Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thank You, Miley Cyrus

The other day, I checked for comments on my last blog post, only to find two pieces of spam. One advertised online gambling (I oppose all gambling), and the other was a series of links purportedly to nude photos of Miley Cyrus (I did not check them out).  After deleting the spam, I changed the settings for moderating comments on my posts. From now on, I'll have to approve comments before they appear on my blog.

I love receiving comments on my posts, and always tried to make it easy for my readers to leave them. I've always felt less eager to leave comments on other blogs if I knew they wouldn't appear instantly (so I could make sure they got published). But the thought of spammers using my blog to promote ungodly websites troubles me. My blog, while it's not exclusively about spiritual matters, is decidedly Christian, and I don't want it defaced. I hope my policy change won't deter legitimate readers from commenting.

While I was changing that setting, I decided to look at other settings options in Blogger. For quite some time, I'd been frustrated with the process of positioning images within my posts, so I wondered if Blogger might have changed anything along that line. Sure enough, I found a setting for "Updated Post Editor" near the bottom of the "Basics" page under "Settings." From there, I clicked the "Learn More" link, and found that, indeed, the Updated Post Editor will place my uploaded images wherever my cursor is placed, rather than at the top of the page (meaning I'd have to manually drag them into position.

Excuse me while I play with this new function by posting a photo from our December 13 blizzard.

Ah...much easier! This new post editor could make blogging easier, which may encourage me to blog more frequently. I'm finding other neat features in Blogger which may also help.

So, Miley Cyrus, I hope you didn't pose nude. But the scum that spammed your supposed photo links to my blog accidentally did me a favor! Praise God for once again using evil to work toward good. Comments, anyone?

Monday, December 28, 2009

God and Country on Canvas

I just saw this video on Youtube. If anything belongs in my virtual museum, this video does!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oh Little Town

This week I looked at a Paint Shop Pro tutorial for painting Bethlehem. I didn't follow it exactly. In fact. I didn't even have it opened when I made my picture! Having a general idea of how to do it was enough. Besides I wanted to be sure what I created was mine! Of course, after finishing the basic painting, I had to embellish it! Here are three results:

Merry Christmas, and may you truly know the wonder of Bethlehem!

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Camera

Since John likes taking photos and I like editing them, we got each other an early Christmas gift--a Canon Powershot a1100! We got it early so we could take a photo for our Christmas Newsletter (which we've revived after two years of dormancy). Our attendant took several photos of us, one of which I used for the newsletter. The other became my Facebook Profile photo.

The camera did an excellent job by itself, b
ut I did some editing with Paint Shop Pro. This one for Facebook was cute in its original form. When my attendant took it, I felt good about it.

Cute, huh? But when I pulled it into Paint Shop Pro, I cropped it, adjusted the brightness, and gave it a Christmas frame. I loved tightening in on our faces, thus drawing attention to us as a couple.

When our attendant took this next photo, she liked it. And once I saw it, the obvious chemistry between us indeed appealed to me.

Again, however, our faces were too red, so I lowered the brightness. I also didn't like the position of my arms, so I cropped them off. Then I debated between grayscale or sepia, and decided a modest sepia (showing just a hint of our red and green clothing) would be more dramatic. Finally, I found the "Satin Romance" frame that I'd created a year or so ago, and...well, it couldn't have been more perfect!

The photo quality of our new camera is very easy to work with, and it inspires me to do some creative editing. I look forward to seeing what else John and I can create with it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lesson from a Box Turtle

Since Mom (who had been widowed when I was 10) was dating her first boyfriend since Daddy at the time, it must have been my 12th Christmas. She surprised me and my sister with a pair of box turtles (which, in 1965, were legal pets in California). I can remember going out to the tree and seeing that shallow, bright yellow tub that housed our new pets.

One turtle was very active, at least insofar as turtles can be active. I don't recall how we determined that it was meant for my sister, and speculation on that point would detract from this story. I do remember gently prodding the sedentary turtle--my turtle--thinking he just needed a wake-up nudge. When he failed to respond, I moved him a bit more forcefully.

My 9-year-old sister, skilled in diagnosis, said matter-of-factly, "I think he's dead."

We made a few more futile attempts at getting him to move before I agreed with her conclusion. At that point, my wails of lament began! Of course, my crying awakened Mom, who came flying down the hall to see what on earth was wrong!

I'm not sure what happened next. I just remember being in the bathroom, weeping inconsolably, when Mom's boyfriend arrived for Christmas breakfast. Seeing my pre-teenage dramatics, he looked inquiringly at Mom and grunted, "What's wrong with her now?"

