Wednesday, February 24, 2010

neglecting y'all

I can't believe it's Wednesday already.  And you, poor imaginary readers, haven't had a peep from me since Friday.  Bless your hearts, how are you holding up?

It has not escaped my notice that I haven't posted my project 4:4 post for last week's reading.  It was not an earth-shattering week of reading, lots of Leviticus, and I didn't get my Sunday wrap-up at church because my moma was in the state, and we were in the Beeb with the rest of the fam.  It's a shame that I haven't gotten the blog out there yet because I was actually a really good daily reader.  Way to go, Lent.

True confession time:  another reason I've been ignoring my faithful readers is stupid tv.  A few weeks ago, I decided that although I'd quit watching Lost at the end of season 4 over a year ago I wanted to get caught up and watch this last season as it was happening.  Facebook statuses had already ruined a few things for me, and I knew I couldn't live in my world and make it to the end of this season without major spoilers.  So thanks to the fact that the first five seasons are available on hulu right now, I've started back at the beginning.  When I quit watching it, I was really fed up by how dumb I thought it had gotten, but all my friends who stuck with it assure me that it's better.  Still I chose to start with season 1 so I could refresh myself on the parts I actually liked.  Unfortunately, the current season won't be on hulu indefinitely, so I've got to get caught up before the premier expires.  It's a pretty tight schedule to get it done in time, but I'm working on it.  And clearly, blogging is the casualty of my current obsession.

In other tv news, American Idol is finally finished with the painful drama of auditions and Hollywood week, so I can actually start watching and caring.  I've got some favorites in the top 24, but I've decided that I'm not voting this year.  After Tuesday night's show, I predicted the six girls who will make the top 12.  I'm watching the boys right now, so by the time I publish I may have those picks for you.
If I were up to my usual journalistic standards, I would definitely find some photos or links or something, but I just don't have it in me.  So here are my girls:

Katie Stevens--I think she has the voice that the judges like the most, and she's so young and cute, that America can't help but vote for her.  I don't disapprove.  I like her.

Crystal Bowersox--She's the anti-Idol, and I think it's definitely going to work for her.  There are few girls this year with some quirk, but in this blogger's opinion she's the most stand-out and the most talented.  She is my favorite girl.

Katelyn Epperly--Her performance this week was surprising.  I didn't expect her to be so grown-up or serious, and I think that will work for her.  Although I'd be fine if her hair calmed down a little.

Michelle Delamor--I don't remember seeing her really at all before this week's performance, but I was impressed.  She's very polished and distinct, which I hope will work in her favor.

Janell Wheeler/Didi Benami--Yes, I realize that they are two different people.  Since both of these girls made it to the top 24, I've been calling them the twins.  They both have long blond hair.  They're both cute, and they both played the guitar in Hollywood.  I like them both, but when they're not on the screen at the same time, I can't tell which one is which.  I feel like one, but not both, will not make it to the top 12, and I think Janell is the slightly better, cuter one.

Ashley Rodriguez--I'm the least confident about this one, but Ashley is the girl I'd like to see round this out.  I wouldn't be surprised if Haeley or Siobhan made it, but if Haeley makes the top 12, I may have to quit watching.  I like Ashley though.

Okay, since Firefox crashed and lost me a significant amount of hard work, and I had to recreate it in its current less polished and significantly less funny glory, I've had time to get through the boys' performances, so here are my top six guy predictions:

Andrew Garcia--I've been loving this guy since before he did Paula Abdul in Hollywood (though that did buy him a lot of time for me), and I'm sorry that the judges weren't feeling him tonight because I am a giant Andrew fan, and I think he's clearly the most talented guy.

Casey James--I'm ready for all the Cougar Kara stuff to calm down so Casey can focus on winning and marrying me.  He's so pretty.  But more importantly, I think he did a really great job tonight with "Heaven."

Todrick Hall--Clearly not the strongest voice, but he's such a great performer that he's a no-brainer for the top six boys.  I'm not much of a fan, but I think he's probably important to the process.

Michael Lynche--I kinda thought he should have been home with his wife while she gave birth instead of in Hollywood trying out for a tv show, but I really like Big Mike.  I think he's fun, and I think he's definitely better than a lot of the boy crop.

