October 30, 2008

The Best Election Sign that I Haven't Seen

I intentionally try to avoid politics on this blog because I don't like talking politics. I have opinions on many things, but I often find that I express them too loudly and too often. Not so with politics. Those opinions I prefer to keep to myself because I am sick and tired of election season.

However, I must put my political feelings aside to tell you about the best sign of the political season. I haven't seen this sign myself, but it was reported to me by a reliable source (my momma). She saw it while traveling to Pittsburgh to visit my sister.

According to my source, one household north of Pittsburgh has expressed its political fatigue with a yellow sign on which they painted in black letters, "Obama Hates the Steelers."

Regardless of your political leanings, I think we can all find this sign a little humorous.

And in this exhausting political season, laughing is the only alternative to crying.

October 27, 2008

Reformation Sunday and what Salvation Means

It took four notes of the prelude for me to remember that today is a special Sunday: today is Reformation Sunday.

martin_luther.jpg     For those of you not familiar with RS, it's the Sunday when we celebrate/ recognize/ remember what Martin Luther began when he nailed his 95 Thesis on the door of the church in Wittenburg. His courage to dissent led to dramatic changes in theology, the deaths of countless saints at the hands of their fellow believers, and a new era in the life of the church.

So how do protestants celebrate the most profound movement of the past 600 years? We sing "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," the most well-known hymn penned by Luther. Luther actually wrote many hymns, but don't tell that to us Presbyterians - this is the only Luther song that most of us will ever sing. Our loss, I know. 

(I feel the need to stop here and put in a little caveat about "being reformed." While I appreciate the Reformed tradition and what it means, attending a Reformed church doesn't make someone an extra special Christian. As one of the Covenant Seminary professors once said, "I don't understand when I hear students say, 'I'm so glad I'm Reformed.' Reformed? Brother, you should just be glad you're saved!") 

There is another hymn that has been swirling around in my head for a few weeks, and its lyrics are so awesome that I have posted them below. The hymn is "Let us Love and Sing and Wonder" by John Newton. He is another guy Christians like to think of as a one-hit wonder (he wrote that little ditty about amazing grace), but he was quite a prolific poet as well.

I love "Let us Love and Sing and Wonder" because of the way it uses vivid imagery and unexpected personification to paint a beautiful portrait of our great Savior and the act of salvation. One example of this is verse 4, which says, "Let us wonder Grace and Justice join and point to Mercy's store; when through grace in Christ our trust is, Justice smiles and asks no more." For a word junkie like me, that's incredibly profound. 

Another reason this hymn has been in my head is because the Indelible Grace melody for this song is the musical equivalent of fall, in my opinion. The mood of this album is "a mood of somber joy," as Kevin Twit put it, which is perfect for this time of year.  

The words to this hymn are below for your edification. Grab a cup of your favorite tea or cider and ponder the "worthy Lamb of God."

1. Let us love and sing and wonder
Let us praise the Savior’s name
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder
He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame
He has washed us with His blood
He has brought us nigh to God

2. Let us love the Lord Who bought us
Pitied us when enemies
Called us by His grace and taught us
Gave us ears and gave us eyes
He has washed us with His blood
He presents our souls to God

3. Let us sing though fierce temptation
Threatens hard to bear us down
For the Lord, our strong salvation,
Holds in view the conqu’ror’s crown
He, Who washed us with His blood,
Soon will bring us home to God

4. Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store
When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God

5. Let us praise and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high
Here they trusted Him before us
Now their praises fill the sky
Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
Thou art worthy Lamb of God

October 19, 2008

Fall at the Fowler Household

We love fall, and this weekend was the first weekend of the season to actually feel like fall. To celebrate, we made a fire and pulled out the fall decor for the dining room table. And last weekend, we braved the scorching heat to travel to a farm to choose the ultimate fall decoration - a pumpkin. Here are some photos of the pumpkin farm and our fall table decorations. Thanks to my mom for the great fall tablecloth!  

I know this photo is crooked, but this mountain of pumpkins was pretty impressive. 

Lindon with our pick

Nash posing with Pumpkin on the back steps. We didn't want to put it out front for fear it would be kidnapped and smashed. 

