Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bloggy Goodness....

So, there are lots of great blogs about food out there. Great recipes, pictures of things so tasty-looking that I'd eat them through the computer screen if I could (oh, when, oh when will they invent "scratch and sniff" electronics??) But I wanted to list two that were more than just yummy recipes and tantalizing photos. There are a couple of food-based blogs that just make me laugh out loud, and I wanted to share those with my readers (both of you!)

1. Cake Wrecks.
As her tagline says "Where professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong." Her commentary is side-splittingly funny, and the cakes are, well, side-splittingly bad.

2. Not So Humble Pie.
She's a biological anthropologist who makes extraordinary desserts. Like fruit fly cookies. And periodic table cookies. And gel electrophoresis cookies. (Not to mention some delicious regular stuff too.)

So there you go. Spend some time poking around, laugh and smile and be amazed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Martha Stewart, maybe not so much

So this weekend I pulled out my trusty nippers and headed for the big juniper bush on our property. I obtained a number of fragrant branches, and then I snipped a few from our holly tree. I took these prized possessions and carefully affixed them to a styrofoam ring. Voila! Instant Christmas wreath! I even had enough to spruce up our Advent wreath too.


OK, so I don't have Martha Stewart's talent (or budget for supplies). But I think they look pretty darn good! Plus - they're 100% recyclable. Well, I got the styrofoam ring three years ago, and I'll continue to use it. So that counts too, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mr. Brown, I respectfully disagree.

This week on Good Eats (my new favorite Food Network show) Alton Brown discusses the perfect, quintessentially American Apple Pie. (You can see the 7 minute condensed version HERE.) Good Eats is a fun show, and I think Alton Brown is a great teacher and has lots of wisdom to share about all kinds of cooking-related tidbits. BUT... about his apple pie....

He makes several claims as to what might constitute a perfect apple pie and I found myself, for the first time, completely disagreeing with him. He's from Atlanta - he should know how an apple pie is made. But this recipe was the most fiddly, full of random ingredients, complicated, and strangest compilation I've ever seen.

OK, I must first admit - he's got the *perfect* pie crust recipe. Though I disagree that Applejack should be the moistening ingredient, his crust looks fantabulous. I only dream of making pie crusts that good! ::sigh::

So here, in no particular order, are my beefs (if you can have a beef with an apple pie?)

1) He thinks it's necessary to have four or five different kinds of apples. I think two are quite sufficient - a tart version and a sturdy crisp and sweet version. And using a golden or red delicious apple just adds an apple's worth of mush at the end. They're really too mealy for a pie.

2) He drains the apples. Why waste all that lovely juice (only to add liquid to the apples later in the form of lime juice and ::gag:: apple jelly!) His concern is that it will make the crust mushy. But if you proportion the sugar and cornstarch properly, the juice will jell perfectly before it leaks all over the place!

3) He eschews cinnamon, saying it overpowers the apples. Well any spice, if you use too much, will overpower a dish. I use a teaspoon of cinnamon, and I've never masked the flavor of the apples. Instead he favors something called "Grains of Paradise". What the heck? I've never even heard of such a thing! If you're going to make a quintessential American pie, then be considerate and use common spices found in everyone's kitchen!

4) He recommends tapioca flour instead of cornstarch or all purpose flour as the thickening agent. Again - pick ingredients that everyone has! I've never even seen tapioca flour for sale here in north Alabama.

5) He strongly recommends using a pie bird. Huh? What the HECK is a pie bird, you ask? Yeah - it's THAT. I have all sorts of issues with this. He thinks a lattice or slits in the crust might allow the juices to spill over. Well, I think sticking a silly piece of ceramic into my pie is tacky and makes the pie harder to cut. So there. And I've slitted my crusts for years - no burned bits on the oven floor yet! Alton Brown purports to be a big "kitchen gadget multitasker" (all kitchen gadgets should serve more than one function) but he recommends this esoteric doo-hickey? Give me a break. Take a knife, cut a series of slits in a lovely star shape at the top of the pie, and you're set!

6) Finally, he recommends using a tart pan with a removable bottom instead of the traditional pie plate. Says it makes the pie easier to cut and remove because you take the pie out of the pan. Hmph. So how do you store the pie after you've pulled it out? Might not the crust sag over a day or two and fall apart without the plate to keep it's shape? And if you lightly grease the plate, the crust won't stick anyway.

So that's my apple pie rant. I still recommend Good Eats, and I still deeply respect Alton Brown for all the joy he obviously puts into his show - you can tell he loves to cook and he knows a tremendous amount about it, and he's also amazingly good at sharing that knowledge with us amateurs. So despite my disagreement with his apple pie, I have dozens of other recipes, facts, tips, and tricks that I tucked into my cookbook after watching his show. Bon appetit, Mr. Brown - keep cooking!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Thanks...

It's been a while since I've posted anything - nothing new to report, I suppose. But I did want to take a moment and reflect on the Thanksgiving holidays, and to give thanks.

1) I give thanks to God every day for the philosopher in my life. He keeps me on my toes mentally, challenges me to be honest in the way I think about life, and keeps me warm. I don't know what I did to deserve him, but I am blessed every day to be his wife.

2) I give thanks for family - we spent Thanksgiving day at a family reunion (on the philosopher's side) and got to catch up with lots of folks we hadn't seen in years. A good time (and a full tummy) was had by all!

3) My dad and I watched the Alabama/Auburn game together on Friday, and the FSU/FL game on Saturday. The final scores were a mixed bag, but I give thanks that I live close enough to spend fall Saturdays watching football with my dad.

4) Sunday we went to church - I give thanks that we live in a country that allows freedom of religion! We also had lunch with my mom and grandmom Sunday afternoon - I'm thankful to be close enough to be able to see them on a regular basis, too.

5) And finally I'm deeply thankful for far-away friends - my life would be considerably more boring without y'all!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Free Speech?

I'd like to call your attention to two interesting articles posted at American Thinker today. AT is a conservative website, but I think the two articles should be of interest to anyone, especially those who value free speech in our society.

