Thursday, January 23, 2014


Have you ever seen, heard, read or felt something so achingly beautiful it just stays in your mind and works it's way into your soul? I heard a piece on NPR this week that has simply haunted me.This caused me to think of other works or pieces that have had the same overwhelming feelings. I am completely untrained in the Arts except for an entry level music appreciation course I took somewhere around 1986, so my list may seem less than extraordinary but these are the things that have endured in my memory through many years and many lifetimes. 

Books (so many, these are the tops)
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson 
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Six of One and Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Life is Beautiful starring Roberto Benigni

The original Claude Monet Water Lilies and studies at a special exhibit at the Tullieries Gardens, Paris in 1999.

Music( again, cannot be just one)
The Wall by Pink Floyd
The White Album 
Unchained Melody
I Am Weary Let Me Rest performed by the Cox Family

And now this, Der Leierman performed by Dietrich Fishcher-Dieskau from Franz Schubert's Winterneise.

I have no idea what he is singing, but I can feel it in my bones. It is so rare to just come across something so beautiful and haunting. I have played it over and over again. Maybe I heard it just at the right moment. I wonder if it will persevere? 

Enjoy for yourself.

What haunts you? 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I think I know my purpose in life

If anybody is keeping track, I'm two days late writing. It is January 21st, 6:56 pm and COLD! If I had written on Sunday I would have written about a beautiful Alabama Sunday in January. Missed it by two days.

I have had a bit of a hard time focusing on one topic this week. I wanted to write about my progress in Weight Watchers (again) and kind of give a little spin about the pressure that media and society puts on people to look, dress and act in a certain way. I was feeling all irritable and hungry and needed an outlet. Then I started noticing how I judge people. In just a few minutes after thinking about societal pressures, I caught myself wondering why the traffic girl on the news was wearing that shirt. (You know, because I'm a fashion diva.) I saw an old rusty car at the thrift store and I thought, aww bless them, they have to shop at the thrift store (where I was shopping). And the meanest thought, wow, if I had that overbite, I wouldn't even smile. Now, these are unfiltered thoughts drifting through my mind, and I would never, well I hope I would never say these things out loud. But I wonder if everybody has this vicious inner dialogue going on. And I wonder what influences these thoughts? I would guess every movie, book, magazine, article, discussion, friendship, commercial or any other social interaction I havc digested over the past 46 years. I wonder if I can change it? 

But finally I settled on talking about Week 3 of The Next Big thing, my new membership class. This week's session was title "Who Is God?" Easy, right? And as a tool to explain God and define our beliefs in the Christian Church, we started studying the Apostles Creed. According to Luther, the Creed should be used by the head of the family to teach our beliefs. (Remember, he was a Reformer, and wanted to bring the teachings of the Bible to everyone, not just ordained members of the Roman Catholic Church.) So the First Article of the Creed states, "I believe in God, The Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." Here is how Luther explained the meaning of this Article.
    " I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.
      He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
      He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from evil.
      All this he does only out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey him.
      This is most certainly true."

Isn't that beautiful? Only thing is I wanted to know about the people who don't have land, animals, are not safe, are hungry, neglected or scared. So Pastor simply said, it is our duty to use our blessings to bring these blessings to others. 

Ohhhhhhh, it's starting to sink in this thick head. 

Flashback to one of my first study classes at this church. The discussion surrounded the notion that you can't good yourself into heaven. Well, I thought you could. At that time, the point was made that we also had to accept Jesus as our savior and understand that we were unworthy sinners that didn't deserve heaven, but that this guy had died a bloody, awful death for us so that we might see heaven. So I'm thinking, that's it? I've just got to believe that and I can go to heaven? I can worship and thank Jesus for dying for me by being a good person,even though that wasn't contingent on my salvation. Well, it is and isn't. It seemed there should be more.

Alright, back to this week.  I understood that the way to accept Jesus was to share with others my blessings by using my God given talents and gifts in the service of others. And then I had a glimpse of the path I have been led down. I'm a teacher, a servant of students. When I show compassion, love, empathy and understanding to my students and others associated with my profession, I am doing what God wants. Perhaps, through me, others will have the blessings promised in this Creed.  What do you think? 

Luther's Small Catechism. St. Louis: Concordia House, 1991. Print.

(this cite may not be perfect, I would have had to drag out the ole APA manual and look up every exception to get this one right. If you are interested in more information, visit these websites:


Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Pastor Wears a Star Trek T-Shirt or Week 2 of the Next Big THing

Here we are already at the second Sunday in January, the 12th,  it's 6:56. The weather is typical for an Alabama winter,meaning it's chilly but not cold and expected to get a little chillier this week and then a little warmer. In the background, my husband is watching football and my son is singing in the shower. I've just returned from the second week of new member classes, and feel even more strongly that I have chosen the right church. (Or God has sent me to the right church.)

It could get boring really fast for me to write a summary of each week's lesson, mostly because I don't know enough to make it interesting. This week we covered the Bible in one hour and 45 minutes. That's pretty amazing, huh? Really we talked about the history of the Bible, how it came to be and how we should use it. Primarily, the Bible exists to bring people to Jesus and salvation. That in itself is a great deal to think about.

