Friday, May 29, 2009

frivolous friday - Moleskine edition

Moleskine sketchbooks - part of Moleskine's Detour exhibition. Here are three beauties:

Nose Moleskine

Alphabet Moleskine

Art Moleskine

Hat-tip: Twitter tips from children's writer/illustrator Carin Berger

Thursday, May 28, 2009

book review: Finding An Unseen God: Reflections of a Former Atheist by Alicia Britt Chole

Title: Finding an Unseen God: Reflections of a Former Atheist
Author: Alicia Britt Chole
Publisher: Bethany House, June 2009, paperback, 176 pages

"All I had to do was survive the hour or two without being caught rolling my eyes, without exploding in laughter, and without initiating a debate. How hard could that be?

… That day on June 26, I sat in a little white building expecting nothing. I was not there to begin a noble search. I was not there to embark on a spiritual pilgrimage. I was not there to find a god; I was there to get rid of a Christian.” p. 150-151

These are Alicia Britt Chole's thoughts moments before she has an experience that rocks her world. She describes what happens and its aftermath in Finding an Unseen God – Reflections of a Former Atheist.

Alicia is the only child of loving parents. She remembers long talks with her atheist father and loyal support from her Catholic mother. Sometime in high school she comes to the conclusion there is no God. She recalls her decision:

“Personally Atheism was somewhat of a balm for my fiercely realistic soul… If there is no God, then we do not have to question him, her or them about why the innocent are condemned and the guilty freed… if there is no God, then we do not have to struggle with why the young mother of three dies and the old molester of hundreds lives to see and abuse his grandchildren – it is simply human sickness striking the weak in different forms.” p. 63.
Through high school, as Chole struggles to fit in with her peers, fights depression and witnesses the despair of her entrepreneurial but impractical father, her atheism hardens. But she does have two loyal friends. Shawny and Christi, the “Bowheads” (nicknamed for the trendy bows they wear in their hair), are her inseparable companions. They are also outspoken Christians but they don’t sway her.

The summer after graduation she visits a childhood friend. It is to stop the nagging of this friend’s mother that she goes to church that fateful June day.

A word-search puzzle provides a metaphor and graphic element for the book. Chole extends that metaphor by telling her story in a puzzle-like way. In successive chapters she switches from past to present and from narrating her story to discussing subjects like what is atheism, how to talk to an atheist, the current state of western spirituality, the reasonableness of faith and more. The Table of Contents gives clues as to which type each chapter is. The chapter titles of the narrative parts appear to the left of the centered chapter numbers, while the discussion / opinion chapter titles are on the right. If you want to read the story chronologically you’d start with Chapter One (pages 15-16) which follows Chapter 52 (pages 11-15). But good luck with that, as the Table of Contents contains no page numbers.

Chole has a distinctive writing style which ranges from chatty and rambling (in some spots the book felt like a transcribed talk), to reasoning and argumentative. But her writing is always lively, exudes personality, and her story is certainly compelling with its “I was there” tone of certainty.

An aspect of the book I found especially helpful was the list of four filters through which she suggests one should view any belief system:

“Is my belief system … consistent (at its core)?
Is my belief system … livable (and not just quotable)?
Is my belief system … sustainable (through life-size pain)?
Is my belief system … transferable (to others)?” p. 88.

I also enjoyed the chapters on five things she especially likes about God.

This slim book is a quick read (it took me about three hours) but packs a big punch. Not only is Chole’s story absorbing but the apologetic chapters discussing faith, spirituality and religion are persuasive and easy to understand. Read the book to open your mind to the possibility that God really exists, or to strengthen the faith you already have, or to learn how to relate to those whose bieliefs differ from yours. Finding an Unseen God would be of special interest to atheists and those who love them.

Check out the book trailer here. To find out more about Alicia Britt Chole and to view study resources that go along with the book, visit it's website.


My cute great-niece is blind. Here she is at three.
I love the look of concentration on her face as she explores her toy.


Thursday Challenge

Next week: MACHINES (Watches, Computers, Cars, Vending Machine, Washing Machine,...)

promptings top ten hymns countdown - 2, 1

(This is my fifth and final post of favorite hymns for Semicolon's top 100 hymns project.
#1, #2, #3, #4)

2. "Of the Father's Love Begotten" - 413
by Aurelius C. Prudentius, Translated by John M. Neale 1818-1866 and Henry W. Baker, 1821-1977. "Divinum mysterium", Plain-song tune, 12th century

I first heard this song sung by the Amadeus Children's Choir when our daughter sang in it. At the beginning of the Christmas concert the children entered the auditorium singing it in their clear, pure voices. What a heavenly sound!

