Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Forever will it dominate your destiny

The Wallingford playground has three slides: a twisty slide, a tunnel slide, and a side-by-side hump-slide. Corin's favorite is the tunnel slide. But he can't pronounce the "l" very well.

So after a couple times down the cavernous tunnel slide, he exclaims, "More the dark side! I want to go down the dark side!"

Sharon and I burst out laughing, so he must have thought he wasn't being clear. "I want the dark one. The dark one is my favorite!"

Well on his way to being a Sith Lord.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Working backward

One thing in particular has stuck in my mind from the conversation I had the other day — this friend talked about approaching Scripture without his mind settled on what it all meant. In particular, he liked approaching the person of Jesus without superimposing the idea of "Son of God" on him beforehand; rather, he preferred to approach Jesus with the same sense of confusion that the people of the day had about him and then to tease out and work through the text to discover that he must be the Son of God. Rather than being handed the answers and conclusion in advance, he found it more beneficial in making it his own belief if he put the pieces together himself and was surprised by this Jesus anew. "Don't tell me Jesus is the Son of God and then present the Gospels to prove it," was something to the effect of what he said. Tell me about Jesus himself, and let me be drawn in by the question."

Friday, June 25, 2010


After Corin was in the bath for nearly an hour last night, I tried to convince him it was time to get out by showing him that our fingers were all wrinkly.

"What's frinkly, Apa?" he asked.

I showed him my fingertips and told him that when you've been in the water a long time they get all rough and bunched up.

"Apa frinkly; Corin not frinkly," he decided.

I showed him his hands and how they were wrinkled, too, so we should let the water drain.

But he had another course of action. "I wash off the frinkly for you," and turned the faucet back on to clean his hands of frinkles.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I love this city

I sat down at the library today to type up some notes on "Prayer and Temperament" and got into a two-hour conversation with a stranger about psychology, Jesus, home church, education, Paul, James, canonization, third-century food, American cities, love and marriage, divinity, loving one another, and the call of God on us. (Sorry, other library patrons.) It wasn't remotely weird or stilted, but rather substantive, challenging, refreshing. It's amazing, walking and weaving among people all day, to stop and to uncover the fullness and variety of a life of the person just one seat over.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I hate to pat my own back, but one of the songs I wrote has been going through my mind lately and it has become such a prayer for me that I couldn't help but share how much I liked it. It goes:

It is not our goal to remain unstained
like a chalice buffed and shined;
He has filled our cup with abundant love,
let us spill it down our sides

The gist of the idea is this: Too often I feel that we as Christians are pressured to live a kind of "pure" life with no sin, no mistakes, no tarnish. But the easiest way for us to do that is to remove ourselves from people who we don't like.

It's relatively easy to be kind, loving, thoughtful, generous, and peaceful among those who think and look and act like we do; as Jesus said, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." Yet somehow we still imagine that what God wants from us is to be pure and untainted, removed from all temptation of anger and haughtiness and despising and overreaction.

What he asks of us, rather, is to love. And love is messy. We're going to bear the scars of it. We're going to make mistakes in relationship. We're going to hurt people's feelings and hurt our own in inviting people of all sorts to the banquet table with us. We won't come out the other side pristine. We'll be well worn, chipped, cracked, stained, with the marks of Christ.

I'm not stating this out of a place of success or achievement in this area; I am just terrible with lowering my defenses and spending energy on those who don't mutually reciprocate. I say it to myself as a hope and dream as much as a truth of faith.

Love requires that we jump into the thick of people's lives, even and especially those we don't like or love or understand or appreciate, and to treat them as Christ treats them, as God's beloved creations. That's what its all about. That's what Jesus did, that's what he's calling us toward, that's what he's giving us the power to do.

