ordinary… mostly

"We have nothing to offer each other, except a haven." — K. Nafziger



Five for Sunday(?!)… Oaks

I’ve been wanting to do another ‘Five for Friday’ for a few weeks, because I’ve had the perfect topic. As part of our effort to acquaint ourselves with our environment, Ordinary Spouse and I took an oak walk a few weeks ago. Basically, we grabbed two tree guides and tried to identify all of the oaks we could find. The result of this little exercise could have been a ‘Five for Friday’, but I kept missing the Fridays. And it could have been a ‘This Week in the Forest’, but it’s now three weeks after the fact. The leaves are starting to change color (although the oaks are still mostly green), meaning I need to hurry up and get this posted. And so, you get a ‘Five for Sunday’.

Here is what we found…

Red oak (Quercus rubra)

Red OakBristle-pointed leaves, not deeply lobed, 5-9″ in length.

White oak (Quercus alba)

White oak

Leaves with rounded lobes and no bristles, lobes of similar size and shape.

 Chestnut oak (Quercus prinus)

Chestnut oak

Broad, oval-shaped leaves with many shallow lobes.

Scrub oak (Quercus iliicifolia)

Scrub oakAlso known as ‘Bear oak’. Leaves with bristle-pointed lobes. Fuzzy underneath.

Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea)

Scarlet oakDeeply lobed leaves with bristle points.

A couple of comments on our little exercise…

First, we may have actually encountered six different species, but making a positive identification of black oak (Quercus velutina) became a maddening proposition. For starters, it turns out that red, scarlet, and black oaks are closely related. Sometimes hybrids result. The leaves of the scarlet and black oaks look much the same, as well. And in common usage, people seem to use a number of names interchangeably.

We’re hoping that two items will help us with a positive identification. Supposedly, the autumn coloring of scarlet oaks is much brighter than the black oaks, so we’ll be watching for that in a few weeks. And the inner bark of black oaks is yellow. We’ve been doing some bark sampling, and so far we’ve only come up with the scarlet oak. No black oak.

(Ed. note: As of September 26th, we have positively identified at least two black oaks for a grand total of six oak species. This blog post is now officially a ‘Six for Sunday’.)

The other interesting note from our exercise: we found a cottage at Laurelville where all five of these species occur naturally around the parking area. So next time you visit us here, take a look around Danzig.

The next item on our to-do list is a maple walk. We’ll see if that happens this fall or not.

Five for Friday… (More) Lenten haiku

Two years ago, I wrote some haiku for the Year C Lenten lectionary passages. I thought that I’d try again this year with the scriptures for Year B.

Week 1 (Mark 1.9-15)

He’s hearing voices
And living with wild beasts
And we call him ‘Lord’.

Week 2 (Mark 8.31-38)

I’ll have to forgive
Peter for thinking that death
was sub-optimal.

Week 3 (John 2.13-22)

Money-changers would
limit access to the ‘haves’,
But God loves the poor.

Week 4 (John 3.14-21)

Strange ambulance snake?
A sanitized reminder
of amazing love.

Week 5 (John 12.20-36)

Was the Greek request
Lost somewhere in translation?
Game of telephone

Ok – dear readers… it’s your turn. Do you have some Lenten haiku for one of these passages? Or would you like to pour your creative juices into something for Week 6? (It’s the Palm Sunday passage from Mark 11.)

Five for Friday… belated Halloween things

I’m a bit late for Halloween, but now I have an excuse for a “Five for Friday”. Without further ado, here are five Halloween tidbits.

1) Our Jack O’ Lantern!

This guy got a nasty cold at just the wrong time. Scary.

2) A memory of Halloweens gone by…

When I was young, Dad and I rigged up lights and a sound system in the bushes outside our front door. When trick-or-treaters would venture up the walk toward our house, we’d flash the lights and make spooky noises. It was always gratifying when they turned around and ran off.

3) This year’s costumes

Here are three of us before we went trick-or-treating this year:

Oldest Daughter was a cat; Youngest Daughter was a fairy (you can’t see her wings); and I was a mad scientist (I actually performed acid-base reactions). Middle Daughter (on the steps in the background) was a blue jay.

4) Favorite candy

If you really want to give me a treat, get me a bar of Organic Panama Extra Dark Chocolate. Fair trade, 80% cocoa, 100% yumminess.

5) A hilarious clip from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”

“I got a rock.”

