26 November 2020

Gobbling through 2020


It's been a while!  I used to put my weekly menus on this blog, and even long after I quit that, I would put my Thanksgiving menus on here.  But, I skipped that in 2018 and 2019.  But, in the spirit of redeeming 2020, I thought I would get back to it.  

Here are the menus from previous years:  


This year:  

We're in the midst of pandemic.  Some are choosing not to celebrate Thanksgiving outside of their homes and some are living it up.  Some folks are still sheltering in place and some are doing life as normal.  These are all difficult decisions.  The body has needs and so does the soul.  My mama told me back in April, when lock down was at its tightest, that she'd rather die of covid than of loneliness.  I think that's the feeling of a lot of folks, but it's all so difficult to navigate.  We are making decisions for ourselves but they also affect others.  There are better and worse decisions, but there isn't one right path.  We’re big time missing Paul’s parents, who are thanksgiving staples as important as the turkey.  Our gathering is pretty limited this year, but we are still gathering with my parents (mama, daddy, stepmama) and siblings (brother and sister-in-law).  So, we're feeding 11.   But we'll have food for forty, of course.  


Pick Up Food:  
My step mother is bringing a caesar dip with crudités, and I am doing a giant charcuterie.  It's just so pretty and happy and everyone can find something he or she loves.  I'll also make a festive cocktail -  an herby french 75, I think.  My family loves a beverage, and so I'll also have the basics of a bar set up and they can help themselves. We'll do appetizers and beverages in our family room rather than at my kitchen bar so that everyone will be able to relax and have space while supper gets finished.  It's nice to separate appetizers from the food-prep spaces.  It makes everyone feel more cared for and less rushed.  Plus, at Thanksgiving you never really know how long everything will take to get done (though, you better believe I have a spreadsheet), and so spending a little extra effort on appetizers takes the pressure off of getting food in the bellies of hungry people.  

Soup:  
Using an old standby favorite roasted red bell pepper that I've been making for at least a decade for special occasions.  It's so yummy.  I always swirl creme fraiche on top - sometimes in a shape or a monogram if I'm fancing. I'll serve it in my grandmother's china coffee cups.  I love to have soup at Thanksgiving, because it gives us all something with which to sit down at the table all at the same time.  We can pray together, and then we can go through the line and everyone just eats whenever they make it back to the table.  Consider soup - it's an added touch that makes turkey day a little more special.  

Main:
Grilled Turkey.  A few years ago a certain favorite little brother of mine told me he was going to cook the turkey, and then he may or may not have had too many adult beverages the night before and called and said, "I just can't make it."  I cussed and then put hubby to work, who googled and learned how to use the green egg to make a turkey.  It was so good.  He's going to be back at it this year, and I'm going to brine the turkey first.  

Sideboard:
The folks who are coming are largely helping with sides this year.  I just tell everyone "tell me what you're bringing and I'll build around it."  

Cornbread dressing:  My grandmother's recipe.  We never vary it, and there are quite a lot of folks who would boycott if we do.  It's not especially creative or special, but it's very good, in a 1950s kind of way.  Which I feel like we need a little bit of.  

Sweet Potato Casserole:  Mama is bringing this.  

Modern Green Bean Casserole:  Sister in law 

Pommes Aligot:  Brother (Google if you're curious.  I.cannot.wait.) 

Wild Rice Salad:  Step Mother

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts:  Mama 

Cheddar & Scallion Creamed Corn:  in Ina Garten's new cookbook that I ordered for myself.  I love scallions.  And corn.  And cheese.  So, this particularly spoke to my heart.  Or my stomach.  Whatever.  

Spinach Gratin: Also an Ina, but not in this particular cookbook.  Recipe here.  


On the Table

Gravy:  Another Ina. Recipe here.  
Cranberry Sauce:  Theme, much?  Recipe here.
Eason Family Pickles 
Breadbasket:  Yeast rolls (a favorite recipe of mine from Stop and Smell the Rosemary, a favorite cookbook of mine) and biscuit bread muffins (an old family-friend recipe that we love, turned into muffins) and maybe some beer bread muffins (same story as the biscuit bread muffins).  
Amish Jarred Spiced Peaches:  (It's a long story.  Not really.  We like these tacky canned peaches from the 50s and we just can't stop liking them.  And by we, I mean me.  And the urchins, who have bad taste.  So, basically, the story is that we're tacky and we don't care.) 

Dessert Cart:

Pear Gallette:  I'm looking at recipes and will make up my own.  I love pears and I love galletes.    

Pecan Pie:  Ada Bee 

Cheesecake:  Stepmother 

Bittersweet chocolate cake with Amaretto Creme:  Another from Ina's new book.   






02 November 2020

A Call To Charity and Clarity

 

I am compelled to put down my thoughts before tomorrow, when the country will finish voting in the 2020 Presidential election. This election has been different than the other 9 through which I’ve lived.  Admittedly, I do not remember the elections of ’84 (at all) or ’88 (very well), but I do remember ’92 and forward.  Never before have I experienced such vitriol, such noise, such division, such an undignified public square.  I am told that there were elections back in the day that courted this same type of abysmal behavior in which we’re currently immersed.  I don’t really believe it (not because people were better, but because manners were), but even if I granted that there have been times in our country like this, you must grant that the information age and the technological revolution have conspired to ensure that we are much more bombarded with all the nastiness than any Americans before us.  Because of that – and because I promised a room full of students that I would give them my thoughts – I am required by my conscience to put my fingers to the keys.  Forgive the additional noise, though I certainly hope I will not here fall prey to the peculiar sins of the day.  

