A Few Updates at the End of a Glorious Week

1. Holy Week 2021 was a rich and meaningful time for our church family. In the midst of building a new church website, processing all the paperwork for a new corporation, assisting in a friend’s baptism and commissioning service, learning a new educational learning platform, and getting a helpful education on important legal matters, we held the full range of traditional Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services and activities. I was blessed, challenged, and encouraged by getting to lead and participate in these incredible worship experiences. They always give me so much to “treasure” and “ponder” in my heart, as Mary did while watching her Son in action.

2. Somewhere in the middle of all that activity, I turned another year older, and my family and friends spoiled me. It was a week of visits, gifts, and feastings on top of an otherwise excellent year of health. I’ve been walking, swimming, eating right, and losing lots of pounds. If I can get back on track first thing tomorrow, and resume my disciplines without any more splurges, I may be able to see my abs by July. I know—that’s such a guy goal, right? But I haven’t been able to do that in decades, so I’m going for it. I usually collapse right about now in the journey, so we’ll see how it goes. Thanks in advance for cheering me on!

3. My daughter and I went to Hobby Lobby on Tuesday to get a bunch of knickknacks for the lighted bookshelves in our newly renovated living room. That project went a lot better and took a lot longer than we had originally thought, but nothing compares to the marathon bathroom renovation project that’s now in full swing. Our goal was to have it done by Christmas when the extended family gathered last December for the holidays, but only now is it finally getting close to being finished. The upside is that I wound up getting some cool recessed lighting in my home office as a side benefit. If all goes well, the bathroom will be done in three weeks, and then we can turn our attention to the basement library/podcast studio.

4. My 2013 Ford Edge SEL was on the verge of turning 100k miles, so I replaced it last Friday before it lost its trade-in value. It had a mineral gray exterior and a black interior with heated leather seats. It was a good car, and I enjoyed driving it for three and a half years. Last week I got a 2018 Ford Edge Titanium at a great price and less than 20k miles. (Hey, I like Edges!) It has a shiny white exterior, a cool moonroof, and a two-tone interior with heated leather seats. It’s loaded with features and handles well. I’m looking forward to connecting my devices, learning the display, and discovering all the features I’ve read about but haven’t gotten to try yet.

5. For years I’ve described myself as “an incurable Philadelphia Phillies fan,” but I may have just found the cure. I’m thoroughly disgusted by what the MLB pulled in re-locating the All-Star Game because of Georgia’s new voting law. What lunacy. I’m delighted that the Phils swept the Braves this weekend, but my interest in professional sports has taken a deep nosedive over the past decade. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m tired of politics in sports and will no longer support the industry. There are plenty of other things I can do with my time. For example, my son just got me a training session at the local gun range for my birthday, so we have that to look forward to—in between binging on episodes of the Sherlock series (Cumberbatch/Freeman). Then it’s on to the local Rod & Gun Club to improve my skills.

6. So as not to end on a down note, I’m finally re-energized to go “all-in” on the research and writing of my second dissertation. Those things are just painful to write, but I love my subject matter, and my upcoming schedule should allow for some serious progress. If I’m not on here a lot in the coming months, that’s the reason. But I’ll still read as many of your comments and posts as I possibly can. 

Be blessed, one and all, in the risen Christ. You are at the heart of God’s heart.

Deeper Magic from before the Dawn of Time

“Though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”

– C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Image Credits: narnia.fandom.com; geeksundergrace.com.

Christ Community Church: Love God, Serve People, Inspire Hope

Yesterday we unveiled the new website for Christ Community Church, which can be found here. The site is about 85 percent complete. Pages still in production include the age-based ministries in the Connect section, as well as the Sermon Archive page, but I thought it best to roll out what we have now since people sometimes look for churches during Holy Week.

This is a most marvelous time of year for believers, isn’t it? I could hardly get out my opening prayer this past Sunday—Palm Sunday. To ponder the death of Jesus is to ponder the loving heart of God. Indeed, it was Jesus himself who connected the two: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16a). This divine giving encompassed the cross, which reduces us all before it raises us all. In fact, it’s that sense of unworthiness that drives us to grace, which we so desperately need from God.