Joe Muñoz--I wasn't blown away by him tonight, but I think he's going to step up in the next couple of weeks.  Voice-wise, he deserves to be in the top 12, and he's cute enough to get there, I think.

Tim Urban--Speaking of cute, I think Tim's sweet, little face is going to be enough to get him into the top 12.  His performance wasn't great, but he wasn't alone in that tonight.  I think Simon's praise of Lee might be enough to edge Tim out, but I believe in the power of the teenage girl to influence Idol outcomes, so I'm sticking with Tim.

I will definitely come back and revisit this in a couple weeks when we get to the top 12, and I'll own up to my mistakes just as honestly as I'll gloat over my successes.  If you're not an Idol fan, apologies.  I've been sorry for everything else today, might as well add that to the list.

Friday, February 19, 2010

top ten (well, actually fifteen) blog comments so far

Some days I feel like I might just be writing this blog for Mac.  He's definitely the number one fan here at the opinions (that's actually what I call my blog in my head--how lame is that?).  Even so, I typically don't write posts with any particular audience in mind, but today that is not the case.  Because as soon as I started thinking about blog comments that I enjoyed and considered compiling a list, I knew that Mac would be all over this post.  Don't disappoint me, sir.

So here are some blog comments that have tickled me since I started blogging back in December.  There are lots of different reasons for loving these comments, so I may have to do a bit of explaining of the awesomeness so that you, imaginary reader, can appreciate them.  Also I couldn't face ranking them, so they're in no significant order.

  • Cory said...

Ellen, since you told me about one of your upcoming blogs, I thought I should post and maybe try and make it, which I probably won't =( Oh and I remember my favorite part of the Facebook part I was trying to tell you today, when you say ".....I know some of you are shaking your heads....." It made me LOL, but in a totally professional way of course.
This one is kind of cheating because Cory got wind of the blog I was planning and intentionally commented to make the list.  But I wanted to reward his effort, and he did say "totally professional way," which is the best work joke ever--because I invented it.  Congratulations on making the list, Cory.

What you milk advocates are forgetting is that Ellen is allergic to milk. Fact.
Robyn, as you'll see, usually has a brief comment to share.  They almost always reference something outside the blog, and are therefore probably things that I think are funnier than the average reader.  Such is the case here.  But oh, how I giggled when I read it.

I read comments. I check daily for new posts, and if there isn't a new post, I check for new comments.
So this seems like a fairly mundane comment, but I love it for two reasons.  Primarily because I had made a comment earlier doubting whether anyone was actually reading what I was typing, and Mac gave me the affirmation my needy soul required.  Thanks.  But this comment is also a perfect example of a thing that Mac does frequently when commenting.  He rarely uses his actual name when leaving the comment, but whatever pseudonym he chooses is related to the comment he's leaving, and he links it to something amusing.  If you follow the linked name in this one, it takes you to the Wikipedia entry for feedback.  I really admired the subtlety here, Mac.  Good job.

  • Shane said...
If you had a million dollars you would buy a couch? Don't you mean a Chesterfield?
Shane's comments also trend towards the brief but pithy.  I love a good Barenaked Ladies reference too.

I've been teaching the Big 10 to the 7ups for about a month or so now, and I just got to them in OT Survey class today. I'm really learning to love them. I especially enjoyed discussing the third commandment and comparing the name of God to a loaded gun. It's not something you goof around with. It's a life and death thing every second. But I also love how the third commandment implies that if we use God's name, it'll actually do something. Not that it's a magic word, but that God actually hears and responds to His people when they call out to him. It sort of makes me tremble a little more when I'm going to pray.

I also enjoyed reading the big just before the Big 10 where Israel confirms the covenant with God via big basins of ox blood at the base of the alter. I'd forgotten that story, and it was nice to see how Moses splashed the blood on the peple and on the alter to God. It's sort of like Israel and God becoming blood brothers, and I love that God would lower himself enough to do that with His people even when they're a bunch of complainers who reject him all the time.
On heart-hardening: It is relevant (to me at least) that Pharaoh hardens his own heart several times before God starts going to work on him. The process seems more like free actions and consequences than God ditching free actions altogether. Sort of like he'll do with Saul and the "evil spirit from the Lord." when we get to I Samuel.