 

I want to make a few points about freedoms.  First, I want us all to remember how many freedoms we truly do enjoy.  Secondly, I want to talk about a freedom we’ve recently lost.  Third, I want to discuss a freedom we’ve unfortunately invented.  I’ll end with what I think is the most strategic vote I can make tomorrow, and then I’ll retire from political commentary for a bit.  I have some ideas about else how we can all fill the time.  They involve dinner parties and fall cocktails, service to the community and reading Wendell Berry.  

 




Give Thanks for American Freedom 

We are the country of many freedoms.  Probably the first country to be as free as we are – or at least the first country to mean to be as free as we have meant to be.  We have freedom of religion – really, we do.  Yes, there are some governors who have acted bad in the past few months, but all in all, we worship as we please.  Go read the Act of Uniformity of 1662 passed by the English parliament.  Since you won’t (It’s long and tedious – I don’t blame you one bit – I only made it 1/3 of the way through), I’ll tell you a tidbit.  The act disallowed college attendance for those who didn’t agree to receive the sacraments from the church of England proper – and required said church to administer said sacraments using certain wording.  Isaac Watts, one of the most brilliant men to ever call England home, couldn’t go to college.  Why?  Because he was convinced of a less Anglican ecclesiology and given the damning label of “Nonconformist”, forever impeding all aspects of his life.  Our freedom of religion is actually quite remarkable.  Yes – we’re dealing with challenges to it these days.  I am the Provost of an avowedly bible-believing Christian school – you better believe I’m aware of the potential for the erosion of this right.  But, friends, we do enjoy true religious freedom.  You can cry out to Allah or bow down before the god of Self.  There is not even – nor has there ever been – an established American Christianity.  Some who claim Christ wear holy underwear; some practice baptism by proxy; some deny the trinity.  Our churches do not pay taxes, and no one tells us what to preach. We are religiously free.  

 

We have true freedom of speech.  While all the lovely giants of the social media industry may interfere with this freedom and while cancel culture brings with it many concerns and while the American University has not seen such absurd lack of academic freedom at least since McCarthyism and maybe ever, it is the case that our government does very little interfering with our speech. This is evidenced by the idiotic and even hateful things all manner of people in America say every day.  And by all manner of people, I mean our President.  But not just President Trump – members of Congress in both parties all the way down to citizens of every neighborhood in our country are permitted to announce, quite publicly, all sorts of offensive and absurd things.  And that freedom is a treasure indeed.  And, yes, it needs protection even now.  But when we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we do indeed possess a remarkable freedom to type, yell, whisper, chant even the ugliest and dumbest of the words that come into our hearts and minds.  

 

We still do very much benefit from the entire list of precious truths enshrined in the Bill of Rights.  Yes, there are errors.  Yes, there are patterns to keep our eyes on.  Yes, some do not treasure these rights enough.  Yes, some groups in America enjoy these rights more fully than other groups.  But, friends, I submit to you that we still live in the America about which so many of our founding documents so eloquently speak.  I would even say, with much thanksgiving, that we are significantly closer to that espoused ideal than we were at the time those documents were drafted.  The Bill of Rights is grand, but we’ve improved upon it greatly, especially with the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th amendments.  We began with a remarkable and truly good end in mind, and though we’ve yet to achieve it fully and never will, we are closer than we were when we started.  

 

Pause this week and give thanks for the country in which you live.  We all enjoy different privileges, but if you don’t acknowledge that being an American is one of them, you are missing a grand opportunity for gratitude.  If you do not acknowledge American privilege, you are in danger of taking it for granted.  When freedoms are taken for granted, they are in most danger of being lost.  

 

 

Freedom to Know 

While we enjoy many rights and freedoms, there are some things to worry about in America.  A privilege that has been quite eroded in my lifetime is the ability to have access to unbiased information.  I can remember thinking it was nuts that the English government funds the BBC – sounds like a recipe for control of what information the citizenry consumes.  And I still do think it’s a recipe for that.  But, friends, now we all know that government-sponsored media is not the only recipe for control of information.  I believe in a media that isn’t controlled by the government, but gosh I now long for a media that does not rely on clicks for its funding.  

 

I have so many privileges – I have reliable internet and a decent college education. I am the child, the wife, and the mother of readers, analyzers, thinkers.  I have always shared my home with people who make me smarter.  At my church, I sit under preachers and teachers who are relentless about their categories, and I worship with people who take thought seriously.   I work with men and women who are so very committed to and capable of truth.  Even with all of these privileges, I am unable to locate clear information about what is going on in our country.  

 

The freedom to know is not a right in the constitution – not even Justice Kennedy can find it.  But, a lack of ability to know is a serious detriment to our country, and I would call on anyone in power to relentlessly restore truth-telling to every office in the land and to increase the clarity of all policies and laws.  We as citizens must quit voting for and subscribing to people and organizations who lie to us.  We must call out all falsehood, especially on the part of those “on our team.”  So many of us apparently like being lied to, and we need to repent.  

 

Politicians should not be permitted to lie – either through blatant falsehood or through the hyperbole and truth shading that are now thought of as a regular day’s business.  I cannot find truth – not through either of the major political parties in our country, not through most of our government officials, not through the vast majority of our media outlets.  I just don’t believe any of it anymore.  Why? Because when a source proves unreliable over and over again, it is not smart to rely on the source anymore.  When something happens in America, I literally do not know to whom to turn for mere accuracy, much less all the other desirable attributes of rhetoric in the public square.  This lack of ability to know has pervaded our non-political entities as well – I cannot ask a hospital how much a surgery will cost, and itemized bills are just pre-written SNL skits.   My students ask me about tax codes, and I throw up my hands in despair.  Who can know?  I feel like I have as much access to accurate information as Job’s friends had to the mind of God.  