The first is about Tea Parties. It's called Tea Parties: Misunderstood and Vastly Underrated. The philosopher and I went to the Atlanta rally on November 9 - the first protest rally for both of us. We didn't go because of any social justice issues, but because we're worried about big government, higher taxes, and no longer being represented in Congress. We met a lot of really nice folks: grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads (and their kids), college students and teachers, veterans, folks who work for a living and folks who *want* to work for a living. Basically just your ordinary, everyday Americans. We sang some patriotic songs, we listened to speakers encouraging us to pay attention to what was happening and to make wise, thoughtful decisions when we go to the polls. We're just decent people who are not happy. And we're exercising our free speech right to protest in a calm, peaceful, respectful way. But the way we're represented in the media is appalling. We're called "extremists" and distasteful names. If the progressive folks can gather and protest policies, why can't we?

OK, the second article is called Academic Freedom for Thee But Not for Me. It details a problem that gets press over and over - liberal or progressive speakers on campuses are able to exercise their rights to free speech when invited, but conservative speakers are shut down or shut out.

Regardless of whether you "lean left" or "lean right" - don't you see s disparity here? The right to free speech - peaceful free speech - is a right EVERYONE has, not just those to the left of the political spectrum. Michael Douglas had a great line in the movie The American President:
"America is advanced citizenship... You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing at center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."
You have to be able to hear *both sides* of any argument - to shut down one side of the debate is to go down a terrible road. It's a frightening thought, and I hope and pray that reason and rationality return to this country. We're a diverse nation, but we should always be able to have discussion and free speech about the issues we care about.

And today, I've exercised mine!

Monday, November 9, 2009

What in the Blue Blazes??

OK, sorry. It's Monday. ::grin:: Blazes are used on hiking trails to mark the path - usually paint on trees and rocks. Our favorite trail - the Pinhoti - is marked with blue blazes for most of its course, though it does use metal "turkey foot" badges sometimes too. ("Pinhoti" is an Indian word meaning "turkey home", thus it's not so completely random as it seems at first glance!)

This weekend we hiked from the Cheaha trailhead south to McDill Point, and back. It's a trip of about 5 miles, and absolutely gorgeous. The trees had almost completely lost their leaves, so it gave us some beautiful vistas of the valleys.



The first is from McDill Point, at about 2100 feet. We're looking back towards Mount Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama. The second is just below the summit of Hernandez Peak, which is 60 feet shy of Mount Cheaha. The final one is at the top of Hernandez Peak.

It was a fabulous day, with highs in the upper 60s. The trail was much busier than we'd ever seen, but I think it was for two reasons: 1) it's deer season, and you can't hunt in state parks so it's safer to be there, and 2) well, heck - it was an absolutely glorious day for a hike!

We discovered the new plaque that commemorates the Pinhoti officially being connected to the Appalachian Trail (and I actually posed for a photo - scary!)


The rock formations at the top of the mountains were astounding. There were boulders stacked on boulders, looking like toy blocks for giants or - maybe - bones of ancient beasts.


We've also decided that we're going to build up our hiking muscles this winter (you can do that in Alabama!) and next spring we're finally going to tackle the Walls of Jericho. Really. This time I mean it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Batman Lunchbox

We've been attending Sunday School at a local church recently. We've been studying the parables, but this past week we veered off a bit to talk about John 6 (Jesus feeding the 5000). The teacher - let's call him Bob - told the story in a very different way, with a different emphasis than I've ever heard before. I wanted to share his lesson with you (both of you!), and here's my plan - I'm going to tell it as close to the way he told it as possible, using his turns of phrase. (I'm convinced he was a teacher in another life!) So here it is....

OK, so we're going to talk about John 6. And as I always do, I ask my favorite question: "Yeah... so what?" So why this this story important? What does it teach us? Well, let's look at it. We've got Jesus, and he's testing the disciples, namely Phillip and Andrew. He goes to Phillip - who's from around here and knows the good places to get a quick bite to eat - and asks him how they can feed all these people. Phillip knows the local Kmart closed down, and he also knows it's a heck of a hike to the nearest big town where they can get some cheap Big Macs. And even if they can catch a donkey and a wagon, they don't have enough. Say a Big Mac costs a denari. Then they could buy 200, and maybe cut them in half, or even in quarters. But that's still only 800! So Phillip says, "No way, man. It can't be done!" So, does Phillip pass the test? I'd say no - he gets a big goose egg!

Andrew was standing nearby, and heard Jesus' question. He's been hanging out with the crowd, chatting with people and talking about Jesus. And you gotta remember - to this crowd Jesus is a Big Deal. He's like a rock star! Everybody wants to hear what he's got to say! Anyway, Andrew has been milling around, and he saw Jakob's son. Now this kid *really* wanted to hear Jesus. So he begged, and his Dad finally gave him permission. But he also encouraged the boy to pack a lunch. "Son, it's going to be a long, hot day. Make sure you take something to eat!" So the kid grabs a few biscuits and some small bits of dried fish, puts them in his Batman lunchbox, and rushes out the door. So Andrew saw that this kid had a lunchbox. It's not much, that's for sure. But it's more than anyone else has. And maybe, somewhere in the back of his mind, he's remembering the events at Cana. So he points out the kid to Jesus, and says "that boy has some food, but it's not enough to feed everyone!" Now, does Andrew pass the test? Well, maybe not with flying colors, since he's still doubtful it will make a difference, but yeah - give him a C for effort.

Now, here's the last person Jesus tests - Jakob's son! What would you do if you were a kid in a sea of adults, and you see two of the guys that hang out with Jesus start pointing at you and walking your way? What would you do if they ask you to bring your lunchbox and come with them? I know what I would do - I'd turn and run the other way. No way you're getting MY lunch. But instead, Jakob's son gives up his lunchbox to Jesus... and look what happens! Can you imagine the amazement, the wonder, as the baskets gets passed around? Instead of being greedy with his five loaves, this boy gives them to Jesus and takes part in one of the greatest miracles of all time. Imagine the tales he had to share with his dad when he got home. Yeah, I'd say he passes Jesus's test with flying colors!

Yeah... so what?

So we've got Jesus demonstrating his power. And we've got the faith and trust of a child. And maybe what we should take away from that is don't be afraid to dream big. If Jesus calls, give what you've got, even if it's not much. And sit back and watch what Jesus can do with that gift!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Technology To Rival Kindle!

Check it out!

The Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device!

Man, I gotta get me one of these!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A.I.N.O. ?

Anglican in Name Only?