Our lives are like the talents of the parable: At the end of the story we shouldn't be pristinely perfect like the tucked away stash; we should be spent.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hear him roar

I've noticed over the past couple weeks that Corin is now responding to strangers who ask him questions. For most of his three years, a question from a post-office clerk or the supermarket-checkout lady earned either a blank stare or a burrowing of the face into Apa's shoulder. But now he routinely answers how old he is, if he wants a sticker, what's on his shirt, etc. I have no idea if this will hold or not, or if he'll end up as stranger-shy as I am, but I'm encouraged nonetheless by his about-face in bravery.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Hover over me"

music & lyrics by Steve Lansingh, performed by Amanda Caldwell

(if the embedded version won't play, you can download the song here)

the surf laps my feet
and the sunset it steals all the light
I stand as a speck
before infinite waves with my plight

'cause once long ago
in the black of the night
your spirit roamed 'tween sky and sea
I'm needing to find you
to feel a reminder
of your pow'r and your majesty

so hover over me
let me feel the touch of God who made me
come brood over my soul
as it churns like the sea
hover over me
come brood over my soul
as it churns like the sea
hover over me

you made ev'ry creature
that swims beneath glassy black waves
and in the dark sky
the gulls soar on the wings that you gave

it pleased you to make
ev'ry being that wakes
that scampers and swims and takes flight
where your spirit moved
it brought forth new life
so grant me that presence tonight

hover over me
let me feel the love of God who made me
come brood over my soul
as it churns like the sea
hover over me
come brood over my soul
as it churns like the sea
hover over me

your voice called out
into the dark
and spoke a word of light
the void peeled back
the sun was born
and swaddled us in white

hover over me
let me feel the breath of God who made me
speak a word to my soul
as it churns like the sea
hover over me
you who spoke into dark
and called forth the first light
hover over me

come brood over my soul
as it churns like the sea
hover over me

Monday, June 7, 2010


Sunday, June 6, 2010

12 years married

Days of joy, of pain,
exhaustion, elation,
creativity, lethargy —
seeing blackness and bearing witness —
I collapse into you.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy 3rd Birthday, Corin!

May your year be sparklingly 'thumbs up'!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Half-Blood Prince

Like most everyone else in the world, I've read and enjoyed the Harry Potter books. Amanda and I debated whether or not to see the movies, since the world was so firmly in our heads just from the books, but eventually we decided to see what modern moviemaking techniques could offer in depicting such a whimsical and mysterious universe.

I had no intention of seeing any of the films more than once, especially after the first few, to which I felt more or less "well, there's the book." There was nothing unique added or a new perspective offered; if anything the movies were much the poorer for trying to cram every plot point into a feature-length running time. Stripped from the stories were the parts that I found most fascinating and endearing: the day-to-day life in a school of magic, where, despite the fantastical, the kids all struggled to make friends, to keep up with classes, to navigate around school bullies, to be resourceful and creative in the face of their challenges. The adventure and intrigue is good and all, but the real fun for me was the sense of living abroad in a new and unexpected culture.

Then came the movie version of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" — the first film in the series to be appreciated, I think, as its own entity. It's helped by the fact that the book is something of a breather between climaxes (something that frustrated me to no end when the book was finally released, when I'd been waiting so long to find out what happens next!), but the lack of big plot points to cover makes this the first film in the series to come alive on a day-to-day level: against a background of looming war, when their minds must certainly be on conflicts beyond school, the students are still human. They fall in love, get jealous, put friendships to the test, converse with mentors, do their schoolwork, and confront their new and maturing selves. The fact that the amazement of the earlier movies has worn off a bit, as things like password doors and giant spiders and Quidditch have become commonplace, works to the film's advantage and lets it explore solely the emotional landscape. I've watched the movie twice now, finding it rich both times, and alone among the Harry Potter films it's the one I plan to watch again.

I'm curious to see what "Half-Blood" director David Yates does with "The Deathly Hallows" films, and whether he'll continue the emphasis on quiet moments and character tension. It would be really interesting if books more or less followed the trajectory of the small and personal story of a young boy's coping with loss to a sprawling worldwide battle for supremacy, and the movies followed a trajectory from the fantastical and showy to the small, quiet, and emotional.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bread recipe

Now that I tantalized you all with bread goodness but made you do your homework to get the recipe, I decided to just share my own even-easier variation.