Since then it has become one of my favorite hymns. Its beautiful lyrics and plaintive tune make it unforgettable.

1. "A Mighty Fortress" - 1529
Text: Martin Luther Trans. by Frederick H. Hedge
Music: Martin Luther Harmony

"In the forward of a book, Luther once wrote: 'Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treaure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts and spirits.'

...Luther's most famous hymn is "Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott," -- "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Based on Psalm 46, it reflects Luther's awareness of our intense struggle with Satan. In difficulty and danger, Luther would often resort to this song" (p. 15, Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan).

I would say it never fails to encourage me too!

Hymn stories are quoted or adapted from Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

promptings top ten hymns countdown - 4, 3

(This is my fourth post of favorite hymns for Semicolon's top 100 hymns project.
#1, #2, #3.)

4. "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" - 14th century BC
Numbers 6:24-25, Tune by Peter C. Lutkin

I love songs of blessing. I remember how safe this one made me feel when I heard it in the Mennonite church where I grew up.

The lyrics are adapted from Numbers 6:24-26. D. L. Moody, in his "Notes from My Bible," said about this benediction:

“Here is a benediction that can give all the time without being impoverished. Every heart may utter it, every letter may conclude with it, every day may begin with it, every night may be sanctified by it. Here is blessing—keeping—shining—the uplifting upon our poor life of all heaven’s glad morning. It is the Lord Himself who (gives us) this bar of music from heaven’s infinite anthem.”

This YouTube version is sung by the Central Islip High School Concert Choir Alumni (2007)

3."All Glory Laud and Honor" - 820 AD
Text: Theodulph of Orleans; trans. by John Mason Neale
Music: Melchior Teschner

Theodulph, Bishop of Orleans went to France at Charlemagne's request. When Charlemagne died, his son Louis I assumed the throne. Problems began when Louis started splitting the kingdom among relatives. In all the brouhaha, Bishop Theodulph (whose main interests in life were fostering education and writing hymns) was accused of conspiracy and put in prison. There he wrote this great Palm Sunday hymn - which at first had 39 verses!

Cliff Richard apparently recorded this version of "All Glory Laud and Honor" in 1967, three years after his conversion to Christianity,

Hymn stories are quoted or adapted from Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan.

Monday, May 25, 2009

a little child shall lead them

"12-Year-Old Stuns Pro-Choice Teacher and School with Pro-Life Presentation"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

promptings top ten hymns countdown - 6, 5

(This is my third post of favorite hymns for Semicolon's top 100 hymns project. Here is #1 & #2.)

6. "O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus" - 1875
by Samuel Trevor Francis, tune by Thomas J. Williams

Though Samuel Francis was brought up in a Christian home, he experienced a crisis of faith as a young man. One dark night crossing a bridge on his way home, he had the temptation to end his life. In the shock of the moment he realized, I do believe, and put his whole trust in Jesus as Savior.

He went on to become a London merchant but what he really lived for was hymn writing and preaching in open air meetings. "O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus" is one of the hymns he wrote.

Here Praise in Motion does liturgical dance to Selah's rendition of the song.

5. "In Christ Alone" - 2001
Words and music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music,
P.O. Box 75,
Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN23 6NW, UK.

This is one of the beautiful new hymns of the church. I gained a greater appreciation of what Christ's death and resurrection means through "In Christ Alone" when I memorized it as part of this year's Easter Sunday choir program.

(For more new hymns by Keith & Kristyn Getty check out their website. To hear more songs, visit their MySpace site - or buy "In Christ Alone" through itunes - I just did)

Friday, May 22, 2009

promptings top ten hymns countdown - 8, 7

(This is my second post of favorite hymns for Semicolon's top 100 hymns project. The first is here.)

8. "Be Thou My Vision" - 8th Century
Tune - Traditional Irish tune "Slane"

"In the eighth century an unknown Irish poet wrote a prayer asking God to be his Vision, his Wisdom and his Best Thought by day or by night.

In 1905, Mary Elizabeth Bryne, a scholar in Dublin Ireland, translated this ancient Irish poem into English. Another scholar, Eleanor Hull of Manchester England took Byrne's translation and crafted it into verses with rhyme and meter. Shortly thereafter it was set to a traditional Irish folk song, "Slane," named for an area in Ireland where Patrick reportedly challenged local Druids with the Gospel."

7. "Holy Holy Holy" - 1826
by Reginald Heber (1783-1826)

Reginald Heber, a graduate of Oxford and a friend of Sir Walter Scott enjoyed poetry. His desire to publish a collection of his hymns was nixed by the Bishop of London at the time, but Heber kept writing anyway.

