Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Temptation, 3

Temptation is far more insidious than most think. It is downright addictive, so much so that the Christian will take two or three steps towards it before the Arm of God bars him...and even then, sometimes he will push past that very Arm! It is the sweet poison to the starving sinner. Like the thirsty man fooled yet again by a mirage, it makes a man or woman of God nearly despair. And that is the point: It makes you come to a point wherein you realise that you must choose to be more content to die rather than drink that water. It is then, when you sit down by the persevering power of God with your back to that well, that you see the fresh drink proffered by God. Not to drink from His hand, is both insult and certain death.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fun With the Professor.

My professor, D.W., loves to stop by the local artsy cafe in the University village to get a cup of spiced chai every morning. This past Monday, I casually let it fall that I had a piece of artwork on permanent display there, and that if he and his wife could identify it, I would buy them both a cup of whatever they wanted.

Today he came in with what he was certain was the Answer. He was wrong, but when he began to guess again, I held up my finger. "One guess per day, only!" So he rattles off all the possibilities anyway, while I sit there evilly grinning at him, and telling him that since there was only one guess per day, I could not possibly tell him even if he had guessed just then.

It's eating him alive.

E-mails today:

From me:


My roofers are coming by tomorrow after 10-so they say-so I'm not sure
what they have planned or when exactly they expect to be here. I may
not be in at all, but will make every effort..I was hoping to catch
some surgery tomorrow, too. Rats.


From him:

Thanks for letting me know, Eleanor. WBAA just predicted thunderstorms
for tomorrow afternoon so you might have a good test of what the
roofers wind up doing.

I am going to try one more time tomorrow morning to identify your
piece of art in Vienna Espresso Bar. Just to be's not a
table top, nor is it three-dimensional, right? How am I missing it?



One more time? One more time??

Where, I ask, is the W. Family Pride? You must persevere, man!

You will both have to pool your eyeballs a bit better than this! Think
of your children and the example you must set for generations to come!

I'll give you until the end of the week, and if you folks STILL don't
get it, I'm having Tim or someone advertise your shame on the website.

No more hints. Now get back there, both of you, and do your duty.


Sweet Jesus, what in the hell is it? I have spent more time in that place than
anyone in Tippecanoe County. I know everyone that works there on a first name
basis. For years I have given each of the kids that graduate a card with a
personal note, and a check. I communicate with those that move on. Mike
Paterniti even wrote that I drink a spiced chai "in my favorite cafe every
day." The owners were miffed that he didn't identify the place by its name,
but the whole story took shape over lunch there one early spring day in 2002.
Okay, I won't give up. I accept your challenge. I'll be damned if I will let
this get the best of me.
No more hints. No more clues. And I won't ask Hussein.

P.S. Is it in the women's restroom? Am I looking right at it? David


Poor man. I have no idea what you are looking at when you go in there!
And none of those dear children behind the counter were likely BORN when I did that piece, or perhaps they MIGHT have been in kindergarten.
Til the end of the week, then...and remember: One answer per day! Toodle-oo.

Hope they can take the heat!

By the way, the item in question is a large, decoratively painted frame to the menu chalkboard.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A Bizarre Little Birthday Party

Today was my son's 21st birthday. I remember his birth quite well, because things didn't go so hot with it, but in any case, I have quite a handsome son out of it, and mostly in his right mind, too. And, I lived to tell about it.

As the years go by, things seem to just get odder and odder with our family. It's almost like a frond of ivy that tries to push its was out into the sunshine by threading itself through a wall, and out the other side, into someplace with no sunshine at all. We don't intend to be this way, it's just the way we are. Completely unintentional, I assure you, but we begin to raise eyebrows I hear.

Since my husband had to be gone this week, we chose to celebrate Ian's birthday last night. As is our custom, he had the choice of restaurant where we would eat, and he chose a Japanese place called Kokoro. Before, he thought it would be nice to go to the local drive-in, Dog 'n' Suds. But the weather was too rainy.

