Did You Study Bacon?

On The Bookshelf #2

At the end of October when I linked up with F.M.F. (Five Minute Friday’s) the surprise word was “bacon.” Everyone seemed to be discussing meat. Given my propensity to think unconventionally I originally thought of Francis Bacon (1561-1626). His essays are some of his most popular works. A nice copy graces my bookshelf.

My favorite of the essays is “Of Studies.” It is in describing the virtue and value of studies that Bacon applies his wit to great effect.

Biography.com

Biography.com

Francis Bacon encourages us to, “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”

“Some books are to be tasted, others swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested…”

I find that I swallow novels. I chew and digest history and I taste many books before deciding if they will suit me. In fact, essays like Bacon’s are very suitable books to taste.

Forgive the pun, friends, I could not resist.

Do you choose books based upon their popularity, friends’ opinions, theme, genre or availability? I find different criteria suit different purposes. I find a work of history needs more time to chew and digest, while a volume of verse may be consumed in a brief evening.

I am more particular in selecting a work of historical fiction than I am in choosing contemporary fiction. I am not well able to tolerate a poor understanding of the history in a work of historical fiction. A well researched work by an author with a good grasp of the era can be most compelling, while an engaging story and style will make an effective contemporary work alone.

This month I am devoting time to writing my own piece of historical fiction. I am finding that historical fiction can be more challenging to write than historical fact. The need to keep the drama and pace falls squarely upon the shoulders of the novelist, while the scholar can rely upon the fact that history tends to provide its’ own drama.

The Bookshelf #1

This is the first post of the series On The Bookshelf. 

I thought I would start with

a book…

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He ate and drank the precious words,                                                                   His spirit grew robust;                                                                                                   He knew no more that he was poor,                                                                         Nor that his frame was dust.                                                                                         He danced along the dingy days,                                                                                  And this bequest of wings                                                                                           Was but a book. What liberty                                                                                        A loosened spirit brings!

-Emily Dickinson

 

I decided that we would begin the thoughts of what is on my bookshelves with a bit of pocket-poetry. In the days before smart phones made it easy to carry volumes of poetry in your purse or back pocket I bought these little volumes from the Easton Press. I love the compact size and there is nowhere that you cannot use a good poem. They have travelled through many a mundane day with me.

The novel that I am writing has me traveling back in time and across the sea. It is nice to come back and sink into something short, satisfying and soulful like a classic poem. Books are a chance to fly to far-flung kingdoms and experience a life that we would never know if not for the exquisite agony of being trapped in a book.

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I will be here again on Friday for another installment of On the Bookshelf and I will tidy the shelves themselves so that I do not have to photograph the books on the floor. I will also drop a few more hints about the book that is taking form as my imaginations tries to migrate into my computer.

Keep writing and reading!

Gravel

Today is the final day of A Fresh Look at the Beauty found in Ordinary Things. The 31 Days series is completed with gravel.

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When I choose the list of ordinary items I wanted to include some that would seem obviously to have beauty, like cats and dogs, and some that would be challenging, like gravel and potatoes. After hunting for beauty in the ordinary for a number of years I knew I could find beauty in the humblest rocks.

I want to get to actual gravel, but allow me to start with other rocks. If I had listed rocks, some might have thought of things like big diamonds, since they are called rocks. I wanted us to think of commonplace rocks. The only difference between a lump of coal and a diamond is pressure. They both consist of pure carbon. Sometimes the difference between something prized and another thing dismissed can be very simple. 

Gravel was as humble as I could pick out. Common and unappreciated rocks are used to line driveways and backcountry roads. Leftover rocks for the most part make up gravel.

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Have you ever looked closely at wet gravel? Some of the stones are quite striking. Granites, and marbles are mixed in with sandstone and slate. All of the left overs from stone quarries and industrial production ends up in the mix.

Gravel is made up of the fragments of the rock world. They are the bits that no one else wanted.

Have you ever felt like human gravel? 

Most people do at some point. We all experience the school dance we weren’t invited to, or the club we weren’t chosen for, or the job we didn’t get or phone call that never came.