One hymn he wrote, "From Greenland's Icy Mountains" expressed another desire of his, to go to "India's coral strand." In 1822, at age 40, he was sent to India to oversee the Church of England's ministries. One day in 1826 after spending hours preaching in the hot sun, he went for a swim in cool water, suffered a stroke and drowned. His widow discovered a collection of 57 hymns in his trunk. The majestic hymn"Holy, Holy, Holy" was one of them.

Here it is sung by Keith Green - another man who died in his prime.

Hymn stories are quoted or adapted from Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan.

frivolous friday - the sign says...

Thursday, May 21, 2009


A storybook tree


Next week: CHILDHOOD (Toys, Stuffed Animals, Games, Clothes, Play, Fun, Messes,...)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

promptings top ten hymns countdown - 10, 9

I've decided to join in Semicolon's top 100 hymns project. But rather than put up my ten in one long post, I will put up two a day every other day, aiming to have them all up by the deadline date of May 31st.

So here is my Top Ten Hymn Countdown, starting with...

#10. "Holy Spirit Rain Down"
by Russell Fragar 1997

This song reminds me of the time of personal spiritual renewal my husband and I experienced around the year 2000. We listened to and sang this song a lot. Here it is sung by Darlene Zschech from Hillsongs Australia.

#9 "Christ the Lord is Risen Today"
Lyrics by Charles Wesley - 1739, tune from Lyra Davidica

This song typifies Easter Sunday morning for me. I love its joyous energy.

Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan is a book of 150 of the world's greatest hymn stories. It says of this song:

"John and Charles Wesley found themselves out of favor with many fellow Anglican ministers who spurned their fiery evangelistic preaching. Many pulpits were closed to them.

A friend from his Oxford days, George Whitefield, 22, who was having the same trouble, began preaching in the open air. In London, he asked Charles to stand with him as he preached to thousands in the open air at Blackheath, and Charles too got a vision for reaching the multitudes...

[...] Charles Wesley still preaches today in much the same way through his ageless hymns which are sung around the world each Sunday. Perhaps his most exuberant anthem is the one he simply called, "Hymn for Easter Day" published in 1739. It originally consisted of 11 stanzas and the "Alleluias" were added later.

Steve Green sings this up-tempo version.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

hymn hit parade

"Hymn hit parade?"! Well, okay, I titled this post to get your attention. It should really be called "Top 100 Hymns Poll." Sherry at Semicolon is compiling this as a summer project and she asks for our help. Here's how it works, as explained on her blog:

1. Make a list of your top ten hymns of all time.
Hymn (according to Webster): a song of praise to God
a metrical composition adapted for singing in a religious service.
For the purposes of this poll, I’m limiting the choices to Christian hymns, but the form of the song doesn’t matter. In other words, the songs on your list should be suitable for congregational singing and should be Christian. Handel’s Messiah is Christian but probably not suitable for congregational hymn singing. Anything you sing in worship service, even what are normally called choruses or gospel songs or spirituals or CCM, is fine. (Oh, English, please, or at least translated into English. Sorry, but it’s all I really speak.)

2. List these hymns in your order of preference. So your #1 hymn would be the one you feel is the best, and so on. I will be giving your first choice 10 points, your second choice 9 points, and so on.

3. Submit your list to me at sherryDOTearlyATgmailDOTcom. Write “Hymn Survey” in the subject line. I’d rather you didn’t leave your votes in my comments here because it’ll be easier to tabulate all the votes if they’re all in my email (plus I want everyone’s votes to be a surprise). Deadline for votes to be sent to me is May 31, 2009.

4. If you like, you can submit a justification for each hymn. Or you can send me a link to an audio or video version online. Include the name of the hymn’s author or lyricist and the composer of the melody you prefer if at all possible, especially if you think I might be unfamiliar with your particular hymn. At the beginning of June I will tally up the totals, and I will pull from the submitted pieces why one reader or another liked a particular hymn (naming the reader, of course). That way we’ll be able to hear from a whole bunch of people why they love one hymn or another. I will then count down from 100 to 1 over the course of the summer the top choices of what folks feel the best hymns of all time are.

Sounds like fun, don't you think? Let's all join in and make Sherry's Hymn Survey a great success!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

new kidlit blog

UPDATE - Monday, May 18.

Though the Book Brew blog below is only one week old, I've already moved it.

I was feeling very out of my element in WordPress (though it's an excellent blogging platform with some nice features). So I've moved Book Brew to blogger. You can now find it here.