We got to Kokoro, and it was open, so that was good. On the door, however, there was a sign which said, "We do not serve Japanese Food. We serve Tony's Food." Well, OK, Tony, whomever you may be, but it smells Asian in here.

Then I realised that not only had I forgotten my hearing aids, but also my glasses. That meant that not only could I not read the menu, I could not hear anyone read it to me. I thought what I might try was pointing and grunting when the waitress appeared. But my husband had a brainwave, and held the menu up across the table for me. That worked for the titles of the dishes, sort of, but the description was lost. I discovered I could read the menu, sort of, out of the corner of my eye, if it was held firmly by my daughter Meg, seated next to me. But I still could not get the descriptions, so since she was closest, she bellowed them into my ear.

Then the waitress brought us a basket of some long things wrapped in cellophane. I was hungry, and eyed them meaningfully until Rich caught the hint and started to say grace, but got something caught in his throat and coughed loudly for some time instead, so I prayed (not for him, though-- I forgot, in my eagerness to glorify God for Ian's life, but Rich survived to take his trip anyway). As soon as we were done, I palpated the wrapped items gingerly, not wanting to ruin them if they were fragile rolls of some Asian sort. I found they were warm! I said, "Gee! These seem to be like long rolls-- they sort of feel like warm fingers!" Ian snorted, and Meg rolled her eyes, but I carefully undid the wrapping, hoping for some lovely Asian bready thing. Ian stopped me. "It's a washcloth", he cautioned softly, afraid I would mistake it for an alien bread item and try to eat it anyway, which I probably would have, I am so open-minded. I wiped my fingers carefully, disappointed.

After the family had gotten over this, the waitress brought our salads and soup. There were no spoons, and only chopsticks, so I puzzled for a moment as to how to consume the soup, but then Ian reminded me that one politely drinks it from the bowl in Asian restaurants.

To my amazement and horror, my soup, all by itself, began to move slowly across the table! It did so in tiny little increments, headed for the salad as though it hated to be alone. The awful thing was that no one else saw the soup move. I squeaked in surprise, but my family was having too much fun making fun of me to look at it for themselves, and whenever they did, the thing stopped moving! No kidding! No matter how much I insisted, they would look only for a moment and then start to make fun of me! This was serious! Ian began to say, "Mom, you are the loudest person in this restaurant tonight!" Meg chimed in, adding, "You are so squirrelly tonight! What is with you??" Finally I got everyone to try to take me seriously and fix on the bowl-- and finally, then it did move right in front of all their eyeballs! They had to believe me! Meg looked as though she were about to convulse. Rich squinted at it professionally, and declared that it was floating on a thin layer of moisture, and that the slightest move would set it moving. It was a clear broth with something in it that looked like a yellow cotton ball, so I was cautious. The thing had already behaved oddly, how did I know what Tony did to his soups?

It wasn't that great, but the salad was pretty good.

After that, things calmed down a bit, mostly because the food had arrived and we were digging in and found ourselves victim of hot Asian spices. So we kept ourselves busy drinking ice water, and fanning our tongues, and wondering why we hadn't brought Kleenex.

You know, we never did see Tony. However, the back of the menu tells Tony's story. Apparently we ate at the restaurant of a man who dropped out of high school and travelled the Asian world, on who knows what. Apparently Tony also has a leg that is one and a half inches shorter than the other. The menu says he limps, which is fine with me, so long as he didn't get that way learning to handle those sharp Asian knives. The only other things we noticed were two: there was a large and very nice mural sized reproduction on the wall of Hokkusai's famous wave, looking as though it wanted to murder the poor fisherfolk in several boats. It's the sort of picture that makes you glad to be in the Midwest, but it is pretty, to be sure. The other was that all the watiresses were very, very thin. I pondered this aloud, and Ian only said, "perhaps you'd rather have waitresses who are waddling tubs of lard?"