During Holy Week, believers around the world give deep thought to the Passion (i.e., the sufferings) of Christ. Our purpose in doing so is not to be morbid, gruesome, or macabre but to increase our gratitude and enhance our devotion to God. It’s one of the ways we renew our minds (cf. Rom 12:1-2) and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18). In short, it’s part of our discipleship. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). The cross of Christ was never from Paul’s mind.

Believers are especially challenged when we realize that Jesus was tortured by religious people as well as irreligious people. Pious Jews and secular Gentiles both had a hand in his death. Believers and unbelievers alike totally missed the fact that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19) during Jesus’ execution. Therefore, it is the Christian believer as much as anyone who needs to contemplate the cross and, in the process, relinquish any sense of self-righteousness (cf. Phil 3:3-11).

So, in addition to playing lawyer over the past two months for the legal filings of the church, I’ve been building a website (using Divi by Elegant Themes on a WordPress managed site). The learning curve was steep at first, but then I finally got the hang of it and started having a blast. That’s why I’ve been off the grid lately, which I don’t like doing. I always love to read what my thoughtful friends are writing, especially this time of year, but the pile has been high. 

Next up are Facebook and Instagram pages. Right after Holy Week.

The Most Expensive Christmas Caroling Trip Ever

I got my Edge back today. No, I’m not talking about a resurgence of my personal mojo; I’m talking about my Ford Edge. They had it in the shop all week. Here’s why. Every year our extended family strolls around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols and delivering cookies. We try to pay particular attention to those who are sick, newly widowed, or facing some kind of challenge.

Last December there was snow on the ground at the time, so we took my car to certain locations, knowing my mother-in-law wouldn’t be able to navigate the treacherous footing at night. Well, she probably would have navigated the footing a lot better than I navigated the driveway. 

Unbeknownst to me, my son-in-law had parked his black jeep in the driveway, and I backed my SUV out of the garage, right into his. 

Fa la la la la. 

It was totally my fault, and I felt terrible about it. 

I was finally able to get it repaired today, to the tune of $1,433.97, so I feel crummy about it all over again. But, hey, they washed it—both the inside and outside—and it looks a lot better than it has all winter.

Next time, though, I’ll wash it myself and save a pile of money.

Image Credit: newsweek.com.

Random Thoughts as a New Season Approaches

1. One of the benefits of living in Pennsylvania is getting to experience the delightful change of seasons throughout the year. The shifts here are significant enough to be noticeable but not extreme enough to be intolerable. Fall is my favorite—the look, the smell, the colors, the feel—but all of them have their benefits. This week it looks like we’ll emerge from the long, frigid winter, but with PA you never really know. Still, it’ll be nice to take a break from snow duty for a while, although I love snow. Of course, the approach of spring means lawn mowing is right around the corner, right?

2. I saw a great sign at the pool today: “Whatever you’re planning to do today, do it with the confidence of a 4-year-old in a Batman cape.” Yes! That was all the inspiration I needed to swim 2500 meters (100 laps). It probably wasn’t pretty, but I made it. So what if my shoulders feel like melted butter? “I am Batman.” Ha! Speaking of which, I didn’t plan it this way, but I have five different pairs of Speedo jammers—one for each day of the week. So, now I start out with black on Monday and get lighter as the week unfolds. Maybe I should end with dark blue instead of red if I’m going to be Batman.

3. Relatedly, research indicates that six-year-olds laugh an average of 300 times a day. By comparison, adults laugh 15-100 times a day. Be six again.

4. I’m having fun decorating the newly renovated living room, even as renovations begin on the bathroom. Just got a framed print called “Winter Mist,” which works perfectly in the room, along with a set of tiered candle holders and bookends with an oil-rubbed bronze look. Just a few more items to get and/or set out, and the project will be complete.

5. I recently saw a fun screen shot of somebody’s Network Preferences dialog box. Apparently, there’s a feud between two households sending messages to each other by how they name their wi-fi connections. Check out the last two listings. As a bonus, notice how the computer also commits a grammatical boo-boo. It should read, “None of your preferred networks is available.” (Not being snarky; we all make mistakes. I’m just surprised that this got past the editors and showed up on a computer.)

6. I got a kick out of this recent “Brevity” cartoon by Dan Thompson. I see Genghis Khan, Chaka Khan, and (I think) Star Trek Kahn. Nicely done, Dan. I guess we can call it your ComiKhan. (Sorry.)

7. A horse is a horse, of course, but there’s something majestic about this one. I’d love to learn how to ride better—though not while the horse is in this position.