Mom sighed, "Her turtle died."

"Is that all?" he bellowed with laughter. He turned to me and said, "Cheer up. A dead turtle is better than no turtle at all!" We all burst into laughter at his unique perspective, and enjoyed the rest of that Christmas.

Long after that boyfriend disappeared from our lives, Mom, my sister and I often comforted ourselves in minor disappointments with the mantra, "A dead turtle is better than no turtle at all." Despite its macabre tone, it taught us to be grateful, no matter what.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Everlasting God

We sang this song in church today. I'd never heard it before, but I loved it and wanted to share it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Progress on Little "I Won't Disclose Her Name"

Both John and I have had colds all week, so we found it necessary to forgo church this morning. I put the beginnings of a nose on the portrait I've been drawing of my friend's little girl, so I thought I'd show everyone how the project is coming.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Journey Out Of Prison

Throughout my life, people have assumed that my greatest frustration regarding my disability is not being able to walk, or even not being able to use my hands. It's my speech defect. Actually, it was never that much of a problem until I moved to the Greater Boston Area, but in my seven years here I've grown dependent on John to "translate" for me. The social isolation has been a source of grief, to be sure. But even worse has been my sense of vulnerability.

Yesterday, for example, the driver of the paratransit van assumed I was retarded, and spoke to me as if I was a small child rather than a married woman in my mid-fifties. Would he address most married women as "Sweetie?" (That might even qualify as sexual harassment, now that I think of it.) John corrected him, and he stopped. But after he disembarked John, I discovered that my arm was tangled in the seat belt. It took quite a while to make him understand that I couldn't drive my wheelchair to the lift until he separated me from the seat belt!

So I'd say, my greatest wish regarding my disability would be for clear speech.

This morning, however, I wasn't thinking about my speech defect when I went to Acts 12:1-17 for my quiet time. My Journey in Discipleship workbook asked, as it does in each day's reading, "What did I encounter on my journey with Jesus?" and "How does this apply in my life?" As you read my responses, you'll see the joyous sense of emancipation that I experienced:

Day 1—Acts 12:1-17

What did I encounter on my journey with Jesus?

Herod began persecuting believers, executing James and seizing Peter in order to execute him. Peter was heavily guarded, but an angel came to him in the prison, unshackled him, and led him out of the prison. Peter was in the city before he realized it wasn’t a vision. He went to Mary’s house, where everyone was praying for his release. Rhoda was so excited to see him that she closed the door on him and ran to tell the others…leaving Peter outside knocking. Finally they let him in, and he told them the story. He asked them to tell James and the other brothers, and then he went elsewhere.

How does this apply in my life?

If God intends to deliver me from a situation, nothing can stop him from doing so. Herod had four squads of guards on Peter, but the angel led him out of prison with little effort. So God is not limited to my circumstances (like my speech defect), but will do His will through me!

The Lord amazes me when His Holy Spirit takes the timeless truths of Scripture and applies them so specifically to my life! Living in the prison of my speech defect will never be comfortable, but neither will it limit what the Lord will do through me!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back To The Old Drawing Board

This past April, a friend posted an enchanting photo of her two-year-old daughter (all dressed up for Easter) on her Facebook page. Right away, although I was still working on "Thoughtful Boy," I asked permission to do a portrait based on the photo.

Of course, once I completed "Thoughtful Boy," I really wanted a rest from any serious art projects. Then I guess I got interested in using Paint Shop Pro's photo editing tools, and I let that focus satisfy my creative side. In July, I started writing parables for my church's newsletter, resurrecting a fictional Church Mouse character that had haunted the newsletter of my church in California between 1978 and 1984. Again, I was expressing creativity in ways other than digital art.

But I should be honest. Certain details of the portrait project intimidated me. When I'd think about it, I'd simply find other things to do on the computer. Blogging about Boston. Facebook. Games like Bejeweled and Bookworm. I wanted to do the drawing, and yet the challenge made me reluctant.

Earlier this week, John and I had a Boston adventure. As we drove through the Common, we met an artist doing fanciful painting of Boston sights. John took photos for me to post on this blog, and maybe I'll manage to do so at some point. But as I thought about the conversation with the artist (about his media and his composition techniques), I regretted having moved away from my own art.

I reminded myself that the original purpose of Joyfully Christian Lady's Museum was to display my art. Somewhere between April and October, I've gotten lost in the American History Gallery and the Literary Gallery. It's time to revive my Art Gallery, but not by sharing the work of my fellow artists (although occasionally showcasing their work is fin). No, it's time--actually past time--for me to draw again!