I've gone and done something I never thought I'd do - started yet another blog! Am I crazy or what?! It's all Twitter's fault. Here's how it came about:

1. As I said, I joined Twitter a few weeks ago.

2. In my search to find kindred spirits to follow, last Friday I discovered a slew of people who write for children on one of those twitter directories.

3. I signed up to follow @susanwrites.

4. One of her first tweets was the children’s writers’ Poetry Friday roundup here.

5. This brought me face to face with the KidLitosphere – kids’ writers and book lovers galore, bound together by the love of children’s literature. One of the main things they do is review children’s books.

6. Besides Poetry Friday, they also have a weekly blog roundup called Nonfiction Monday.

7. My first thought: I want to play too!

And so I began my Book Brew blog, because in order to participate, you have to have a blog that’s devoted to books for young adults and children. And I’m so fine with that

Now I’ll have a place to post only about children’s writing! Whoo hoo!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Skyscraper - Coal Harbor, Vancouver, BC


Thursday Challenge

Next week: TREES (Leaves, Branches, Bush, Forest, Pinecone, Seeds,...)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

election day in b.c.

Wednesday update:

It's the day after and after the dust has settled, the Liberals have won another majority.

The STV vote was soundly defeated and will now slink away, tail between its legs, we hope. (There may need to be other ways of counting and processing votes so everyone gets the sense theirs counts, but this slice and dice system is not it!)


I'm just back from voting in today's B.C. provincial election.

This is our first provincial election since they passed the law fixing the election dates. This election date was determined years ago, so there has been no finagling here over the date of the vote because of bad poll results or the ups or downs in the economy.

We also marked a ballot for or against the STV (Single Transferable Vote), a complicated voting system that you pretty much need a degree in math to understand and a computer to calculate.

So I know what I'll be doing tonight -- following a different sport than hockey (Canucks - sob) as we watch election results come in.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

happy mother's day!

On our walk yesterday we took the 10-minute streamside pathway before we went further. Again we saw the large goose family. Eleven - count them - eleven goslings!

I was part of a big family too. I'm the oldest of nine. "How much fun that must have been!" people say when I tell them.

I guess. Now when I look back on it, I know we had fun. At the time, though, a room of my own where no one would get into my stuff was my biggest fantasy.

My biggest trial was when we all went out together in the three-seater Pontiac station wagon. I made a point of not sitting in the back seat, which faced backward and looked right at the driver behind us. But sitting in the middle wasn't much better. I especially cringed when we got to a red light and people stopping in the lane beside us looked over, saw the mass of heads, looked again and began counting. For 14-year-old who was shy and awkward at the best of times, that was pure torture.

Through it all, my mom was wonderful. She honestly liked kids and we felt thoroughly loved. When in my teenage angst I complained about how self-conscious our large family made me feel, she asked, "Which one would you want to give away?" That shut me up in a hurry!

On this day set aside to honor moms, I miss her especially. Today is exactly a month past her birthday - she would have been 95 April 10th (she died in June 2006). She is the person who has influenced me the most of anyone in my life. If someday by some dint of genetics and grace I grow up to be even half as kind, generous, loyal, creative and life-loving as she was, I will consider myself blessed.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A priceless gift for Mom...

Do you have your Mother's Day gift all wrapped and ready to deliver? Or maybe you're still in the planning stages? Here's an idea...

"This year you could celebrate Mother's Day with more than a card, bouquet of flowers or restaurant dinner. You could write a poem to or about your mother—or memorialize motherhood by expressing how it feels to be a mother.

Below are four kinds of poetry that lend themselves to poems for or about mothers. I have suggested prompts or strategies to help you write them. Hopefully you'll come away with a Mother's Day poem (or poems) that is both universal—because everyone has some experience with mothers—and unique—because the relationship with this special person is a bond like no other..."

Read all of "Poems for Mom"

frivolous friday - the iBible

Thursday, May 07, 2009

book review: Face of Betrayal - A Triple Threat Novel by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

Title: Face of Betrayal
Lis Wiehl with April Henry
Thomas Nelson Publishers-Fiction (April 7 2009), Hardcover, 320 p.
ISBN-10: 1595547053

When Katie Converse, a 17-year-old Washington page home for a Portland Christmas, goes out on December 13th to walk the dog and never returns, the three members of the Triple Threat Club are naturals to get involved. Allison Pierce, a federal prosecutor earns her bread and butter prosecuting family law cases. Nicole (Nic) Hedges’ FBI experience investigating cyber crime against kids gets her posted to the Converse house to work with the distraught parents. Cassidy Shaw, Channel Four journalist, quickly discovers that the position next to her two sleuthing buddies is perfect for breaking new Converse case details nightly.