LOVING these posts!!
Well, for one thing he said he loved the project 4:4 series.  And I need affirmation.  But I also really enjoy when people interact with me about these posts.  And that bit about the third commandment and the loaded gun.  That was some good stuff.

This series of comments perfectly reflects our life together as siblings.

Michelle--being helpful and encouraging, the captain of my team and clearly a better daughter to our mother

Shane--zooming in on my insecurities and torturing me

Joshua--being the black sheep and not reading my blog or commenting on it

Ellen--talking too much and thinking the world revolves around her and expecting people to care about what she thinks and feeling persecuted
then mac said...
I like your dishcloth, and I think that you're talented.

Mac - throwing out compliments when he doesn't have anything funny to say in the desperate hope that someone will like him.
and then Anonymous (who in this case was my moma) said...

Moma - laughing at you, your siblings, and Mac
Well, this series of comments is going to count as one favorite.  And maybe it's jerky to pick it since I'm the one that started it, and I'm often way too amused by the things that I say, but when Mac and my moma joined in, I think it just got perfect.  

I think you could probably pull off a book about sisters.
Over Christmas, my alleged biggest fan Mac made a snarky remark about all the Christmas music posts.  This comment a few weeks later references that amusing family story and affirms that I did some good stuff on Michelle's happy birthday blog.

love this post! reading the red tent really made me see the people in the bible differently. it's been a long time since i read it but i remember mulling it over in my head a long time and re-reading genesis to see how much of it fit.

i've had a much different perspective of the people in the bible after reading the bible as an adult, than i did in sunday school as a child. i guess i saw the people as more perfect than they are. once you are an adult and can see just how big your own sin is, you appreciate the fact that those people were also very flawed and God used them to do great things. makes me not so quick to give up on myself.

glad to know you blog too!
I love the story behind this comment as much as I love the comment--which is saying something because I love when people want to talk about my project 4:4 posts (I know I said that already, but I really love it).  Anyway, one day at the library I was checking out a stack of books to a woman who looked so familiar.  I started a very awkward conversation with her by asking if she read Pioneer Woman's blog.  I was thinking that I recognized her from PW's post about the Little Rock leg of her book signing.  As it all turned out, she does read PW, but wasn't featured in that blog.  So I don't know why she looked familiar, but she did share with me info about her own blog, which I've been following ever since, and she popped over here and commented on this post.  It made my day.  Thanks, Melissa.

  • Michelle said...
Ditto on that stuff you said about Genesis. At Upper Park Academy, we've been studying Genesis along with the secular events that happened in ancient history. When Abraham left Ur, he was not just leaving some tent city in the desert to follow God as I had always pictured. Ur was a city in the Sumerian civilization. They were very advanced. Abraham left indoor plumbing to follow God--that's huge!!!!

Can't help you on finding a time to read that works because I haven't found one. I'm haphazard at best.
Another project 4:4 comment--this time by my delightful sister.  Upper Park Academy is Katelyn & Rachel's homeschool name.  Also that indoor plumbing thing was funny.

  • Shane said...
It sounds like someone is getting a snuggy for her birthday.
It's a good thing Shane is funny.  Or I'd probably kill him for always making fun of me.  Additionally, Shane's the worst speller in the world.  It's snuggie, dude.

Dear Ye,
A) You are a jerk.
B) I like Ellen enough to engage her in more
personal ways than blog comments.
C) Nobody wants to hear about the workings of
your digestive system, least of all me. You
couldn't have just recommended some current

Your sister
This comment can barely stand alone, but I chose not to cheat and put the companions together as a favorite.  Mac left a marathon comment/story about all the food he'd eaten in a twenty-four hour period, though it was almost entirely unrelated to the post.  Then he called out Robyn for not leaving comments on my blog.  Her response was perfect.

Imagine the following in a tiny two-ish year old voice, a strong almost five year-old voice, and a very giggly six-ish year old voice:

Go, Aunt Ellen, go!
Go, Aunt Ellen, go!

We totally support you in your Bible reading efforts. As you already know, I love that Daily Bible! Enjoy.
Proof that the Lexington branch of my family does read the blog.  And references to Ring, Pinkie, and Thumb, cutest blonde kids in the world.  Plus I was totally capable of imagining that scenario, and that was plenty to put a smile on my face.

