Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mary Karr on Poetry & Prayer

Recently, I read an essay by Mary Karr in Poetry magazine. It startled me and made me think about my own faith journey anew. An excerpt:
I started kneeling to pray morning and night—spitefully at first, in a bitter pout. The truth is, I still fancied the idea that glugging down Jack Daniels would stay my turmoil, but doing so had resulted in my car hurtling into stuff. I had a baby to whom I had made many vows, and—whatever whiskey’s virtues—it had gotten hard to maintain my initial argument that it made me a calmer mom to a colicky infant.
So I prayed—not with the misty-eyed glee I’d seen in The Song of Bernadette, nor with the butch conviction of Charlton Heston playing Moses in The Ten Commandments. I prayed with belligerence, at least once with a middle finger aimed at the light fixture—my own small unloaded bazooka pointed at the Almighty. I said, Keep me sober, in the morning. I said, Thanks, at night.
For the entire essay, go to . Great writing and lots to think about.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Advent Sunday

We sang "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" in church today. After numerous praise songs, which are good, but often repeated over and over, the words and music to this older hymn washed over me, communicating deep hope and a bittersweet sense of our waiting for Christ's return. The only thing is, I cry every time we sing this song...but I think I'm finally at a point where I can say (internally) "the heck with it," and just bawl without worrying too much about the rows behind me. No kleenexs? A sleeve will do just fine.

Text by Charles Wesley
Music by Rowland H. Pritchard

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Milestone (Or Should I Say "A Kilometer Marker?")

Yesterday, our youngest achieved a momentous goal. Anna has been moving towards this moment for the last few years, hoping and plotting and drinking extra protein smoothies. She is now taller than me, her mother! I accept the fact that, from this day forth, I will forever be the shortest member in our family of five...except for family member # six, Murphy, the dog with legs shorter than a guinea pig. Anyway, in honor of Anna's new status, here's a picture of her at the local Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). Jeff, Anna, and I walked around the market today, searching for gift ideas, admiring the giant Christmas pyramid and enjoying a cup of hot Gluhwein (spiced wine). For the kids, there's always kinder-punch, minus the alcohol, and still quite yummy.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Signs, Signs, and More Signs

Subway sign in Stockholm, Sweden
Sign for toboggan run in Garmisch, Germany

Sign at St. Peter's Dome in Rome
Paris, entrance to public gardens

I take pictures of signs that catch my eye or make me laugh.
More to come in the future...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tensions in France

My daughter is currently in Grenoble, France on a study-abroad with Calvin College. This link,, gives an interesting perspective on current events in France. Just as a side remark, I spent six months living in France in the late seventies, and met many North Africans at that time. They invariably treated me with friendship and hospitality. Even then, tensions existed as they tried to integrate into French society. Unfortunately, things have gotten worse. Similar situations worldwide make me yearn for the city of God, where, as Revelation 22 says, there stands a tree of life, and "the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." This thought gives me hope, and yet I wonder--how long?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My Brother's Blog

My brother and his wife started a blog, telling about their work in Burundi with World Relief. The link is . My father just flew to Burundi to see them after spending a few days in Paris with my sisters and me and Danielle.

Dan and my dad plan to drive to Murore, the place we lived when my parents were missionaries--wish I could hitch a ride. There will be singing and dancing and much happiness when Dad greets old friends from the sixties and seventies.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Train to Paris

I'm taking the train from Germany to Paris tomorrow. And yes, for the last 12 days I've been following what's happening in France with the riots and general unrest. But after all, my father and two sisters are meeting me there, so it would take massive chaos to keep me away. The consensus seems to be, stay away from neighborhoods where cars and businesses have been torched and don't go out at night if you can avoid it. Anyway, I'll report back when I return. And, by the way, if you're so inclined, offer up a few prayers for the situation between the French and the North Africans--for some type of peace and for active resolution of the ongoing social problems (actually, I can think of many areas of the world which could use this type of prayer).

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Little Africakid Pictures

Meet little Africakid. These photos must have been taken during my parents' first four years in Burundi. I don't remember the dik-dik (tiny variety of African antelope) too well, but the Stewart boys had one as a pet, along with a golden crested crane named Ichabod and a talking crow. In the other picture, I'm subjecting our longsuffering dachshund, Gretchen, to yet another bath. Although, now that I look closely, is she actually relaxing? Perhaps it's just resignation. We also had kittens, a monkey, numerous chameleons which lived in our flowerbox, chickens and a rooster, guineapigs, rabbits, and probably some animals I've forgotten. Fun memories!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Emmaus Poem


In mid-day’s heat
Grit coats the donkey’s mane,
Rubs eyelids rough.
Hours of uneven ground
Stretch ahead. Salt traces
Sparkle, crystal constellations
Fallen along Emmaus road.
Our salt, our lives leaked
Out to dry. Gleaming.

Questions scrape
Like jagged pebbles
Against my sole.
I am without the one
Who would walk
My dusty passageway
Of recently buried gods.

Past serrated mountains,
Joining us, another traveler
Chewing handfuls of olives.
Loudly, he spits the wet stones
Down angled cliffs broken
By thorn trees. Jackals
Startle in their wild slumber.

When this bearded stranger
Wrapped in desert robes
Speaks, he fires my heart –
Prophecy’s brittle crust
Splits open, its dull golden
Glow fanned into flame.
Even the rocks have begun to burn
And sizzle under our feet.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Closer Look

A Detail From Strasbourg Cathedral--France

Last week, I drove our oldest daughter to Strasbourg so that she could catch a TGV train back to Grenoble. Danielle's on a study abroad, living with a French host family and attending Grenoble university. Anyway, whenever I visit Strasbourg, if at all possible, I walk to the main square, stand there, and just stare at the cathedral's front carvings. If it weren't so crowded, I'd be tempted to lie on my back for an hour or so to just take it all in. Maybe some quiet winter night...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

All Saint's Day

All Saint's Day is a holiday here in Germany, a fact I forgot until I tried to go buy more tea, yogurt, and eggs at a local store--the windows were shuttered and the parking lot was empty. Silly me! At least I usually remember now not to try and go shopping on Sunday, the day of rest.

When we first arrived, it bothered me that I couldn't just dash out and buy what I needed on any day or night (most stores also close between 5:00 to 8:00 pm), but I've begun to appreciate this new schedule. People, even shopkeepers and workers, benefit from consistent times off. And since the root meaning beneath "holiday" is "holy day," it makes sense to devote the day to things other than commerce. No eggs? Maybe I can go next door and borrow some. As for the tea, hmmm...anyone have some nice Earl Grey they'd let me brew up?