8. Less majestic and far more pompous is the house cat. Mrs. Mosby, my daughter’s cat, is getting bigger and slightly more friendly, but she still cops an attitude on a fairly regular basis. This comic could have been drawn by her.

9. Speaking of animals, “Perhaps the butterfly is a proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness yet still become something beautiful” (B. Taplin).

Be blessed and have a great rest of the week!

Image Credits: qz.com; wallpaperflare.com; shutterstock.com; missionbreakout.london; alldiamondpainting.com; Cláudio Diaz mejias.

From Hibernating to Hyperventilating

Today in Lane 3 at the Lebanon Y…

  • My arms were like ropes of jelly.
  • My legs were like noodles of lasagna.
  • My lungs became a chlorine furnace.
  • My shoulders eventually went on strike.
  • My eyes are now bleary and itchy.
  • My head is still spinning and throbbing.

And I loved every minute of it! Yes, it’s great to be back in the pool because goals don’t accomplish themselves. As Rita Mae Brown has said, “Never hope for it more than you work for it.”

Now for some PG Tips to help me stay awake the rest of the day!

My date with Lane 3 today at the Lebanon YMCA natatorium.

Image Credit: wallpapercave.com.

Random Thoughts at the Beginning of a New Month

1.  I turned on PBS last night thinking I’d be watching another episode of “Miss Scarlet & the Duke.” Instead, they aired a program called “Dolly Parton & Friends: 50 Years at the Opry.” I’m not a huge country music fan, but one can admire the career that Parton has had in a cut-throat business. She’s also had some good tunes over the years. “I Will Always Love You” is one of her best (although no one can sing it quite like Whitney). I also liked her duet with Kenny Rogers, “Islands in the Stream.” Her best line of the night, referring to her many surgeries, was, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” Ha! What struck me is how much of the show was taken up by PBS asking for money, even though they get millions of dollars from the government. And people have the audacity to say, “All the church wants is your money.” I’ve never seen any of my colleagues in ministry haranguing people so frequently or intensely to fork it over as PBS did last night.

2.  I got to fill in for a colleague last week at the Ephrata ICL. (I totally love being with that bunch—spiritually vibrant lovers of Jesus who want to go deeper in their understanding of Scripture and theology.) We reflected the whole time on the doctrine of the Trinity. I structured our material as follows:

  • Old Testament Seeds
  • New Testament Flowers
  • Early Church Petals
  • Church Wedding Bouquets
  • Missional Flowers Delivered
  • The Ultimate Rose Parade

The Holy Trinity is not a math puzzle to be solved (1 + 1 + 1 = 1); it’s a clue to the relational heart of the universe. That clue is precious to believers because the prime reality of existence is not matter. It’s not energy. It’s not quarks. It’s a divine relationship. Specifically, it’s an eternal reciprocating relationship of personal diversity and unbreakable unity. As the well-known hymn puts it, “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.” Key to my presentation was the ancient rabbinic belief in “The Two Powers in Heaven” (cf. Alan Segal), easily demonstrated from the Hebrew Bible. That’s why the early Christians, who were true monotheists, found it both natural and noncontradictory to declare without reservation, “Jesus [not Caesar] is Lord and God and High Priest.” They regarded Christ as truly “Emmanuel,” the embodied “I AM” of the Old Testament.

3.  I turn three years older at the end of this month. (That sentence may require some explanation, no?) Because of the confusion surrounding my delivery, legal abandonment, and conveyance to an orphanage on day one of my postpartum life, I actually came with three birth certificates, all of which had a different date. One had March 30, one had March 31, and one had April 1. So, I have three birthdays! My adoptive parents were given the authority to choose one of the three for the official record. They quickly eliminated April 1 to spare me the teasing that may have come with that one, and they eventually settled on the middle date, March 31. They figured that if they were wrong, they were only off by a day, not two days. But who knows—I may have been an April fool’s joke from the beginning! The procedure is quite different today, but back then—in some hospitals where there was a pending adoption or conveyance to a foster home (or orphanage)—the newborn was never given to the mother to hold. And that was the case in my case. I was never held by my birth mother. Seeds of rejection were thus planted early in my life, and it would take decades for me to overcome them. Being adopted twice helped—once by my earthly father and once by my heavenly Father.