 

People, companies, corporations, journalists, and government officials lie all the time, and we’ve all gone to excusing it like they can’t help it or something.   “Well, that’s politics.” “Well, that’s the FDA for you.”  “Well, it’s a hospital, so you’ll never be able to find out.”  “Well, that’s Fox News/CNN/the New York Times for you… they lie.”  It doesn’t have to be like this, friends.  If we all quit buying, they’ll quit selling.  Come on - we’re capitalists after all.  

 

This freedom to know isn’t in the constitution, but its lack threatens to destroy all the freedoms that are actually enshrined there.  We won’t be able to exercise our freedoms if we are entirely uninformed.  We must reinstate a general demand for accuracy and clarity. 

 

Freedom to Flee Morality 

There is another freedom that isn’t found in the constitution, but we are apparently wanting to put it there very badly.  We do not actually enjoy, as Americans, the freedom to be a terrible person, but we have gone to assuming that we do.  When I have articulated my nausea at either of the major party candidates, people say to me, “All men are sinners.”  Yes. They are.  I actually believe what the Bible tells me – that all men are created with intrinsic worth and dignity and that all are fallen into terrible unrighteousness.  I actually believe that we are reprobates incapable of redeeming ourselves.  I have children, for goodness sakes.  I know the black hearts of men – my own and everyone else’s.  All have fallen short of the glory of God.  No one is good – no, not one.  

 

But no one is free to be so awful.  We have no freedom to be terrible.  We’ve never had that freedom.  And I’m not talking at all about being of a certain faith or belief.  Yes, I believe what you believe matters, certainly for eternity’s sake.  But, put that aside.  How you behave matters – and has always mattered – in America.  Men who cheat on their wives are not respected.  But wait – how many of our presidents have been adulterers?  How many people do I personally respect who have committed adultery.  A lot, actually.  But, and here is the key, I respect absolutely no one who thinks he had a right to cheat on his wife.  Everyone I respect is a sinner.  I respect no one who does not believe himself to be a sinner – who thinks that bad behavior is either not bad or bad-but-also-fine.  

 

I’ve sinned 17 times today – at least.  But, I shall not claim that I haven’t.  Or that my sin doesn’t matter.  I have no freedom to be terrible.  

 

I believe in the Tao (read Lewis in Abolition of Man).  I believe that we all know, somewhere, the basic tenets of a moral life.  We know that it is honorable to pay your employees and that it is dishonorable to exploit them.  We know that it is good to tell the truth and bad to lie.  Granted, we are all terrible at all of it, but we know that we have no freedom to be terrible at it.  Until now.  We’ve descended, as of late, into this “Who are you to judge?” or “It’s part of life.” or “You do you.” or “Everyone is bad…”  Everyone is bad.   I not only grant it, I preach it.  My students buy me mugs that say, “Everyone is on Santa’s naughty list.”  That’s how much I preach it.  We’re all depraved, but, and read closely, we’re not allowed to be.  

 

Listen to the Hamilton soundtrack. The morality of a person was relevant to his ability to hold office then and it is relevant now.   If we’re all so terrible, how can we ever determine whether a man is good or bad?  Are there even bad guys and good guys?  If Stalin’s party had the right policies, would it be okay to vote for him?  What about Charles Manson?  

 

We have established a new freedom in America – we’ve all put on our Justice Kennedy robes – and decided that we’re permitted to be awful and that awfulness should not have consequences.  That’s insanity, and I beg of you all to see it and identify it out loud and refuse to be a party to the finding of this supposed right in the penumbra of our amoral, self-as-god culture.  When the Israelites did what was right in their own eyes, there was no peace in the land. 

 

What to do now?  

 

There are bad guys in the world, and, incidentally, we’ve nominated two of them to the highest office in the land.  All men are sinners, but there are actual real bad guys. We see a great example in scripture (or traditional Hebrew literature if you’re a secular progressive and that wording makes you feel better about learning from something).  

 

Israel has a host of kings.  Some are bad guys and some are good guys.  God calls some bad and some good.  So, we know that kings can be bad and they can be good.  God rarely lists their policies; He talks about their hearts, their worship, and their character. And He talks a lot about their effect on the people.  Let’s zoom in a bit more.  We have King Saul, Israel’s first king and a bad guy, and King David, Israel’s second king and a good guy.  We know intimately of David’s sin – he’s a really big sinner.  Adultery, murder, abuse of power.  But, it is made clear that he is a good guy.  Is God arbitrary or capricious or immoral?  Is He just closing his eyes and throwing out labels or ignoring the gross violation of The Good?  No, the difference between Saul and David is how each is oriented to his sin.  David’s a sinner who knows his need and turns for help.  Psalms 51 and 130 are particularly moving poems of repentance. The difference between David and Saul is who is on the thrones of their hearts.  

 

I am not calling for only electing men and women who have enthroned Christ.  I mean – that would be lovely (assuming they were also competent and had their head screwed on straight – plenty of nutso Christians out there) but I don’t think it’s at all required. 

 

What I do think is required is that we not enthrone those who have enthroned evil in their own lives.  It is detrimental to our country to elect bad guys – and my definition of a bad guy is simply a man who doesn’t believe he is bad, who shows no signs of wanting to be better.  Bad guys are not guys that fail at being good – bad guys are guys who wallow in their awfulness, justifying it and flaunting it.  Our President sins but the kicker for me is that he is indignant that anyone would call him a sinner.  He loves his sin.  He hardens his own heart.  