The beauty of gravel is that it has a new life. The beautiful red granite sliver that did not make it onto the countertop in the designer kitchen is part of a path. The richly veined black marble that did not become a piece of someones’ floor is keeping the dust down on someone else’s driveway.

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No matter how small the piece there is a new use.

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I have a miniature, indoor garden that I planted in a Wardian Case. The garden has a little path, bench and arbor. The entire garden is less than twenty inches long. The gravel in the path is minute. I water the garden by misting it with a plant-sprayer. When the gravel is wet it shimmers. They are beautiful stones, even though they are mere specks.

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Not one of us is less important for all our sense of our own status.

In reality it doesn’t matter how many Facebook friends we have, or how large our platform may be. The size of our family and the size of our bank account are equally as meaningless. The truth is that each one of us is of so much value that God Himself came and died on the cross to bear the burden for our sinfulness.

If you are sitting alone in a nursing home you are every bit as important as the most photographed celebrity. The hard-working fast-food worker is as rich as those on the Forbes 400.  You are priceless!

Don’t ever think of yourself as leftover or overlooked. You have not been forgotten. You were planned before the creation of the universe and given a place and role that only you can fill.

“…just as He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love”.-Ephesians 1;4

You are worth more than diamonds. You are part of God’s divine plan. Even if you feel like you have been placed in the gravel pile. You are made for a purpose. You are an important piece of a path. No one else is like you. No one can take your place.

You are a rock!

Bacon?

Today I am linking up with the team for Five Minute Friday over at Kate Motaung’s site. I read the word they picked for the random five minute free-write. At first I thought I misread the word, but then I read Kate’s post explaining it and a smile spread all over my face. The word begin was misread by a kid for bacon. In the beginning there was some bacon? Well, no. Check this one out at Kate’s and then accept my humble offering.

Go:

Bacon is a delectable meat that my whole family enjoys. It adds a salty-heartiness to many meals. I just added some to a chicken campfire stew I served for supper.

But this time bacon has to do with beginning. It could remind us of breakfast at the beginning of the day. However, being inclined to the not so likely, it reminded me of my favorite recipe for bacon. This is not a food blog, but I must share this with you.

marthastewart.com

marthastewart.com

  • Line a sheet pan with foil.
  • Heat the broiler for 550 degrees and place the strips of bacon on the foil.
  • Lightly drizzle real maple syrup over the bacon and cook until crispy.

The sweetness of the maple syrup combined with the salty of the smoky bacon is incredible. The syrup caramelizes on the bacon adding to the complexity.

Here is the odd part. The sweet reminds me of Psalm 119:103 about the sweetness of the word of God and salty reminds me of the salt with which Jesus told us we needed to be preserved. The word and salty grace are the perfect combination for any day. Maple-Bacon is not on everyone’s approved diet, but the Word shared with grace is perfect for everyone.

Done:

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth.-Psalm 119:103

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.    -Matthew 5:13

I am going to make it a point to remind myself to pass out Spiritual-Maple-Bacon this week. Best of all it will make a perfect addition to any breakfast. It is the perfect way to begin the day.

P.S. The first thing I thought of was Francis Bacon, but I thought he would be more appropriate for next month when I will be sharing some favorite reads from my bookshelves. Besides, I didn’t want everyone to know I am that odd. Oops, I just told you.

Biography.com

Biography.com

Boots

We are nearing the end of the 31 Days series. I am sorry that yesterday’s post did not make it up on time. My internet reception was down last evening. So, today you receive the one that I thoughtfully prepared yesterday and a lighthearted one for today as well. Fall is more than a month old and it is time to think of the wind and boots. One is serious and the other is silly. I hope you have some fun with the one below.

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I live in a lovely locale, where four beautiful seasons provide variety. We are blessed with enough precipitation to keep the spring and summer green. I even enjoy  winter snow. Mud does not strike me as propitious. As the leaves tumble-down and the temperatures drop I have pulled my boots out of summer slumber. I have not needed boots, but I can wear the cute boots once again.