So, Pope Benedict has offered a free trip across the Tiber to Anglicans. It's an astounding thing. But as I've said before, I'm Anglican, not Catholic. (Boy, I sound like a broken record, don't I?)

An Anglican scholar, Roberta Bayer (who serves on the Prayer Book Society) has written a very straightforward response to the proceedings. She makes several good points. The first and foremost (to me) is her statement "To move to Rome with this ordinariate may be to remain Anglican in name only." To a layperson, Anglican and Catholic worship may seem quite similar. To this Anglican, they are very, very different. And while I may not agree with much going on in the Anglican Communion these days, to move to Rome would be to abandon the spiritual practices I hold dear.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Signage, or a sign of the end of the world?

Well, this may be a first. No, I take that back. It IS a first. The philosopher and I may actually be planning to attend a protest rally. (I'll wait until you reclaim your jaw from the floor...) It's not official yet, but it's probable. Atlanta, November 9. The Tea Party Express II.

Now, I know my readers (all three of you) may not agree with my politics, or my preference in cats over dogs, or my decision to wear fluffy pink socks on the weekends. But setting that aside ::grin:: wouldn't you agree that it's our right as American citizens to be able to stand up peaceably and say "I PROTEST"?

Well, I protest. I protest the Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are heck-bent on increasing our taxes. I protest the Republicans and Democrats in Congress who have forgotten that THEY work for US, not the other way around. And I protest the Republicans and Democrats in Congress who have forgotten that we have a Constitution, and that it actually means something.

So, if I attend this protest next month, will I carry a sign? Perhaps. If I do, it will say either "Spread my work ethic, not my wealth!" or simply "We the People". And I will no longer ignore my duty as a citizen to be informed and make wise decisions when I step into the voting booth. Because America is a precious thing, and we who live here are blessed to be part of it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Literary Oddities

For all my bibliophile friends out there, you probably know about ABE Books, an excellent source for used and out-of-print tomes. Their slogan is "A Passion for Books" and I thoroughly approve of their mission to sell those many dusty volumes to people who can give them loving homes.

Anyway, they have recently instituted a special room of books (if you can follow my imagination as I consider their website to be an old Victorian house converted to a used bookstore) most likely tucked away in their dusty attic. But isn't that where you always find the best stuff, when you're perusing through a used bookstore or a "junque-store" or a funky antique mall? If there's an upstairs, THAT'S where you go to find the oddities!

Anyway, their attic room is called the Weird Book Room, and it most definitely full of, well, weird books. Books you would find in an attic, in other words! Indeed, when you peruse some of the off-beat titles, you wonder How On Earth someone ever A) came up with that idea, and B) sold that idea to a publisher! You've got titles like Toilet Paper Origami, 50 Sad Chairs, The Great Pantyhose Craft Book, and my personal favorite The Pop-Up Book of Phobias. So hie thee hence, check out their attic room, and ponder the absurdities that our presses have conjured up.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Salubrious Perambulation

Healthy Walking.

Yup, that's what we did on Sunday. We went for a five-mile hike on the Pinhoti Trail, this time from the Cheaha Trailhead to the Blue Mountain shelter (PT mile 79.1 to 81.2 and back). The Cheaha Trailhead is absolutely astounding...

Most trailheads are gravelly parking areas with a slightly wider spot at the start of the trail, and maybe a covered map-and-announcement board. This one... a beautiful stone and iron construction, with imprints of local flora and fauna in the rock, as well as numerous hiking boot and turkey footprints. If I remember correctly, it was a project done by several local groups in honor of Alabama's many hiking opportunities. This trailhead actually connects to a number of trails: the Pinhoti, Cave Creek Trail, Odum Scout Trail, and Nubbin Creek Trail. We've been on parts of each, but have not yet explored their myriad creeks and waterfalls, ridges and valleys.

We traversed the main ridge of Horseblock Mountain, and skirted just below the summit of Mount Cheaha which at 2400 feet is the highest point in Alabama. (Can you say "thigh-burner"? I knew you could!) Cheaha State Park is nestled inside the Talladega National Forest, and the Pinhoti Trail follows a wandering north-south path through both areas.

This is a view from one of the ridges about a mile or so north of the trailhead, looking roughly east. It being October and all, the leaves are just starting to change. We've had such a rainy fall that I hope we have some beautiful foliage in the coming weeks. We haven't seen any color in our neck of the woods, but at this elevation the oranges and reds are starting to peep through the green.

The philosopher is looking very... philosophical... as he catches his breath. We'd just ascended an unpleasantly steep part of the trail, leaning heavily on our hiking poles! You can see it drop off dramatically in the background - it looks like the ground just swallowed it up.

All in all, it was an excellent afternoon. We were able to escape and clear our heads, and get some great exercise to boot. Yay, God, for beautiful places and natural wonders!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

On Friendship

I have a dear friend (let's call her "J") who lives far away... we only see each other rarely, and that is a Sad Thing. But fortunately, the wonders of modern technology allow us to keep in touch through email and chat software (and yes, Facebook too). We were chatting one afternoon about friendship. How on earth did we become friends in the first place? I love college football... she, not so much. She's a scientist. I'm an English major-librarian. And the list goes on. We became friends because of the Farm - the philosopher and I bought a share in a community-supported-agriculture farm and we split the share with J. So every weekend we'd go to the farm to pick the produce of the week, and we talked. She and I would talk about things light and deep, and she and the philosopher would talk about... well... philosophy and education and the nature of Man. (And I gotta say I admire her because who else do I know that is a brilliant scientist and likes to read Augustine??) So not only are she and I good friends, she is also friends with my husband - and that makes it doubly wonderful!

She recently moved to a new city, and we are both (still) struggling with the notion of making "local friends." We're both introverted, which only makes the process that much more daunting. How do you develop friendships? How do you connect with those with whom you have a common interest? Being a librarian, I decided to do some research. (Heh.) Here are some thoughts I've gleaned...

C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, says: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one!" He goes on: "The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends... There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice."

Aristotle (my philosopher's favorite philosopher - he will be so proud!) says this in the Nichomachean Ethics of "Perfect Friendship": "That such friendships are rare is natural, because men of this kind are few. And in addition they need time and intimacy; for as the saying goes, you cannot get to know each other until you have eaten the proverbial quantity of salt together. Nor can one man accept another, or the two become friends, until each has proved to the other that he is worthy of love, and so won his trust. Those who are quick to make friendly advances to each other have the desire to be friends, but they are not unless they are worthy of love and know it. The wish for friendship develops rapidly, but friendship does not."