 

I am personally convicted that I cannot vote for Donald Trump – even if I did love his policies, because he is a bad guy. I honestly don’t know as much about Joe Biden.  But, I do know he’s a liar, seemingly a racist, and I do know that he supports the murder of American citizens being legal (and, yes, I’m one of those people who thinks that people of a different size and location than me are still people who have a right to life.) And, since he puts murder of the unborn in his platform, we certainly don’t see repentance there.    

 

This has nothing to do with personality.  Yes, I find Trump’s personality distasteful, undignified, and unpresidential.  But I’d happily elect a good man with a terrible personality.  And that is why Biden’s personality is also irrelevant.  Who cares if he’s jolly and not difficult to spend time with – he’s not a good man.  

 

And, I start to sound like the annoying Sicilian in my favorite movie.  I cannot choose the cup in front of myself or the cup in front of my enemy.  There is no good choice.  

 

But wait!  I’m a logician!  I believe in fallacies, and we’ve been all eaten up with one for centuries. It is the fallacy of the false dichotomy.  It is not true that I must vote Trump or Biden.  In fact, I’d argue that it is true that I can vote for neither. So, I’ll be voting third party this year.  I will actually cast my vote for Brian Carroll, the candidate from the American Solidarity Party.  You can look them up if you’re curious.  From all I can tell, Carroll is a good guy.  Among the good guys running (he’s not alone), he has the policies I most (though not without exception of course) agree with.  Therefore, he’s my choice.  

 

I admit that I do not live in a swing state and this makes this calculus a bit easier.  Mississippi will go for Trump.  I wish it wouldn’t, but I don’t wish it would go for Biden.  I wish it would go for a good guy.  And so, I will vote for a good guy. But the electoral college does make voting on principle an easier choice for me than for a woman in Wisconsin, for example.  

 

However, I actually reject the idea that pragmatism demands that we vote with someone who has a chance.  I don’t even understand that, actually.  And I’ve tried really hard and will continue to listen to anyone who wants to try to explain it to me.  In my view, the best and most pragmatic thing that could happen to America is for these two major parties to realize that we will not tolerate these offerings.  Yes, either Trump or Biden will win.  But, if we could strike a blow for reason – for truth – for goodness – if we could have even 10% of the country vote some other direction, we would get someone to pay attention, and thus we would make a pragmatic step in the direction of the good.  

 

I also reject that voting one way or another is going to make much of a difference on the ground in our country.  America is her people – we need to win the hearts and minds of one another over to the good and the true and the beautiful.  A president will never save us.  Policies will never save us.  Jesus will save us in eternity, and we will save each other here on earth through relationships and education and every day kindnesses.  I just don’t think America will look very different in four years no matter who is elected tomorrow.  It doesn’t look that different than it did when I was born, despite the lighting of our hair on fire that happened when Clinton was elected and when Bush was elected and when Obama was elected and when Trump was elected.  The republicans have been pro-life since abortion was made legal – and it’s been legal for 50 years.  Not making much progress, are you, guys?  That’s because they have used it as a bargaining chip for Christians to allow them to act bad – if we actually made progress on abortion policy, what would they threaten us with?   

 

The respective policies of the parties are just not that different.  Yes, Trump is (in espoused policy, if not personally) pro-life, but is he efficacious in those policies at all?  Yes, I love Amy Coney Barrett – I think she’s truly a God-send.  Yes, I think abortion should be illegal unless the life of the mother is threatened, and I do think doctors are the best ones to decide when life is threatened.  I hope and pray and believe that Barrett will be Trump’s best move.  A broken clock is right twice a day.  [Especially a broken clock who traded judicial appointment decisions to the more experienced in his party in exchange for the turning of a blind eye to his narcissism, so he’s not making the decisions about who to nominate anyway.]  If the courts are going to legislate (and they are), pack them with as many sane, good jurists as we can find.  But, judges are not salvific anymore than presidents are.  And they’re certainly not worth putting my name beside Saul’s name. 

 

A Final Word – and the Most Important 

I have written all of these words with very few caveats and very little quarter given to what I believe to be bad reasoning. However, let me be clear that I am very aware that I am but a woman.  A frail human beset by many sins.  My mind is fallen and my heart is deceptive above all else.  At my best thinking and reasoning and at my most moral living, I am finite, broken beyond repair.  

 

Men and women I respect will make a different decision in tomorrow’s election.  People I love, people I think highly of, people I choose to do life with, people I’m related to, people I look to for wise counsel will vote for Trump tomorrow.  People I love, people I think highly of, people I choose to do life with, people I’m related to, people I look to for wise counsel will vote for Biden tomorrow.  People who are more morally upright and who are more intellectually capable than I am are making different decisions tomorrow than I am.  They are also making different decisions from one another.  

 

It is my civic duty to vote.  It is my Christian duty to vote my conscience.  It is my human duty to love those who think differently.  And, friends, I don’t find it hard – because I love people who think differently than I do all day every day. I mean loving people is always hard.  But disagreement isn’t a new obstacle to love.   Some of my best friends are prochoice and we’ve managed to be friends for decades.  Don’t elevate this election to a category that doesn’t exist:  things about which we cannot disagree.  It is the calling on all of us to love the other.  If our neighbor was just like us, we wouldn’t need to be commanded to love him.  We must love our neighbors, or we will only have ourselves left to love.  And what a sad – and ineffective – life that will be.  