Today I sported black riding-boots trimmed with ruffles. The leaves all covering the ground prevented me from stepping in any unpleasantness, but just under the carpet of gold in my driveway I noticed something I forgot about. Mud was just underneath.

Somehow, I forgot about the nature of the beast. I was remembering snow and cooler weather. I had utterly mislaid the main reason why boots are useful. Mud comes out as the grass and weeds lose their lush summer growth.

For all its’ sticky, ugliness mud does serve a purpose. It is a reminder that the ground is soft and workable. Farmers will need to plow their fall fields. There are cool weather crops that need moisture to grow. I could focus my attention on the ugly since it doesn’t serve me. I find it hard to find  very much comfort. I don’t have a farm. But then I remember, that boots will prevent the worst of the mud.

They used to say that even the darkest rain-cloud has a silver lining. No matter how sticky the mud, it won’t pull the cute boots off your feet.

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A Fair Wind Blowing

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We usually think of a fair wind as one that will blow us into our desired port. Autumn winds do not generally meet this description in my view. A late October wind can destroy two weeks worth of glorious leaves in one night.

The glory of the hills can last well into November, but only if we have no big storms. It was no breeze that blew through my hills. Goodly wind gusts ripped the golden glory from the hills and sent the leaves eddying like mini-cyclones on the streets.

I always grieve to see the Autumn foliage go.It will not return until next year. October winds are not fair.

It left me pondering, however, how we define a fair wind. I have a friend with lung disease who tells me that she doesn’t ever like the wind. She told me it feels like it is stealing her breath. I don’t mind the wind at any time but this.

I have read of ships becalmed at sea in the days of sail threatening death for all aboard. Sometimes we need the wind, at other times we do not. We typically define a fair wind as one that benefits us in the near-term.

Somehow all this left me pondering the Holy Spirit. The Greek word used to describe Him is the word for spirit, wind or breath. Do we define God as fair? A famous hymn describes Jesus as shining fairer than all the stars in the sky. What about the Holy Spirit? Does He blow us where we want to go? Or is it where we need to go? Do we define the way God moves through us based upon how much we want to go where He takes us?

I wonder if we categorize Gods’ will as fair or foul depending upon our pleasure? My opinion of wind is purely a matter of aesthetics. I’m contemplating whether I apply my standards to God as I do to wind. Who is the master and who is the unworthy servant?

Holy Spirit, blow me wherever You will. Forgive me for expecting You to fit my definitions. I recognize that You are infinite and I am not. Help me to go faithfully where you blow me and keep me always ready to call you fair. Amen.

Black Holes of Music

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This evening I have a yellowed sheet of notebook paper in my hand. I was wondering what my reflections were on music in my college days. Despite hesitation and much gained maturity I will let my old self speak to you this evening about my love of music.

I never really had the time to pursue my music. Often, I really didn’t have the time, but sometimes it was also because I was afraid that I couldn’t bear to keep music for a hobby. Hobbies are something you do in your spare time. Music has always been a little dangerous for me. I love it so much that whenever I get involved in it I begin to pull back with fear.

That fear comes from the fact that it has resembled a black hole to me-one that I want to fall into. Music pulls at me with a force stronger than gravity when I get close to it. As long as I can remember I have wanted to throw myself in with reckless abandon. In my dreams I can let it swallow me up and I’ll never have time for ordinary life again.

I first learned piano beginning at age 10. Then I started rearranging my lesson songs, and won a talent contest with the updated version. At 12 I wrote my own songs. Then I wanted a better piano teacher, but couldn’t afford it. At 14 I discovered chamber music and the violin. For me the piano spoke to my heart and the violin echoed my soul. I couldn’t really find much in the way of a violin teacher. The dream faded. I wanted so badly to make time to learn enough theory to compose, but other priorities always drowned out the song.

In college I’d tuck a music course elective in here and there, but was becoming clear to me that it would never be. Ultimately, I decided that the brass ring had slipped through my hand. The dream never died.

I did make room for a hobby as a young adult. I did study theory and wrote more music. I used to lie awake at night listening to the strains of music in my head. The next day I would try to write them down. It wasn’t practical, but it was something that helped me through the hardest time of my life.

