Wednesday, December 17, 2008


The ways of wisdom have in them a holy security, as well as a holy serenity; and they that walk in them, have God himself for their shield and sun, and are not only joyful in the hope of good, but are, or may be, quiet from the fear of evil.
The paths of wisdom are not like walks in a garden, which we make use of for diversion only, and an amusement; but like tracks in a great road, which we press forward in with care and pains, as a traveller in his journey….till we come to our journey’s end. We must remember, that in the ways of religion we are upon our journey, and it is a journey of business — business of life and death; and therefore we must not trifle, or lose time….and not take up short of the end of our faith and hope, not take up short of home: and though the journey is long, and requires all this care and application, yet it is pleasant, it is peace notwithstanding.
Matthew Henry, The Pleasantness of a Religious Life


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving Preparations

This is something I wrote for an assignment this week.

Roberta Dahlin, 11/08
One turkey furls its feathers like porcupine quills, holding its breath until its comb and whole head turn blue. The head of another snakes out to grab your coat zipper. It lurches when you catch it, flapping and flailing its bulk against you. Scaly, off-white feet with sharp nails scramble to tear something, and warmth comes through your gloves where you grip near the wing joints.

We don’t use a chopping block and a bloody axe anymore, with poultry running around headlessly colliding with things. For turkeys, we have five gallon buckets set up with holes in the bottom that their heads stick out. Getting them into the buckets is the hard part; then, wings held tight against their bodies, they die patiently, throats cut and blood dripping to the ground.

Once dead, they are cleaned, from the huge drum with rubber fingers that remove most of the feathers, to the long silver table with flashing knives, to the oval tanks deep with icy water where the birds rinse and soak until completely cool.

It comes out stiff and clean and white, and drips while we check for missed pin-feathers and bruises. We close it up in a big plastic bag and set it on the scale, marking the weight on the plastic with a sharpie.

The Monday before Thanksgiving is one of the longest days of the year. Fingers ache in the morning air setting things up and catching the birds, and we’re cold to the bone by evening. Knives cut through skin, flesh, gizzards and joints, and we swipe them across stones and steels to re-sharpen them. We’re spattered with blood, feathers spun out of the picker, and little bits of white fat, but you don’t hose one another off in 20 or 30-degree weather. The radio gives out scratchy songs that we sing along with or make fun of. Some of us won’t stop for lunch unless they can be done and in clean clothes; others scrub to the elbow and forget the gore long enough to recharge with coffee, chocolate and food. As we work, we talk. We talk about people, quote movie after movie, play matchmaker, plan Christmas shopping and food, and tell horrible jokes.

This is part of our Thanksgiving tradition, the turning of turkey the beast into turkey the feast.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Quoting G. K. Chesterton on Women

"Woman must be a cook, but not a competitive cook; a school-mistress, but not a competitive school-mistress; a house decorator, but not a competitive house-decorator; a dressmaker, but not a competitive dressmaker. She should have not one trade but twenty hobbies; she, unlike the man, may develop all her second bests. This is what has been really aimed at from the first in what is called the seclusion, or even the oppression, of women. Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad. The world outside the home was one mass of narrowness, a maze of cramped paths, a madhouse of monomaniacs. It was only by partly limiting and protecting the woman that she was enabled to play at five or six professions and so come almost as near to God as the child when he plays at a hundred trades. But the woman’s professions, unlike the child’s, were all truly and almost terribly fruitful."
You really must read the whole essay “The Emancipation of Domesticity” which originally appeared in What’s Wrong With the World and is included in the book Brave New Family.

Pasted from Nancy Wilson's blog,

Monday, November 3, 2008

Good fat book quotes

I have a quoting urge.

I apologize for how long this might be, and for the fact that I must elide between a few important quotes... if you want to see the rest, read the book! We are reading about original sin and he delves into a discussion of community here.

"Humanity is not an aggregate of individuals but an organic unity, one race, one family. Angels, on the other hand, all stand side-by-side, independently of one another...God created all of us from one man (Acts 17:26); we are not a heap of souls piled on a piece of ground, but all blood relatives of one another, connected to one another by a host of ties, therefore conditioning one another and being conditioned by one another."

