Jan 092013

Anne Lamott has a new book out called “Help. Thanks. Wow.” It’s sub-titled “Three Essential Prayers.”  I know this only because I heard her interviewed on NPR.  I haven’t read the book, but I did purchase it: I gave it to my sister-in-law for Christmas.  This hasn’t stopped me from thinking about these three prayers: Help. Thanks. Wow.

I’m not very good at the first one: Help.  It’s not asking God for help that trips me up, it’s asking anyone.  Truthfully, it’s not just asking for help, it’s accepting it too. For years, accepting help meant admitting that I couldn’t do it myself.  I didn’t like that.  

I still don’t.  

I like feeling capable. 


I’m getting better at asking God for help, or so I thought.  Being weaker than the Creator of the Universe carries no shame, right?


Seriously, there are some things that I just can’t figure out and, after struggling on my own, I’ve finally thrown up my hands and tossed the problem to God.  That’s how it looks in my head, as if God and I are playing some cosmic form of catch with this rubik’s cube of a situation that needs to be twisted and turned until it is restored to order.

I did it the other day.  Hubby and I were talking about the future: sending Sunshine off to college, dealing with the guy that hasn’t paid us for work after 9 months, Hubby’s career –  mostly things that I can’t control, don’t want to control, and shouldn’t control.  So I lobbed it up: “I trust you, Jesus.”  

Honestly, that’s all I said in my head: “I trust you, Jesus.” and I repeated it over the next few days.  When I woke up in the middle of the night and started worrying. When I woke up in the morning and started obsessing. When I looked at our bank balance and started panicking. “I trust you, Jesus.”

At the same time, I made a list and a plan and started baby stepping through that plan.  Just in case God threw the problem back to me.

And then it happened.

Something changed.

God answered.


Hubby got a call for an awesome gig, a chance to travel with good pay for just long enough, but not too long, to an exotic location.

He accepted the gig and my prayer became both “Thanks!” and “Wow!” at the same time.   But, wait…..

This is so outside of what I was expecting that I’m having trouble accepting the answer.  I keep thinking it will fall through, they’ll hire someone else, the timing won’t work out, something bad will happen.  While I am saying “Thanks.” and “Wow”, I am also saying “Wait. Really?  Seriously?  Are you sure?”

I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t wrap my head around this answer.  I’m not sure if I’m doubting God or the magnitude of His goodness, but this is really hard for me to accept.  I’m a little surprised at my lack of faith, or whatever this is.

I know God answers prayer.  

I know God answers my prayers.   

Maybe I have been keeping my prayers general lately. You know “Bless so-and-so.  Help so-and-so.” This was another general prayer- my version of ‘Help’- and God came back with a zinger right down the middle,  an answer so ‘perfect’ that I couldn’t have dreamed it up.  Let’s be clear: I NEVER would have dreamed this up.

Maybe that’s the point.

Looking back over my journal from the last week, I actually did spend some time with Ephesians 3:20: 

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

I guess he can.

As the details fall into place and Hubby makes arrangements, I’m still repeating “Thanks. Wow. Really?”

And God keeps answering “Yep.”

 Posted by at 19:27
Dec 022012

First morning in London and I was wide awake at 4 a.m. Considering that was Noon in California, I did a pretty good job of sleeping in. I managed to get back to sleep and woke just after the London sunrise at 7:45 a.m. We successfully navigated the electrical outlets and shower head (Brits don’t believe in water pressure?) and had our first English Breakfast in the hotel. I stuck to cottage cheese, yogurt, fruit and a croissant each day as Hubby sampled the various hot food items.

It will come as no surprise to any of you that a trip to the Library was first on my list of things to do.  I have to say that the British Library is no ordinary Library.  I was not surprised to find out that it’s free, but I was surprised to find out it had exhibits.  Since we weren’t in a hurry, we checked our map and set out to walk up to the Euston area of London to check it out.   You can look at the pictures from that walk here.


