down' by low ones. If all they know is Disney movies and Barbie stories, you can't expect them to be dominion-oriented adults who want to proclaim and defend the rights of King Jesus over all of life. Please...think about the future NOW!

My very small grandchildren love great music -- classical and otherwise -- because they began violin (some of them) when they were five years old. My three year-old granson, Asa, knows every verse of many hymns by heart (he can't read and isn't interested in books -- yet) because he LOVES to sing. He doesn't know other songs by heart. He knows hymns and psalms by heart because that is what he's been exposed to by his parents. Please, dear parents, take this seriously. Your actions shape the future for your children and grandchildren. Teach them by example to love things of eternal value.

I loved teaching tonight's webinar class! I'm so sorry that some of you had trouble accessing the session. Please give the Customer Service Department at Vision Forum a call or send an email if you haven't figured it out.

Also, use the link you were sent for today's session to access both the power point slides (skillfully and lovingly created by Mercy who is in Kenya, 10,000 miles away -- Mercy, take a bow) as well as the audio portion of the webinar session. Again, if you can't access them, call Vision Forum. They are so helpful with problems. Give tonight's program at least 48 hours to appear. Thank you so much for attending. I love having you 'at my house' on Thursdays.

I will be visiting my family in Virginia this weekend and may not be able to find a computer with internet access. Please forgive me if I don't answer your questions till next week. Write me at

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Soup's On!

Mmmmm...can you smell it? There's nothing as comforting as the fragrance of soup cooking to warm frozen noses and invite you to the kitchen. There's been a lot of chopping going on, you can be assured.

Hungarian Goulash (photo credit Elke Dennis, 2006)
Here's one version of a recipe for this ancient soup:

Hungarian Goulash
(This basic recipe is from Soup, editor Michael Fullalove, Covent Garden Books, American edition by DK Publishing, New York, New York, 2011, p. 308. I added the potatoes and carrots!)

Serves: 6-8                   prep time: 15 mins.
Cook time: 2 hours       freezes: up to3 months

Chopping block
Chopping knife
Heavy stew pot
Heavy skillet
Measuring cups & spoons

4 Tbsp. olive oil          1 ½ lbs. onions          3 large potatoes       3 medium carrots
2 cloves garlic             1 ½ lbs. chuck steak, cubed (lamb or pork may be used instead)
Salt and freshly ground pepper    2 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. caraway seeds                    1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
*(I like to add a teaspoon of cumin)
4 Tbsp. tomato puree                   1 qt. beef stock
Sour cream and parsley or chives to garnish

1. Coarsely chop two large sweet onions.
2. Heat three tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy stock pot or stew pot over medium heat.
3. Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring so as not to burn.
4. When the onions are browned, add potatoes that have been washed and chopped into chunks (with or without the skin removed), carrots that have been peeled and cut into chunks. Stir in with the onions to preserve color. [*note: if you plan to freeze this recipe, omit the potatoes and carrots and cook them separately, adding them to the frozen mixture when you reheat it. Potatoes do not freeze well.]
5. Add the garlic, stir for about two minutes and remove from the heat.
6. Put one tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet and heat on medium heat.
7. Add the cubed steak and brown it on all sides.
8. Season with salt and add to the onion, garlic mixture in the stockpot.
9. Add the rest of the spices and tomato puree.
10. Return the pot to the heat and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly.
11. Pour in the beef stock. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 1 ¾ hours.
12. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve in bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream sprinkled with a dash of either paprika or cayenne pepper for color. (A sprig of parsley or a few chopped chives may also be added for a garnish of color.)

Serve with hot crusty bread and savor the love...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Were you read to as a child?

Were you read to as I child? I was, early and regularly. My mother, my aunt (who taught me to read at five years old), my grandfather, teachers -- each contributed to my early love of being read to and reading. As this little poem expresses, there is no treasure to compare with having been read to as a child. Make sure you read to your children, not only silly, fun books (which have their place), but books that will ennoble them and stretch and mature them -- books that will give your young men a zeal for godly ventures and your young ladies hearts that long to please God in all their relationships and calling. Read to your children!

"I had a mother who read to me

Saga of pirates who scoured the sea,

Cutlassess clenched in their yellow teeth,

'Blackbirds' stowed in the hold beneath.

"I had a mother who read me lays

Of ancient and gallant and golden days;

Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,

Which evey boy has a right to know.

"I had a mother who read me tales

Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,

True to his trust till his tragic death,

Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

"I had a mother who read me the things

That wholesome life to the boy heart brings--

Stories that stir with an upward touch,

Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

"You may have tangible wealth untold;

Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

Richer than I you can never be--

I had a mother who read to me."

--Stickland Gillian