Also, from this morning' s message, we talked about our obligation as a follower of Christ, and Pastor made the point that anytime we are talking with others about God, we are witnessing for Him, which gives this blog some sort of responsibility. I've been thinking about that all day and hope that I do a good job with whatever I write. But remember, these are my thoughts and observations. 

What I really want to write about this week is the Pastor of this church who so passionately brings the message of Jesus to his flock.

Here's why. When I think about religious people, I have an awful stereotype in my head of people with a great deal of arrogance, a really buttoned up kind of person that makes you feel like you need to filter everything that comes out of your mouth. Or sort of an older, somber, quiet guy who only shows passion behind the pulpit. Or maybe a bible-thumping judgemental, you are going to hell type. No, not this Pastor. He wears a Star Trek T-shirt, and that says it all for me. 

This weeks disclaimer-he does NOT wear a Star Trek T-shirt behind the pulpit. There, he looks like one of God's biggest angels. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Member Classes Week 1

This is the first Sunday in January in the year 2014. It's 5:28 in the evening. The weather is drizzly, the current temperature is 56 degrees, but we expect a  low of 18 degrees with a wintry mix.

I was so excited about starting new member classes tonight, I wanted to get a new binder, with fresh new paper and a pack of my favorite pens. I resisted, however, because I didn't want to look like a total nerd teacher's pet on the first day. I'm sure without even trying the finer points of my personality will be revealed. (I did download the most used version of the Bible for this congregation for iPad, and I carried along my Small Catechism.)  Fortunately Pastor D had some nice little packets made for us that can be added to as we go along.

Although everyone in attendance, except Pastor D, was female, the group is still diverse and interesting. We have a college student, a retiree and two mid life school teachers. I think the discussions are going to be brilliant once we get to know each other and get comfortable.

Tonight we discussed the history of the Lutheran Church. If, at any point in school you studied the Protestant Reformation, you studied the history of the Lutheran Church. Seems this guy, Martin Luther, in order to avoid being a lawyer undertook becoming a monk. After a couple of years, he may have been doubting his decisions, but he stuck with it and gave it his whole self. That's when he discovered something was seriously wrong with the Roman Catholic Church. So called Holy Men were taking advantage of the very people they were charged to serve in some most grievous ways. Luther said, hey guys, this just isn't right lets talked about it. This prompted him to post a list of the 95 things he wanted to discuss, otherwise know as the 95 Thesis. Well, the Church, as it often does, couldn't abide anybody with different ideas than their own, and they told Luther he was not welcome anymore. This started the most sweeping revolution in religious history since the Coming of Christ called the Protestant Reformation. Luther wrote some general guidelines for the Church, some folks adopted them, and lo and behold, the Lutheran Church as we know it happened.

This all happened in the 1500's, just when the world was waking up from many years of darkness. Skip ahead about 300 years to the Industrial Revolution and the influx of Eastern Europeans to the United States. A group of Germans and Saxons settled in the midwest bringing their religion with them. Several congregations got together and formed what is now known as the  Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. And it is in this structure, and a member church, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, that I find myself. ( I love history!)

So?, you say,  What are these people all about?
Well the Lutheran Church's beliefs can be explained through six parts: The Ten Commandments, The Apostles Creed, The Lord's Prayer, Holy Baptism, Confession and the Sacrament of the Alter. These six parts are encompassed in the three Principles:Word Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone.

This church has four objectives in their Mission: Reach, Connect, Equip and Send. The Vision of GSLC is to be a place where anybody (ANYBODY) can come in to learn Jesus without being judged or condemned by the church.

So why am I attracted to this Lutheranism? Because, I can easily read about, study and understand the Three Principles of the Church, and I can understand the way to worship through the six parts of the the religion. I get it. I'm not saying I'm anywhere near practicing, these things are not ingrained into my daily actions or thoughts, but it's something I can work with without being confused by outside issues that seem to cloud other religions for me.

And why am I attracted to Good Shepherd? Because this Church has a clearly defined Vision and Mission based on the teachings of Jesus.The Church supports and is active in missions in our community such as a local women's mission, supporting a foster mother, the Firehouse Shelter and other practical things that support  all of us. And the Pastor vehemently supports making this Church a place where anybody can come to worship Jesus.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that I have paraphrased and added my spin to the history of Martin Luther and the beliefs of the Lutheran Church. For more information go to:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

When I was a kid...

I don't think I was ever any happier than I was a school aged kid growing up on military bases and transient neighborhoods. This upcoming frigid weather has jingled some memories of stuff we did when I was a kid.

I learned to ride a bicycle when I was 5. Santa Claus delivered a bicycle to my house in North Carolina from my PawPaw in Alabama. It was red, white and blue, with dangly things on the handlebars and a banana seat. It was,  by far, the best gift I ever received. I don't think any 16 year old getting their license can match the experience of freedom I felt when I learned to ride this bike. I cannot understand why my almost 7 year old will not take the time and trouble to learn to ride his without training wheels. Hell, I don't even if they made training wheels in 1972.