(a couple pages later)

"All the members of such a body can either be a blessing or a curse to one another, and increasingly so to the degree that they themselves are more outstanding and occupy a more pivotal place in the organism. Fathers, mothers, guardians, caretakers, teachers, professors, patrons, guides, princes, kings, and so on have the greatest influence on those under their jurisdiction. Their life and conduct decides the fortunes of their subordinates, elevates them and brings them to honor, or drags them down and pulls them along to destruction. The family of the drunkard is ruined and disgraced because of the father's sin. The family of a criminal is widely and for a long time identified and condemned along with him. A congregation languishes under the faithless conduct of a pastor. A people decline and are eventually destroyed as a result of the foolish policies of a king. 'In whatever thing the kings go crazy, the Achaeans [homer's greeks] are punished.' Among people there is a solidarity for good or ill: community in blessing and in judgment. We stand on the shoulders of earlier generations and inherit the things they have accumulated in the way of material and spiritual wealth.
We enter into their labors, rest on their laurels, enjoy the things they have frequently aquired at great cost. We receive all this undeservedly, without having asked for it. It is waiting for us at our birth; it is bequeathed to us by grace."

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol. 3, Sin and Salvation in Christ, 102 and 104

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rum colored sun and warm buttery leaves

Is this still Indian Summer? Or just a dry, lazy fall when the sun shines with moderate warmth almost every day, but the frost creeps over everything at night? The leaves have most turned from green now, some yellow, some orange, some red, and a few millions of them shades in between: tumeric gold, lime mixed with lemon, russet red, bland pie-crust tan.

Maria and I walked to the university library yesterday, in fleece jackets that we unzipped once the hill blocked the wind and the sun was on our backs. The sidewalks were warm through the soles of my shoes, and the dried grasses along the walk crumbled crisply when I fingered them. It felt good to scuff the layers of cottonwood leaves underfoot and the wind played with us, grabbing handfuls more from the branches and scattering them over our rumpled path. Then a car would hum by, and a drift of dry, weightless foilage swirled after it in a quiet wake.

I want to decorate for Thanksgiving. I see fat miniature pumpkins and fragile maple leaves, dried to perfection. I want to trace my hand and try to turn it into a turkey. We need to warm up the apple juice and add cinnamon sticks, to make desserts full of walnuts and pecans and pumpkins and squash. We should rake the leaves and scatter them again, we should carve a pumpkin, just for fun, and let the candle-light smile at us while the seeds brown in the oven.

Poem for my mom, and pretty much everyone in my family

To Be Of Use by Marge Piercy

The people I love best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and wim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and themuck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that hels corn, are put in mueums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cheese by Capon, quoted by Wilson

"Cheese is at once a testament to the Creator's ingenuity in providing enzymes and bacteria that will do fearful and wonderful things for milk and to man's audacity in the face of some pretty forbidding stuff. The blander varieties, of course, are hardly more alarming than milk itself; but the farther reaches of the subject put even brave men to the test. There are cow's-milk cheeses that will convince you that someone has dragged the whole barnyard indoors, and goat's milk cheeses which taste as if the goat sat in them . . . The first man is of the earth, earthy. If I had only a single temporal blessing to wish you, I would not hesitate a moment: May you be spared long enough to know at least one long evening of old friends, dark bread, good wine, and strong cheese. If even exile be so full, what must not our fullness be?" (Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb, p. 148).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Talking to Myself

Lately I've been trying to talk to myself a lot more. It's something that both Doug Wilson (in the sermon last Sunday) and then Nancy Wilson (in the Bible study Wednesday) have been shoving at me, and finally, it came through. God just had to re-send it.
What am I talking about? Well, when things are rough, we usually do one of two things: we either talk to ourselves or listen to ourselves, and these two options really don'y go on at the same time. Listening to oneself might sound something like one of these: I'm such a failure at this... I'll never get my assignments all done on time... Why is he so mean to me... God doesn't even care... and you get the picture. This is what our fallen hearts do to us all the time- maximizing our trials and troubles so that all we do is drag ourselves down into the mire of self-pity or doubt or bitterness.
Talking to oneself is more like: Look at what you've made it through already!... This is all for your good... God gave this to you... He will help you... Remember to sing...
Pastor Wilson was using David as an example. You've seen those Psalms- they start with depression, Where are You, Lord? and end with, The Lord will deliver. David starts to tell himself what he knows is true, instead of doubting.
It is true that you can change your own mood.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

School mode note to self

School started a few days ago and I wonder again, what have I gotten myself in for?