What gets easier than 5-minutes-a-day bread? Well, that timeframe depends on you making up a batch of four to eight loaves at a time, storing it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and taking out what you need when you need it. But that takes up a lot of storage space. And there's this ticking clock for using up your bread. I've made seven loaves this week and that's just an insane amount. I normally don't need more than a loaf every week or two.

So, I scaled down the recipe to make either one large or two small loaves, and skipped the whole storage/refrigeration part of the deal:

  • 1 cup room-temperature water
 (neither hot nor cold to the touch)
  • 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast
  • 1/2 tbsp coarse kosher salt
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour, pushed slightly against side of bag when measuring (10.8 oz)
  • optional: dried herbs, finely diced garlic, shredded cheese, diced mushrooms, etc.
The flour is the tricky part, because a cup of flour is supposed to be 5 oz, but depending on how you measure it, the cup will be anywhere from 4 oz (sifted) to 6.5 oz (packed). If you scoop out of the bag, pushing against the side a little but not cramming it, you get a slightly heavier cup of flour at 5.5 oz, which happens to be perfect for making the measurements come out simple in my reduced recipe. (Otherwise you have to do 2 1/6 cups.)

You'll need:
  • 5-quart mixing bowl
  • spoon
  • parchment paper
  • pizza stone
  • pizza peel
  • pan for water
  • cooling rack
  1. Measuring and stir all the ingredients, in the order given, with a spoon in the mixing bowl until just combined. (If you want to add a few teaspoons of flavorings like dried herbs, diced garlic, etc., do it at this stage as well.)
  2. Loosely cover and let rise for two hours. (Dough will be very sticky, so don't cover with a towel or anything that will droop in and touch the dough. I use a large cutting board.)
  3. If desired, add any chunky ingredients like mushrooms (3 large, diced) and/or cheese (large handful) and stir again, deflating the dough.
  4. Place on parchment paper and mold into whatever shape you like. You might be limited by the fact that the bread is very sticky (your hands will get a coating on them as you work) and somewhat limp. But you can do rounds and tubes pretty easily.
  5. Add a moderate amount of shredded cheese on top if you like, enough to cover it.
  6. Let loaf sit for 30-35 minutes, preheating the oven to 450˚ while you're waiting, having placed a pizza stone on the upper rack and a pan to hold water on the bottom rack.
  7. Pour one cup of water into the pan (it will start steaming immediately) and then slide dough onto pizza stone. Bake for 30-32 minutes until browned and hard on the outside.
  8. Let cool on cooling rack until it can be handled (15-20 minutes) and serve warm, OR, let cool completely and bring it to a party later on!
Total time: 3 hours and 15 minutes; actual time in the kitchen probably 10 minutes or so.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Taking charge

There are times as a parent when you grow oblivious to your own command-giving. You direct or instigate direction (which juice would you like?) dozens of times an hour. So it's kind of refreshing to have the tables turned once in a while and live in your child's shoes. Corin's recent favorite activity is to sing, and he's the band leader, directing us peons to come in on cue.

"I'm Bot! I can show you anything — on my belly belly belly screen," he sings (from Team Umizoomi... there's a robot with a belly screen that, well, shows anything).

"You say 'skyscraper,' I say 'taxi, Mama say 'traffic light.'" he'll tell us. If we come in late, he repeats the instructions as if we hadn't heard him.

"Traffic light!"

He also like to make up his own music. He combines "Mamma Mia" and "Old MacDonald" to make quite the mash-up: "I say 'Mamma mia,' Mama say "had a farm," and you say 'my, my.' (How can you resist that?)

Or he'll just make up words for whatever he doesn't understand. In another TV show song, the chorus encourages us "don't play rough," which he renders as "don't play drump!" (Or, perhaps, he understands it perfectly well and is just reserving the right to play rough if he wants to.)

Addendum: I was thinking that "drump" should be a word if it wasn't already, and looked it up on google. It turns out that it's "A word that has absolutely no meaning. When used correctly, is a good silence breaker." See also: drrrump.