Good grammar costs nothing. That's all I'm saying.
I ended sentences with prepositions.  And Robyn kept me honest--while referencing a slogan from a t-shirt she once gave me.

  • Hailsey said...
I have a thousand different comments I could make to this post, but I'll narrow it down for the sake of those who I might want to read my own blog someday.
1. Once upon a time, when I was a wee child in the 4th grade, I choreographed my own tap dance for the Beebe Elementary Christmas Talent Show. I wore a green velvet leotard and a red sequined skirt and danced as cute as two cute things to the song that is #7 on your list.

2. I love to hear members of your family talk about Christmas. The love in your hearts, especially at this time of year, is the way the whole world should see people. It's beautiful. And I'll stop there so that nobody except Mac-Mac has to cry.

3. I am so glad that you decided to start a blog. I love to be able to keep up with what's going on with you, and you know how much I shamelessly enjoy your witty banter. I've been meaning to start another blog of my own since the recession took my Harding blog away. I might just have to get on the bandwagon.
I love this.  It's very Hailey, and I pictured her holding up fingers as she read to remind her of the things she wanted to say at the end.  It's a thing we do.  I also love that funny (but untrue) bit about MacMac because I did tear up.  And I love that Hailey blogs again now.  I'm sure it was all my good influence. 

I'm on the edge of my seat about your christmas music thoughts. p.s., you need to get a new visual theme, this one sucks. :)
My first comment.  It will always be special.  And I did take Lloyd's advice about the visual theme, but I'm still not all that crazy about it.  Maybe someday someone will give me the gift of a new design.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

what i'm giving up, taking up, and hoping to gain

Last year was the first time that I gave up something for Lent.  I wrote about it in a facebook note to ask for encouragement and accountability.  I don't really know if that's how Lent is supposed to work, but that's what I did.  I'll say that giving up cussing in my head and dwelling on negativity that causes most of the cussing in my head was moderately successful.  I'd like to tell you that I stuck to working at it after Lent ended, and that's perhaps somewhat true, but I've long since gotten lax about it again, at least the negativity part. 

This year I asked my expert on all things Catholic if it was all right to talk about what you were giving up, and I have permission to share, as long as I'm not whining and complaining about what I'm giving up or out looking for sympathy or attention for it.  So I'd like to tell you about the self-improvement projects I'll be working on for the next forty-odd days.

  • I'm giving up all caffeine except chocolate.  Last year I did an excellent job of justifying not giving up caffeine, because I didn't feel like it.  But I like the idea of a physical self-denial, and I like the reality of having something visual and tangible in terms of accountability.  So I'm going for it.  I was originally going to give up carbonated beverages, which left me tea and coffee--not that I drink much coffee.  But I've got a few showers and a wedding coming up during Lent, and I didn't want to have to pass on punch--one of my favorite things and something I don't get very often--because of ginger ale.  True self-denial would probably demand that I stick with the carbonation-free idea for just that reason, but ultimately that's not the decision I made.  So I'm going caffeine-free instead, which means taking sweet tea out of my life.  That's gonna hurt.  And since I don't like any non-caffeinated carbonated beverage besides ginger ale, this will effectively cut carbonation from my life except for celebratory occasions.  This one will likely also mean giving up pizza for the duration of Lent as I can't stand drinking water with pizza.

  • I'm also giving up candy.  I feel guilty for not including chocolate along with all the other caffeine, but I sometimes need some for medicinal purposes.  Additionally, Ellie at work has already requested the chocolatey-est cake that I can make for her birthday, which falls during Lent, and there's no way I can do that without sampling, so the candy ban seemed the most likely way to avoid most chocolate without leaving myself a little room to not lose my mind.  This decision also means there will be no Dove truffle eggs in my pre-Easter life, which will probably be the hardest thing I do all year, and that includes reading the book of Numbers.

  • I'm limiting my time spent on facebook.  My friend Kimberly is giving up facebook entirely for Lent, and when she told me that, it hit me where I live.  I waste so much of my day on the internet in general, and I honestly have no idea what percentage of that time wasted is on facebook, but considering how often I stop by to catch up, I'm sure it adds up significantly.  I don't want to give it up entirely because there are some really positive things that come out of it for me, but scaling back seems healthy.  I haven't yet nailed down the parameters for the limiting, but I thinking I'm going to aim towards checking once or twice a day for a maximum of thirty minutes.  I know some of you are shaking your heads and wondering what it is I do on fb that consumes so much time.  I can't exactly explain it, and I certainly can't justify it.  The word addiction would not be misused here.  I'm still working out if reading email notification from facebook counts as checking in.  Feel free to weigh in on this in the comments.