Enormous reading loads from books with names like Herodotus, A History of Knowledge, Greek Lives and Reformed Dogmatics. Multiple assignments weekly. Teachers who specify things like "don't be shallow," "I expect you to contribute; if you're shy, get over it" and "you are responsible to know everything I say in this class." Presentations 10 minutes long, 5 minutes of questioning following. Choir sessions where the right notes won't come out no matter what. Sometimes I think my head can't possibly get around half of what is expected, and I want to be completely immature and complain about these tasks; after all, there are so many things I would rather be doing than memorizing dates and practicing geometry and finding out how to put latin words into perfect passive conjunctive! Yup.

So. Why am I doing all this?

Because when I'm not groveling in my self-pitying mode, I know how much of a gift all this is. I remember that knowledge is worth the effort it takes to pursue it. I see the goals, quavering off somewhere in the future, that I am working for... I want to be able to give to someone else, all my life, and this is all in preparation for that. Because so many people have sacrificed and are sacrificing for me to learn what I am studying now.

Forget the headaches and the tears as I frustrate over assigned reading and supplemental reading and online reading and handouts and the school handbook, and hands and eyes sore from taking notes in class and penciling notes in books and typing on the computer, correcting and re-typing. Forget the less-than-satisfactory grades scrawled across the difficult test. Remember mornings in class with 40 friends with fresh notebooks and open books discussing what they have learned and expect to be asked about. Remember standing to sing or pray with the professor and the voices that have learned to harmonize. Remember the excitement of that professor as he gives to you what he so clearly loves. Remember the long-worked for nod of approval and brief "Well done" at recitation. Remember being asked to Sunday dinner, laughter at freshman creative sketches, and going to ice cream to celebrate the final math exam being over.

Whether I am able to complete my tasks perfectly, we shall see. My skeptic little brain doubts it. What is left for me is to give faithfully to this vocation. Con-fidence.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

creative sketch

The Power Line

It carries electricity across my grandpa’s property. In a wide swath it goes through cedars and firs and hemlock, dipping and rising over hills, a row of silver skeletons heading toward the Canadian border. The legs are braced with dozens of steel shafts, and the short, bent arms hold up the wires.

The wires perpetually hum, carrying voices and lights north and south, connecting the far parts of the earth. Hidden in long, twisted cables that drag low the lines between the great structures, the weight of that power pulls at the insulators. And it pulls us closer.

We grab the flat metal framework, warm from sunlight, and pull ourselves up on the lowest crossbars. The leaning legs are tall, and the supports aren’t close enough together to monkey-bar up; the heads of the bolts stick out on this side, but their knobs are too far apart for footholds. I stare up at mathematical shafts intersecting between me and the sun, T-ing and X-ing steadily upward. Bracing feet and arms against opposite angles, we inch slowly higher, the narrow shanks hard against back or shoulder or palm the only forces we can feel. The air seems still, but between the bars of this tower I can see trees moving at the edge of the woods.

One arm caught fast around the upright at my left, I hang powerless. I am on a web turned steel, perfect and grey, planned and purposeful, catching the light across this corner of Grandpa’s land.

I wrote this in Rhetoric class a few months ago.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


After Weeding

I like to come to the end of a row

having released hundreds of plants

from the choking crowd of weeds,

to see them stand in their straggly line

feeling the sun’s full heat again;

to stretch my cramped limbs,

slap the loose soil from my dirty trousers,

and wipe the warm sweat from my neck and forehead

leaving a wide smear on my sleeve.

I like to drain the last drops of lukewarm water

from a wide-mouthed mason jar,

then pick my barefoot way to the rows of raspberries,

to find the first strong red among the dark green leaves,

to lift each drooping, un-pruned stalk

in search of more,

and smash with my tongue their slow sweetness.

I like to slip them from their pale, hard stems

into a cupped palm,

then roll them into the water jar

until it’s crammed full of moist color,

thinking of shortcake and cool whipped cream;

to twist the sandy lid back on,

collect my shoes at the garden gate,

and walk back slowly toward the house,

holding the jar by the ridged gold top

and swinging the sun-warmed shoes by the strings,

with the tops of the socks wilting over the sides.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Something I Used to Do

I found this while poking around the computer at home, written a couple years ago. This was one of our favorite pasttimes and my little sisters and brothers still do similar things on the hillside above our house. Only now, Daddy's job is road work and bulldozing, and some of the boys are regular employees lately, so they aren't a part of helping out in the 'truck pile' with the kids.