My beloved Mother developed cancer and died all too soon. When I remember that dreadful year of her chemo and radiation that ended at the cemetery all through it, I remember the music I was writing. I was singing to her the pinnacle of my compositions during her last day in the hospital. I think that God put the music in me for just that time.

The music faded away as I fell into my grief. Music never took me to a state of pure bliss. It did bear me through the dark hole of loss. It was the only earthly thing strong enough to distract me though that pivotal chapter of life, and death.

Beauty has the power to help us to process the unimaginable. We can walk down roads of song that we could never walk down in silence.Deep space seems to have a symphonic sound. The Holy Spirit, we are told in scripture, will make intercession for us with groans that are too deep for words. In the places that we cannot even find words, there may be music.

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Candlelight

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If you follow my blog you may have noticed that I like to write about God’s unconditional love for us. It is best demonstrated to us by Jesus taking our sins to the cross and dying in our place.

We are forgiven, restored and endowed with the new position of “children of God” through His love.

The self-sacrificing love that He taught is called agape in the original Greek.

It is amazing how something we all need-love-can be so elusive for us human beings.

The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) delight in teaching us what real love is. Jesus is what real love is. Jesus is like light, says John. Paul picks up much of this in his letters to the early Christian churches.

Love and light are not supposed to be fleeting. In Revelation we are told that in the New Jerusalem at the end of time that there will be no more night. The sun won’t be needed either.

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Even when all the stars fall from the sky we will not be left in darkness.

We will not ever be abandoned or alone.

Jesus will be the everlasting light.

God will live with us. He will make His home there with us and the light will permanently replace all darkness and despair.

In the meantime, it is autumn in the northern hemisphere. The darkness is increasing nightly. How are we to live in the light, shine light to a dark world when we are living in the darkness?

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Symbolically we can light a candle. There is something calming about the light of candles. They are reminders of the sun since they cast the same warm, golden light, but on a drastically reduced scale. Candlelight reminds us that the darkness will never win. It flickers, but it doesn’t go out. It shines and brings light to what is near.

Have you ever noticed that we all acquire a lovely glow when we sits in it’s beam? Agape love lights us up when we are spending time with God.

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Try a new ritual with your family. Light a candle and read a favorite Bible verse. Tell your loved ones something you appreciate about them. Conclude with a simple prayer thanking God for giving us love and light that will never end.

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It could be with dinner, or at bedtime, but a simple ritual like this could be a special way to build your family up in love. As the holiday seasons become intense and pressure to do more, and more builds schedule a few moments each day to remember love.

A few moments to light the dark with the promise of love, present and future can create a beautiful family tradition and memory.

The Lonely Rain

Today’s Poem

Tip, tap, increasing rap, someone’s tapping at my window.
Unlike a ring or tone that sings, no one’s looking for me.
My attention drawn, the torrent begins refrain long.
The sky looks sullen, grey, like a lonely specter wanting to come in.
Keep it out! Hide within! Cold blasts from the north whirl the soggy din.
I flip on lights looking for golden gleam, to keep out the lonely,
No one is looking for me.

The winds whirl, the boughs shake, the leaves are falling in the lake.
Washing down the golden treasure, fall’s brilliance is tricked by weather.
Never a fan of gore or fear, the holiday is not for me one of cheer.
I tuck myself in, with busy routine. I’m too busy to notice, they’re not for me.
The streets turn wet and quiet. All seek solace within, enough of the bustle.
Darkness falls early; the wind shakes the ivy, slaps the window, a sound that is churl-y.
No one is looking for me.

Tears from the sky, though none from my eye, force me to wonder. Why?
The path seems so long, courageous, forlorn, like a caricature drawn.
I wait in the wet, but dry indoors, sodden inside, I know the answer, “Not yet.”
Pitter, patter is a song of spring sweet, fall spits in my face, no one looking for me.
It shudders the windows, echo in chimney, I dine with the widows.
Wet-cold without, thawing in company, God lights a hope no one can see,
Surely, someday, someone, will be looking for me.

Jesus waits

Jesus waits