Sunday, January 30, 2011

A church expansion (and a blogiversary)

Signal Mountain United Methodist Church, where I served as pastor from 1992 to 2002, is growing in numbers and in size.  Ten adults with seven or eight children came forward at the close of today's service, after we consecrated the new sanctuary.  This expansion more than tripled the size of the building, adding 8,600 square feet to bring the total to 12,560 square feet.  I'm standing beside pews that came from the former sanctuary.

The church was organized in the log home of John Robinette in 1857 and erected its first building nearby in 1870.  William Kell, who is currently the oldest member and the one who has been a member the longest, worshiped in that 1870 building.  When the church moved to the current location in 1948, he laid some of the wooden flooring of the sanctuary.  This morning a quartet honored Bill Kell by singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," a song he had chosen.  Former pastors were invited back, and  I was asked to give the benediction.  This is what I said, more or less:
"As we consecrate ourselves anew to the worship and service of God in this new place, may we be so filled with the love of God that we will always love as God loves."
It was fun seeing all the folks again, especially those who were children when I was their pastor, who are now adults. And it was sad that many have died since I left. Here's a photo from the newer parking lot, after the reception and after most people had left.

In other news

I've been blogging for four years now, since I wrote about The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri on January 30, 2007.  In 2008, I missed my blogiversary by a day.  In 2009, I missed it totally because I was sick enough to require open-heart surgery.  In 2010, I nailed the day with a blogiversary post.  And this morning I drove up a mountain thinking I have two things to write about today:  four years of blogging and consecration of the expanded church building.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mug shot

Doesn't this look like a mug shot?  Bonnie shoved the camera right in my face to take this mug shot, but it's still hard to tell that my eyes are blue.  Oh, well.

Kiki Cat, signing off

Friday, January 28, 2011

Snowy beginning of a lively novel

Here are the opening lines of If I Stay, a 2009 YA (young adult) novel by Gayle Forman.
Everyone thinks it was because of the snow. And in a way I suppose that's true.

I wake up this morning to a thin blanket of white covering our front lawn.
I've already talked about this book in my Library Loot post and plan to review it in the next day or so.  But -- ta, da! -- here it is as my Friday Book Beginnings post as well.  The snow is appropriate, as we've had snow in the last couple of weeks across the United States, and melting snow contributed to the ice that my car got stuck in when I tried to get my friend Donna to the emergency room.  Snow and ice in the South always means cars sliding into each other, and this book has a wreck that's much, much more than a mere fender bender.  This is a wonderful book with my top rating of 10/10, which doesn't happen often.  I'll share more in my review.  In the meantime, let me remind you about this meme.

If you want to play along, this meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.  Share the first sentence or two of the book you are reading.  (Sometimes it takes several sentences to get the full thought.)  Then, share your impressions of that beginning.  Click this link to see what others say about the books they are reading this week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

You may be a bookaholic ... (#3)

... if you've ever been
caught reading on the job.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Library Loot ~ one book

On Monday I read what Sheila of Book Journey said about the novel If I Stay by Gayle Forman, immediately put it on reserve at the library, picked it up on Tuesday, and read it straight through that evening.  Sheila said:
"The last normal moment that Mia, a talented cellist, can remember is being in the car with her family. Then she is standing outside her body beside their mangled Buick and her parents’ corpses, watching herself and her little brother being tended by paramedics. As she ponders her state (Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this), Mia is whisked away to a hospital, where, her body in a coma, she reflects on the past and tries to decide whether to fight to live. Via Mia’s thoughts and flashbacks, Forman (Sisters in Sanity) expertly explores the teenager’s life, her passion for classical music and her strong relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, Adam.  This is our Bookies Book Club read for February."
Library Loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  Marg has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share a list of the loot you brought home.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Three novels from the used book store

Big Stone Gap ~ by Adriana Trigiani, 2000
I've been meaning to read this one for over a decade.  Big Stone Gap, where the author was born, is a real place.  Since I've been in that area of southwest Virginia, I'm ready to "travel" there in fiction.
The Lady and the Unicorn ~ by Tracy Chevalier, 2004
Another book I intended to read long ago, since I've read and enjoyed some of her other books:  Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999), Falling Angels (2001), and Remarkable Creatures (2009).
My Name Is Memory ~ by Ann Brashares, 2010
I don't think I've read any of her books, though I've picked them up occasionally.  This one intrigues me; it's about Daniel and Sophia, who have spent centuries falling in love in life after life.

