Moving toward the Spirit, part 3

Third in a multi-part series See part 1 and part 2 to catch up.

Right after the high of the Youthciple experience, I really wasn’t sure what I was supposed to “do.” So, I just kept going to church. But certain things didn’t set well with me. First, I didn’t like how so many kids my age just started dropping out. It was hard to keep going to MYF when I knew so few people, and I wasn’t the most outgoing person to boot. They were all from different middle and high schools – I didn’t know them! And I didn’t like how so many things we were taught in Sunday School didn’t seem to play out in daily life.

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Simple pleasures: coffee

This week I’m away at CPAC, meeting up with old friends and making new ones. While I’m waiting to go to breakfast with a few new friends, I couldn’t help but think about this.

Coffee…ah, coffee. In my late teens and very early 20s it seemed that coffee was falling out of favor with my generation (this was the mid-to-late 80s.) After seeing that Juan Valdez and his donkey were just making the kids laugh, coffee marketers came up with a lame slogan for Gen X: the coffee generation. That fell on its face.

And lo, a star arose in the West: a young man named Howard Shultz determined to bring Italian cafe culture to America. Starbucks eliminated the fears that Gen X and all those after them would stop drinking coffee. I can still hear my dad – “$5 for a cup of coffee? I wish I’d come up with that idea.”

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Starting Seeds

I’m going to start turning my blog toward a hobby focus – fewer internal ramblings, more hobbies! Today: hoping my thumb can turn Pantone Light Moss Green.

Last fall I set out my first lettuce crop ever – a fall crop I planted in November (I think – I haven’t reached the stage where I actually keep a garden journal.) I harvested enough for two lovely salads in January – success!!! This year – boy, am I bold and adventurous. I’ve already planted two rows of Riverside Baby Leaf Spinach in the raised bed outside. In the interest of experimentation, I’m starting other Riverside Baby Leaf Spinach seeds indoors, in my new Park Seed Bio Dome. My own version of an adult science experiment.

First came setting up all the equipment. I unpacked my beautiful Sunblaster Nano-tech grow light, complete with reflector, so I could shine grow lights on my sweet plants. Then I discovered that the package just had the light. No stand. Super. Back to Park Seed to order the universal light stand. I might just become Park Seed’s new favorite customer.

All the goodies laid out – seeds, Bio Dome and Bio Dome starter. I got the 60-cell model; go big or go home.

After reading the instructions I realized I needed to soak the starter plugs in tepid water for 15 minutes.

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Moving toward the Spirit, part 2

this is the second part of a series. The image above: Noah’s Ark by Edward Hicks

Believing was so simple, so pure when I was a child. God said through the Psalmist he who had clean hands and a pure heart would ascend the hill of the Lord. And I wanted that.

“…Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:3

I think the first scattering doubts crept in when I read a child’s version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It had to be around fifth grade, maybe fourth. This volume was published by Disney! It had to be okay. Disney was practically patriotic in our house. Some of the only television we kids were allowed was Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Walt Disney.

There was a character in the epic named Ut-napishtim. In these stories from Mesopotamian mythology, he survived a great flood by building a ship to transport his family and some animals. Hmm….

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Moving toward the Spirit, part 1

This is the first of several parts.

I was a conscientious kid who loved going to church at Virginia Wingard Memorial United Methodist Church. My favorite parts were singing in the children’s choir and looking at the beautiful stained-glass windows when the sermons got boring. The windows depicted the life of Christ. As I remember there were seven or eight on each side. His birth in a stable was shown in the first one on the right, leading to his baptism by John in the next window, and so on down the right side and around to the left, culminating in his first resurrection appearance (or was it his ascension? I think that was it. I’m having trouble remembering) on the left closest to the front. Those stained-glass windows were an education in themselves, helping little kids who couldn’t pay attention to the sermon the basics of the faith in beautiful colored pictures that shone gloriously when the sun hit them just right.

I just looked all over the web for pictures of those beautiful windows and the best I can do is an image of someone’s wedding, when they aren’t even the focus. Besides, in 1990 the church redid the interior, changing the pew alignment, the choir arrangement and the color of the walls. Those windows will have to live on in my imagination. Because I can’t find a picture of that beautiful stained glass of my childhood, the header image is something just as glorious: the stained glass at Sainte-Chappelle in Paris. Be sure to click over to the site for the tour.