4.  Here’s a provocative article from the Huffington Post: “I Tracked Down the Girls Who Bullied Me as a Kid; Here’s What They Had To Say” by Simone Ellin, a guest writer. “Being able to zoom out and get some perspective…underscored that we can never really know what’s going on in other people’s lives.” It seems like many of us were insecure and easily intimidated back in the day.

5.  Now that the virus numbers are dropping, I can get back in the pool. It will be good to move around again, though I’m sure I’ll be a bit grumpy from waking up the muscles I haven’t used for months. Praying I still remember how to swim.

6.  They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. History is just the opposite. Jesus comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.

7.  Finally, here’s a fun comic that may or may not hit too close to home:

Image Credit: gettyimages.com.

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation (and a Thankful Pastor)

It’s always an honor to participate in a funeral for a veteran of the armed services. This morning I had the privilege of laying to rest at the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery (Lebanon County, PA) a member of the United States Air Force who served his country during the Vietnam War.

A United States flag draped his casket—the blue union field at the head end over his left shoulder—to honor the memory of his service to our country. After “Taps” was played, the Honor Guard carefully folded the flag into a triangle such that no red or white stripes were evident, leaving visible only the blue field with stars. (The flag is never lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.)

Kneeling before the next of kin, with the straight edge of the folded flag facing the recipient, one member of the Honor Guard stated solemnly, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Air Force, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

These words are poignant and appreciated. Nevertheless, I always get to deliver the best lines at these events. They’re the most comforting and triumphant lines one could offer at a time like this, and I’m thankful I get to speak them:

“Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, we commend to your eternal care our friend and brother, and we commit his body to the ground—earth to earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. And now, Lord, sadly but with confidence, we let your servant depart in peace, for his eyes have seen your salvation, the glory of your covenant people. We trust that your angels have led him in paradise, that the martyrs have come to welcome him and take her to the Holy City, and that Christ, who is his life, has appeared to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter ye into my rest.’ Amen.”

We planted a seed today. We look forward to the harvest at the end of the age.

Even so, Lord, come quickly.

Image Credits: verywellhealth.com; dying.lovetoknow.com.

Teatime: My Top Five Blends These Days

Being in London, Oxford, and Paris two years ago sparked a new dalliance with tea on my part. Nothing can separate me from my coffee in the morning, but one can’t be a true Anglophile without a love for the cuppa, right? Here’s what I’m sipping these days.

1. English Breakfast Tea

English breakfast tea is a standard black tea blend that many describe as full-bodied, robust, and rich. I find it to be rather light for my taste, but it’s a good and serviceable tea for regular use. It doesn’t work as a replacement for coffee in the morning, but I do enjoy it for a mid-afternoon break in the action. The red telephone tin is a bonus.

2. Earl Grey Tea

Earl Grey tea is a popular black tea blend flavored with Bergamot, a type of citrus. It has a generally mild, balanced taste, which I find to be more full-bodied than the English breakfast tea. It’s good for those “one-step-above standard” occasions, well suited for mid- to late-afternoon breaktime.

3. PG Tips Tea

PG Tips tea is the bomb on this tongue—a real treat for those who like it bold. It has the same effect as a good cup of coffee in the morning. I find it to be strong but not bitter, robust but not muddy. As one reviewer writes, “There’s not a lot of pretense in a cup of PG Tips, despite the fact that it inspired little prince George’s nickname, ‘Tips.’” I love this blend!

4. Celestial Seasonings Peppermint Herbal Tea

Readers of TNL will know of my affection for all things mint. The flavor and aroma of this blend are neither overpowering nor overly sweet. Rather, there’s just enough zest to delight the tongue and remind a person of the North Pole. It’s not quite Christmas in a cup, but it’s pleasant enough to remind us that Santa is still making his list and checking it twice.

5. Bigelow ‘I Love Lemon’ Tea

Bigelow ‘I Love Lemon’ tea is my current favorite—especially as the day is winding down and bedtime is right around the corner. There’s more than a hint of lemon in its flavor, and the blend is free from caffeine and artificial ingredients. While many view this particular brew as a kitchen staple, I find it to be a real comfort and delight. My lips enjoy sipping this one.

 What’s your favorite tea?