So I went back to my friend's photo of her daughter Tuesday, and started blocking out the drawing. Here's what I've done in that five days:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Boston, A Bit Differently

Tuesday John and I belatedly celebrated my birthday. As anyone who knows us would expect, we went to Boston. But when we reached Fanueil Hall, we didn't eat at Quincy Market as is our usual custom. We didn't ignore it, however; we caught a view of the Custom House tower rising behind South Market, and took a photo:

I'd been interested in eating at Bertucci's, which is diagonally across from South Market. The pizza we had doesn't seem to be on their online menu, but it had zucchini, mushroom, onion and tomato (no tomato sauce). I guess cooking in those famous brick ovens takes longer, but we distracted ourselves with unlimited salad a warm, freshly-baked rolls. I'd eat there again, but not on a day when I wanted the 3:43 Commuter Rail back home.

After lunch we went to Commonwealth Books in Boston, and I scored big time! To understand the significance of my purchase, you need to let me take you back 33 years to my Junior year in college. Back then, for my Victorian Literature class (my favorite class in college), I wro
te a paper comparing the love letters between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning to selected sonnets from Elizabeth's book, Love Songs of the Portuguese. I hated returning that book of letters! Over the years, I've thought of it longingly, but didn't remember its title.

So, Tuesday at the bookstore I asked for a biography of Robert Browning, and the guy showed me a two-volume set if the complete letters between Robert and Elizabeth. Hey...even better than the book I'd used in college, don't you think? At first he wanted $60, but when I said I couldn't afford that, he offered it to me for $45.

Once he reduced the price, I realized how much I'd regret passing up such a purchase, so I said yes. Once I made the decision, I've been very happy! I'm looking forward to reading them this winter...this time without the pressure of having to write a term paper.

Our Boston Adventure Tuesday wasn't our usual type of adventure, but it was most satisfactory. Then again, how many of our adventures are usual?

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Superman

John turned 60 on September 5. The next day our church helped me give him a big party, with a Superman theme. When he got Polio as a six-year-old, he couldn't hold regular books, so a hospital volunteer taught him to read with Superman comic books. Since that time, Superman has been of his favorite fictional characters.

When he was hospitalized as a six-year-old, his prognosis was grim. The Lord mercifully pulled him through. Despite missing three years of school (and having a home-tutor only three days a week that third year), when he finally returned to school, the teacher placed him in an advanced reading class!

At age 13, he had a rod put in his back to halt the scoliosis. He exercised on crutches for many years, till his doctor realized that the exhaustion was greater than the benefits.

In the 70's, he was hospitalized several times, and had a few close calls with death. He cast himself on the Lord, knowing physical death only meant being face-to-face with Jesus. (Not bad.) When he was about 40, he suffered a stroke, which further weakened his body.

John has always refused to complain, although no one could possibly blame him if he succumbed to that temptation. In the eleven years that I've known him, his example of thankfulness and trust in the Lord have given me a model for rejecting self-pity.

I didn't have a Superman theme at his party simply because he loves Superman. To be sure, that was a factor. But John has beaten the odds by turning 60. In a very real way, consequently, he is my Superman!

Sadly, I can't post all the photos from the party, but here are a few of my favorites:

Friday, September 25, 2009

Traveling Wheelchairs

We got to Boston twice this week. Monday we had an unplanned lunch at Quincy Market with a friend we met through The rest of that day was frustrating and disappointing, but it was good seeing Mike. Wednesday we took what must have equaled a three mile walk (okay, roll) from South Station, through the Theater District, through Boston Common and the Public Garden and finally to the Esplanade. At the Esplanade there's a stream that runs parallel to the Charles River, and we saw a swan! I'd never seen a swan before, so it was exciting! Wouldn't you know it?--we forgot our camera! Then we went back through the Public Garden and the Common to Downtown Crossing and down Summer Street to eat at Al Capone's. Then to South Station to get our train home.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Facts Are Stubborn Things

As predicted in my last blog entry, John and I took a Freedom Trail Walking Tour with the historian from Lessons On Liberty who usually dresses in a British uniform. Yesterday, however, he wore his 18th Century French uniform, partly with the purpose of reminding us that the Americans did not (and never could have) defeated the British Army without assistance from France.