In the Piazza just inside the gates of the library is a giant scupture of Issac Newton measuring out the universe.  It was done by a Scottish sculptor, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, who also did a lot of the mosaic work in the tube station near our hotel.  





The British Library is home to more than 14 million books, 58 million patents and 3 million sound recordings.  It’s a major research library with reading rooms for different academic subjects where you can do research if you have a Reader Pass (free as long as you have a permanent address).  It prides itself on making it’s collection accessible.



Inside the library is a model of the entire complex showing how and where the books are housed.





Up the center of the building is a six story glass tower that encloses the King’s Library: printed books, pamphlets, and maps that King George III collected between 1763 and 1820!









I’ve buried the lead a bit here since there’s an amazing gallery that’s open to the public every day for absolutely free that holds some of the most magnificent books and manuscripts I have ever seen.  We strolled through  room containing The Magna Carta, Lindisfarne Gospels, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and, my very favorite, the original manuscript of Handel’s Messiah.  (Handel lived in London for much of his life and the Messiah was performed at Covent Garden).  We felt echoes of home looking at the temporary collection of Armenian scriptures.  I wish I could include images here so you’d get a sense of the beauty of these books.  Of course, we couldn’t take any pictures inside the Gallery, but, trust me, it was breathtaking.


As we walked back towards the hotel to meet some friends for an afternoon adventure, we stopped at a little place called Eve’s Cafe for lunch.  We both had delicious hot paninis which we ate at the little table out front. As we munched, I noticed that we were across from the Bloomsbury Hotel which meant we were in Bloomsbury, which meant we were in Virginia Woolf’s ‘hood, which meant literary tingles with my goat cheese panini.



 Posted by at 10:36
Nov 182012

If you know me at all, you know I’m a planner.  A list maker.  When faced with a task or an event, I break it down, write it down and attack it in baby steps.  I totally buy into the philosophy that “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”  (This may or may not be a Ben Franklin quote, if you believe the Internet.)

When faced with my upcoming trip to London, I earned more hours than I will be ‘across the pond’.


First stop: Google.  What the heck did we do before Google?  I googled everything London.  Best places to visit…..  Maps of…..  Films about….. Books about….   I created an Excel file to keep track of my finds and I bookmarked more websites than there are Doctor Who episodes.


Next stop: Library.  Well, actually, the Library website, one of my personal favorites.  With a  library card you can look up books online, request a copy of the book and they will send it to any library of your choice in our city library system.  You can then walk in, find your books labeled with your name on a shelf right inside the front door, and sprint to the self-checkout kiosk before you are sucked into the void.  This works extremely well when I don’t have hours to spend savoring all the stacks have to offer.

london books Smaller

I pulled out books on places to visit as well as a few works of fiction set in London.  Whether I visit all the places I’ve read about or not, I’ve already wandered down those streets in my mind: Bliss.


As the trip approaches, I am busy fleshing out my Excel chart and adding bookmarked sites to my Google Map.   I am bouncing from book to book, cross-referencing and researching each area.   I’ve downloaded podcasts with travel tips and audio walking tours of some key attractions.  I’ve now consolidated my to-do list down to 4 items: plan for London, read about London, blog about London and rest up for London.

I’ve crossed off the first three, so all that’s left is to bid you goodnight.

 Posted by at 19:59
Jul 072012

A few days ago, I wrote a post about The Curious Hieroglyphick Bible and in that post I mentioned that I like new takes on the Bible.  So here’s another one: The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament.  That’s Brick as in Lego Brick.

Yup. Lego. Awesome, right?


I bought The Brick Bible for my kids last Christmas and we spent hours pouring over it and marveling at the clever way the stories were represented as well as asking each other “Really?  The Bible says that?”

Some of the Old Testament is really bloody and Brendan Powell Smith doesn’t shy away from depicting the violence. My kids were fascinated.


Here’s the best part!  It’s online as well.  In fact, www.bricktestament.com contains illustrations from the New Testament too.  