The Lucubrations of a Loquacious Ultracrepidarian

You didn’t really think I was going to write about that, did you? I do know a man with such tendencies, but this post is a listicle about writing more concisely. As the headline indicates, I need a refresher course on that subject from time to time. It’s not easy to break one’s addiction to “verbosity viscosity,” a practice I gravitate toward every time I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). 

I just love words. And yet, like dark chocolate laced with hints of mint, too much of a good thing can yield blistering headaches. I wonder how many readers of TNL have gotten migraines because of my long-windedness. But that’s not the half of it. “When words are many, sin is not far behind” (Prov 10:19). Oh, dear. 

Most writers know we need to streamline our writing. Alas, the devil is in the details. Here are some specifics on what to look for, reworked from tips I’ve collected from Mark Nichol. I’m aiming them all at myself.

1. Remove Redundancy

Avoid double-teaming terms like “a period of one week,” “end result,” “free gift,” and “personal opinion.” Watch for phrases that echo the quality in question: “oval in shape,” “larger in size,” “shorter in duration,” and the like. Omit redundant words that are already implied as part of an abbreviated term, such as machine in “ATM machine.”

2. Reduce Phrases to Words

Replace a descriptive phrase following a noun with a one-word adjective that precedes the noun. For example,  “People who are experienced at traveling know better than to label their luggage,” can be revised to “Experienced travelers know better than to label their luggage.”

Similarly, a modifying phrase can be reduced to a simple adverb: “Sympathizing with her concerns, he nodded in response to her complaint,” is more concisely expressed as “He nodded sympathetically in response to her complaint.”

Delete extraneous phrases such as “which is” and “who were,” as shown here: “We drove down Lombard Street, which is considered the crookedest street in the world” is easily simplified to “We drove down Lombard Street, considered the crookedest street in the world.”

3. Omit Gratuitous Intensifiers and Qualifiers

Use adverbs that intensify or qualify in moderation: “They had an extremely unpleasant experience” isn’t accurate unless a subsequent explanation justifies the intensifier extremely. Additionally, “I was somewhat taken aback” isn’t necessarily an improvement on “I was taken aback.”

4. Expunge Expletives

No, we’re not talking about swear words here but grammatical expletives. “There is” or “there are” is a weak way to start a sentence. “There is a telling passage toward the end of the story” lacks the focus of (and the more vivid verb in) the sentence, “A telling passage occurs near the end of the essay.”

5. Negate Nominalizations

“The report gave an analysis of the accident” uses a phrase where a single word suffices. (This is known as a nominalization, or smothering a verb.) When you see a “(verb) a/an (noun)” construction, convert the noun into a verb and replace the phrase with it. In this case, “The report analyzed the accident” is the more concise result. As with deletion of expletives, a stronger verb is an additional benefit.

6. Delete Superfluous Phrases

“At the present time,” “for all intents and purposes,” and “in the event that” are just a few of many meaningless phrases that clutter sentences. Trim them to tighten your writing.

7. Avoid Clichés

Likewise, “face the music,” “litmus test,” “tried and true” and other timeworn phrases add nothing to your writing but words; they’re useful only for padding a word count, but instructors and editors (and readers) will notice.

8. Eschew Euphemisms

Generally, words that disguise concepts degrade language, which is all about expressing, not repressing, meaning. For example, “collateral damage,” in reference to warfare (and, by extension, to all interpersonal relationships), invites derision. However, use of some euphemisms, such as those for human disabilities, is a well-meaning effort to preserve the dignity of the disabled.

I’m quite certain I’ll never not be verbose, but if I implement these tips, maybe I’ll be less viscous (or molassesy). Or, to switch the metaphor, I’ll probably keep on serving up word salads in my writing, but I’ll try to do so with reduced-calorie dressing from now on. 

Image Credits: have-a-word.com; communiquepr.com; 1freewallpapers.com.

The Kilns: Where C. S. Lewis Lived and Wrote

Below are a few pictures from the scores I took during our 2019 visit to the “The Kilns,” the adult home of scholar and author C. S. Lewis, located on the outskirts of Headington Quarry, Oxford, England. The place is named for a brick-making operation that had two large kilns on site. The house today is a study center, so reservations for tour times are required. Our guide was a doctoral student from the United States, and we had about 20 minutes before the tour began to talk about the research he was doing for his dissertation. The best tour guides are those who share the stories we don’t read about in books, and our guide had plenty of those woven into his presentation. In the end, it was great to finally see where so many of Lewis’ treasured thoughts were put to paper.