We got home and I took out the Heath Bar cheesecake I'd baked for Ian, but no one was around. They were all in the bathrooms. All of them! What does it mean? Should I call Tony? I mean to say, there's cheesecake waiting here, and I'm alone with it.
After about ten minutes the others wandered in, subdued, and Meg announced she wasn't feeling so good. Rich said he wasn't feeling so wonderful either. Ian only said he'd had to "go" since before we left.

I felt fine, myself. And the cheesecake got its due. And today, on Ian's real birthday, we ate Kokoro lefotvers, which tasted better, and some more cheesecake, and Ian opened his presents.

And that was the end of that.

I think.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

So You Think You've Got a Smart Kid?

Here's a pithy piece of wisdom on how to ruin a child, from Honore de Balzac:

"Owing to a good education and an excellent memory, I seemed cleverer than I really was; forthwith I looked down on other people. And those who, for their own purposes wishes to prove to me that I was possessed of extraordinary abilities, found me quite convinced on that head. Praise is the most insidious of all methods of treachery known to the world; and this is nowhere better understood than in Paris, where intriguing schemers know how to stifle every kind of talent at tis birth by heaping laurels on its cradle." ~The Country Doctor

I don't remember where I read or heard it, but somewhere I heard that one ought never to priase a child for accomplishments, but rather the character with which they accomplished that which was evidently within their reach. The child may succeed, or, struggle and fail in the accomplishing, but can still do so with great perseverance, honor and integrity. This is of course what we are all really after, oui?

Since I dislike junk mail...

I'm having to arrange to do word verification on the comment feature. Hope this doesn't inconvenience you or cramp your style. If it does, let me know.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Do me a favor.

I would like anyone reading this to think for a moment and cite at least one thing they enjoy that a medieval peasant would have given his/her right arm for.

Here are a few to get you started:

A toilet
Running water

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What's weird about that, I ask?

Today at dinner my daughter was accusing me of not reading anything except books on scientific illustration. I told her that that was certainly not the case, and that in fact, I am reading three books at once. She loked at me as if I had grown another head and asked how I do that? Easy!

In the morning I read Thomas a Kempis at my morning devotion. After dinner I was reading (I finished it and have to find something else both absorbing and meaty to read-- any suggestions??) C. S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength. Then I toddle on up to bed and spend a few minutes readig Balzac's The Country Doctor. Then I go off to dreamland.

Meg says that's weird, and Ian agrees. Ian said it was like unplugging myself from one spot in the house and plugging myself into another. Or, he said, like people who hide snacks in different arts of the house.

Well, do you think it is weird?? Yeah? Who asked you, eh?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Who Is This Mystery Man?

Well, I guess he'd have to be another one of my Impressive People. To my knowledge, he is not someone who believes God, though I think he would certainly say that he believes in God. But he's still an impressive guy.

This man was born without a left arm; or to be more exact, his left arm ends at the elbow in a bony little something-or-other. He was born to a large family in Texas, who early recognised an amazingly sharp mind when they saw it, and sent him off to be educated classically. He was always small, and I don't think his height ever broke 5'6". But that didn't stop him, and neither did his lack of a left hand. He simply found new ways to use that left arm: if any schoolyard kid razzed him, he quickly learned that the bony end of his arm was quite an effective weapon-- and he made good use of it more than once. People learned not to mess with him physically, and it didn't take long to learn that they could not mess with him mentally either.

This man is John Silber, president of Boston University while I was there between 1976 and 1980, and before that time and after, author, artist, and teacher. Even today, he is behaving like a president of BU, though he is technically chancellor. While I was at BU, he was embroiled in conflict between the administration of the University and the unionised professors, who actually went on strike. Silber was the man everyone loved to hate, but Silber didn't care. More than once I saw him walking down Commonwealth Avenue on his way to the office from his house-- alone and unprotected-- and looking chirpy and suave in a navy beret and overcoat tailored to show the end of his arm. Moxie is the word.