Katie’s MySpace blog, the philandering ways of her sponsor, Senator Fairview, anonymous threats from a sexual stalker, and a severed hand make for lots of intrigue, tension and red herrings in Face of Betrayal, a detective mystery by Lis Wiehl and April Henry.

Wiehl and Henry’s easy-to-read writing style is perfect for this fast-paced and intricate tale. The chapters, each of which is written from the point of view of one of the Triple Threat club members, are short with many a cliffhanger ending to keep the reader turning pages. Katie’s blog, a voice from where – maybe the grave? – gives the book a touch of modern realism and provides the reader with one more set of clues with which to try to solve the crime on his/her own. Of course the misty cold setting of Portland in the winter doesn’t hurt the story’s ambiance either.

The three strong women who reconnect at their 10-year high school reunion find they have a common interest in crime. Now they meet frequently for coffee or eats and we get to know them on many levels as they discuss life, love, faith and, of course the Converse case. Of the three, the authors give us the closest view of Allison, whose Christian worldview comes across clearly, although Nic and Cassidy are also satisfyingly complex and portrayed sympathetically. In this department, the characterization feels realistic when Nic doesn’t veer from her agnostic belief system, nor does Cassidy stray from her flavor-of-the-month spirituality.

On top of spinning a captivating story, peopled by interesting characters, Wiehl and Henry have managed to weave a variety of themes into their whodunit. Within the story we experience the lives of women making their way in male-dominated careers. Allison is concerned about coming across as seasoned and knowledgeable. Nic has to prove herself doubly – as a female and black FBI agent – while juggling her professional responsibilities with mothering Makayla. Cassidy’s concerns are more with how the HD cameras will accentuate her laugh lines and being big-footed out of the Converse story by superior Madeline McCormick should her sources dry up. Allison’s involvement with a safe house brings up the subject of abuse, especially as it occurs within families. Friendship is also a main theme as the three women are there for each other despite differences of personality and belief.

When asked why she turned to fiction writing after successfully authoring non-fiction, Wiehl said, “… I had an increasingly hard time finding stories I could relate to. And I wanted to read about strong women solving crimes. So, I thought, why not create my own mysteries… fiction stories with a slice of reality about how law and journalism really work.” Wiehl is knowledgeable on both counts, judging from her experience as a trial lawyer and legal analyst and reporter on the Fox News Channel. She has graduated from both the Harvard Law school and University of Queensland. Learn more about her and her books at Lis Wiehl.

April Henry has published seven young-adult mysteries. She blogs at So many books, so little time , and has her own MySpace blog as well.

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News blurbs Face of Betrayal “A blast to read.” I agree – and so do many others. The book sits at #34 on the New York Times bestseller list for May 10th. The hardback edition concludes with a short Reading Group Guide, the transcript of Wiehl’s interview with Bill O’Reilly, and (oh yummy!) the first two chapters of The Hand of Fate, the next Triple Threat novel, available April 2010.


Noon swim


Thursday Challenge

Next week: BIG (Massive, Tall, Roadside Monuments, Buildings, Trees, Animals,...)

Mom (or Dad) and the twins, just before jumping in

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

catching up

Well, I've taken a week off from serious work - most of it intentional, the last 24 hours not so much.

We went away on the weekend, first to Kelowna to visit E.'s dad, then to Kamloops to see the kids.

What a great time with these three. Munchkin is getting so big - a bona fide toddler, only he toddles on his knees. He can walk on his feet around furniture just fine, but when it comes to serious traveling, he prefers his knees, which are actually getting callused.

On the first morning there, after breakfast he made a beeline for his books and was quite happy to cuddle for a few minutes (as long as 14-month-old's attention span lasts) for a story. Then, I followed him upstairs, where we spent about an hour, with him showing me his huge collection of birthday toys (though I had to insist we put away the contents of one drawer before emptying another). Kids these days sure don't lack for stimuli.

Back home on Monday, I prepared for my Enhanced Drivers License appointment on Tuesday and generally got caught up from being away. However, I woke yesterday with the mother of all headaches - the kind which confines me to couch or bed with a bucket close at hand...nasty nasty day. I was forced to cancel my license appointment at ICBC.

It's hard to understand the purpose of such a day, though I did get to watch a potentially life-changing 100 Huntley Street. Moira Brown interviewed Carole Lewis who told of God's dealings with her in the past few years. It was inspirational, especially the challenge God gave her one morning: "Give me your life for a year and see what I will do."

(Ironically, the program is dated April 28th, though it aired May 5th, and I've just spent a good half hour trying to find it because I never caught the woman's name. I found it by googling 'Christian diet books').

Part 1

Part 2

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