October 13, 2008

More Scenes from the Candy Dish

The candy dish continues to be a source of joy and sugar rushes for all who work here. As my previous posts indicated, I first experimented with Starbursts in the candy dish. This worked well, but they don't sell Starbursts at Sam's Club in a suitable format. So I tried Skittles, and these worked quite well...too well, in fact. Skittle flavors have the amazing ability to linger in your mouth long after the candy is gone, and they leave you wanting more. Often I would have to put the dish on someone else's desk to remove the temptation. And I wasn't the only one enjoying these snacks by the handful. When 5 pounds of Skittles disappeared in two weeks, I decided to try something different, something that would take more time to consume.

My next trip to Sam's Club brought intense angst and anxiety as I struggled to find a candy or group of candies that would be suitable for our office. It doesn't seem like it should be a big decision, but picking out candy always turns into a real struggle for me. FINALLY, I settled on the "kiddie mix," a delightful assortment of Tootsie rolls, Jawbreakers, Double Bubble gum, Sweetarts, Now n Laters, Smarties, and Lollipops. I figured 600 pieces would take us a while to finish.

So far the candy has been a hit, but it's taking its toll on my teeth. I am a sucker for jawbreakers, but I cannot suck on jawbreakers. As soon as I feel I have adequately compromised their structural integrity, I start trying to chew on them. It's painful at times, but I can't stop! Just now I crushed a half-finished jaw breaker, pulverizing it with my ailing molars, and grabbed another one. Each time I tell myself I will be more patient with this once. Each time the result is the same, a few minutes of waiting before the cracking begins.

But aside from my poor teeth (a reminder that I probably need a dentist), everyone else seems to love the candy as much as I do. I still get to see the looks of childlike wonder as each person finds their favorite piece. Occasionally I hear a whine when the dish has been picked over and all the "good ones" are gone. And someone has discovered where I keep the surplus, so the favorite piece is never far away.

All told, this has been a good bag of candy, and the opportunities for people watching are well worth a few sore teeth.

But this jawbreaker will be different. This one will last...

October 6, 2008

Why do I do this to myself?

By all accounts, I am a good writer. People have told me that my writing is good. Others ask me to help them with their writing. Some even PAY me to write, and they publish what I've written. Then others read what I wrote and tell me I am a good writer. And the circle continues. 

But after years and years of writing and lots of published pieces, writing still scares me.

The idea of writing doesn't make my insides turn. When an editor calls me up and asks me to lend my quill to a particular idea, I jump at the opportunity. 

It's not the interviews that unnerve me. While I typically get a little anxious before an interview, the result is typically so positive it far outweighs the pre-game jitters.

No, the terror comes when I face the blank screen - the endless white that I must fill with words. And those words must make sense, tell a story, inspire the reader, comfort the editor. 

As I combat the whiteness by populating it a story, I constantly think to myself, "This is terrible. Who would want to read this? I definitely need to change that phrase...later...when I am more inspired..." The cycle goes on and one until finally I ask myself, "If writing stresses me out this much, why do I keep doing it?"

And that is the question I ask myself once again this evening. My deadlines are approaching quickly, but my inspiration seems to be sapped dry. Why? Why do I do this to myself when it causes me this much unrest? Why willingly partake in an activity when I know a by-product will be gut-wrenching angst? 

The answer is simple: I write because I must. I can't not write (yes, I know double negatives are supposed to be bad, but it works here). To not write would be to plug  up a part of me that finds expression on paper. And if it remained plugged up for long enough, that part of me would likely cause the rest of me to explode - like a Coke bottle that's shaken. Or worse, that part of me would eventually fizz out, and I'd become flat sugar water. Gross. 

Being a writer doesn't mean writing comes easily. At times it does, and at times hammering out a good sentence is like pulling teeth. The end result, however, offers a glimpse into another's life, into the gloriously mundane tasks and quiet dignity of humanity. 

Those glorious glimpses and the passion to not become flat sugar water propel me forward. They force my fingers to hit the keys when my brain is waving the white flag of surrender. 

That's the answer to my nagging question.

Time to call it a night.