Image Hosted by

Off the top

A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Three taps of the gavel

For nine weeks each summer, western New York's Chautauqua Institution offers residents and visitors a host of events related to the arts, religion, and current issues, as well as recreation on the shores of Lake Chautauqua. Billing itself as a center for lifelong learning, Chautauqua brings in national-level speakers and offers world-class artistic productions by such groups as the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, with which my husband and I are privileged to perform.

My husband has enjoyed Chautauqua since childhood, and I have come to know and appreciate Chautauqua through him and 20+ years of visits.

Though the hectic symphony season doesn't allow us much relaxation. But we find opportunity to recreate with symphony colleagues and occasionally enjoy other features of Chautauqua. Sometimes we stay on the grounds rather than commute, which adds a much-welcomed dimension to our Chautauqua experience.

Another integral component of Chautauqua is its religion program. Unfortunately, it is broad and ecumenical to the point of actually discriminating against the evangelical Christian perspective. In spite of that, there is much to appreciate about the seriousness of intellectual and spiritual inquiry at Chautauqua. There are many opportunities for worship including daily morning worship services and weekly Sunday evening sacred song services.

The season is opened each year by three taps of a gavel. These are given by the president of the Institution during the first Sunday morning worship service. At the end of the final sacred song service, the gavel is tapped three times more to close the season. These ceremonial “three taps” have been occurring each year since the first Chautauqua season opened, 133 years ago.

This year's closing service was beautiful, austere, and bittersweet (at least the latter portion was; I arrived late). White pillar candles spread across center-front stage of the outdoor ampitheater – the same stage upon which symphony concerts, ballet performances, morning and evening worship services, afternoon lectures, and special-event concerts (acts brought in, such as Kenny Rogers, Mark Russell, and the Beach Boys) take place -- and attendees were invited to take them away after the service as a memorial of the season.

As my family and I walked back to our apartment with our candles, we reflected upon experiences of the summer and of Chautauqua. That was four days ago. I've since spent some time reflecting personally upon where I’ve been and where I’m going, these events having served as a catalyst. Summer’s end signals the end of my year. The cusp of August into September begins a new year; that’s when my husband transitions to his public-school and university-teaching jobs and I transition to homeschooling and community activity. We both return to a different phase of life from our musical performance-oriented and otherwise different summer.

Based on my reflections, I resolve to do the following this “new year”:

1) Reorient my priorities

2) Streamline family activities

3) Enforce proper limits upon my time and energy as given to various endeavors

I am grateful to those friends and family who have helped me find my way through various challenges this summer. Their reminders have given me new impetus to do the following:

1) Take care of myself

2) Honor those who know, depend upon, and love me the most

Therefore, I tap the metaphorical gavel three times and...close this blog. My prayer is that those who have read it may find a “candle” here to take with them; something meaningful that will bless their lives. I am grateful to those who have participated in the chautauqua that this blog has been; you have blessed me beyond what I can tell you.

I do hope to start a new project to take the place of this blog. But it will not happen as I had originally planned. I will announce here when it launches, though*.

Meanwhile, I will still be writing at Intellectuelle, and reading and commenting elsewhere. I hope to “see” you there.

As the gavel tapped, the final Chautauqua service concluded with quiet singing:

God be with you ‘til we meet again;
by His counsels guide, uphold you,
with His sheep securely fold you;
God be with you ‘til we meet again.

‘Til we meet, ‘til we meet, ‘til we meet at Jesus’ feet,
‘til we meet, ‘til we meet,’
God be with you ‘til we meet again!

*hint: it will be a photo-blog :-)


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hi folks, part II

Something has come up (don't worry, everything's fine :-) ) and I will be going on hiatus for at least a week. I might just extend the hiatus after that to make preparation for an unveiling...which will be announced after the hiatus! Check back in 2-3 weeks.

In the meantime thanks again for reading, and enjoy the rest of your summer (or whatever season it is where you are!)

Speaking of enjoying the latter part of summer -- the sweet corn is in here and mmm is it good! We have neighbors who grow and sell it; they let the kids go pick their own. Doesn't come any fresher than that :-)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

hosta flowers Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hi folks

Well, I'm too busy to write anything here for awhile probably but will still post photos. (Too busy with what, you ask? Oh, just family -- I have lots -- and friends and work and life.)

I've got all kinds of notes and ideas to develop into posts but alas, as blogging is my avocation, those ideas will have to sit in WordPerfect for awhile and hopefully not get lost (or forgotten...)! They include:

1) continuation of the discussion on defining evangelicals and evangelicalism, as well as the future of same, as picked up by some others bloggers. I am excited about this discussion!

2) summarization of the talk I heard tonight at Chautauqua Institution by David Limbaugh based on his book, Persecution.

3) a post on modesty (almost ready to go)

4) a post on Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Phantastique, which I participated in a performance of this evening.

5) the Individual Home Instruction Plans for my kids for our next year of homeschooling (just kidding...but they're due! aagh!)