Monday, January 24, 2011

And there was light!

I normally read more than one book at a time.  For the last few days, my nonfiction has been The First Christmas by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan (2007), and my fiction has been Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredrikkson (1994, English 1998).  They are completely different and I had no reason to expect any overlap, but I love it when something in one resonates with something in the other.  Here's what I read in The First Christmas:
It is not difficult to understand why the symbolism of light is a universal archetype.  We need only imagine how our ancestors experienced night and darkness.  This requires some effort, for we need to imagine a time before we learned how to illumine and domesticate the night with artificial light.  It was not so long ago.  Only recently have cities been illuminated at night; London was apparently the first, perhaps in the 1600s.  It became common in cities only after the invention of gas lighting in the late 1700s.  So also household lighting is recent.  According to an exhibit entitled "The History of Light" at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdan a few years ago, ordinary people -- meaning the majority of the population -- could not afford candles until around the year 1800. When night fell, it was dark, very dark. Our ancestors knew darkness in a way that we do not.
Here's what I read in Hanna's Daughters:
What was most amazing of all, and they were to talk and laugh about it for many years to come, was the light. Fortunately it wasn't Hanna who made a fool of herself this time, but John.

"Getting dark, Mother. I'll run down and get the oil lamp."

"No," said Johanna.  "Look, all you do is this."  She flipped the switch on the wall inside the kitchen door, and the light flooded down on them.

Once Hanna recovered from her surprise, she was pleased Ragnar hadn't been there to see her standing with her mouth open.
The character Hanna lived from 1871 until 1964, so the time period was the mid-twentieth century in Sweden.  The author said the character "flipped the switch," but I remember turning on lights in old houses using push-button switches like this one. The button with white on it represents light, of course, and the black one means darkness or lights off.  The house I grew up in was built around 1920, I'd guess, and had this kind of switch.

We built a house on Signal Mountain in 1965, and for years we enjoyed dark nights with trees around us and multitudes of stars overhead. Then new neighbors built on the street behind us and installed a bright light at the end of their driveway.  The light shone directly into our bedroom and obliterated the night -- and the stars.  Thus endeth our stargazing with the children on blankets in our yard.

Do you have any stories about light?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Donna's very thin now

My friend Donna lost over 30 pounds while she was in the hospital for nine days.

Library Loot ~ two more books

While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within ~ by Bruce Bawer, 2006.  Synopsis:
The struggle for the soul of Europe today is every bit as dire and consequential as it was in the 1930s. Then, in Weimar, Germany, the center did not hold, and the light of civilization nearly went out. Today, the continent has entered yet another “Weimar moment.” Will Europeans rise to the challenge posed by radical Islam, or will they cave in once again to the extremists?

As an American living in Europe since 1998, Bruce Bawer has seen this problem up close. Across the continent — in Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, and Stockholm — he encountered large, rapidly expanding Muslim enclaves in which women were oppressed and abused, homosexuals persecuted and killed, “infidels” threatened and vilified, Jews demonized and attacked, barbaric traditions (such as honor killing and forced marriage) widely practiced, and freedom of speech and religion firmly repudiated.

The European political and media establishment turned a blind eye to all this, selling out women, Jews, gays, and democratic principles generally — even criminalizing free speech — in order to pacify the radical Islamists and preserve the illusion of multicultural harmony. The few heroic figures who dared to criticize Muslim extremists and speak up for true liberal values were systematically slandered as fascist bigots. Witnessing the disgraceful reaction of Europe’s elites to 9/11, to the terrorist attacks on Madrid, Beslan, and London, and to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bawer concluded that Europe was heading inexorably down a path to cultural suicide.

Europe's Muslim communities are powder kegs, brimming with an alienation born of the immigrants’ deep antagonism toward an infidel society that rejects them and compounded by misguided immigration policies that enforce their segregation and empower the extremists in their midst. The mounting crisis produced by these deeply perverse and irresponsible policies finally burst onto our television screens in October 2005, as Paris and other European cities erupted in flames.