 

So, above all else, please walk through your halls, wherever those halls are, with a spirit of charity. 

 

Be grateful for the great privilege of being an American.  

Demand truth and access to information. 

Reject the belief that awfulness is permissible.  

Fight back against the broken two-party system and the bad guys they’ve offered.  

 

But, above all else, love one another.  Clarity is so valuable, but charity is a virtue.  

25 September 2018

Our Call in the Midst of Kavanaugh





Christine Blasey Ford says that Brett Kavanaugh, current nominee to the Supreme Court, sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s. And it's loud enough out there in the public square that I find myself needing to clarify my own thoughts.  

I offer them here, open to genuine engagement with whomever might come along. 

Some Category Organization:

One: Women have historically been in an economically and politically weaker position in the public spheres of the West. 
This remains true today, though the disparity is less than it has been at other times in recent history. I have had, throughout my teen and adult years, negative experiences connected with my gender. I know of few women who will not articulate the same. These experiences include a wide range of things - from those rightly criminalized by our penal code and which deserve a treatment by Dante - to the things that fall under what are now called microagressions by some, but which I'd call tacky or about which my Mama would smile and say, "Aww. Poor thing. I don't think he's been taught." 

Parsing these experiences is helpful and necessary, but denying their existence is absurd. Failure to admit that women have historically been and still remain in a weaker position in public spheres is naive and patronizing. The question is not whether women have been and are in that position - the question is what to do with that fact. 

The particular suffering of women at the hands of men is real. Men have often abused and still often do abuse their power, in ways big and small.  

Two: Humans of both genders are liars.
My theology tells me that there has only been one exception, and He's seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Science agrees with my Bible - people lie. And, anecdotally, we all know this to be true. Ask any parent in the world.


So, when Human A accuses Human B of an action, and Human B denies it, it is entirely possible that either Human A or Human B could be lying. Because any Human could be lying.  

Three: Humans of both genders misremember.
The science on this is fascinating and unsettling, but it is clear that even without any mal-intention of any kind, our memories are fallible. They are regularly incomplete and often incorrect. Again, my theology tells me the heart is deceptive - we deceive not only knowingly, but we unknowingly deceive ourselves. And, again, anecdotally, we know this to be the case. The experience within a marriage of one person remembering that we have said nothing of Friday evening plans and the other remembering that we clearly discussed going to the Joneses' for supper is not unique to my own marriage. I know, see, because it is the theme of many a standup routine - and everyone always laughs.

So, when Human A accuses Human B of an action, and Human B denies it, it is entirely possible that Human A or Human B is unintentionally misremembering.

Four: Discerning truth when humans disagree can be quite difficult.
When we are presented with situations with Human A and Human B accusing/denying, each person, being created equal and so being equally in nature likely to lie or misremember, deserves to be viewed with equal weights and balances, until such time as things are added to the equation that give us an ability to believe that one person is lying or misremembering and the other is accurately relaying facts.

Complicating this further - it is possible for two parties to be lying, misremembering, or even accurately relaying different pieces and parts of a story - and it is even possible for no one person to be capable of full accuracy. 

Five: There are some instances about which we may never know truth. 

Really smart, honest scholars regularly disagree over all sorts of historical facts, and I still don't know for sure which one of my children originated the idea to tattoo our yard's many lizards.

Six: We are often bad truth-finders. 

The difficulties articulated in numbers four and five do not get at the most significant difficulty of all. The very humans who are tasked (or task themselves...) with finding the truth are affected by being fallen themselves.We invariably want one person to be accurate and the other to be wrong about the facts. 

Americans want our SCOTUS nominee or his accuser to be correct. We want Kavanaugh to win or lose, be confirmed or rejected, and that affects our desires about the situation's facts. We desire facts. Let that roll over in your brain. A desire for certain facts is dangerous if our task is truth-finding. There are impressive volumes of judicial rules about finding dispassionate jurors. Because it's very difficult. 

We are never disinterested, nor are we without flaw. There is one just judge of the universe. And not one of us is He. 

------

Thoughts about our current situation: 

One: I have no idea what happened at a party in the 1980s. 
Neither does anyone reading this.

Two: We should not automatically #believesurvivors. 
The logic that says those victimized must be automatically believed says that having something done to you makes you more reliable than you were before something was done to you. It's simply not the case. Being raped, assaulted, victimized in any way does not change a person's reliability. Human suffering demands all available charity and provision, but it does not change a person's nature as it pertains to reliability, for good or ill. 

A victimized person is a person deserving every single manner of care and respect, a person bearing the image of God, and a person who yet suffers the effects of a fallen human nature. Some have conflated charity, respect, and care with belief, and with that confusion, we do a great disservice to truth and to people.

Three: We should take very seriously what women have to say, because women are humans, and our job as humans is to care for humans.  Moreover, we currently share a special burden to be watchful against the sins of our culture. 
Women have been dismissed in far too many cases, and women deserve the protection and respect of their society. We have corporately failed to protect women from men. We have protected abusers from justice rightfully demanded by their victims, especially when those abusers have been powerful, prosperous, and privileged white men. 

The record reflects that I am a pretty bad driver - therefore, it is incumbent upon me to be especially vigilant on the interstate. We post-modern westerners are bad women-protectors; it is incumbent upon us to be especially vigilant when given an opportunity to defend a woman. This is not because she is more reliable. This is because we should know ourselves, and we should be repenting of our failures and seeking to crucify our individual and corporate sins.  