Departing for “The Kilns” on a double-decker bus like this, which are common in Oxford (and throughout England).
Walking the lane to get to the Lewis home.
Coming around the corner to the front of the house.
A left front view of the Kilns.
Plaque posted at the main entrance.
Desk in the downstairs study.
A bookcase in the downstairs study.
The upstairs study, where Lewis did much of his reading and writing.
The writing desk in the upstairs study. All evidence suggests that the Narnia tales were written here.
Lewis at his writing desk in the upstairs study.

“Jack” as Lewis was better known, slept in the upstairs bedroom, the smallest and most inconvenient room to access. When his college roommate Paddy Moore was killed in World War I, Jack befriended Paddy’s mother, Mrs. Janie King Moore, and her adolescent daughter Maureen. In 1920, after completing his first degree, Lewis decided to share lodgings with them (in fulfillment of a vow he had made to Paddy during the war) so he could more carefully look after their needs.

Lewis gave Mrs. Moore the larger bedroom, which he had to pass through to get to his own. That would have been inappropriate, so Leiws had an external staircase built off his room so he could access it another way. If he needed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, he would use this staircase, putting himself out for the sake of his friend’s mother, who could be quite demanding. Lewis patiently lived what he wrote in The Four Loves.

Lewis’ modest bedroom. The small size of the room made it hard to get an unobstructed shot.
The ladder stairs built so Lewis could access he bedroom without having to go through Mrs. Moore’s bedroom.
The kitchen table, where Jack and his wife, Joy Davidman, often played Scrabble. They allowed themselves to play words in any language, including Elvish languages, as long as the word could be found in any book in the house.
The typewriter of Warnie Lewis, Jack’s brother, who also lived at the Kilns. (Jack wrote all his manuscripts by hand.)
The downstairs library and gathering room.
Around the side of the house.
Gathering area in the front yard.
Bidding farewell to the Kilns, and the other people we met on the tour.

The simplicity of the Kilns was quite a contrast to the ornate houses, palaces, and castles we visited during our time in England. It just goes to show that we don’t need to be wealthy or live in luxury to have a great impact. We just need to have an openness to the beauty, truth, and goodness of God as revealed in Christ—a willingness to be enchanted by wonder.

Grantchester: My Newest Detective Binge

Readers of TNL will likely know of my affection for detective, crime solving, courtroom, and spy shows, along with a few period dramas from time to time. My latest binge is Grantchester on PBS’s Masterpiece. The British detective series is set in 1950s Cambridge, England, and features the Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) developing a side sleuthing gig with Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green). 

Father Chambers apparently gets replaced in a future season with a new vicar, William Davenport (Tom Brittney), but I’m just getting started. The best way to describe the series is “one part Endeavour smooshed together with one part Father Brown.” So far so good. My recent previous binges in this genre have included:

  • Alias (Jennifer Garner)
  • Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • The Mentalist (Simon Baker)
  • Covert Affairs (Piper Perabo)
  • Broadchurch (David Tennant)
  • Blue Bloods (Tom Selleck)
  • Poirot (David Suchet)
  • Father Brown (Mark Williams)
  • Endeavour (Shaun Evans)
  • Inspector Morse (John Thaw)
  • Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately)
  • Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Essie Davis)
  • Columbo (Peter Falk)

Past and ongoing binges in the period-piece genre include:

  • Victoria (Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes)
  • The Crown (Claire Foy, Olivia Colman)
  • Reign (Adelaide Kane, Toby Regbo, Megan Follows)
  • Downton Abbey (Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith)
  • Pride & Prejudice (Jennifer Ehle, Colin Firth)
  • Sense & Sensibility (Hattie Morahan, Dominic Cooper)

And then there’s Stranger Things (Winona Ryder, Millie Bobby Brown), which is in a class by itself, and the ubiquitous NCIS and Law & Order. Oh, and the Friday night Marvel binge with my son. (My waning love of professional sports has made more space for the arts and a better use of my brain.)

What are your favorite binges?

UPDATE (01.15.2021): As it turns out, Grantchester is rather slow moving, only marginally interesting, and unfortunately overt in its socio-political agenda. I’m not sure I’ll continue with it. Worst of all (for this genre, anyway), the viewer can never really solve the crime beforehand because important clues are concealed until the end. Where’s the fun in that?