It was intellectually uncomfortable, as he challenged a few of my patriotic beliefs. Most notably, he told us that the Colonists really didn't want representation in Parliament, knowing that they would be in the minority anyway, and thus be overruled. According to him, the American Revolution wasn't about unfair taxation without representation (as most American history books tell us), but rather about British intrusion on the colonies. The Americans weren't revolutionaries at all, he said; they were the conservatives, fighting to keep their way of life.

The point about the colonists not being interested in seats in Parliament particularly bothered me, however, as I thought about James Otis' famous declaration: "Taxation without representation is tyranny!" Yes, I was bold enough to ask! The answer startled me. Our guide, who happens to teach college history courses, said bluntly that Otis made that statement as a propaganda technique to bolster anti-loyalist sentiments, thus inflaming colonial protest.

To me, that part of the tour was pivotal. I could write about other, less disturbing, points he made. After all, I heard several things that I'd never heard before, and if I could type with ten fingers rather than one headstick, I most likely would share more of his ideas. (But then, you wouldn't come to Boston to take his tour, now would you?) Because John and I are becoming friends with the actor/historian who conducts the Boston Town Crier walking tour by portraying James Otis, it's hard to see "Taxation without representation is tyranny" as nothing more than an 18th Century sound-byte designed to galvanize colonists against the Crown.

At the grave marker of the five men killed in The Boston Massacre, our guide quoted John Adams' remark, "Facts are stubborn things." Adams uttered those politically incorrect words when he served as the defense attorney for the British soldiers and their commander as they stood trial for the so-called massacre. Taking my cue from Adams, then, I want to investigate the idea that Americans didn't really desire representation. If my bubble about Otis must be burst, so be it!

Lessons on Liberty is not a comfortable tour, but I'll probably do it again. Truth is never comfortable, but always vital!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Conversation With A Redcoat

For quite some time, we've seen the 1:30 Freedom Trail Walking Tour leave Boston Common, led by an 18th Century British Officer. John and I have often wondered what perspective that tour leader might give.

Yesterday, we saw the historian who leads that tour finishing his lunch, so John suggested talking to him. When we asked if he led the tour from a British point of view, he explained that doing so might offend people, but that he tries to be as objective as possible. Although we couldn't take his tour yesterday, we felt very encouraged by his welcoming attitude toward us. He gave us his card, which included the URL of the company he represents. Please read about Lessons on Liberty to see why I'm looking forward to his tour!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Salem, Hawthorne, and Unusual Cuisine

When I took American Literature at Dominican University of California back in 1975, Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of the few American writers Sister Martin had us read that I really enjoyed. I still love his portrayal of Puritan life, almost in spite of him (he wrote largely out of contempt for what he perceived to be Puritan hypocrisy). Now that I live in New England, I'm discovering the roots of American literature all over again (though I'll respectfully pass on James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville, thank you very much), and I've renewed my interest in Hawthorne.

Therefore, I was pleased that John was willing to take me to Salem yesterday to complete our anniversary celebrations.

Two years ago, we'd seen Boston's Custom House, and I mistakenly believed it was the Custom House that dominated the opening chapter in Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter. When I learned a month later that Hawthorne wrote instead about the Custom House in Salem, he silently decided to one day get me there. So after obtaining a map of Salem at the Visitors' Center yesterday, he guided me to it.

Although we wish it hadn't been marred by scaffolding, we still delighted in seeing it. That alone was worth the two and a half hour trip! Hawthorne hadn't merely used the Custom House as a device to introduce his novel; he had actually worked there!

We'd hoped to eat at a restaurant called In A Pig's Eye, but as we approached (by that time, pretty hungry), our hopes were dashed by a substantial step at the front entrance. Some locals encouraged us that The House Of The Seven Gables, which was our destination anyway, had a snack bar. When we reached the Admissions Desk, however, we
learned that the snack bar hadn't been included this year.

Obviously, touring the houses on the grounds wasn't possible, which we'd expected. That didn't bother us, as we wouldn't really want the historic integrity of the buildings to be compromised anyway. I was excited just to see the house!

The fact that Hawthorne's actual birthplace stood just a few yards away from The House Of The Seven Gables surprised me. Personally, that was the more interesting house, perhaps because I've also seen his house on Boston's Beacon Hill and his house next to the Alcott house in Concord.

By that time, we were both very hungry, so John bought some penny candy from the gift shop. It's amazing how hunger can make something that disgusting (at least, I generally consider it disgusting) taste so good!

By then, it was time to wheel our way to the ferry, where we ate pretzels and pita chips as we cruised back to Boston. And today, my wonderful husband went to the library and checked out Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House Of The Seven Gables for me. Sister Martin would be pleased.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And We're Still Romantic!