Five for Friday… Secular songs that relate to faith

So here’s the deal… I used to listen to CCM music* all the time. Between my first and second years in college, I had a pretty profound, faith-changing experience. As a result, I became more passionate about Jesus, and also more conservative. I got rid of much of my “worldly” music, and listened almost exclusively to CCM: Petra, Steven Curtis Chapman, Rich Mullins**, Susan Ashton… you get the idea. Over time, I’ve remained passionate about Jesus, but I began to find much of the “acceptable” Christian music to be theologically shallow and musically thin. I stopped listening to Christian radio, because of the hit and miss quality of the songs. And I started noticing when the so-called “secular” music world produced songs that related to my faith.

* “CCM”, if you don’t know the acronym, is Contemporary Christian Music. So technically, I should say “CCM” and not “CCM music”. Glad we got that out of the way.

** I still like Rich Mullins, but he’s the exception rather than the rule. And unfortunately, the world lost a good person a few years ago when he died.

And that brings us to today’s “Five for Friday”. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to something that Bono wrote and said to Ordinary Spouse, “Why can’t the ‘Christian musicians’ write songs like this?” So today, I’ve chosen five secular songs that reflect or challenge my faith.

There’s a catch. I could choose music by U2 or Carrie Newcomer – musicians that clearly don’t draw distinctions between faith and life – but that would be too easy. So these five come from others. Enjoy!

1) The Heart of the Matter by Don Henley

The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I’d figured out
I have to learn again

I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter
But everything changes and my friends seem to scatter
But I think it’s about… forgiveness…

Yep – forgiveness. Reconciliation. That’s basically what Jesus came to teach us: how to be reconciled to God and to each other.

2) Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie

Song lyrics don’t get any more powerful or challenging than this:

Love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night…

3) Jubilee by Mary Chapin Carpenter

A song about receiving grace (in the language of the Old Testament).

4) Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins

Every time I hear this, I think Matthew 25.

5) One of Us by Joan Osborne

The scandal of the incarnation:

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
trying to make his way home.

Five for Friday… Peanut butter and ???

Peanut butter and jelly

(PB&J by Evan-Amos)

This Five for Friday is inspired by the comments left by Ordinary Mother and Naomi on my poll earlier this week. They were clearly not identifying with the peanut butter and jelly thing. So in their honor, I present my five favorite sandwiches with peanut butter. As an added bonus, you can weigh in on your favorites, too! (I can sense the excitement building.)

1) Marmalade – Pure yum.

2) Bananas – I think my mom tried to expand my horizons with this, once upon a time. It worked.

3) Honey – If it includes the honeycomb, all the better.

4) Nutella – Almost too rich to eat.

5) Apple butter – Sam Beachy’s, please.

Honorable mentions: Marshmallow kreme. (I think it has to be spelled like that.) Also, these can’t make the list, since they aren’t sandwiches. However, I really like peanut butter with celery and (get ready for this one) peanut butter and mustard on ham.

By the way – the earlier poll raises an interesting question. Why do people seem to spread peanut butter first? Of the responses so far, nine people spread peanut butter first. Three people spread either peanut butter or jelly. But no one always spreads jelly first.

What’s up with that? If you’re going to use one knife, couldn’t you clean the jelly off of the knife more easily than the peanut butter? And yet, I’m guilty of being a “peanut butter first” person myself. And so, we contaminate the jelly jar with bits of peanut butter.

Ok – rant done.

So – how do you eat your peanut butter sandwiches?

Five for Friday… uses for cheese

(With apologies to my family members who are lactose intolerant.)

I’m afraid that this won’t be an overly exciting “Five for Friday” because my experience with food isn’t overly broad. Mostly, it’s just a chance for my father and me to think fondly of our shared sense of taste, while being separated by 600 miles. So here are my favorite uses for cheese (apart from simply eating it straight).

  1. Fresh mozzarella salad – Mix fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, and balsamic vinegar. Voila!
  2. Pizza – I’m thinking fondly of white pizza (ricotta and mozzarella) on the east coast and goat cheese pizza on the west coast.
  3. French onion soup – More Gruyère, please.
  4. Ravioli. Or lasagna. I don’t care which.
  5. Blue cheese burgers.

And just missing the cut: Asiago bread, quesadillas and Greek salads with Feta.

Also – I reserve the right to modify my list. I’m sure I forgot something.

And while we’re at it, here are my five favorite cheeses to eat straight:

  1. Swiss
  2. Smoked cheddar
  3. Gjetost
  4. Cheese curds (from the Kalona Cheese House!)
  5. Fresh mozzarella

With pepper jack missing the cut because Monterey Jack isn’t quite so special without the hot peppers.

Five for Friday… Favorite Lights

I’m always looking for ideas for these posts. On Tuesday at supper, Oldest Daughter suggested this topic. Then she was upset when I wouldn’t tell her my five right away. So for OD, here are this week’s five:

(Image by Ronald C. Yochum Jr.)