Four: Kindness to fellow humans is always merited - whether toward accused or accuser.

No one has ever stumbled because he offered peaceful and careful words. Speaking truth never requires being ugly. We are not required to rain down fire and brimstone, nor are we are required to be unpleasant. Thanks be to God. 

Five: This is all annoying, because it doesn't land me on a specific team. 
But that's an indictment of us and our desire to be on a team at the expense of truth and virtue. And it's an indictment of the current culture in which we live that we have not available to us a team that prioritizes virtue and truth above all else. 

But, both indictments are old news. People are terrible. Politics is worse. Come on in - the water is far from fine, but it's the water we have here within the now and the not yet.  I'll pour you glass of Perrier or Cabernet - your choice.  

----
What is our call?  

We are called to be quick to listen, to admit our own fallibility, to examine our own individual biases and their effect on our interpretations of facts, and to keep a good humor about us. 

We are called to remember that this will be a blip on the timeline of history. Our grandchildren may never know the name of Brett Kavanaugh, and certainly their grandchildren will not. But, our children and friends will know what wisdom and temperance look like. (Or what they do not look like.) We will pass down our mode of being to our children, and them to theirs; and lo and behold, how we live our lives will matter to our grandchildren's grandchildren.  

We are called to fight for the weak and to fight for the truth whenever we are given an opportunity. We are called to remember that though there may appear to be a tension, standing for the weak and standing for truth are never in actual conflict. 

We are called to flee tribalism and run to the cross. We are called to remember that there is a just judge on the throne, He is the final arbiter of truth, and He will neither abandon us nor forsake us.  

We are called to have our dinner parties, watch our Parks and Rec, read our novels, pray our confessions and shout our thanksgivings, and remember that the future of America's High Court is not our job, and even if it were, it's ever so self-important to think we can scream into the noise and change the course of history.  

But, we can change the spirit of our social media interactions, debates with spouses, lunches with colleagues, mutterings at the radio.  

We can, by the grace of God, affect the spirit of our homes, and that is exactly what we are called so to do.  

18 December 2017

Our Great Rescuer



As a part of our sort of Christmas theme, I was recently asked to tell our church a story of how God has rescued me.  My first thought was, "Me? rescued?  I feel like I'm a complete mess at every moment," and my second thought was, "Which story of rescue?  There are thousands."

But, I gave it a moment, and God was faithful to walk me through.  The process was humbling and exhausting and simply beautiful.
A few people have asked for the text, so I thought I'd put it here.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

God rescues his people from all kinds of heinous sin.  And my life is a story of redemption from sin.  In scripture, we also see God comfort his people through all kinds of griefs.  From Job's utter devastation to Ruth's poverty, we see God rescue our souls from all our sins and sorrows.   And my life - and I know many of yours - are stories of those rescues. 

But he is also rescuing me from a sneakier devil. 

20 November 2017

On Not Holding Too Tightly: Turkey Day 2017

An F for Forster Buttermold.  We won't be using them this year.  And that's okay.  


When Paul and I married in 2006, we were twenty-one and courageous young idiots.  In the spirit of that, I decided that seven months after said marriage, while 5 months pregnant, I would host Thanksgiving at our house.  And we've done so ever since.

But, this year, my Mama asked if we could move the celebration to her house.  She doesn't ask for much, really.  And she wasn't asking that I not play hostess - just that I play hostess with her at her house.  But, I struggled.  And that's when you know you're holding a tradition too tightly.  Families are not made for traditions, but traditions for families.  If I can't move Thanksgiving up the road 15 miles and joyfully give thanks, well, I may need a talking to.

And if you know you may need a talking to, you should probably swerve to avoid.

So, north to Mama's we're headed.

If you love Thanksgiving menus and the evolution of tradition, here are the last eight.  I didn't record the first three.  I grieve.  But, see, I let go, because I've just learned about not holding too tightly, right?  Oh, we need more than one lesson in the same thing?  What is this?

I digress.  Here are the menus:

2016
2014 
2013
2012 
2011
2010
2009

To Twenty Seventeen:

Pick Up Food 
All me, because I'm a pick up food enthusiast:
Sweet & Spicy Pecans
Goat cheese, Honey, Rosemary, Bacon with pears to dip.
Hot Almond Swiss Dip


Main Dish
Turkey - I'm brining it and baby brother is smoking it on The Green Egg.  I'm thrilled with this arrangement.


The Side Board

The two standards return and the six in rotation continue...

Cornbread Dressing - Mama is doing her dressing.  Which is also my dressing.  As I've said before, this is *the* dressing, and we won't ever do anything else, I don't imagine.  Celery, Onion, Two different cornbreads, pepper for days.

Sweet Potato Casserole - Mama is also doing this.  And she'll never tolerate a pecan, so it will be covered in all the sticky marshmallows she can muster.

-------
1) Scalloped Potato Gratin - I try to vary these sides.  We did this last year, but I asked Ada if she had any requests and this was the only thing she said, and I'm trying oh so hard to remember that she's not a little kid anymore and if I asked an adult what he or she wanted, I wouldn't then trample the request in the quest for the tradition of variety. Not holding too tight.

2) Big Beautiful Salad - our dear friends the Sinclairs are coming, and Petula makes a delightful green salad and she's bringing that and I will say thank you.

3) Butternut Squash Gratin - I sent Paul to the store for squash the other day.  He came back with enough to feed two armies. So, I'm wasting not and putting it to use.

4) Carrots - Mama is roasting carrots for us. I imagine they will involve butter and honey.