I'm not sure whether Bill was a tropical storm or a hurricane, but he has literally made waves along the northeastern coast. So our plan to take the ferry to Salem for our anniversary (to see the House of Seven Gables) got postponed. Still, we feel like a seventh anniversary is significant. Well, at least I feel that way, and John supports me. So yesterday we dressed up and ventured into Boston.

John knew I wanted a bracelet as an anni
versary gift, but he wanted me to choose one. That quest took us to Macy's at Downtown Crossing, where we found a beautiful sterling silver bracelet that I won't take off!

Two weeks ago, the Freedom Trail walking tour we took came with a discount card that various restaurants in the area honor. That card enabled us to enjoy a midday dinner at the Omni-Parker Hotel. The hotel is very historic for many reasons that I hope to blog about at another time, but is particularly important to me because it was the American home of Charles Dickens.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was refined and elegant, with very welcoming staff. We savored the Bacon-Wrapped Halibut and (of course) Boston Creme Pie. I felt as excited as I did ten years ago, on my first in-person date with John. But that's no surprise; after seven years of marriage, we're still romantic!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Visiting Abigail

Sometime back in the 1980s, my mom loaned me a biographical novel about Abigal Adams. I'd never heard of Braintree Massachussetts, but I loved reading about Abigail running through its hills as the young bride of John Adams. More importantly, I admired her sacrificial devotion to him. To me, she modeled what a godly wife should be.

When I moved to Boston's South Shore area in 2002, I'd forgotten why Abigail Adams fascinated me, but I remembered loving her. And I've imagined her running through the part of Braintree that became Quincy (pronounced KWIN-zee) in 1792 as I've driven by the woods of Quincy. But this summer, through the HBO DVD series, John Adams and David McCollough's book of the same name, I've become reacquainted with her. She is, simply put, my hero. May I be even half the wife to my wonderful John as she was to hers!

Yesterday, we visited what remains of the property that John Adams' father had. Only the two houses still stand: the one in which John Adams was born, and the one where Abigail bore his son, John Quincy.

To me, the second is "Abigail's house." Yesterday I touched it, just to have a physical connection with her. But may my real connection be in learning from her how to be a wife!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Valuing History

For the past two months, I've been studying the book of Daniel for my personal Bible study. I'm going through it chapter-by-chapter, using a variety of commentaries that I've downloaded from e-Sword. (If you don't have e-Sword, get it! The basic program is free, as are many of its components.) Today I used Barnes Commentary to study Daniel 2:36-40:

36 “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. 37 You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38 and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold. 39 But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.

The commentary made a point about history that absolutely riveted my attention!

All history may be contemplated under two aspects: in its secular bearing; and in its relation to the redemption of the world. In the former aspect, it has great and important uses. As furnishing lessons to statesmen; as showing the progress of society; as illustrating the effects of vice and immorality, and the evils of anarchy, ambition, and war; as recording and preserving the inventions in the arts, and as showing what are the best methods of civil government, and what conduces most to the happiness of a people, its value cannot well be overestimated.

Of course, Barnes went on to write about history helping us to see God's work in accomplishing humanity's redemption, and that's really the point of understanding Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. But I loved Barnes' explanation of history's secular bearing. Actually, it stikes me that even its secular purpose in the passage I've just quoted, fits into the Lord's agenda.

As a transplant to Boston from San Francisco (where history only goes back to 1849), I'm constantly shocked and disappointed by the indifference people in New England have toward the American Revolution. They speak an act as if the things that happened then have nothing to do with their lives. All the reminders in the city, they imply, are for tourists and geeks.

How I wish they reflected on the lives of James Otis, John Adams and Paul Revere! Last night, I finished reading David McCollough's book, John Adams, which increased my understanding of how the United States came into being, and how much our Founding Fathers wanted a moral base of Christian values. We've forgotten that moral base, in part, precisely because we neglect history.

Albert Barnes has now whet my appetite for Persian, Macedonian and Greek history, which fulfilled Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 2 and set the stage for Christ's first coming. As an added bonus, he sharpened my appreciation for the "secular" benefits of history! Who says commentaries are boring?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Captain Daniel Malcolm's Freedom Trail

According to a quiz I created about myself on Facebook earlier this week, my favorite thing to do in Boston is to take Freedom Trail Walking Tours. So as John and I wheeled up Winter Street toward Boston Common yesterday, he let me talk him into doing our third one. This time, we toured with The Freedom Trail Foundation.