My hat is off to you, Herr Professor Doctor Silber!

Sunday, September 18, 2005


This picture, courtesy of Lois, does funny things to me. I don't know whether to say, Aaaawwwww, or to simply laugh!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bankable Currency

For the benefit of one in need, a good work is at times to be openly interrupted, or even changed for something better. For if this be done, a good work is not destroyed, but changed into a better. Without love an outward work profits nothing; but whatever is done from love, however so small and inconsiderable it may be, becomes completely fruitful-- if indeed God's reckoning is based upon the goodwill and love with which a man acts rather than on how much he does. ~Thomas a Kempis

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing...Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:2,8a

Lord, Your eternal and effective currency is Love. Only with it can one purchase that which lasts forever. Make me rich in Love! Help me to exchange the currencies of this world for it: talent, beauty, knowledge, fame, wealth, worldly security-- all for truly godly love. These earthly currencies are not worthless, for they can still serve, but they are only copper pennies to Your gold. Give me riches in Heaven, and help me see how I may invest therein! Oh God, give me the Gold of Love! Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blood, Barbarism, and Healing (warning, a bit gory)

Today I watched two canine surgeries, both to remove growths. The first was a golf-ball sized cytohemangioma (well, that gets close to what it was, anyway) sitting under the dog's jaw; it was mobile. The second was an axillary lipoma about the size of a softball, sitting beneath the animal's armpit. It too was mobile.

I am fascinated by surgery, and I feel extraordinarily privileged to watch it in the capacity of a medical artist. I went to look at the board to see what was on tap for the day, got suited up in scrubs and proceeded into anesthesiology to get booties, hat and mask. The dogs were already intubated, being monitored by an anesthesia tech while being prepped. They were shaved and washed, temperatures constantly being taken, and being respirated artificially. When the surgeon was ready, they were trnsferred to the surgical gurney and taken into the operating room.

Surgery is a paradox. In the back of my mind, as I witness what is going on, I sense it. But it wasn't until just a few minutes ago that it dawned on me that there is such a stark contrast of things going on all at once. The dog is absolutely under control, and the entire room is sterile. Everyone is gowned to the nines. You could easily do a beautiful human surgery in there: there's a heart monitor, a respirator, the works. All the instruments have been sterilised and wrapped in neat packets, and the solutions all bottled by the manufacturer. Science abounds and everyone knows their jobs; their very movements are economical and elegantly efficient, like ballet.

And then the scalpel bears down-- that shining sharp so fine that it is almost as if the skin takes a moment to realise that it has been cut before it starts to bleed perfunctorily. As the second cut is made, blood begins to flood the field. Perhaps, as the blade cuts yet again, there will be a small fountain of blood. Techs and assistants begin to dab and aspirate, as though the flesh were doing something naughty, like a toddler throwing a tantrum.

In the end, the Thing must come out, and there is no magic way to do it except to cut. You can't disguise blood. The contrast of that sterile room with the spatters of blood on the sterile field and the latex-clad hands of the surgeon can't be missed. They certainly are in control...mostly...but the animal, after all, bleeds. And the bleeding is cauterised in a crisp, efficient, almost masterful way, while what cannot be cauterised is simply tied off. But, in the end...the Thing must be cut out. It comes down to knife versus flesh.

They ease it out and sever its connective tissue roots and vessels. In the case of the jaw tumor, the skin had to come with it, and suturing was a complicated affair. The lipoma, a white mass looking and apparently hefting like a silicone ball, simply popped out. There the suturing was simple. Very straightforward, and much easier to draw, too.

When this surgery is over, the room will most certainly have to be cleaned up. There's a big difference between a pre-op surgery and a post-op. Something has happened, and it was messy. But it had to happen.