5) Brussels Sprouts - Our friends the Kelleys are coming and offered these.  They are my favorite vegetable, so that works out very, very much.

6) Creamed Corn.  I just love corn, and I love cream.  I usually spice it up a bit.



On The Table

Gravy - My dear stepmother Carrie is just better at it.  And so this year I just asked her to make it.

Cranberry Sauce - Mama is making cranberry sauce.  I'm asking her to triple it so I can take it to the school thanksgiving feast as well.  Because my husband finds efficiency the most attractive quality in a person, and I like to get him all doe-eyed because I'm only boiling cranberries once.

Eason Family Homemade Pickles - Sweet, Spicy, All The Time

Canned Spiced Peaches - Every year.  And every year I think I might stop, but I'm not going to.  Though, last year they were out of spiced peaches at the store and so I had to make some.  I was quite popular.

Bread Basket - Mama is making butter biscuit rolls.  I'm making sour dough, buttered and toasted.


Dessert Cart

Cheesecake - Carrie. Second year in a row.  I. Can't. Wait.

Pecan Pie - I just love it.  As long as the pecans are chopped so tiny.  I'm going to make two - one in a gf pie crust.

Chocolate Chess Pie - AB and I accidentally made an improvement on this recently.  We were out of baker's chocolate.  We tasted the finished product and both though it was better than the original.  Which I didn't think possible.  We're going to do the same thing, but with a couple of festive tweaks - amaretto may be involved.  Also one gf option.

Apple Cake - Mama.  So good.

Gluten Free Dessert Surprise - Petula. I know it will be excellent.


We're so excited - the folks around here are so ready to chop and stir, though they're happy playing donkey kong right now.  Plenty of cooking to be done over the next 72 hours.  And now, I'll type out the schedule.  ;)

25 January 2017

Why I Didn't March




Last weekend, there was this march.  Don't know if you heard.  

More than half a million women and their supporters marched in Washington, and probably a million others marched around the country and the world.  Maybe more, depending on which alternative of the facts you support.  Regardless, it was a lot.  

These citizens largely marched in protest of our recently elected and now inaugurated President Trump.  They also marched for women's rights and a slew of other progressive causes.  If you want to read the official platform, you can find it here. 

I didn't join these women.  

I am compelled to speak into the noise because of the misunderstandings I've seen throughout media, social and otherwise.  If one tried to respond to each position, well, whack-a-mole city.  But, I will endeavor to try to articulate a few.    

29 December 2016

2016 Christmas Year In Review

Easter Sunday 


It is the fifth day of Christmas, and it's time for the annual year in review.  


From Family Photo Shoot by Ashleigh Coleman Photographer

My babies don't have baby books, I've never owned a scrapbook, and so I blog. Or, I used to.  At least I can keep this one tradition going: the year in review.  ;)  

2016 has been a less-than-awesome year for famous-in-the-80s celebrities, and it was pretty unpleasant for establishment Democrats.  But, we're neither of those things, so we're doing okay.  

We are still loving our house in Sherwood Forest (actually so named), which backs up to the undeveloped flood plain, the Hundred Acre Wood (my name for it I made up).  The boys (and some girls too) are out there a lot, tromping around, dragging dead wood into various arrangements that for them have meaning.  We've moved the dining room table once per year since we moved in, and we think we've found its permanent home, so that's big news and good news too.  We hope to stay in this house until the children have to go through our things here.  We did join a new church this year - First Presbyterian Jackson - and that has been a great blessing for our family.  We do miss our sweet people at Immanuel Pres, our old church, but God has been good in his transition, as He is all the time.  


From Rehearsal Dinner in NOLA for the wedding of our dear friends, Rachel and James.  


Paul's job as Director of Engineering for Flowood is really good to him.  It keeps him outside about half the time, and it never bores him.  This is mostly because there is always another problem to fix, and fixing problems is Paul's favorite hobby.  He also enjoys tutoring - high school science, math, and standardized test preparation.  Of course, I guess that's still just problem solving.   I can say this about him because he's mine - Paul is a model patriarch.  As I type, he's playing mario kart with the children and showing them no mercy.  Paul reads aloud to the people, wakes up in the middle of the night with the still-once-a-week-up toddler, and dances with me in the kitchen.  That's usually my idea though.  Paul has taken back up the flute of late, and we were comforted to know that the thousands of dollars and hours spent in his youth did not go wasted.  He recently fixed a lawn mower engine and is very proud.  

Favorites 
Book:  The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (for whom he might leave me if she was still with us...) 
TV Show:  Stranger Things 
Music:  Abigail Washburn (I don't know who that is)
Movie: La Grande Bellezza 
New Skill: Spoke Shaving 
School Subject:  Physics (still) 
Thing to Wear:  Underwear (he's so funny).  
Food:  Anything Ann Lowrey cooks (isn't he just charming). 
Color: Green 
Activity:  Small Engine Repair 



House Concert at Brooks's and Carrie's House.  

My plate remains full, though it does feel like I have a bit more margin than I did a few years ago.  Margin is my favorite buzzword this year for sure.  I am serving as the Academic Counselor at St. Augustine School (come to an information meeting!), and teaching Logic, Latin, and some English Grammar.  Diagramming sentences is the bomb, parsing makes me happy, and determining the validity of syllogisms is just delightful. More importantly, introducing all those to middle school students makes my heart sing.  Being the Academic Counselor means I work with our administration to pick curriculum, I work with teachers to implement curriculum and determine what we're aiming for our students to master, how to get there, and how to measure it.  It's challenging work, and though I didn't predict it would be my path, I am ever so glad it has been.  I get to be at home on M/W/F, which is a great balance for me personally and for our family.  I did get to have one fancy dinner party (I love a menu card) and a lot more non-fancy suppers this year than I have the previous three years while the school was getting on its feet, which was a huge win.  My goals for 2017 include writing more and engaging more fully with our city.  