Hopefully, the actor/historian portraying Captain Daniel Malcolm (and served as our tour guide) isn't typical of the entire company. He clearly wasn't
enthusiastic about having wheelchair users on his tour, and made little attempt to conceal his displeasure.

Although "Capt. Malcolm" did present history fairly well over all, his repetitious Marine salute (accompanied by the exclamation, "Hurruh! Semper Fi!") distracted from his points. I felt that he was interested more in entertaining than in educating. For that reason, I can not recommend his tour.

Having said the above, I don't regret taking the tour. I loved the view of the State House he gave us.

He told us that during the black outs of World War II, the dome was painted gray to blend in with Boston's frequent gray skies. I had previously been informed that Paul Revere had fashioned the gilding that we see today, so I'm now intrigued with the dome's history. Praise God for Google!

The highlight of the tour occurred as we looked at Old South Meeting House while "Capt. Malcolm" explained the Boston Tea Party. He passed around a brick of tea, much like the bricks that the Sons of Liberty to
ssed the tea off of the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver into Boston Harbor.When we reached The Old State House, "Capt. Malcolm" told us about the Writs Of Assistance that James Otis protested. Those Writs enabled the British soldiers to search homes at will for items that they suspected had not been taxed. Householders were expected to not only submit to the search, but to help with it!
We lost the group when they climbed steps to get to Fanueil Hall. We went around the corner, expecting to meet up with them, but never found them. Still, I'm glad we took the tour. It confirmed to us that Boston Town Crier offers the best Freedom Trail Tour!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Busy In Boston

Agreed: It's been far too long since I last posted. During my hiatus from blogging, John and I have made three trips into Boston. I can't post all the photos from those excursions, but at least let me provide a small sampling of them.

On July 20, we decided to take a tour of The State Ho
use, which was originally the home of John Hancock. I thought this view approaching it from Park Street was rather interesting.

I love green hydrangeas, so it delighted me to see them framing the courtyard that leads to the visitors' entrance. I asked John to take a photo of me with them.

We enjoyed a guided tour of the State House. If I didn't have two more excursions to narrate this afternoon, I'd tell you some of the interesting tidbits we learned. But I suggest you Google "The Sacred Cod" to understand the significance of this photo:
For the following week, daily rain forced us to stay home, but decent (though still not quite summer-like) weather eventually offered us another chance to hop on the T. We decided I needed a real cannoli, which necessitated a trip to the North End.

As we got off the elevator to exit North Station on August 3, the view of the Custom House Tower captivated me! I'm always so astounded by how compact Boston is, and I didn't expect to see such a familiar landmark from the North End.
Of course, I found a place that had my cannoli relatively quickly. We then decided to go along the Freedom Trail to Paul Revere's house. We had visited the house for my birthday a few years ago, so we didn't want to go inside. Instead, we wandered around the courtyard. A tourist offered to take our picture.

I wanted to keep going along the Freedom Trail up to Old North Church, but it was getting late. We wheeled down Atlantic Avenue to catch a Commuter Rail home from South Station.

Three days later, we returned to Boston, where we listened to street performers, wheeled through the Common, and visited the Public Garden. The highlight was seeing this family of adolescent ducklings with their Mama.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, John and I will get back on the Red Line at Ashmont Station. Who knows what adventure awaits us!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Keeping The Past With Us

Thanks to Netflix, John and I are currently watching the HBO miniseries, John Adams. Living so near Adams' birthplace, I appreciate this series more than I might if I still lived in California. Nevertheless, I wish every American would watch it. We need to see how hard the battle for independence from Britain really was, and how hard our forefathers worked to build our amazing country.

Tomorrow we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. May this clip from John Adams enrich your understanding of this glorious event.
And, as we keep the past with us, may we again be the country that our forefathers envisioned.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Songs, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

This isn't a comfortable blog entry to write, mostly because many people (people that I love) will hotly disagree with me. Christian music is a very emotional people on both sides of the debate. Yet, I believe the points I want to make need to be prayerfully and seriously considered. After a week of hesitating to compose this entry, I'm writing it and praying that God will keep me in an attitude of humility and gentleness.

Let me begin by being very vulnerable. In the late 90s, after nearly 30 years of following the Lord, I opened myself up to serious sinful behavior, which (quite frankly) I enjoyed. Eventually, I recognized that I would have to choose between pursuing that sin or following Jesus. I knew it was an either/or proposition because singing contemporary praise songs during church always filled me with an awareness of my separation from the Lord.