I can't help making the parallel with sin. No matter how I sterilise and isolate my sin, studying its causes and prognosticating over it, no matter my faith in the Surgeon, the Thing must come out, and it will be a time of pain. It will come down to Knife versus Flesh.

Merciful Lord, and Doctor of my soul: Let Your Grace be my anesthesia to enable me to stay still beneath the Knife which means goodness and healing to me.

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Matthew 9:11-13

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Temptation (part two)

Concerning temptation, I've learned that it is pointless to think I am fighting temptation at all if I do not do the hard, painful and fearless work of confession and prayer in all honesty.

Is it lust? Gluttonly? Vainglory? Pride? Avarice? Sloth? Envy? Those are the classic diseases of temptation. Whatever your sin-sickness is, it's going to have you deeply ashamed when you go probing into it, like discovering that you have syphilis from that one night stand you tried so hard to forget. It just won't fit your self-image at all. Yuck, me? I have that sin? If I have a shameful disease, I am not going to get better by ignoring it. I must see a doctor, get a diagnosis, and start a course of treatment. The Doctor, in this case, is utterly confidential, and He is on my side. He wants me to get well. My sin is a chronic condition, but it does not have to be terminal.

It's painful to look in the mirror and say, You are a proud, vain glutton, or, Lust, again?, or to realise that I am one of those people who chronically, mercilessly and pridefully turn away when confronted with the shortcomings of others.. It's hard to see the sins coming a mile off and know that you will again have to face the struggle of putting sin to death, and not giving it quarter. Every fleshly fiber in my body wants what I want, and does not want that bitter Cup of Life that kills before it gives life and freedom.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Temptation. (part one)

Temptation can be amazingly subtle and persistent. One might have a sore trial of temptation, escaping 'by the skin of his teeth' whole through prayer, confession, instruction, and the strengthening grace of God. One might even look upon such an episode as the 'grand struggle' of one's life-- and, having come through whole, never realise that sruggles of this kind do not end merely through having overcome them. I have found that temptations come like waves on the shore: you experience mild ones that are somewhat easy to manage, then along comes a killer tsunami that near about wipes you out. Would it not be foolishness to sigh a breath of relief and say, "Well, thank goodness that's over with!"? If you are not constantly on the alert, you will be taken away by another one.

Here are some things that I have learned about temptation. Don't suppose for a minute that this is all there is to learn, or that having observed these things, I don't suffer wounds from temptation. It wasn't for nothing that Luther wrote of Satan, His craft and power are great/ And armed with cruel hate/ On earth is not his equal! Yet, perhaps I can smell the wave coming from farther off, and look to my moorings.

- Thomas a Kempis writes, "There is no man completely free from temptations as long as he lives, because the source of temptation is in ourselves. In that we were born of sinful desire, one temptaton or tribulation passes and another is on its way, and we shall always have something to suffer, for we have lost the boon of original felicity. Mnay seek to escape temptations and more grievously fall into them. We cannot win by flight alone; but by patience and true humility we are made stronger than our foes."

In other words, your points of temptation are not likely to go away altogether. If you love food and are a glutton, you will likely be a glutton all your days, though it is not unheard of for God to remove desires. The fruit of your temptation does not have to ripen, however. If you know how to recognise the buds, you can remove them early, but if the stem is become especially tough and will not yield to your effort, there is One Whom you may call for assistance, and the earlier the better, I say. He promises to come to your aid:

My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word. Psalm 119:28

I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. John 17:15

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, Ephesian 3: 14-16.

Persist! More tomorrow.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Just Do It.

Life would be much nicer if we all would just allow people to help us. It would be nicer if we would just let them say nice things to us. It would be a better place if we accepted gifts more easily.

No more, "Oh, you didn't have to."

No more, "Oh you probably say that to everyone."

No more, "Oh, thanks but I've got it covered."

How about, "How lovely and kind of you to say (or do or help)! I so appreciate your good heart!"

Need others more.

I don't have anything really deep or Biblical to say today. Just do that for awhile.