How awesome is a Lego depiction of the Last Supper?


From the website: “The world’s largest, most comprehensive illustrated bible.  A sprawling website best suited for those with the maturity to read the entire bible.”  Now there’s a challenge.  I’ll admit that I love some of the illustrations, but others make me squirm.

Smith even tags the stories according to content: N=nudity, S=sexual content, V=violence, & C=cursing.  He isn’t shy about depicting modern day events in order to make a point either.  

It’s a great place to start a discussion…or an argument.  I’m telling you, it’s not for everyone, but it may just get you thinking and talking and reading and learning about God.

 Posted by at 18:23
Jul 042012

I love books – actual books.  The way they feel, how they smell.  I love curling up in odd places with them propped open just right.  They speak to me in a way audiobooks and eBooks never will.


But today’s Teachable Moment is brought to you by…..my Kindle.  I discovered a treasure called The Curious Hieroglyphick Bible.  I saw it on the Library of Congress list of books that shaped America.  I hadn’t ever heard of it, so I went trolling around the Internet.  No copies at the local library, but Amazon had it and the first chapter was free on the Kindle – instant satisfaction for my curiosity! 


Can I just say “WOW!”?


It’s an 18th century collection of “select passages of the Old & New Testaments” illustrated with nearly 500 woodcuts.  Sound boring?  Not at all!  It’s an incredible work of art and the way it is put together is wonderfully clever.  The title page describes it this way “Represented with emblematical figures for the amusement of youth designed chiefly to familiarize tender Age, in a pleasing and diverting Manner, with early Ideas of the Holy Scriptures.” 

It reminds me of an early graphic novel.  The Creation story is absolutely gorgeous.   I can see 18th century children pouring over the illustrations for hours. 


Look at the way they represent God and the Spirit at creation:



I’m hooked!  I love new takes on scripture, no matter how old.


By the way, there are only 4 original copies of this book, but you can peek at photographs of the first chapter here. Be sure to click on the Kindle edition. The Print edition can’t compare.



 Posted by at 19:18
May 272012

  Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and Chicken Soup with Rice are some of the most playful, insightful, inspirational children’s books I’ve ever read.  When Maurice Sendak died earlier this month, it all came rushing back. The creatures in Where the Wild Things Are are both the most gentle and the most ferocious monsters of my dreams.  I’ve been Max: “Let the wild rumpus start”, his mother: “you wild thing!”, and those precious wild things themselves: “We’ll eat you up, we love you so!”  

Maurice Sendak didn’t write books to club children over the head with a  life lesson; he wrote with joy and insight about what he saw, felt, and experienced. He played with language in a way that invited you to play along.  Who doesn’t love “Oh my once, Oh my twice, Oh my Chicken Soup with Rice”?  

Sendak didn’t do many book signings because he said it confused the children when he took their beloved books away and wrote in them.  His favorite story involved a young fan who enjoyed the personal drawing Sendak sent him so much that he ate it.  What a compliment!

In his recent interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross on NPR, Maurice Sendak sounded like a lonely, wounded child when he talked about those he’d loved and lost.  He even expressed joy that he would die before the interviewer so he wouldn’t have to mourn her too.  His heart was raw from feeling for 83 years.  

Maurice Sendak: Conventional?  Nope.

A treasure?  Absolutely.


 Posted by at 21:34
May 182012

I confess, I’m seduced by books.  I always O.D. at the library.
So I pile books up beside my bed and they wait for me each night as I fall into bed, usually too tired to read more than a page.  But their presence comforts me.

So what’s there now?