You see, I had always loved praise music. At that point in time, I considered praise to be more important on Sunday mornings than the preaching of God's Word. (Obviously, many things in my life needed major adjustments.) So during that time of rebellion, I couldn't enjoy the aspect of life (singing praise songs) that I'd treasured the most!

In short, the Lord restored me to Himself through contemporary praise music. Of course, I'm oversimplifying the story, but I do believe music played a pivotal role in my repentance. So I do believe the Holy Spirit uses such music.

As I've gone on with the Lord from that point in my life, however, I find myself growing less comfortable with praise music. I've noticed its lack of sound doctrinal foundation, and that lack troubles me. My discomfort found confirmation a little over a week ago, when I read Style or Substance by John MacArthur. I strongly encourage you to read this article, as well as the chapter on music in the book, Fool's Gold. Both articles will challenge your thinking, certainly. But challenge is healthy!

As I ponder present day Christianity's emphasis on experience over doctrine, I find myself wondering if praise music hasn't contributed to this deterioration. As MacArthur points out, hymns were originally written to teach God's Word.

Col 3:16
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
How much theology is in, for instance, I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever as compared with Holy, Holy, Holy? Both are beautiful, I'll agree, but Holy. Holy, Holy offers such a deeper picture of our majestic, Triune God! That hymn fills me with reverent wonder at His holiness..."Though the eye of sinful man/ Thy glory may not see." That couplet alone offers hours of meditation on the doctrine of human sinfulness as well as God's glory and holiness!

I'm still processing my thoughts on Christian music, but I'm growing less enamored with much of the milky praise music. I'm hungry for the meat of hymns!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Boston 1775

Okay, the Clark Rockefeller kidnapping trial is tabloid sensationalism, and I really should be "above" following it. But when the Boston Globe's online edition showed up in my inbox the other day, I clicked the link. After reading the story, watching the video and reading the Twitter update, my eye wandered to a list of blogs that the Globe recommends. One blog was simply titled Boston 1775.

As I opened it, I immediately knew it was a blog I'd read regularly. Its creator, J.L. Bell, is a Massachusetts writer with a fascination for the American Revolution. I haven't even started exploring his links yet, but he has a whole library of links that I think will keep me busy for months! What a delight! I hope some of you will check it out.'s better than reading about Clark Rockefeller!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thoughtful Boy's Completion

I'll spare everyone the nitty-gritty details of my techniques, mostly because I'm tired of this project and just wanted it finished! I think he turned out pretty well, considering little boys really aren't as fun for me to draw as women and little girls. But hey...I gave myself a challenge when I began this drawing four months ago, and I met that challenge! That accomplishment makes it worth the effort.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oliiver Wendell Holmes of Beacon Street

After a lunch in Back Bay's Copley Plaza yesterday, John opened my guidebook about literary landmarks in Boston, and we saw that the house of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. was on the Back Bay section of Beacon Street.

Admittedly, I haven't yet read any of Holmes' poetry or essays. My high school history teacher lionized his son, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., as probably the greatest Supreme Court justice to ever write an opinion, but I'd never encountered the senior Holmes until I read The Dante Club two years ago. Holmes, along with James Russe
ll Lowell, William Dean Howells and Charles Eliot Norton, assisted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in forming the first American translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy. (I'm currently reading said translation.)

Still, I wanted to see the house. So we wheeled down Dartmouth Street to Beacon Street, crossed, and turned left to look for #296. We asked a puzzled letter-carrier where it was. She replied that it's a private fact, her friend lives there. We told her that Oliver Wendall Holmes had once lived there; she gave us that glazed look that most people give us when we mention people of historical and/or literary significance. Sad.

So we continued on our quest, with me feeling like a groupie searching for the home of a rock star. If I therefore qualify as a nerd, so be it.

We found the house. Of course, it's probably been altered several times over since Holmes Sr. died in 1894, but I think it looks like the sort of house he would have owned. The dark brown door and angled cornice seem to bear testimony to the magnitude of Holmes legacy. I found the house very satisfying!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Searching for Longfellow, But Finding Much More

A couple years ago I read The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl (great book for mystery lovers as well as anyone interested in 19th Century Bostonian literature). The book's protagonists included Oliver Wendall Holmes Sr., James Russell Lowell and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and mentions several places in Boston and Cambridge. One such location the book mentioned was Mount Auburn Cemetary in Cambridge, where all three men are now buried.