  • I'm taking up encouraging speech.  I almost said that I was giving up gossip, which is certainly a noble goal, but I chose instead to not phrase this one in the negative.  I don't want just to stop gossiping, but I also want what I say to be uplifting or edifying.  I want to use words to help instead of harm.  No visual aid for this one, and I think it will be the most difficult to keep, but if I can manage it for forty-five days or so, I know I'll be the better for it.  And the next forty-five days might come that much easier.

  • I'm taking up a stronger commitment to project 4:4 and the Daily Bible reading.  I've been keeping up, week by week, but daily I haven't been so hot.  In fact, I need to read three days' worth right now.  My goal for Lent is to be on track every day.  I know I'll be the better for it.  And the next forty-five days might come that much easier.
I'm still thinking about all of these, and I have around eighty minutes to come up with a few more things, but perhaps this is my final list.  It's certainly a tall order, and I'm certainly weak and lazy and likely to fail if I try to do it on my own.  That's where you and God come in.  So, imaginary reader, I seek your encouragement, covet your prayers, and hope that our relationship is one that includes accountability.

Oh, I also need to know if chocolate-covered pretzels count as candy.  And I need to know quickly, or things could get ugly.

project 4:4: week 6 or numbers and i make nice

I forgive you, Numbers.  I've been feuding with you since week 1  and judging you for your dry, repetitive, seemingly endless, mind-numbing uh . . . numbers.  And while it's true that I should very often pipe down and show some respect and honor the fact that you're in the Bible and all, you've got to admit that you share some responsibility.  You really haven't been putting your best foot forward with me (maybe I should have been having this feud with F. LaGard Smith, since he's the one arranging you for this project).  Well, wherever the blame falls, this week is blame-free.  Because this week, Numbers--you pal o'mine, you told me a story.

In my almost daily reading in the book of Numbers, I encountered, in random order, fearful spies, some wandering Jews, poisonous snakes, a talking donkey, Israelite grumbling, a disobedient rock-hitter, some Midianite temptresses, a zealous priest, and the first of many victories as these Hebrews head for the Promised Land.

In the weeks leading up to this one, we've seen the Israelites in the desert, spending a year receiving God's law and learning about worship that pleases God and building the tabernacle.  It occurred to me at this reading that God needed that year to work on removing the vestiges of the Egyptian religion and without the influences of the kingdoms they would encounter as they neared Canaan.  I suppose a year in the desert is the closest thing to a religious vacuum that can be found, a time and place to establish pure worship of the true God.

So with that year behind them, they set out for the land of the Promise.  Remember that promise, imaginary reader?  The promise God made to an old man with a hearty faith during our first week of reading?  Well, after wandering and lies and favoritism and slavery and grumbling, our flawed heroes, the descendants of that faithful old man, the nation conceived through a miracle, are finally getting close.  They just need to send a few spies into the land to check things out before God leads the charge.  But 83% of those spies will come back without even a drop of the faith of Abraham, with fear of the land and its inhabitants so strong that not even the memory of God's mighty hand of deliverance in Egypt can reassure them of victory in Canaan.  Some days I just want to shake those stubborn, fearful, wayward Hebrews.  Then I want to have a baby boy so I can name him Caleb.  I'm just sayin'.

So instead of listening to the reassurance of Caleb, Joshua, Moses, and most importantly, the God of all creation, the Israelites do what they seem to do best, romanticize their enslavement and grumble against the One who sustains them.  And God has one of his enough's enough moments and sends them to wander for forty years in the desert before they can enter this Land of Promise.