Favorites 

Book:  A book of Amy Hempel short stories 
TV Show:  The Crown, for sure
Movie:  Lala Land
Music:  Clay Parker and Jodi James
New Skill: Tuning out political insanity
School Subject:  Logic
Thing to Wear:  a smile
Food:  Apple Walnut Dressing (I tried it for a dinner party, and I can't stop making it).   
Color:  Light Blue 
Activity: Watching The West Wing with Paul William Forster.  







Ada Brooks is 12.5 and five foot three and really excited to eventually be taller than I am, which is not going to happen on my watch - heavens.  Ada loves her friends at school and church, and she loves baking - for anyone who will let her. She's in the school's running club this year, which is not her favorite, but it's good for her.  In school, she's taking Latin 2, Logic (from her mean mother), and Medieval History, which is pretty fun, as well as Algebra I, English, and Art.  She knows way more about the Popes than I do, for sure.  Ada has become quite the competent babysitter for my people and a few other adorable folks.  She blesses her family and all those who know her, and she's rapidly approaching the level of my best friend.  

Favorites
Book:  The Book Thief 
TV Show:  Psych 
Movie:  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them  
Music:  All sorts.  (she's figuring out her groove)   
New Skill: Calligraphy
School Subject: Logic (be still my heart).  
Thing to Wear: Blue Jeans

Career Aspiration:  Architect
Food:  Pizza 
Color:  Gray
Activity: Baking 







Eason is in the fourth grade at St. Augustine School, which has been fun transition for him into bigger work load and harder things.  He's in his first year of Latin study, and I'm not teaching him, which has been so fun to be uninvolved and watch his Latin grow.  Eas is very athletic, but not in a sports-y way - more in a scaling the nearest smooth boulder kind of way.  Good thing we're low on boulders in Mississippi.  He loves the woods and asked for (and received) camping gear for his birthday.  Eason's level of extroversion can't be quantified (he'd break the Meyers Briggs; I'm positive).  He reads aloud interesting or funny passages to us so often - just so we can be in on the book he's reading.  When this isn't making us tired, it is endearing him to us even further.  

Favorites 
Book: The Ranger's Apprentice (boo) 
Movie:  Rogue One 
TV Show: Kicking It (it's awful.  I'm showing restraint by even allowing it to be chosen as a favorite, but, then again, it's not my favorites list...  keep telling myself that). 
Music:  Cello Wars by The Piano Guys 
New Skill:  Ripsticking 
School Subject:  History 
Thing to Wear: Blankets (it's a problem.  Underwear and blankets-  his uniform).  
Food:  Homemade Bean Burritos 
Career Aspiration:  Pediatrician.  
Color:  Green
Activity: Play in the creek with his friend Truman.  


                               

                               


Collins is seven and a half, and he's such a funny little guy.  He is as introverted as Eason is extroverted, and it makes him tired to live at our house.  Poor thing.  Collins is in second grade, and especially loves the science and history projects his teacher expertly arranges for him.  He played soccer this fall and loved the defensive side of things, but isn't on his way to the world cup anytime soon.  He picks his friends carefully and does not suffer from a fear of missing out.  Collins is witty and he's a phenomenal sous chef.  I wouldn't trade him for the world.  

Favorites
Book: Harry Potter (began this year - it's been fun to add him).  
TV Show:  Kicking It 
Movie:  Captain America Civil War 
Music:  The Piano Guys 
New Skill: Calligraphy (his sister has been teaching him - pretty sweet) 
School Subject:  Science 
Thing to Wear: Ole Miss 
Sweatshirt
Food:  Chocolate Pie 
Color:  Light Blue 
Activity:  Airsoft with Seth.  
                         

                        

Elsa Gray is a mess, a pistol, a character, delightful and spoiled.  She is the fanciest of all the Forsters, and she makes us look like poor little Nancy's boring family in those books.  She adores dress up and pretend play, and we could all listen to her for hours. Until we can't, and then it's time for bed. She says hysterical things all the days, and her hair is always ragamuffin looking in her face (due mostly to the constant donning of and removing of hats, crowns, etc.).  She stole our hearts upon arrival, and she keeps them hidden somewhere very smart, because not one of us has gotten ours back.  

Favorites
Book:  The Bible (She gets me all to herself for Bible and Catechism at night, and she loves it - be still my heart). 
TV Show:  Little Bear or Daniel Tiger
Movie: Frosty the Snowman and The Grinch. 
Music:  Five Fat Turkeys Are We from school.  
New Skill:  Independent Pottying. (she couldn't come up with a new skill.... But I sure have a favorite).  
School Subject:  Nap time.  (Weirdo).  
Thing to Wear:  My pink Christmas Tree dress.  
Food: beans.  All the beans.   
Color: Pink and Purple.  
Activity:  play with Polly the doll, play memory with Mama



Halloween - A shadow, Merlin, Indiana Jones, and a Ballerina
After the Nutcracker at Thalia Mara.  
Mama took the kiddos to watch the rebels.  
At the Gryphon Games at School!  Go Owls!  
First Day of School.  
Fourth of July. 
Sugar Bowl Watch Party 
The Ballerina and Her Shadow.  
Father's Day.  Best Daddy.  
Ono Island with our dear friends the Tysons.