While Europe Slept is the story of one American’s experience in Europe before and after 9/11, and of his many arguments with Europeans about the dangers of militant Islam and America’s role in combating it. This brave and invaluable book — with its riveting combination of eye-opening reportage and blunt, incisive analysis — is essential reading for anyone concerned about the fate of Europe and what it portends for the United States.
The Age of Orphans ~ by Laleh Kadivi, 2009.  Synopsis:
Before following his father into battle, he had been like any other Kurdish boy: in love with his Maman, fascinated by birds and the rugged Zagros mountains, dutiful to his stern and powerful Baba. But after he becomes orphaned in a massacre by the armies of Iran's new Shah, Reza Pahlavi I., he is taken in by the very army that has killed his parents, re-named Reza Khourdi, and indoctrinated into the modern, seductive ways of the newly minted nation, careful to hide his Kurdish origins with every step.

The Age of Orphans follows Reza on his meteoric rise in ranks, his marriage to a proud Tehrani woman and his eventual deployment, as Capitan, back to the Zagros Mountains and the ever-defiant Kurds. Here Reza is responsible for policing, and sometimes killing, his own people, and it is here that his carefully crafted persona begins to fissure and crack.
Library Loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  Claire has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share a list of the loot you brought home.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blue eyes and Caturdays

Can you tell I have blue eyes? I'm a tabby-point Siamese, and I looked sort of like this when I was younger.  I started getting darker as I got older -- I'll be eleven on April 20th.  I got darker because my tabby colors began to spread over my whole body.  The tabby stripes kept getting darker.  My tail is the darkest part of me.  But my eyes are still blue, though it's hard to tell in this photo of me.  Here's a chart that shows all sorts of tabby cats.  I'm sure I'm somewhere on there.

Kiki Jacobs, ole blue eyes, signing off

Friday, January 21, 2011

Beginning with forgetfulness

Hanna's Daughters ~ by Marianne Fredrikkson, 1994
Her mind was as clear as a winter's day, a day as quiet and shadowless as if snow had just fallen.  Harsh sounds penetrated, the clatter of dropped enamel bowls and cries.  It frightened her.  Like the weeping from the next bed slicing into the whiteness.

There were many who cried where she was.

She had lost her memory four years ago, then only a few months later her words had disappeared.  She could see and hear, but could name neither objects nor people, so they lost all meaning.

That was when she came to this white country where time was nonexistent.  She didn't know where her bed was or how old she was, but she had found a new way of being and appealed for compassion with humble smiles.  Like a child.  And like a child, she was wide open to emotions, everything vibrating between people without words.
I've read this book before, but it was in the late 1990s and I've forgotten details.  The book is about three generations of women, and this woman is in a nursing home.  My mother was in such a place because she had Alzheimer's, so I'm interested in how it feels.  I don't want to put the book down -- it's that compelling -- and I've gotten to page 110, already.

If you want to play along, this meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.  Share the first sentence or two of the book you are reading.  (Sometimes it takes several sentences to get the full thought.)  Then, share your impressions of that beginning.  Click this link to see what others say about the books they are reading this week.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Feline's Favorite Friend Award ~ on Caturday

This is our friend Donna, who saved my life two years ago when Bonnie disappeared.  Donna came twice a day to feed me.  And she held her cell phone by my ear so I could hear Bonnie talking to me, and then Donna would give me treats.

I gave Donna a "Feline's Favorite Friend Award of Excellence ... for feeding me and giving me treats when Bonnie left me all alone for over two whole weeks."  I added my picture to the award and signed it, "Kiki Jacobs, Cat-in-Charge."  Donna put the award in a nice frame.

And now she's in the hospital with the flu and her heart is weak, Bonnie told me.  That's not good.  I know now that's where Bonnie disappeared for so long, into a hospital.  I told Bonnie to take Donna a book she could read while she's there, a book you may have read yourself.  The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss is one of my favorites, though I would never wear a hat myself.  Since it's about a cat, I hope it reminds Donna of me.  Here's the book's beginning.  Have you read it?

The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house
All that cold, cold, wet day.

Bonnie usually does this meme on Fridays.  It's hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages. Bonnie was at the hospital with Donna yesterday and hasn't posted anything lately, so I don't think anybody will mind if I do it for her this time, even if it's Caturday instead of Friday.

Kiki Jacobs, Cat-in-Charge

(Click here for other book beginnings.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow lady

Somebody built a snow lady here at the gated senior community where I live.  I don't know who did it, but I like her blue eyes and ceramic buttons.  I can see she has a sweet tooth, but she isn't smiling at the slush and snow that will turn icy when the temps drop into the twenties tonight.  It's currently 35 degrees Fahrenheit, and this little lady is slowly melting.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jamey's snowman

Jamey, who will be 18 on Sunday, first took a picture of his vehicle.