Ah, that last is the key, I think, for me. "The wish for friendship develops rapidly, but the friendship does not." Just because you seek friendship, doesn't mean it will happen overnight. You can't "force" a friendship. As I said to J during our conversation: "Friendship is an art, not a science." There's not a magic formula you can follow, like the book title says, to "win friends and influence people". There's a lot of commentary out there about what friendship is, but not a lot about how to develop friendships. And that's because it is by its nature different for every person.

This is why the G.S.E. has been so important. We, the philosopher and I, need to find a church where we can meet people and get to know them. (That's why small groups are near the top of the list of things we hope to find.) You can't walk into a room and think "I'll be friends with that person over there" and then go over and introduce yourself. You meet people, you talk, you get to know each other, and finally you find that person and say, like C.S. Lewis, "I thought I was the only one!"

So for you, my far-away friends, I give thanks to God every day. Your friendship continues to sustain me as the philosopher and I seek the path God has planned for us. So I offer up two prayers from the Book of Common Prayer:

One for guidance
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And one for our far-away friends
O God, whose fatherly care reacheth to the uttermost parts of the earth: We humbly beseech thee graciously to behold and bless those whom we love, now absent from us. Defend them from all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both they and we, drawing nearer to thee, may be bound together by thy love in the communion of thy Holy Spirit, and in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The G.S.E.: Church E

This past Sunday we visited friends in another state. One of our friends (*not* an Anglican!) suggested we go to the local Anglican church on Sunday morning before meeting up with the rest of the crowd for lunch. We hadn't been to an Anglican eucharist in quite a while, so we jumped at the chance. The congregation apparently bought an old Presbyterian church some time ago, so unlike many Anglican groups, this one had its own facilities. The priest and assistant priest greeted us at the door, as well as a couple of ushers.

We walked in and found our seats. The pianist was playing a beautiful prelude and... there were KNEELERS! The processional began and the choir came in, following the cross. The service was Rite I from the '79 prayer book. We sang the traditional Gloria, and I almost wept, because it has been years since I had the opportunity to sing that. The cantor did a glorious job with the psalm. The sermon was actually about sin and hell. (You don't get that very often from an Anglican pulpit!) And Origen was even mentioned!! After the recessional, the pianist played an amazing rendition of "A Mighty Fortress". I refused to leave until he'd finished, so we stood near the back for a bit.

That was a mistake, because apparently several folks in the congregation had spotted us as visitors, and came to say hello. What was the first thing many said? "Y'all are Anglican, aren't you?" "Well, yes, we are." "OOOhhh! Are you new to the area?" "No, we're from out of town. and just visiting our friend." ::disappointed look:: "Well, we are SO glad you came today!" If we lived in our friend's town, we would not be on this Great Sociological Experiment, because we would have found our new church this past Sunday. ::sigh::

I have to keep telling myself that God has us where we are for a reason. Otherwise I would just weep.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Duck and cover - it's raining liberals and conservatives!

All right. I'm about to post something inordinately controversial. Not because I'm trying to stir up a hornet's nest, but because I'm honestly trying to understand something about America. With that caveat, please don't harangue me in the comments! ::grin::

Everyone will agree that there are "liberals" and "conservatives" out there. And that often they are completely in opposition to one another on a whole host of issues. So what I'm endeavoring to do is come up with some broad definitions of various types of liberals and conservatives. It won't be comprehensive, but hopefully it will help me see the differences - and similarities - that the differing ideologies hold. I've tried to be fair, as well. Regardless of my own position, I want to be respectful of what others believe even though I may disagree. I added a few citations, but I also referred to Wikipedia a lot for individual designations and to clarify/condense particular positions. So here it goes:

TYPES of CONSERVATIVES

Fiscal Conservative: Advocates a reduction in overall government spending, deficit and national debt reduction, and balancing the federal budget. Free trade, deregulation of the economy, and lower taxes are also key points.

Neoconservative: Focuses on a robust national security, an aggressive foreign policy, stimulating economic growth by lowering taxes, and finding alternative ways to deliver public welfare services.

Paleoconservative: Concerned with preserving the American culture. Also emphasizes a connection with the past, and tend to be family-oriented, religious-minded and opposed to the vulgarity permeating modern culture.

Social Conservative: Adheres strictly to a moral ideology based on family-values and religious traditions. US social conservatives are mostly right-wing and hold firmly to a pro-life, pro-family and pro-religion agenda.

Crunchy Conservative: Tends to focus more on family-oriented, culturally conservative concepts such as being good stewards of the natural world and avoiding materialism in everyday life. Often as mistrustful of big business as they are of big government.

Citations
1. U. S. Conservatives (from About.com)
2. Mark Levin, Liberty and Tyranny


TYPES of LIBERALS

Socio-economic Liberal: Does not believe in the fairness of market outcomes and sees a legitimate government role in promoting efficiency and more equitable wealth distribution. Not concerned about civil issues over much, but are quite interested in government regulation of the economy.

Statist Liberal: Believes in a strong centralized government, which includes a major role in the direction of the economy, both directly through state-owned enterprises and indirectly through the state-directed economic planning of the overall economy. Also sees the Constitution as an evolving contract, and sees the need of government to modulate 'mob rule'.

Minority Rights Liberal: Focuses on the civil issues, ranging from implementing a safety net for the needy to the extreme of a totally managed economy. Seek to assist the poor/minorities through taxation policy, government welfare policies, nationalization of portions of the American economy, and strong government regulations.

Environmentalist Liberal: Focuses on environmental conservation and improvement of the state of the environment. Also seeks to influence the political process by lobbying, activism, and education in order to protect natural resources and ecosystems.

Civil Libertarian Liberal: Believe in the supremacy of individual rights. Believe that the government should not pass laws that restrict, oppress, or selectively fail to protect people in their day-to-day lives, whether the issue is pornography, gay marriage, drug legalization, or prostitution.

Anti-Authoritarian Liberal: Concerned with the moral legitimacy of governance and seek democratic reforms to government and corporations. They applaud appeasement, reparations, and apologies for past injustices. Often they hold the philosophical idea that people are not bound to any non-human authority.

