The World of Pictures

The view out my window at sun-up on Saturday.
The view out my window at sun-up on Saturday

Okay, you’re tired of pictures of snow by now. Too bad. I’m going to show you a few more.

Why? Because I didn’t do it earlier, that’s why!

These were all taken on Saturday the 23rd, while the snow was still coming down. By the time it was done and the sun came out Sunday morning, we had somewhere between 26 – 30 inches. Nobody records an official accumulation here in LaVale, so I’m just estimating based on how far it came up on my leg when I stood beside a plowed section.

Getting started with the snowblower
Getting started with the snowblower

It was perfect weather, actually. Cold enough that the snow was light and fluffy, but not so bitter that being outside was dangerous. (That is, less risk of frostbite, lungs freezing, heart attack from shoveling, etc.) On Monday, I actually saw a guy digging his car out of a massive pile of snow wearing only jeans and boots. He’d taken off his jacket and shirt and hung them on a nearby road sign.

But I’m not really here to talk about snow, specifically. My topic today is pictures.

Look at the difference between the car that's under the carport and the one that's out in the open!
Look at the difference between the car that’s under the carport and the one that’s out in the open!

And no, I don’t mean the photos I’m including here (though they are rather fun). I’m talking about the illustrations God gives us in the temporal, physical world to picture eternal spiritual realities. The whole world is a picture book given by the Father to his children. If we’ll sit in his lap and listen, he’ll tell us what they’re all about.

For instance: while clearing two feet of snow off the front porch Saturday morning, I meditated on a phrase from Isaiah 1:18, Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

Yea, verily, snow is white. I can think of nothing whiter! Matter of fact, when in full sun, it’s so white it can damage your eyes– snow blindness is a very real thing. The brilliance is not so impressive, though, unless the sun reflects off it. That is, the power is in the sun, not the snow.

The car is no longer bound by snow as in the picture above, but...
The car is no longer bound by snow as in the picture above, but…

We usually say the opposite of white is black. I learned in school that white light is the combination of all colors (think how a prism breaks down white light into a rainbow) whereas black is the absence of color. Opposites, right? All color v. no color? But in Isaiah 1:18, the opposite of white is scarlet. Blood-red, because sin is a bloody scourge we can’t escape.

The snow covers everything and makes it clean and white. Very white. And at present, very well covered! God went to great lengths (depths?) to make his point this past weekend.

...the road isn't cleared yet, only the sidewalk. So we're not going anywhere.
…the road isn’t cleared yet, only the sidewalk. So we’re not going anywhere.

Funny thing about white, though. It doesn’t stay pure for long. If you live a temperate region, you know how quickly the pristine snow will degrade, passing through the stages of brown sugar to ash gray to coal black to gritty slush.  Truly, a fresh snowfall is a brief and precious thing.

When God covers our bloody sin with His snowy-white redemption, it’s a precious thing as well. But we get dirty right away, too, for how long can you go without sinning again? A few minutes, a few seconds? Just when we’re fresh and new, a prideful thought, a lustful impulse, a resentful response splashes its dirt across the surface, and the white is pure no more.

Hope you weren't planning to use the grill today.
Hope you weren’t planning to grill burgers today.

On the other hand, our redemption is eternal. One day, the dirty temporal will melt away, and the new creation beneath will remain, perfect and pure as God made it.

The ideal winter (in my opinion) is one in which, from late fall until early spring, the temperature never goes above freezing, and we get a couple of inches of snow every day or two. That way there’s no mud, no slush, and everything’s always clean and white all winter long. In the spiritual parallel, we need to be made clean on a regular basis through frequently bathing in the word of God (Ephesians 5:26).

Remember "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"? It's not true.
Remember “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”? It’s not true. But I don’t blame the mail carriers!

But it’s not winter forever. In the spring, everything changes. The old things pass away (like snow and ice) and all things become new. A sagging snowman looks a bit sad, but he’s got to go before the grass can get green.