(Did I mention I love lists?)
below bedside


  • A few random magazines
  • 420 Characters by Lou Beach
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • Best Food Writing 2011 by Holly Hughes
  • Los Angeles Noir ( a collection of short stories)
  • My Study Bible
  • Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
  • The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosely
  • The March issue of National Geographic
  • The Message by Eugene Peterson
  • The Play’s the Thing by Elizabeth Jones and Gretchen Reynolds
  • Unveiled by Francine Rivers

It’s going to take me awhile to plow through these, I’ve been working on some of them for months.  Wonder what I’ll curl up with tonight…

 Posted by at 18:11
May 042012

[I’m a sucker for a well-written children’s book – the kind that clamors to be savored and shared.  From time to time, I’ll post about one that tickles my fancy.]

Today is illustrator  Don Wood’s birthday.  He is best known for illustrating his wife, Audrey Wood’s books including King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, The Napping House, and Piggies.

piggies cover

Knowing that his birthday was coming up, I started combing through our school library shelves for any of his books to re-visit.  The first one I came upon was Piggies.   It’s a simple text that equates a child’s fingers with pigs.  I threw it in my bag to bring home and share with my own kids since I didn’t have time to shanghai any preschoolers.

My 11 year old daughter and I had a few minutes together waiting to pick up the high schoolers and so I pulled it out of my bag and handed it to her.  She gasped “I love this book!” and immediately began to flip the pages.  When she got to the end, we went back through it more slowly in order to appreciate the rich illustrations.  As we talked about which pig was most like us, we noticed more and more details: the ten pigs have distinct personalities, the left hand is boy pigs and the right hand is girls, some of the pigs have props that they use in clever ways from page to page. What a treasure!

My 8th grade son picked this as his favorite page from the book.  The skiing pig is his favorite.cold piggies

There’s a great literacy building project that goes with this book as well: Kids can use their own hands to mimic the piggies in the book and then come up with their own phrases, i.e. My little piggies are flipping.  If you want to take it a step further, trace their hands onto paper and have them make ink thumbprint piggies doing what they described.  Collect them together into a class book.  

What great books inspire you?

 Posted by at 07:07
Apr 292012

In his book, Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream, David Platt contrasts Christian worship services in Sudan and America.  He describes the Sudanese as people who listen to the sermon in order to translate it and teach it to others.  Americans, Platt says, are generally listening with a different purpose – to better themselves.  No wonder God’s Word rarely makes it outside the doors of the American church.  

So here’s the challenge: listen and learn in order to share.  Let God’s Word pass through me rather than hanging on to it.

And so I pass this on to you:
Jesus has just fed the 5,000 by breaking up a boy’s lunch and passing it around.  The crowd recognizes that Jesus has miraculous powers and is “ready to force him to be their king”.  (John 6:15) Jesus, knowing there is a better plan, literally heads for the hills.

Don’t we still try to force Jesus to do what we want?  Politicians use him to promote their agendas.  Business people use him to appear worthy of trust.  Broken people hide in churches in order to seem whole.  

What if, instead, we let God be God?  What if we start the long process of letting Jesus’ death on the cross change us?  

But how?  When all else fails, go back to the source: see what the Bible has to say.  The book of John is a good place to start.  

More thoughts on the topic can be found here.

And if you learn something, pass it on!

 Posted by at 14:14
Apr 222012

 Here it is. My blog.  A place to share my insights and thoughts on the whats and whys of life.   I blame Facebook.  It awakened my inner writer.  Mentally framing my experiences into Facebook posts was the first symptom that something was happening.   And then there was the collusion of my inner reader.  Everytime I read something great, I wanted to write something great.  

Writers write, right?  So I’ve started writing – whenever I get the urge – about whatever inspires me.   Having a purpose to write has made me more aware of the little things that happen each day.  My posts will be snapshots from life both inside and outside the classroom and so I’ve entitled the blog “Teachable Moments”.    

According to About.com, a teachable moment is “not something that you can plan for; rather, it is a fleeting opportunity that must be sensed and seized. Often it will require a brief digression that temporarily sidetracks the original plan…Taking this tangent is worthwhile.”


And so it begins- the brief digressions and occasional tangents. Thanks for reading!

 Posted by at 19:31