1) Pittsburgh at night – I have a vivid memory of “Wow!” from a number of years ago: emerging from one of the tunnels on the south bank of the Mon (the Fort Pitt tunnel, maybe?) and seeing the lights across the river. Beautiful city.

2) Synchrotron radiation – Normally, one doesn’t get to see this. At the APS, there are hutches made from lead to protect you from X-rays. But at lower energy facilities, the light might be in the UV/Visible/IR region. In that case, all you need is an appropriate window to provide shielding. Which is how I could safely view the visible light at NSLS VUV ring.

(Image by Joshua Strang)

3) The aurora borealis – While in college, I got to see a gorgeous red display while on a hay ride at Merry Lea. Some people thought the world was ending – not unlike this week.

4) Burning magnesium – You know the bright white fireworks? That’s magnesium. I got to light some magnesium on fire in 11th grade chemistry class.

5) The absence of light – Well, not quite. But I like being outside at night, far away from the sodium vapor lamps of the city. Three good memories:

  • Canoeing in the Boundary Waters, sitting on a lake at night
  • Watching a satellite traverse the night sky at Sunset Hill at Laurelville
  • Sitting on a front porch in Kalona, Iowa, with my wife’s uncle and appreciating the Milky Way

Five for Friday… Childish jokes with hymns

It’s been too long since I’ve done a “Five for Friday”. My mom is probably impatient!

If you happen to be offended by childish (not child-like!) humor, you should probably skip this one. Why? Because today I’m listing five ways the children (probably junior-high age) make jokes out of hymns! Of course, the problem with this humor is that once it gets stuck in your mind, it will never get out. So if you are easily offended or wish to keep a sense of innocence with some of these hymns, you should just move along now.

For the rest of you…

1) Name associations

We start out harmlessly enough. Sometimes you hear people’s names in the hymns. Of course, this could happen frequently if you know people with biblical names. But it can happen at other times, too. Perhaps you know someone named “Andy”…

Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me,
Andy tells me I am his own.

In college, I had a professor whose first name was ‘Merritt’. The last line in “Come thou long-expected Jesus” (HWB 178)* was never quite the same:

By thine all-sufficient Merritt,
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

2) Word changes

There is a bomb in Gilead…

(HWB 627)

Yikes! Of course, you can redeem that word change if you consider the following line:

There is a bomb in Gilead
To make the wounded whole…

Sort of a “swords-to-plowshares” effect, huh?

3) Bodily functions

Uh-oh. Now we’re getting crude. I’ll let you use your imagination to figure out what happened here:

Wind [that] makes all winds that blow –
Gusts that bend the saplings low…

(HWB 31)

And here is a combination word change and bodily function, from “Come, come ye saints” (HWB 425). We begin with:

Do this, and joy your hearts will swell…

And go to:

Do this, and joy your farts will smell…

4) Jokes with hymn titles

I’m not sure where I first heard this. Try appending “under the bed sheets” to hymn titles…

Sometimes a light surprises (HWB 603)

There is a place of quiet rest (HWB 5)

Here, O Lord, your servants gather (HWB 7)

Hymns for gathering seem to provide many possibilities here.

5) Toil

This is actually the inspiration for this whole blog entry. Ordinary Spouse said that when she was young, she associated the word ‘toil’ with ‘toilet’. Then songs like “Amazing Grace” (HWB 143) take on new meaning:

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come…

Now, take the image that has just formed in your mind and juxtapose that with the beginning of the final verse:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years…

Well – I’m sure that this has been an edifying time for all. What memories of childhood hymn changes would you like to share?

* References are to hymns in “Hymnal: A Worship Book” (HWB), a hymnal frequently used in Mennonite congregations.

Five for Friday… Spiritual and non-spiritual thoughts from a labyrinth

My family is at Laurelville this weekend for the semi-annual Association meeting. The activities really don’t start until this evening, but we drove yesterday to be here for an extra day. My parents are also here now, and my in-laws will arrive this evening, so it’s a mini family reunion.

This morning all of us took a walk to Sunset Hill. While we were there, everyone walked the labyrinth – each according to their own personality. What follows are some spiritual and non-spiritual thoughts from our time there. I’ll let you decide which are which, but consider carefully before you decide. The answer may not be readily apparent…

1) “Whoa! I didn’t expect to go in that direction.”

2) “It’s ok if you jump across the lines. Mommy told me.”

3) “This is a lot longer than I thought.”

4) “This isn’t a maze. There is only one path.”

5) “Daddy is the winner!”

(Photo from the Laurelville website.)

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