Citations
1. Liberalism and Conservatism
2. Democratic Underground
3. Progressive Policy Institute

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Best Comment EVER!

"I really wish these people like [Nancy Pelosi] would make up their minds! First, those who opposed socialized healthcare and Death Panels were Nazis, so I had to buy an armband. Then we were angry members of a mob, so I had to go make a sign. Then we were tools of sinister insurance corporations, so I spent all of one day looking for where I could pick up my tool paycheck. Then after that we were mindless, toothless, uneducated rubes controlled by Rush and Beck, and now we are assassins, so I gotta go take off my seedcorn cap and overalls and see if my Black Ops uniform still fits. Sheesh!"

From here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Defending Myself

I really shouldn't have to do this. But with all the newsprint (and internet bandwidth) given over to the "Health Care Debate," I feel I should say something in my defense. "What!" you say? Well, it's obvious.... haven't you heard? Chronic illness is preventable. It's all chalked up to lifestyle choices. And I have three chronic illnesses, so I must be responsible - through my terrible choices - to the high cost of medical care and insurance. (/sarcasm)

It's true. I have three chronic illnesses. But none were related to "lifestyle choices." I don't drink. I don't smoke. I eat healthily and I exercise regularly. But if you read nearly any article about the health debate written recently, there's little differentiation between folks like me, and folks who really have lived a life of debauchery and decadent living (or at least didn't do a good job maintaining a healthy lifestyle.) I did a quick Google search, and found several prime examples.

“Unfortunately, largely avoidable chronic illness- things like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease- are a national epidemic. They account for 75 cents of every health care dollar spent. And they're driving up the cost of health care and insurance.” (Blue Cross, Blue Shield, North Dakota)

“These recession-related repercussions could not come at a worse time in the state’s battle against rising health care costs and preventable chronic disease,” said Valerie Fleishman, executive director of NEHI. “Through unhealthy behaviors, people are becoming unnecessarily ill at a time when we can least afford it.” (New England Healthcare Institute)

"Lifestyle choices contribute to chronic illness -- and ultimately higher health insurance costs,"…

“Today chronic illness accounts for two-thirds of a company's health care expenditure, yet 80 percent of all chronic disease is the result of three preventable health behaviors -- physical inactivity, poor nutrition and overeating, and smoking.” (Even During Financial Crisis, Investing in Wellness is Good Business Oct. 21, 2008)

“As a medical student and briefly as an intern physician, I've seen many patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. … What's more amazing is how these three conditions are fairly preventable with diet, exercise, and weight control.” (Dr. Anthony Lee, Jan 12, 2008 )

“Less than 1% of chronic illness is truly genetic in nature. Essentially, this means that chronic illness is preventable.” (How our lifestyle choices are causing us to sink into chronic illness, Colleen Trombley)

"On May 12, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on health care reform. …They gave the reasons that experts -- on right or left -- always give for supporting this idea [ending the tax exemption on employer-provided health benefits]. …It drives up health care costs by encouraging luxurious plans and by separating people from the consequences of their decisions." Brooks, David. "Something for nothing.(Editorial)." The New York Times 158.54715 (June 23, 2009)

“Most chronic illness is preventable through simple behavior changes, like avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol -- and engaging in healthy behaviors such as regular exercise, more sleep and a balanced diet.” If You Ask Me (column) by Don Riegle | Flint Journal Sunday March 22, 2009

“A core truth about chronic conditions is that most are preventable.” Preventing Chronic Illness Health Affairs, 28, no. 1 (2009): 36


Granted, I didn't vet these comments carefully. But I do quote a doctor, the New York Times, Health Affairs, and an insurance website, among others. It's not a kooky idea dreamed up in someone's basement. It's being said over and over and over again. Another thing these articles rarely do is make that distinction between preventable illness and those that are not. Or if they do make a distinction, it's something like "Less than 1% of chronic illness is genetic." (Which doesn't mean that the other 99% IS preventable, but I'm not going to argue that point here.)


Anyway, to you, my two faithful readers, I beg you... When someone tells you that chronic illnesses are preventable, rise to the defense of those of us who had no control over our diseases. We may share in the blame of higher costs, but it is not due to negligence on our part. And for me, that's a big distinction.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Laborious Labor Day

(Unfortunately, without pictures)

The Philosopher and I had a very successful Labor Day weekend, replete with many labors! He re-wired our front porch light and added a second light on the front edge of the house. Now if you visit us after dark you can see the porch from the driveway! It was a 2-Lowes effort, so not too bad at all. He's getting very good at figuring out knotty electrical wiring solutions without either electrocuting himself or setting something on fire. Yay!

I had a different project: a new flower bed. Rather, an herb bed. Inside the pool fence. About 18 inches wide and spanning about half the length of the fence. I plan to fill it with rosemary and lavender (and maybe some chocolate mint) which will make that area smell fantabulous! Our pool area is covered with about three inches of pea gravel, so first I had to rake all that aside and redistribute it to low-lying areas. (Pea gravel is heavy, even with a wheelbarrow!) Then I had to peel the weed barrier back (slimy!) Finally I had to bring all the large stones from the front so I could line the edge of the bed with them. (And if you didn't know, large stones are even heavier than pea gravel!)

It took me about 6 hours, but the work is done. Well, we still have to get 1/2 a cubic yard of soil/leaf grow to fill the bed. (Drat this Alabama red clay!) And some mulch. But...I've got the rosemary cuttings in pots, so they'll establish a good root system in a month or so. And the lavender is layered in the front bed, so theoretically the shoots will set their roots before it gets too cold to transplant. But I have some guilt here... what on earth do you do with the extra plants you propagate? I only need about 4 of each, but you want to root more in case any don't take. I hate to just toss them in the compost...hmmm. If you need some lavender or rosemary, I may have some extras. ::grin::

Anyway, by early summer next year, we should have a fragrant bed filling the evenings with sweet and savory smells. Ahhhhhhh.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The G.S.E.: a reprisal and a musing

So last Sunday we re-visited Church B, the PCA church. This time we stayed a bit after the service, talked to the pastor briefly and actually filled out a visitor's card. While we were chatting with the pastor, *she* came walking up. Crazy church-lady. You know who I'm talking about. That one person in every church who has a radar for visitors, and swoops upon them cackling madly. She usually has that air of dottiness, arms full of papers and choir robes, filled with tons of helpful and completely useless information which she doles out at random, and with auctioneer speed. She's tenacious, convinced that she has Just The Place for you to fit in (and Just The Thing to tell you about which you *should* be deeply interested).

