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...