Well, anyway, I digress. I bring up the bike because truly, this thing gave m e wheels and I went just about anywhere I wanted to on this thing. As I mentioned before, I lived on military bases, which are actually pretty safe and quiet places to raise kids. But every once and a while, the lure of the big city would make us want to ride into town. (a strictly forbidden activity.) So one afternoon, my best friend and I, at about age 10, hop on one bike, one, her on the handlebars, and ride into the little town of Millington to have lunch at McDonalds. We just tooled down the sidewalk along a five lane highway during lunch traffic like nobody's business. We had lunch, scored some really cool Space Invaders toys, and rode back home.

I also learned to swim around this time. One really cool thing about living on base, is the fact that we had access to a pool, pools rather. There was an enlisted pool (I could go there with my military ID and my Dad's SSN), the officer's pool (where I was often the guest of my friends) or the indoor pool. We walked or rode our bikes to all of the above places from 3-6th grade without parental supervision. (well, they had lifeguards). I cannot remember a single time we were accompanied by an adult. To the pool. No supervision. We signed up for Red Cross swimming lessons, and all became fish.

I have many more memories like that, but my favorite memories during this time are the things we did when it snowed or iced. Several things stick out in my mind from these times. One year, we played relentless games of war. We had snowball fights in teams, and you were not able to use whatever part of your body was hit by a snowball until you were rendered totally useless. So in essence, you could be laying in the snow, throwing snowballs with only one good hand left. Oh, man that was so much fun. Another memory of that time is of my Dad tying a piece of plexiglass to the back of a Volkswagen and dragging us all around the ice. The best strategy was not to fall off! We built snowmen, snow caves and snow forts, and slid on anything that would slide.

And all this gave me an idea. How could I give my new millennium child the same thrilling and exciting adventures I had as a kid? I have a wonderful sidewalk that goes straight down hill into my driveway. What would ya'll think if I sprayed it down with the hose tomorrow night and turned it into an ice slide. I wonder if that would create the kind of nostalgia I have for when I was a kid or a run to the emergency room.

I'd love to hear your memories!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

the Next Big Thing

It's remarkable the we get so many chances to reflect and start over. In fact it is an inherent quality in humans. Socrates is quoted as saying "the unexamined life is not worth living." So here again, we are at the beginning of a new year, thinking about what we did last year, and how we can improve this year. 

I have spent the last few weeks reflecting, deciding what I wanted to write about, and how I want to live this year. Turns out, while I had a year filled with blessings and good things, it was actually pretty mediocre. It's almost as if I've been on auto-pilot. I'm a little bored, overly distracted by electronics and social networking and in a lot of ways just kind of unmoored. So here is my obligatory list of ways I want to improve, ending with my Next Big Thing.

I have GOT to get in better shape. It's really not something I need to keep fooling around with. I haven't been diagnosed with diabetes, but I have recently had some blood sugar scares. I don't want to be sick. And changing that is all in my hands. I have some great new ideas for getting in shape this year, and I will post more if the initial plan is approved. 

I need to produce more at work. I haven't had any kind of Big Idea, fun program, club or anything that has really stood out at work and possessed me to the point of obsession. (I know, but I live for the adrenaline.) I believe part of the reason is because I spend too much time worrying about Facebook. I think it is stunting my growth. Really. So I plan to spend less time on Facebook. Ya'll don't really want my opinion on gay marriage, religion or teacher pay. Not really. So I am going to spare you. I plan to fill in the time reading professional articles and blogs, writing better lesson plans and spending more time with my son. Oh, but you can still find plenty of photos of the little guy on Instagram. You can find me at violanders. 

And now for The Next Big Thing:

First read this, it's from a post I made on September 28th.
 Then there is religion. I'm trying to come to grips with religion. I want to bring my son up in a caring, responsible way, and I want him to find God of his understanding without having to crawl into the bottom of a bottle. The only way I know how to do that is by sending him to a local church and setting a good example for him. So I find myself once again at a crossroads of whether or not to attend church and what I hope to gain from that.
This is what I'm thinking. I want Sunshine to identify strongly with his community, and I want to be a permanent part of a community.I want to do good works. I would love to be part of missions, particularly to serve the poor or mentally ill. I want to be part of a group of people that are trying to live the best life they can by exemplifying the teachings of Christ. I want to learn how to lead a better life and develop the kind of relationship I had with God when I went to AA. I want to be a good example fro my son.I do want to sing loudly and joyously.
I don't want to be put into a box where there is only one way to believe and one way to get to heaven. I don't want to be judged because my religious and political views are a little different, my personality is a little odd and my clothes look a little funny. I don't want to feel nervous or pressured.

I think I may have found the church I was looking for. I have been visiting since about mid October, and I plan to start new member classes on Sunday. So this year, I want to focus on my spiritual growth.I plan to spend a good bit of time learning to pray, meditate and discover what it means to be a Follower of Christ. I hope ya'll will take the journey with me by reading and commenting on my posts and supporting me through your prayers and love. 

Happy New Year!!