Learning to sing

Back in the early 70s kids’ choirs everywhere were singing “Do You Hear What I Hear” at Christmas. We did it for a big extravaganza presentation with the combined children’s and adult choirs. Our adult choir director and director of music, for many years, was Dr. Richard Conant, RIP, a wonderful singer, professor of voice at the University of South Carolina, and founding director of Carolina Alive.

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Learning to focus

How do you maximize the time you have to do the things you enjoy?

As part of this ‘work-at-home’ journey I’ve been on for the past nearly two years, I’ve had to learn more about focusing than ever before. As much as I enjoy my job (well, not all the meetings, that is) it is tempting to sometimes let my mind wander. And before I know it, 15 minutes has passed. And then I need to work later, longer hours to make up for it. And that eats into my “me” time – my time for my hobbies, the time for my stuff outside of work.

So today I’m going to share with you one of the tried-and-true methods I’ve found for making it easier to stick to the task at hand…

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Goals Set, Goals Missed, Goals Set Again

I’m only two weeks into restarting my blog and I’ve already missed my first goal: publish at least twice a week. I even have 16 different blog topics started in various drafts. And I set up thrice-weekly reminders on my phone to post. Yet still – offline for a week!

I’m going to treat this blog the way I’m treating my successful (so far) diet: a slip doesn’t mean it’s all over. I just get back up and get back to the goal.

To paraphrase fictional heroine Bridget Jones: if it is true that success is the progressive realization of a worthwhile dream, then that is the definition of a diet. I don’t have the energy to shoehorn that into a blogging metaphor as I’ve been up since before 5, but I like the quote.

(At 9 p.m. my eyelids are falling shut in spite of me. Yes, I need to re-arrange my writing schedule and write when I am fresh, in the morning. I’ll start that Wednesday.)

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to get the last of my “personal” topics out of the way – nine of my 16 remaining drafts are related to personal thoughts. And then, after that’s out of the way (in four and a half weeks if I stick to my twice-a-week schedule, less if I post more) then I’m going to turn this blog to what I really want to focus on: in-depth look at the hobbies that I’ve come to love over the pandemic, and two that’s been with me all my life. I’ll be focusing first on three areas: Books, Gardening, and Writing. I’ve been a bookworm all my life. Growing up, if I loved a book, you could usually tell because either a) the book covers were read to pieces, b) it had a tomato stain on a page from a pizza slice I munched as a read, or c) I read it so much I had it memorized and was quoting parts to you. (Ask my dad about how I recited parts of Erma Bombeck’s “At Wit’s End” from memory.) I’ve loved writing ever since third grade, when our teacher had us write short stories every week. Part of my career was working in journalism, and I’ve saved a few clips from along the way. And thanks to COVID, and the big backyard I have now, I’ve been doing more gardening than ever.

Come along with me for a look at my favorite books, what I’m planting in my gardens and my latest writing. (That’s after I finish emoting in those nine personal posts!) As I’ve learned from my latest diet – you need to bundle a reward with a chore to increase your chances of success. Once I can sustain my regular posting schedule for four weeks, I’m going to treat myself to a new logo for the blog.

Streaming church

Watch church from home?

If it weren’t for the COVID emergency, I’ve have never done such a thing as watch church over the computer. For the first 8-10 weeks of the “new normal” though it was the only option for going to my church, Church of the Apostles.

In the last month though, I have to admit laziness and the unusual cold weather has kept me home two Sundays out of the past four. And while at home I manufactured even better excuses to stay home. To wit: the first Sunday I stayed home due to “cold” was January 16. The Gospel of the day was John 2: 1-11, the story of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.

Dean Barr used an experience he had in the Louvre Museum to illustrate his homily. He said that after he had viewed the Mona Lisa, he turned around and was confronted with a 30-foot-wide masterpiece: the Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese.

The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese

Father Barr gave such beautiful descriptions of the magnificence of this work that I thought – I need to see this. I opened a new browser window and started searching. While he preached on the miracle, I was absorbed in the picture. It reminded me of my childhood, staring at the stained-glass windows of my home church during the sermon.