"Hi!! Are you visitors? Oh, we are SO HAPPY you are here! Tell me your names!"
"Hello. I'm Bob* and this is my wife Sue*."
"I'm GEORGETTE*! You look like really smart kids. What do you do?"
"I'm a librarian, and he teaches at the Local University."
"OOOH. What do you TEACH?"
"Philosophy" (Surprisingly, this doesn't phase her one bit.)
"Ah-Ha! Well, I'm like a honey bee, I know where all the good things are, and I hop around from place to place. If you want to talk about philosophy, you should meet Ben*. And YOU should know that we have a library AND a bookstore here. Have you seen them?"
"Um, no."
(We start looking for a way to escape, but folks seem to have disappeared into the woodwork. Unsurprisingly, it appears that everyone is avoiding this little area of the foyer now. That's when we KNEW we'd met the Crazy Church-lady.)
"If you're a teacher, you would be interested in my project about the Bible in sign language so everyone in the world can read it regardless of whether you can read!"
(She rambles on about this for several minutes, both of us looking a bit dazed and bewildered, casting sideways glances at one another asking mentally "did YOU say anything about sign language??!?)
The philospher tries to be polite, and says "I'm sure it will be successful... I think it's time..."
She cuts him off. "Do you have a pen? Write this website down. Go to it when you get home and tell me what you think!" (He dutifully writes down a long, complicated email address on a scrap of paper she handed him.)
"You know, all teachers are honey bees, don't you? So I bet you're a honey bee too, likes a little bit of everything?"
(At this point I'm actively looking for a way to run for the door, and laughing hysterically at the philosopher being compared to a honey bee. ::snort::)
She looks at me.. "I see your eyes glazing over!" (I smile.) She rambles on for another five minutes or so anyway, and we finally escape, only barely.

(*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

Now, I know there's not much anyone can do about folks like this. And we certainly won't hold it against this particular congregation, because there's one in EVERY church anyway. But as visitors, how do you escape without hurting feelings of complete strangers who are just trying to be friendly in the only way they know how (but are usually only succeeding in scaring the visitors half to death or offending them in some way)? We're not angry or upset, just amused. Honey bee. Wahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Phone Book Church-anomics

(Or how to define criteria to help you choose a church, which is more helpful than looking at phone book ads.)

I really wish I could remember how the conversation got started. Old dead philosophers were involved, and complex philosophical and theological terms too. (Oddly enough, we were driving down to see the philosopher's sister when this came up. Most of these types of deep conversations occur when we're hiking, so that in and of itself is unusual.) I think maybe Augustine was involved (he usually is) and perhaps some Macintyre too. But don't hold me to that.

Anyway, what stuck with me after the conversation what what we were talking about towards the end - what aspects of a church are "necessary" to us, and what aspects are merely "important"? In other words, if you had to choose from among less-than-ideal churches, how do you organize the criteria?

What showed up on my lists? (I'm a librarian, of COURSE I make lists!) I'll list what I can remember. There was much more, I know. But it's nearly the weekend after a very long week, and my brain is mushy to the point of running out my ears. So I'll hit the high points and make weak promises to post more at some vague future time!

In the 'Necessary' Column

Preaching Christ Crucified
Trinitarian
Protestant
Biblically sound

In the 'Important' Column
Follows the church year
Good music (more traditional than contemporary)
Liturgically based
Vibrant small groups & Sunday school

I feel like I at least have some of my priorities in the right order; that the preaching and teaching is more important than the music, for example. But I also realized that there are some "extraneous" things that really are important to me, and fall closer to the "necessary" category than perhaps they should. So it's been a good exercise, and I'm sure it will come up again in our musings together.

The philosopher's lists were decidedly more.... philosophical. And theological. And granular. Which is why I won't try to reproduce them here. But if we end up on the Pinhoti one of these days and this topic comes up again, I plan to pull out my steno pad and take some notes!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The G.S.E.: Church D

The Great Sociological Experiment churns onward! The philosopher and I crossed the Tiber last Sunday and visited a local Catholic church. Now, I must preface this with a qualifier: We Are Not Catholic. We don't want to *be* Catholic. We both believe that one must agree with a church's teachngs on all the first order issues. And we have some disagreements with the Catholic Church. At our core, we are Protestant. Conservatively Protestant, even. Heck, we are ANGLICAN! But we also know that, if we can't go to an Anglican church locally, then we need to find another place to worship with a body of believers. (And you've read all this before, because I've said it more than once. Sorry for the repetition!)

Anyway, the closest thing to Anglican liturgy is Catholic liturgy. So off we went. This is the "parish church" of the county, so the sanctuary was completely full. Which was good, because there were no bulletins and no way to really follow the service. So we relied on watching the folks next to us to do the whole sit-stand-kneel thing. The music was uninspired, and we did get a couple of the bad 60s Catholic folk hymns. I don't claim they're any worse than some of the vapid modern praise choruses, but I also don't claim they're any better either. There also wasn't much in the way of Sunday school or small group offerings.

Another interesting observation: there also wasn't much in the way of welcoming visitors. We were far-to-overwhelmed with welcome at Church A, what with special visitor parking and golf cart transportation. Church C had the deacons point out the visitors to the pastor during the "passing of the peace" and the pastor came to say hello. And the other churches we visited had greeters at the door and encouraged us to fill out a visitor card (both so they could know we visited and so we could get more information if we wanted it). Here? Neither. So to me that was a bit odd too. Of course, none of this is a deal breaker. Not being able to take communion unless you're a Catholic, that's a bit more prickly. I'm not an advocate of open communion - I believe you need to profess Christ before taking of His body and blood. But I also have issue with the Catholics not accepting most other forms of Christianity.

The Anglican Catholic Church, our former church in Virginia, is in an interesting position in regard to the Catholic Church along those lines. There's a Catholic canon law that allows communion for non-Catholics of certain other churches with the permission of the Bishop. And the ACC is potentially one of them. Since we're still a member of the ACC (we never transferred our membership) we could conceivably ask for special dispensation to receive communion.