Sledding in St. Elmo Park today

Snow pictures from the park near my house in St. Elmo. Alison, a neighbor, gets the credit for these photos.

Snow business ~ on a Monday "Caturday"

We had this much snow.  Does this look like seven inches or so?

Here's what our snow looks like.

I didn't go outside like Simon's Cat.  It's warmer at the end of my closet.

Kiki Cat, signing off

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is it real food?

Click on the chart to enlarge it. Click here to read the article.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Listen to Nora, the piano cat ~ it's Caturday!

Listen to this cat play!  It's Nora, the piano cat, doing her thing.

Kiki Cat, signing off
(so you can listen to Nora)

A pair of books ~ fiction and nonfiction

The first is from the library, and the second is a book I've agreed to review.

Little Bee ~ by Chris Cleave, 2008
"A haunting novel about the tenuous friendship that blooms between two disparate strangers—one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London."

Original Sinners: Why Genesis Still Matters ~ by John R. Coats, 2009
"The relationships of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah, and Joseph and his brothers take on contemporary relevance as these characters find themselves confronted with extraordinary situations and circumstances that they’d neither asked for nor had anything to say about. Using stories from his life as well as the lives of people he’s known, Coats creates a rubric you can use to examine your own life and to discover aspects of yourself in the characters whose lives unfold in these primordial stories. How has Eve’s story shaped yours? Is your life reflected in Jacob’s evolution to wisdom? In Joseph’s youthful arrogance?"

Friday, January 7, 2011

A wintry beginning

It's been a couple of weeks since my last Book Beginnings on Friday, which I entitled A burning beginning.  This one, wintry and cold, takes place in Finland.
"It was three in the afternoon when my plane landed at the Helsinki airport, but outside my window, dusk was already settling in like a bruise.  I retrieved my suitcase, its handle cold, and stumbled to the tourist information desk, where a woman with good teeth and bad English helped me find a hotel near the train station.  My plan was to take the first train north, to Lapland, after a night of sleep."
That's from page 3 of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida (2007).  The beginning hooked me, and I continued to read 101 pages before I slowed down enough to come check my email and share this quote with you.  It helped that Claire (The Captive Reader) called this her favorite book ever.  That's high praise, indeed!

If you want to play along, this meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.  Share the first sentence or two of the book you are reading.  (Sometimes it takes several sentences to get the full thought.)  Then, share your impressions of that beginning.  Click this link to see what others say about the books they are reading this week.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Library Loot ~ a mixed bag of books

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964)

This is the only children's book I picked up this time.  Because the book was published when I was adult, I missed it as a child.  Thus, my need to learn about a girl another book blogger said is "ahead of her time."

The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria (2008)

The subtitle is "A History of the World through Islamic Eyes."  The dust jacket says that economic growth in countries such as China, India, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Kenya, and others "is generating a new global landscape where power is shifting and wealth and innovation are bubbling up in unexpected places."

Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredrikkson (1994)

I read this a decade or so ago, back when it was fairly new.  I'm planning to re-read it as part of the Nordic reading challenge.  I remember it as a very good book.

Rabbi Paul by Bruce Chilton (2004)

The subtitle here is "An Intellectual Biography." After reading other books about Paul, such as The First Paul by Marcus Borg and Dom Crossan (2009) and The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity by Hyam Maccoby (1986), I'm interested in what Chilton can add.

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens by Jack Weatherford (2010)

The subtitle is "How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire." Now that I've finished my semester of teaching at Chattanooga State, I have time to finish this book, which I had to return half-read last spring because I was limited to seven days for new books. I posted an interesting teaser from this book.

Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary (2009)

We in the West share a common narrative of world history that bypasses an entire civilization.  The subtitle of this book is "A History of the World through Islamic Eyes."

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida (2007)

This is another novel for the Nordic challenge.  On the day of her father's funeral, 28-year-old Clarissa discovers that he wasn't her biological father after all.

Independent People by Halldor Laxness (1946)

This novel about Iceland is for the Nordic reading challenge.  Laxness got the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature because of this book.  I want to know more about Iceland.

The Bible with Sources Revealed by Richard Elliott Friedman (2003)

Subtitled "A New View into the Five Books of Moses," this book has (naturally) five parts: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I want to read this one along with The Five Books of Miriam: A Woman's Commentary on the Torah by Ellen Frankel (1996) that I've had for over a decade, still unread.

Library Loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  Claire has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share a list of the loot you brought home.