Playing Trucks

Summer days when Daddy had no work, he came out to the truck pile with us. We had an almost unbounded sandbox, the hillside by our house being pure, finer-than-seashore sand, fair as our blond heads. There we spent hours, creating castles shaped by plastic cups and careful hands, digging mines and tunnels into the steep sand bank, houses like ancient indians. We built ponds and moats for our castles, which we filled carrying coffee cans of water from the leaky red faucet. We shaped tiny footpaths, gardens and forests, gathering gravel, moss and tiny evergreens to landscape our kingdoms, grass for the roofs of houses, strait sticks for flagpoles. Using Tonka trucks, we carved turn-arounds, driveways, highways. Daddy engineered, and taught us how to run the dump truck, grader and loader, how to slant the corners, shape the shoulders, and make gradual grades on our hills. When we were satisfied with our world, we called Mom out and she toured our properties.

Monday, June 16, 2008

a kind of love poem

The Couple

There is a long canoe
on the wide sweep of the lake,
deep red on deep blue.

The woman leans laughing toward
the man, bending gently to his oars.

With the sun dazzling their eyes
they know they’ll be gliding on this lake
the rest of their lives.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Little corners like this

I love this poem- especially the 3rd stanza.

Any Morning
William Stafford

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can't
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won't even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

Monday, May 19, 2008


So summer is here. I think we almost skipped spring this year... as soon as the snow was all melted, it was in the 80s and 90s here, and we all started glowing with sunburns.

It's been a beautiful month and I think it'll be a glorious summer. Some of my plans include:
-earning some money (housekeeping, maybe some yard work for some folks)
-helping Mom with her garden (plan to start planting tomorrow or the next day)
-studying math
-keeping up on Latin
-helping the kids with their writing (hopefully getting some of them insterested in creative writing with weekly assignments. Last week was a lot of fun and I might post some of their things here)
-doing things with my dog (I've been running/walking every morning so far)
-visiting with people I've been missing!
-helping at my grandparents (cleaning/fixing up their house that was so ruined by the fire they had)
-music practice
-sewing sundresses for Lydia and Naomi for the 4th of July (I have some cute red kerchief fabric picked out for it) and maybe working on my redwork quilt or some shower gifts
-helping put on a shower for Vicki's baby
-spending lots of time with Vicki and Ben when baby shows up (her due date was the 17th, so we are impatient!!)
-doing lots of fun cooking
-swimming (last summer when we went to Moscow, I realized there are almost no creeks, rivers, ponds or lakes around there. I love home!!)

I just found out that I recieved a grant for most of the school year's tuition, and am rejoicing in that blessing! Things have worked out (God's hand is everywhere) even smoother this year than last year!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Japanese poems

Haiku is from the Japanese. Here are a couple little poems I found in my anthology of world poetry that are very haiku-ish. Translated by Arthur Waley:

Princess Daihaku (7th century)
How will you manage
to cross alone
the autumn mountain
which was so hard to get across
even when we went the two of us together?

The Priest Hakutsu (about 704)
O pine tree standing
at the side of the stone house,
when I look at you,
it is like seeing face to face
the men of old time.

If only, when one heard
that Old Age was coming
one could bolt the door,
answer "not at home"
and refuse to meet him!

Nakatsukasa (between 883 and 946)
If it were not for the voice
of the nightingale,
how would the mountain-village
where the snow is still unmelted
know the spring?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Lordship, Muffins, Poetry

Satan has no power. We will clobber him with a verse. -from an African Zulu hymn

Tuesday morning we had a lecture by Peter Leithart. He was talking about the Christian faith in Africa, which apparently is growing leaps and bounds and is a very vibrant and important thing that affects all of life- unlike here where religion is relegated a little corner of your life, to many professing Christians. This quote from a Zulu hymn was one of a few he read to us. I love its triumphant ring, its trust in the overwhelming work of Christ. He is Lord of heaven and earth.

Today we went to the Appel's house for our recitation and quiz. Mrs. Appel had tea ready for us, as usual, and while we waited for her husband to get home from a meeting, she chatted with us. Then she pulled muffins from the oven with huge blueberries in them, and we ate them while we talked to Mr. Appel about our readings. They were delicious. And I'm going to miss Thursday afternoons there.