So our Experiment continues. We may go back to Church B this weekend, unless the philosopher has something else in mind. He was saying something about finding a Greek Orthodox congregation, but I'm hoping he was just kidding. ::weak grin::

As an aside, we had a nice long talk about what is "important" or "necessary" or just "nice to have" in a church home. If I can remember all the philosophical terms he used, that might just become another post.

Pinhoti Trail Hike

Yes, we are crazy. Yes it is August, and we live in the deep south. And yes, we went on a 6-mile hike last weekend. We hiked the Pinhoti Trail from the trailhead at the Chief Ladiga Bike Trail and went south to the Oakey Mountain shelter, then back again. It was a surprisingly comfortable hike, as our neck o' the woods was experiencing an unusually cool and not-so-humid day.


There's a beautiful spot just before the Pinhoti leaves the bike trail called the Terrapin Creek Watershed. (And I must apologize for the poor quality of the photos - we forgot the Canon and had to rely on the cell phone. And we don't have one of those fancy high-tech versions!)


From the valley we hiked up, along the boundary of the Talladega National Forest, to a new shelter on OakeyMountain, built by the Pinhoti Trail Alliance.

To get to the shelter you hike along the ridge of the mountain for quite a ways. It's summer, and the trees are in full leaf, but we were still able to get one good pic from our eyrie across the valley below.


We've failed miserably in our quest to get a lot of hiking in this summer. Or perhaps we simply underestimated the allure of air conditioning in 95 degree weather with 70% humidity. Regardless, as the weather starts to cool next month, we have grand plans. ::heh:: And you'll be the first to hear about them!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Anamnesis

I learned a new word today! Anamnesis (The philosopher would be so proud... well, he would if he actually read my blog. He's of the firm opinion that if I want him to know something, I should tell him face to face. He doesn't believe me when I say I'm much more eloquent on paper!)

Anyway, new word. I especially like the "Encyclopedia" entry in the link above.

So we did have a busy weekend, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. Friday we went to the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta and laughed for a solid 2 1/2 hours at "The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged." We met up with some fellow Stand Firmers, Matthew (aka mousestalker) and his delightful wife. Much fun was had by all! It's amazing. We met folks with whom we have a lot in common, we went to the same college, we have similar religious beliefs, the same opinion of what makes food nasty (it's all about texture!)... and we never would've met if it hadn't been for blogs. How cool is that?

Saturday was my father's birthday. Happy birthday, dad! In three weeks we'll start up our Saturday Football days again, and I'm so looking forward to it. Go Noles!!!! WooHoo!

Sunday we headed south to my sister-in-law's house. Her family has grown by one with the addition of Milton the puppy, who was *completely* worn out at the end of the day by our niece, an active 2 1/2 year old. My mother-in-law was there too, and it was wonderful to visit with her as well. We arrived home late to the indignant protests of the cat. I had neglected to feed her before we left, and she was extremely cross. (as an aside - she had plenty of dry cat food in her bowl. I merely neglected to use my opposable thumbs to pop a top on a can of food.) Finicky beast.

So I have two days of work this week, then I get my last "mini-vacation" before The Holidays. I can't believe it's August already. So I'll leave off this rememberance of things past and work on completing today's projects!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Political Spectrum Quiz

OK, since everyone else is doing it... ::snort::

My Political Views
I am a center-right moderate social authoritarian
Right: 2.26, Authoritarian: 1.67

Political Spectrum Quiz


Not surprising at all. I'm a neo-conservative and a cultural conservative. (As probably any of my two readers would've guessed if they read my blog post about Crunchy Cons!)

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: 4.06



My Culture War Stance
Score: 5.75

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The G. S. E.: Church C

So this Sunday we ventured forth for another installment of the Great Sociological Experiment! This time we visited another Baptist church, but one *very different* from Church A. Church C was founded in 1902, and maintained that "traditional" feel in terms of the sanctuary and facilities. It also proudly proclaimed itself as Southern Baptist, both on its website and in the bulletin. Oh, and no lobster tank! Instead, the baptismal pool was discreetly tucked away - visible to the entire congregation of course - but not clear-sided like what you find in Red Lobster.

I think powerpoint has become ubiquitous. Thppt. And they also had drums. But no electric guitars... just a piano, clarinet, flutes, and some brass... non-amplified. We sang a mix of music, some from the Baptist Hymnal and others from the current praise music scene. The choir was large, but surprisingly unenthusiastic. (More on that in the next paragraph.)

Here's an interesting side note, though. We suspect this congregation is currently in a crisis about their music styles. There were many more seniors attending, and from where we were stitting not a single one sang the praise music. They stood there stonily, not even pretending to sing (as one often does when one doesn't know the music). When we sang the hymns, though, the older folks were much more participatory. (Heck, who wouldn't sing along to "Victory in Jesus"??) So we think there's a conflict with the music leaders - the seniors don't hold for that new-fangled stuff! And we both noticed it independently, so it was pretty obvious.

The preaching was definitely of the "old-style Baptist". He said some good things. Using John 15:3-5... we should be cleansed from sin, then cling to Jesus, then cultivate ourselves in that relationship in Christ. Still, it's hard getting used to a 45 minute sermon!

This service was by far more comfortable than Church A. Church A was just so... LOUD. Too much flash and not enough time for prayer, maybe. Or when there was time for prayer, the music was still overpowering. At Church C there was a much better balance of prayer, and worship, and message.

I'm still not sure about their small group/sunday school offerings. There wasn't much info in the bulletin, and their website failed on that count as well. I just don't see any indication of a broad small group program of any kind. There's a college ministry, and a seniors ministry. and a singles ministry (The singles ministry, which has an announcement for a trip to Atlanta "Singles! Join us for a Braves game, and bring your family!" A little dissonant, eh? I know what they meant, but it just sounded wierd phrased that way.) But there's nothing on any other small group options.

So the experiment continues!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Adult Sunday School

I'm on a roll this week, aren't I?

I’ve been posting on our visits to different churches, and wanted to elaborate on a comment I made earlier this week. It’s a simple question, really. Why do adult Sunday School organizers assume that ‘same-gender, same-age’ groups make the most sense for adults? I can buy that for children, maybe, but adults?