Indeed, God provides another marvelous picture in the changing seasons.

Your experience with the seasons depends on what part of the world you happen to stand on. While I dug my car out of the snow last weekend, my friend in Tasmania (waving hi to Paula!) enjoyed a warm mid-summer day. When my sister (hello to Holly!) lived in San Francisco, she said the biggest difference between summer and winter was the amount of rain that fell. People in equatorial regions often don’t see much change in the seasons at all. Nevertheless, God is the same everywhere, and his truth is universal. We merely see it from different vantage points.

So what am I saying? I’m not sure. I’m just enjoying the pictures, and I hope you do too.

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Maybe a Book Blog Should Be About Books

books-1015594_1280In our last not-so-exciting blogging adventure, I mused about the possibility of making my next post about books… since this is kinda-sorta like a writer’s blog typa thing. One of my devoted readers (my sister) commented privately that she liked that suggestion. So I’ll take her up on it.

As a kid, I was an avid reader. It helped that I had the time to just sit and read. Nowadays, I guess I do again! Because when I started jotting down the titles I’ve read in the past month or so, the list turned out to be longer than I’d expected. I might have missed one or two, but these are the ones that I thought of:

Fiction – on Kindle
Crooked Lines, Holly Michael
At God’s Mercy, L. L. Fine
The Dance, Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky (didn’t finish)based on the

Fiction – print books
The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Amy Tan
2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke (based on the screenplay of the film by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke)
The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
Space Captain Smith, Toby Frostspace captain

Nonfiction – print books
The Heavenly Man (Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun) by Paul Hattaway
Song of Songs: The Divine Romance Between God and Man by Watchman Nee
Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry
What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

A few thoughts on each:

I love Kindle because it’s cheap and efficient. Where else can you get so many books for free or 99¢? And how else can you store hundreds of volumes in a space measuring roughly 7.25 x 4.5 x .5”? I mean, seriously! As a book lover, how can I justify not having a Kindle?index

And yet… I much prefer reading a print book, and I know many who agree with me. Ebooks certainly have their place, but for the best reading experience, you can’t beat print. For that reason, I find it way easier to acquire ebooks than to actually read them. But every once in a while I’ll force myself to make use of the device.

Back when I was working with The Borrowed Book blog, I met author Holly Michael and was introduced to what was then her latest release, the above-mentioned Crooked Lines. Holly is a very interesting person; I loved the cover art; and the book sounded interesting. So, somewhere along the line, I got myself a copy on Kindle but only got around to reading it last month or so. It was okay. Had some interesting aspects to it, and all in all I’m glad I read it, but it doesn’t make my list of favorites.

Neither does At God’s Mercy. This was one I picked up for free, and it was worth the investment. Or maybe I paid 99¢ for that one. I don’t keep track of these things. But I’m glad I didn’t pay more.

51DaiSB6QML._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_I bought The Dance because I used to rub shoulders with Dan Walsh on Novel Rocket, and many years ago at church, we went through a film series by Gary Smalley that I thought was quite good. So when I saw Walsh and Smalley collaborated on a novel, I took the opportunity to get it on the cheap. Though it’s not the sort of thing I’d ordinarily read, it was quite well done. Smalley is a well-known family counselor, so there’s no surprise that family issues are the basis of the story—nor is it surprising that it has a happy resolution. If that type of tale is your cup of tea, you’ll enjoy this one.

Awhile back I had a discussion with someone about The Brothers Karamazov (how do you pronounce that, by the way? What syllable gets the accent?), and remembered that I’d downloaded a free Kindle copy—English translation, of course—quite some time ago, but hadn’t read it. So I pulled it up, read about 20% of it, and decided to let it rest for now. It’s not terrible, but finishing it didn’t seem to be the best use of my time.bonesetters

After that I deemed it time to do a little weeding-out of my physical to-be-read shelves. I think the first thing I grabbed was The Bonesetter’s Daughter. I loved Tan’s debut novel, The Joy Luck Club, and this, her fourth, was equally a delight. I believe was Stephen King in his book On Writing who said that no amount of training or practice can turn a mediocre writer into a great one. The average person can be taught to write competently, but, as with any other endeavor, true greatness is a gift. In that discussion, he mentioned Amy Tan as one who is greatly gifted.