Image Credits: mypostcard.com; medium.com.

Random Thoughts in the Bleak Midwinter

1. Well, the decorations will have to wait (cf. #5 here). Slight sickness invaded the home yesterday, so out of an abundance of caution, we kept “Grandma” away from our side of the house to keep her safe. Consequently, our little forest of Christmas trees still stands. My son and I simply continued our Friday night ritual of making our way through the Marvel movies. (We both got Marvel pajama pants for Christmas—what a hoot!) Last night we watched “Guardians of the Galaxy, Part 2.” It wasn’t as good as the other flicks, story-wise, but the combination of live action and computer-generated imagery (CGI) is amazing. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to lumberjack the trees now, as Saturday is always a big prep day for Sunday. At least the sun is out today, though it’s frigid.

2. It’s interesting to see what holiday snacks remain now that all the festivities are over. In first place are my disastrous chocolate chip cookies. We didn’t set them out, and I snicker every time I see them, blushing and condemned in their hiding place. Time to toss them out, but I’m guessing even the birds won’t eat them. In second place are the smoothies—a mixture of white chocolate and butterscotch chips in little paper cups. I don’t eat them, but those who like them rave about them. (Maybe they lasted precisely because I don’t eat them. Ha! Actually, my sister-in-law made so many, there was no way to polish them off.) In third place are a handful of peanut butter cookies—but not the blossoms I made. My Wilbur bud creations disappeared quickly. A few other treats remain as well, but they’re all off limits now. I don’t miss the pain and inflammation that came with the carb overload of late December. It was a nice treat for a season, but it’s also nice to be back on a cleaner diet. Health goals—like business, academic, or athletic ones—require a lot of discipline.

3. Gotta share this little story—if only because “a little nonsense now and then” is a nice escape from the chaos and lunacy that has become the United States these days.

The Presbyterian church called a meeting to decide what to do about their squirrel infestation. After much prayer and consideration, they concluded that the squirrels were predestined to be there, and they should not interfere with God’s divine will.

At the Baptist church, the squirrels had taken an interest in the baptistry. The deacons met and decided to put a waterslide on the baptistry and let the squirrels drown themselves. The squirrels liked the slide and, unfortunately, knew instinctively how to swim, so twice as many squirrels showed up the following week.

The Lutheran church decided that they were not in a position to harm any of God’s creatures. So, they humanely trapped their squirrels and set them free near the Baptist church. Two weeks later, the squirrels were back when the Baptists took down the waterslide.

The Episcopalians tried a much more unique path by setting out pans of whiskey around their church in an effort to kill the squirrels with alcohol poisoning. They sadly learned how much damage a band of drunk squirrels can do.

But the Catholic church came up with a more creative strategy. They baptized all the squirrels and made them members of the church. Now they only see them at Christmas and Easter.

Not much was heard from the Jewish synagogue. They took the first squirrel and circumcised him. They haven’t seen a squirrel since.

4. There’s an old addage (variously attributed) that says there are only two plots in all of literature: (1) a person goes on a journey; and (2) a stranger comes to town. Here’s a golden oldie that seems to combine the two—a stranger comes and invades a person’s journey. For some reason, I woke up this morning with “Come Sail Away” by Styx in my head. I never really knew what the song was trying to say, and people still argue about hidden meanings, but it was a big hit long ago—part of the background noise when I was very young. So, here’s a throwback: 

UPDATE: I’m told that Mrs. Mosby just ate a single Hot & Spicy Cheez-It today and didn’t even dash off to her water bowl afterwards. In fact, she then went back for more treats. She’s definitely Micah’s cat! I may have to pick up some sriracha for her the next time I go grocery shopping. We could put it on her Mice Krispies in the morning. And if her mouth gets overly heated, she can always lick a very cold mice cream cone. O.k., I’ll stop now. Please don’t hate me. I’m just feeling spicy today. 🙂

UPDATE 2: And right after posting about hot sauce and spice, I started making an omelette for the patient. When it came time to put salt in the concoction, the lid of the container flew off and ruined my masterpiece. Even my mustard-seed faith couldn’t remove the mountain of sodium chloride and cast it into the sea. Heavy sigh. Let’s see what I can accomplish next with the sugar in the house. Ha! Nothing like getting the whole range of flavors in one day…sugar and spice! LOL.

Image Credit: wallpaperaccess.com.