Tomorrow we have a paper due. But we also have Disputatio which is going to include a talk from an editor of a big poetry magazine. I'm excited to hear him... and hope there will be some actual poetry included in this Disputatio as well!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Creative Sketch written for class

Livestock Auction

In the cool of the morning, low-hanging lights brighten the arena spread with fresh sawdust. Hours later our ears are ringing with the eternal tide of the auctioneer’s voice, and flies are slow in the heavy heat. Throats and eyes feel the sting of air acid and sweet, rising strong from darkened sawdust, scuffed and moist with the manure of hundreds of cows, horses and sheep, pigs and goats, and – this morning – an African zebu.
Most of the buyers sit near the ring in broken auditorium seats, buying fat calves and long-sided pigs and horses with skittery eyes with a nod of the head or flick of fingers, downing hot dogs, lukewarm fries from greasy little paper bags, and cheap coffee in flimsy foam cups.
Men big or thin, pot-bellied, hunched, in suspenders or overalls, or skinny jeans showing wallets and cans of chew wearing holes in their back pockets. Men in baseball caps, flat Australian hats, curved cowboy hats with brims and crowns bent into peculiar shapes. Men in dim plaid shirts, collars slick and gray with sweat, or old, stretched tee shirts advertising beer or beef (It’s What’s For Dinner).
And the man with one leg shorter than the other always leans on the gate to the arena, pointing out bids to the auctioneer among the red lights of cigarettes tips.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Quote from Mr. Appel

At Lordship class today, Mr. Appel was talking about how Christianity is often relegated to specific places- like our hearts or minds, one day of the week with church, etc. But our faith is not just something we affirm, something we believe. Christ's coming changed everything, overturned the tables, turned the world upside down. The church is a whole new world, encompassing everything around us. The message of the great commission is not a call to believe, but a command to pay homage to the new King.
We have also been going along with the idea that things earthly are bad, things spiritual are good. But our world was made by God. He said that the stars were good, the dirt and the earthworms and the starfish were good. He ordained work and sweat. "Love not the world" doesn't refer to earthly things in and of themselves, but loving a worldly (man-centered) view of things.
The Christian, Mr. Appel said, should "Love the world. Love God and love the world that He has made." We need to love it as He loved it, joyfully, and always in reference to Him.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Songs & Sunday Things

I am happy. Sunday is beautiful. Here are some of my happy reasons:

-I had a good weekend, going to a babyshower, spending time with family, visiting 2 of my aunts, seeing my dog, getting some new clothes, playing piano, watching a movie.
-I slept almost all the way to church, so I got a nice 2-hour nap while Ben drove. So in spite of going to bed around 11 and getting up about 5 this morning, I feel sort of rested.
-After church we had my family over and had lunch with them and the McDonalds. The homemade cheesecake was particularly good.
-This afternoon I started on a gift for a friend, and got about 1/2-way done with it- and it looks like it's going to be nice.
-Maria and I went to the psalm sing. I practiced my alto which is still pretty shaky in spite of having been in Mr. Reagan's choir for 8 months (!). We sang a beautiful song we've been learning, for the offertory time at church (you can see it at And I met a few people afterwards. And gave 2 friends a ride home.
-And I just had a delicious piece of carrot cake. It has walnuts and pineapple in it, and a frosting made with cream and cream cheese and honey. Perfect.
-Upstairs, music is on. It's in another language (sounds african), but is amazing. I want to borrow the CD.

And now, I need to get back to the weekly schedule and get ready for school tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A poem by Hopkins

Last term at school we each memorized 35+ lines of poetry for our rhetoric class, and I chose Hopkins. Gerard Manley Hopkins was born in 1844 and became a priest.

If he's a little hard to understand, his choice of wonderful words makes up for it!

God's Grandeur
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
it gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil,
crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
and all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
and wears man's smudge and shares man's smell; the soil
is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

Yet for all this nature is never spent;
there lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
and though the last lights off the black west went,
oh, morning at the brown brink eastward, springs,
because the Holy Ghost over the bent
world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

For starters...

The only profound thing I can think of to begin with is the origin if my blog title. The book is The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Capon, the most inspiring "cookbook" I've ever read, and the most appetizing theology book! He says, after peeling and cutting an onion:

"You see, I hope, how hard it is to rush past even a single detail. The world is such an amiable place."