After having read two of her novels, I wholeheartedly agree.

After that, I picked up the old classic-you-probably-can’t-believe-I’d-never-read-before-because-I’m-supposedly-a-sci-fi-author, 2001: A Space Odyssey. (I’ve never seen the movie, either.) It was… well, pretty much as I expected. A good example of the genre.

white tigerThe White Tiger was an excellent read. It was my first exposure to the Indian/Australian author Adiga, but I’ll keep my eye peeled for more of his novels. A journalist by profession, he made the crossover into fiction with amazing skill in this adroit story of one man’s struggle to escape the constraints of his caste in modern-day India.

I acquired Space Captain Smith some years ago in the course of my membership in The Paperback Swap Club, looking to expand my sci-fi reading. If you liked Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its ilk, you’ll get a kick out of this one.

Now to the nonfiction.

YunOther than the Bible, I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but I do occasionally indulge. The first on this list, The Heavenly Man, was recommended by my friend in Tasmania. Because I’ve liked her recommendations before, I decided to give it a try—and I was glad I did. The writing style was, in my opinion, clumsy, probably due to geographical differences. But the content made it easy to get past the mechanics. This is the true story of a Chinese man who’s still alive, about my age (a little younger, as I recall) and still active in Christian missions. His experiences put the Christian life in a far different perspective from that which American Christians know. He brings out many points, some obvious and some more subtle, that are well worth noting, and which I’d like to elaborate upon further, but this is already getting too long. Maybe in another post.

In late August, I began a study of the biblical book Song of Solomon and didn’t finish until the end of December. (I’ve been meaning to blog about that for a few months but never have gotten around to it.) After completing the study, I bought this book by Watchman Nee, Song of Songs, for further reading. I’m definitely going to have to talk about all this in another post, or series of them. For now, let’s move on…

My pastor loaned me the two books listed above about homosexuality and the Bible and asked me to read and review them. I’ve done the first part but haven’t written the reviews yet.is god anti

Both were good, but I liked the shorter one, Is God Anti-Gay?, better. When it comes to “What does the Bible teach about…” any subject, it makes sense to me to go to the Bible to see what it says. Why employ a middle man?

The author in this case does a thorough job with it, but while reading his scholarly, linguistic, but altogether readable explanation, I couldn’t help but think that the problem isn’t so much knowing, as believing what the Bible says. Quote chapter and verse all you want, and parse it down to a pile of split hairs; none of that matters. What counts is accepting, and submitting ourselves to, the Scriptures’ authority. Apart from that, it’s just old writings.

Brevity was one reason I liked the first book better. Another is that the author gives some very practical things for a Christian to consider when dealing with the matter of homosexuality in the church, in the political realm, in familial and casual relationships, and in one’s own life. But perhaps the most commendable aspect is the author’s perspective. He is a Christian who himself is attracted to people of the same sex. Therefore he knows whereof he speaks, and what he says is well worth listening to.

So that’s my recent reading list. Maybe I’ll do this again sometime.

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Post-Holiday Report

2016-01-08 14.05.49I love Sundays—especially during football season.

I love going to church no matter what the season. But in the afternoons, when football’s on, I’m guaranteed a nap.

Today, though, Craig was happy about the Steelers’ win last night and didn’t care a whole lot about the afternoon game today, so we went for a walk instead of falling asleep in front of the TV.

It had been raining off and on all day, so we were prepared to get rained on. But instead, we experienced a few flits of snow… and a whole lot of wind. But we stayed dry, so that made us happy.