I am a married 40-ish woman, without kids. I’m nerdy and intellectual. So I don’t necessarily have the same interests as other married 40-ish women. I am not a fan of Beth Moore Bible studies. I don’t really want to talk about “bringing God to your children.” I’d rather study some of the works by Augustine, or the Church fathers, or heck, even C.S. Lewis. If it’s a Bible Study I want something that gets to the meat of the texts, not just the poofy parts. But when you can actually FIND a class that offers those, it’s usually a men’s group. So I am decidedly un-inclined to go to any Sunday school class at all.

I’ve heard of ONE church (several states away) that has a great way to do Sunday School. Teachers pick the topic, then anyone who is interested in that topic can join. That’s the only restriction… you have to actually be INTERESTED in the TOPIC. This runs for three months. Then the groups disband, a new list of classes is announced, and off you go! Amazing. And you still meet folks and make friends. If you attend the classes that are typically nerdy and intellectual, then who else do you think will attend the class? Yup – other folks who are nerdy and intellectual! If you like Beth Moore, and you go to the classes that offer Beth Moore, you meet other women who like Beth Moore.

Brilliant!

So for those of y’all out there who are Sunday school planners for your churches, think about it. Are you really helping by enforcing age and gender parameters on your adult classes?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The G. S. E.: Church B

So, last week we undertook Step Two of the Great Sociological Experiment and visited Church B. It was a large PCA church, well established with a nice website. (Heck, what did churches do before they had websites??) We arrived about 15 minutes before the service, and parked. I was exceptionally happy that no one met us with a golf cart, and I was also happy that the church campus had excellent signage so we found the main building quite easily. As we walked in a greeter asked if we were visitors, and showed us into the sanctuary. Organ on one side, grand piano on the other. Choir stall against the center wall in the front. Pulpit in the center. A large screen which indicated the upcoming use of powerpoint. (sigh) The choir director looked oddly familiar... yup. He was the chorale director at my high school. Have I mentioned how WIERD it is to live in my hometown again??

Announcements, and apparently they're in the search process for a new pastor. The layman gave a very good talk about the process, so it must be a recent thing. The choir.... ahhhhhhhh. Four-part harmony. Absolutely beautiful. And we sang out of the standard hymnal. Ah, creeds. I love the Apostle's Creed. The sermon was good, but as the philosopher mentioned later, very predestination-ist. (Is that a word?) And this pastor too also mentioned God challenging you in your complacency by taking you out of your comfort zone. (Is there a message here??!?)

Afterwards several folks stopped us and welcomed us and introduced themselves. It amuses me that the philosopher is uncomfortable admitting he's, well, a philosopher. He says it makes people uncomfortable when they hear the answer, like they don't quite know how to respond. So I told him that he should tell whoever asks, proudly, "I teach philosophy at the local university!" And if they are freaked out by that then it's their own fault for asking! ::heh::

But I liked this service much better. "Of course you did", you say, "it felt more like a liturgical service!" Yes, you are correct. It was familiar, and that has a very powerful draw. So this week, the philosopher gets to pick where we go to visit. He's mentioned a Roman Catholic parish, and another Baptist church as possibilities. So we'll see what happens next!

An Aside:
I've been noticing in my research that adult sunday school classes are almost always organized by AGE. I'm a middle-aged woman, but Beth Moore Bible studies are poofy and tedious to me. Yet that is often what the Middle-Aged Women Sunday School Classes use. Pfft. Why don't they organize classes by TOPIC, that way those of us who want to do an in-depth study of, say, the early church councils can do so, and those that like Beth Moore can do that somewhere else?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Great Sociological Experiment

As you probably know, the philosopher and I are Anglican. Unfortunately for us, we live in an area of the country where there is a paucity of Anglican churches (at least of the kind we would be interested in joining). So we've come to the point where - if we want to worship weekly with a group of Christian believers - we need to find a different denomination. One of the things we both deeply desire is the opportunity for fellowship in small groups, an opportunity to meet folks and "make friends." It sounds a bit childish, perhaps, but when you're in a place where you have few face-to-face friends, you realize how much you long for that kind of friendship.

With that in mind, we decided, rather than go for a church which is "closest to our theology", we should look for a community that has Christ-centered teaching first, and lots of opportunity for fellowship second. The philosopher immediately dubbed this our "Great Sociological Experiment." We would be venturing out of our comfort zone of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and into the world of Southern Baptists, PCA, Bible churches, Methodists, and goodness knows what else. And who knows, maybe we'll learn a little about ourselves too.

Our first visit was to Church A, which we identified as the "stealth Southern Baptist" variety. It's one of the largest churches in the area, with "Community" situated prominently in the name. Their website was filled with information... however, it wasn't until we went to the regional Southern Baptist website that we realized they were listed as a member of the regional Southern Baptist convention. (Thus the phrase "stealth-Baptist.") We showed up about 20 minutes before the service, and were met in the Visitors Parking Area by a nice gentleman in a golf cart, who toted us to the main doors. (How embarrassing!) We walked in and stopped at the information desk, situated between the two doors leading into the sanctuary. We were given a hearty welcome and a hefty packet of materials (including a DVD). The sanctuary? At first glance it looked like a concert hall with squishy chairs and a lobster tank. (OK, I discovered a bit later that the lobster tank was a baptismal font with one side glass so everyone can see the full immersion...) Full choir! Full orchestra! Repetitive praise music all the time! Electric instruments! Booming sound system! Video equipment for the weekly tv program! Powerpoint screens in three prominent locations! Immersion Baptism! Loud and exhortionary sermon ending in an altar call! SENSORY OVERLOAD. Whew.

Reactions? (Other than the ringing of the ears and the slight dizzy feeling?) The preaching was all about getting to heaven, so that was good. And the preacher did say one thing that stuck with me. He talked about God putting us in uncomfortable situations for a reason, so we can learn how to better serve Him. Yeah. I am So There. I also like praise music, probably more than the philosopher, and I enjoy singing with a guitar. But I prefer hymnody, and I deeply appreciate a choir in four-part harmony singing beautiful choral anthems. So I don't know that I could worship that was every week. There's just too much going on and not enough "down" time. They do have about 50 Sunday school and small groups, tho. That's a plus!

I plan to continue posting about each church we visit. So look soon for the next one!