Since yesterday was a beautiful spring day, John and I grabbed his camera and headed for Cambridge with the purpose of visiting Longfellow's tomb. Having taken our phone call asking about wheelchair access to his gravesite earlier that morning, a staff member greeted us with a map showing a possible wheelchair route.

The first leg of the route was easy, and spectacular. The graves, tombs and
mausoleums nestled on exquisite landscaping, enhanced by a symphony of bird songs. Some grave markers carried on the simple Puritan style that I've come to know at The Old Grainary Burial Ground in Boston.

Others, however, were more lavish. One, in particular, makes me wonder if some of Thomas Kinkade's paintings were inspired by these grounds.

The various views astounded me. As we worked our way toward Indian Ridge (the path that would lead us to Longfellow's tomb) we spotted a pond onramented with neoclassical architecture that made me feel as if we were wandering through a fairy tale garden rather than a cemetery.

In all fairy tales, however, there comes an arduous task before reaching the goal. We found Indian Ridge, which was a long, narrow path. Since there are aspects of that part of the journey that I wouldn't want repeated to either of our mothers, I refuse to share the details, but I will say that the Lord comforted me through the most difficult parts by reminding me of Psalm 23.

About half way up to Longfellow's tomb, we had a break from the narrowness. We stopped on a bridge over a meditation area that we had
viewed from the ground level earlier. What a pretty place to stop and rest!

As we continued our trek, I wanted to give up. I was sore from driving on such tough terrain, and it was well past lunch time. But just as I opened my mouth to tell John I wanted to turn back, I told myself we had come too far to quit.

We kept driving our chairs up the hill. All of a sudden, I glanced to my right to see a almost too simple sarcophagus that had the one word, "Longfellow," engraved on it. I had expected more architecture to adorn it, but it was punctuated only by two flower bushes (which attracted bees so huge that I decided not to be in the picture).

I prayed a while at the grave, and then we went back down. We agreed that we would never again visit any graves on Indian Ridge!

But we also agreed that we'll visit Mount Auburn Cemetery again. It's the most beautiful place I've ever seen. For a moment, I caught myself wondering if heaven looks like that.

Then I remembered: Heaven is infinitely more beautiful! I can only hope that Lowell. Holms and Longfellow have heaven as their final resting place.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Things I've Learned About Marriage...So Far!

After my first few months as John's wife, I arrogantly believed myself to be fairly educated on the nature and workings of Christian marriage. But as John and I look forward to our seventh anniversary in August, I hope I've developed some humility about the matter. For the truth is that I've learned a few important things since leaving that church building on that late-summer afternoon.

For example, I've learned that the basic manners Mom taught me when I was a child are particularly important in my daily interactions with my husband. Simple phrases like "please," "thank you" and "I'm sorry" communicate respect. Although he vowed to be with me "till death us do part," I need to treat him with even more respect and courtesy than I would extend to a house guest.

Going along with the theme of respect, I've learned that my problems with John stay between us and the Lord. There may come a time when we'll need to go to a pastor or a counselor. I know of a man who's currently finding it necessary to see a marriage counselor without his wife (who's unwilling to accept instruction), and I admire his initiative. But in the conflicts that John and I have had up to this point, talking to girlfriends would be detrimental to our marriage. What happens between us stays between us!

As I planned this blog this morning, I asked John to forgo our morning ritual of listening to Focus On The Family so I could run this third "lesson" by him (I didn't want him to misinterpret it to mean that I'd fallen out of love with him--I haven't). I've learned, however, that the fluttery giddiness that I felt as a new bride has developed into a quiet contentment. Sometimes, I miss the euphoria, certainly. But I sure like knowing I belong to John.

I can think of a few other points, but it's getting late and the point I just made dovetails nicely into the lesson I wanted as the conclusion to this blog entry. I've learned, through marriage, to glimpse Christ's love for his Church through John's love for me.

Eph 5:22-33

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oh, To See As He Sees!

One of the missionaries our church supports just emailed me this video about an artist in Turkey who was born without eyes. Although it's a fairly lengthy video, I think you'll wish it was longer! I wish my paintings had half the genius his have!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Thoughtful Boy's Progress

I've been plugging away at Thoughtful Boy. Not as often or diligently as I should, but I guess my preoccupation with Facebook has been the culprit. Still, I've made some progress, so I thought I'd let you see how many layers I have now.
What? You're more interested in how the boy looks? Well, gee--isn't the Layer Palette interesting enough? You can't just use your imaginations? I guess you have a point. And you're giving me a wonderful excuse to show off my stuff!


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