6) more discussion threads for the topic of Christian singleness (maybe...)

7) commentary on the points of reference people use for speculation, based on a comment in The Week magazine on Oprah and her best friend Gayle.

8) commentary on an article I read in the Chautauquan Daily newspaper about a talk on emotions and religion.

And the list goes on...

Actually, I am also reassessing my blogging activity and will be making some soon as I have time to make them!

Meanwhile, I am still blogging at Intellectuelle and participating in some fine discussion there with my fellow blog-members and readers.

(sorry I didn't provide more's too late...goodnight :-) )

Sunday, August 13, 2006

petunias by the deck Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 11, 2006

respite Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Stargazer lily

Posted by Picasa

This lily plant grows just outside my front door, and has great personal significance to me. As its time comes to bloom dazzlingly each year and fill the air with a heady aroma, I rejoice and receive a sacrament of God's blessing.

This year the number of blooms doubled; there were six. I thanked God as each opened, on a different day.

The final lily is now dropping its petals. I am not sad, though, because the lilies had their time and I was able to enjoy them. I also know that, barring unforeseen circumstances, their presence will return next year.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lyrics: The Trees

Words by Neil Peart, Music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush

There is unrest in the forest,
There is trouble with the trees,
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas.

The trouble with the maples,
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light.
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade.

There is trouble in the forest,
And the creatures all have fled,
As the maples scream "Oppression!"
And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights.
"The oaks are just too greedy;
We will make them give us light."
Now there's no more oak oppression,
For they passed a noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Scooby-doo, II Posted by Picasa

Scooby-doo II, B&W Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 05, 2006

yellow daylily profile Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 04, 2006

Cheers to two years

Well, today was this blog’s 2nd-year blogiversary. In honor of this momentous occasion I will do something I haven’t done in all two years of blogging:

Post a recipe!

(Can you stand the excitement?)

This is my favorite dessert:


4 large egg yolks*
1 cup sugar
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 pkgs. ladyfingers
3 oz. (3 shots) espresso
1-1/2 tsp. brandy
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
dark chocolate for garnish
1/4 tsp. cocoa

3-quart bowl, preferably clear glass

1. (Start water heating in double boiler.) In top part of double boiler, hand-whip together 4 large egg yolks and 1 cup sugar for 1 min. til thick.*

2. When water boils, reduce heat to low and cook yolk mixture, stirring constantly, 8 – 10 mins. Let cool.

3. Make brandied espresso.

4. Add mascarpone cheese to yolk mixture 1 spoonful at a time on low speed. Then beat on med. speed 2 mins. more til light, smooth and creamy. Cover, chill 45 mins.

5. Whip 1-1/3 cups whipping cream just until stiff peaks form.

6. Fold whipped cream thoroughly into chilled mixture. Chill for another hour.

7. Whip ½-cup whipping cream, adding 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar and ¼-tsp. vanilla extract to make sweetened whipped cream topping. (Do not overwhip; make slightly less stiff than for filling.)

8. Line bottom and sides of bowl with ladyfingers. Brush ladyfingers with half of the brandied espresso.

9. Spoon half of chilled cream mixture on top of ladyfingers. Repeat layers.

10. Top with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with chocolate curls and a dusting of cocoa.

11. Refrigerate overnight.

12. Partake!

*For larger volume of filling, use 5 egg yolks, 1-1/4 cup sugar, and 10 oz. mascarpone. Add 1-2/3 cup whipped cream. Use 2/3-cup whipping cream for topping (increase powdered sugar to 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. but do not increase vanilla).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

pink daylilies Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Carry-on luggage: do justice, love kindness

(I’m taking a lot on board with me this week ;-) )

Micah 6:7-8:

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
Or with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He hath told you, O man, what is good
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness
And to walk humbly with your God?

Do justice...

Love kindness...

Walk humbly with your God.

I think of these verses often, but most recently they came to mind as I read this post at Out of Ur on love as a commodity. It features portions of an interview with Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz:

You've said that the church "uses love as a commodity." What do you mean?

Miller: We sometimes take a Darwinian approach with love—if we are against somebody's ideas, we starve them out. If we disagree with somebody's political ideas, or sexual identity, we just don't "pay" them. We refuse to "condone the behavior" by offering any love.

This approach has created a Christian culture that is completely unaware what the greater culture thinks of us. We don't interact with people who don't validate our ideas. There is nothing revolutionary here. This mindset is hardly a breath of fresh air to a world that uses the exact same kinds of techniques.

What's the alternative?

Miller: The opposite is biblical love, which loves even enemies, loves unconditionally, and loves liberally. Loving selectively is worldly; giving it freely is miraculous.

HT: The Dawn Treader

Well, this explains it...

How to have an Obscure Blog that Almost Nobody Reads

And I didn't even do it on purpose!

(or with the help of this or any other guide...)

HT: evangelical outpost

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

a prickly subject Posted by Picasa