2016-01-08 13.59.55We’ve been walking fairly regularly this winter. Friday we went to the Paw Paw Tunnel again, hoping to see some fun ice formations, since it’s been a little colder the past few days. We had a nice hike to the tunnel, went over top of the mountain, and then back through the tunnel in the homeward direction. Stopping to take a photo or two along the way.

Then we explored the Town Creek Aqueduct at another nearby stop along the same C & O Canal Trail, near which we discovered another interesting trail that we might check out another day. (Took no pics there.)

school house kitchen
School House Kitchen (photo from their Facebook page)

Continuing our exploration, we meandered into a little burg called Old Town, where one of the first things you see is a school. Except it’s not—it’s a repurposed school building. One of the new purposes for the building is a restaurant, the School House Kitchen located in the original school lunchroom. In another area, they restore antique cars.

Craig and I loved the concept and decided to stop for lunch. We didn’t expect much, and so weren’t disappointed. Basically, it was the quality of food you’d find in a school cafeteria. But it was 2 pm, we’d walked up an appetite, and it was a fun place to stop. We wish the owners success!

2016-01-08 14.05.20None of this, however, is worth writing home about. I only mention it because: 1) it’s been over a month since I blogged; and 2) it’s a good excuse to use some of the nice pics I took.

Since my last post, we’ve had Christmas and New Year’s Day – but no snow. I was thinking recently of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which, thanks to a spell cast by the white witch, it was always winter in Narnia, but never Christmas. The way the Christmas hype begins in October but the temperatures this year felt more like April than December, it occurred to me that this season, it was always Christmas but never winter.

2016-01-08 14.06.41-2
I don’t recommend climbing these stairs.

Despite wet, gloomy weather without so much as a whiff of winter, we had a lovely Christmas. We drove to the Cleveland area on Christmas Day, where we visited with Craig’s family at his sister’s house before taking everyone out to eat at an Asian buffet that evening. When I say “everyone,” that includes not only Craig’s whole family but also our oldest and youngest daughters (Emily and Rustie, respectively), whom we don’t often get to spend time with. After dinner we went to the Holiday Inn where we met up with Shelley and her family, who’d recently arrived from Virginia, and watched the kids swim in the pool for a while before bed.23847923796_fe2ed0c502_n

Shelley & Scott recently acquired (if that’s the right word) a four-month-old foster baby, whom we met for the first time and found thoroughly charming. She’s truly a sweetheart! Because they can’t post photos of her in public, they have to be careful with family pics. But I thought they did a great job with this one!

Bennett with spoonsThe next morning we had breakfast at the motel restaurant with not only Shelley & Scott & the grandkids, but also with our son Art and his wife Jennie, as well as my sister and her husband. We had to wait a long time for our food, but that merely gave us adults a chance to chat and the kids to entertain the rest of us.

We then went back to Craig’s sister’s house in Parma for the official Anderson Christmas. It was one day late because Art & Jennie weren’t able to be there on the 25th, but I don’t think anyone cared about the delay. After the festivities, we went back to the motel where the kids—along with Craig’s nieces this time—did some more swimming.swimming

Art & Jennie had to go home that night, and Shelley & Scott left the following morning. But Craig & I went to Rustie’s apartment for a while before the three of us went to my brother’s house, where we had “Smithmas” with him and his wife, our daughter Emily, and my sister and her husband.

I don’t know how many more Christmases we’ll be able to visit with everyone, and we very much enjoyed being able to do it this year. We’re also very thankful that we have families to spend the holidays with—and that everyone enjoys one another’s company.

New Year’s Eve was uneventful, but on New Year’s Day, we went to a wedding! Not the usual way to start the new year, but it was a lovely wedding and a happy day.

I have many things to be thankful for, but I’ve rambled on long enough. And besides that, I’m out of pictures. Maybe in my next post I’ll talk about some of the books I’ve been reading. That would be appropriate for a writer’s blog, wouldn’t it?

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