That forty years of wandering doesn't get too much coverage, just the highlights (or perhaps low points) of grumbling and disobedience.  The narrative does include a story in chapter 20 that always depresses me.  Spoiler alert:  there's grumbling involved.  This time the lack of water in their desert wanderings have reminded them of their glory days in Egypt, and the people cry out against Moses and Aaron, who prostrate themselves to seek the Lord's favor.  They are instructed to take the staff from the tabernacle with them and speak to a rock.  Moses did something similar in Exodus 17 (at the same place, best I can tell), but that earlier time God told him to strike the rock rather than just talk to it.  So when Moses strikes the rock twice, water does come out, but this act of disobedience displeases God to the point that neither Moses nor Aaron will be allowed to enter the Canaan as a result of it.  It always seems harsh to me, probably because my sympathies are so strongly with Moses versus these grumbling tribes of Israel that I'm all set to cut him some slack.  I think it's probably really satisfying and necessary to take out a little frustration on a rock--it's better than hitting the people, right?  But just like with Nadab and Abihu, obedience and holiness and righteousness are tied up together.  And they matter to God.  A heart that seeks God must put aside impatience and frustration and seek obedience or fall subject to God's judgment.  And there's my lesson, though I still feel sorry for Moses (and Aaron).

Speaking of Aaron, also in chapter 20 we read that Aaron is gathered to his people, and his son Eleazar takes his place as high priest.  I bet being the big brother of Moses was challenging.  As a youngest child, I don't have any experience in going through life dealing with a special, over-achieving, superior younger sibling, but you could ask Michelle or Shane or Joshua.  They've had loads of experience with that.  But Aaron spends forty plus years alongside Moses, speaking for him in Egypt, serving as high priest and setting the example for that office for his descendants, listening to the grumblers and dissenters, and leading those stubborn people.  He does all of that while taking orders from his little brother and without the face-to-face contact with God that must have been an encouragement and motivation to Moses.  He doesn't do it perfectly, and at least a couple of times, I tend to come down on him hard for his slip-ups.  But he's a pretty decent guy, even so.

I would get disowned by faithful reader, frequent commenter, and cousin Mac if I didn't devote some attention to the story of Balaam and the talking donkey.  Of all the miraculous occurrences in the Bible, this is the one that often gives Mac the most pause.  And you know, it does smack of the ridiculous, the cartoonish, whereas most of the Biblical signs and wonders fall on the side of powerful or terrible or majestic.  Perhaps it's just the influence of our culture that makes this seem silly to a modern reader.  Because I'll admit the donkey might talk with Eddie Murphy's voice when the scene plays out in my head.  I hope Mac will leave a comment here to do his Balaam's donkey rant.  It's been a few years since I've heard it, and I may be missing out on some of the subtleties here.

My favorite thing to come out of this week's readings was our Sunday morning class.  One of my favorite men of God, Jimmy Cone, taught our lesson, and the night before he asked me via facebook to bring my copy of The Message to class.  I started coming to church armed with The Message a few years ago, and I take every possible opportunity to read aloud from it in class.  It's become something I'm a bit famous (infamous?) for in our singles group, but usually I think there's some valuable perspective to be gained from the paraphrase.  Anyway, Jimmy wanted to cover some NT references to points in our reading this week, and I was happy to oblige him.  One of the passages I read was 1 Corinthians 10, the first thirteen verses.  And in The Message, I found that Paul (and Eugene Peterson) had already said everything I've been trying to say about the Hebrews and old law for the past six weeks.  The whole passage flashed for me like neon, but the last few verses were the best.  Here's Eugene's take on verses 11 & 12:

These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don't repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence.

 I needed to hear that.  Maybe now that I have--and shared it here--I can quit harping on the same theme every week in these project 4:4 posts.

Friday, February 12, 2010

a bit of a ramble

It's been an odd week around here.  Snow derailed my Monday and Tuesday plans, resulting in some winners and some losers.  Two days off work with no house-cleaning guilt.  Big winner.  I didn't make it to Coldstone Creamery to cash in on my free birthday ice cream before the coupon expired (sign up for their birthday club, no unwanted emails and free ice cream once a year).  Loser.  I had time to finish a book, blog it and do a significant amount of work on a knitting project, decide it wasn't good enough, take it all out and start again.  The situation is a winner, even if I'm a loser.  The dryer repair dude couldn't come out and possibly fix my dryer because of the roads.  Loser.  But I didn't have to do any laundry during those two days off.  Winner-ish.  I saved loads of gas by not driving anywhere from Sunday night until Wednesday morning.  Frugal Ellen wins again. 

The dryer dude rescheduled for Wednesday, and our arrangement was that he would call thirty minutes before showing up.  So I decided to go to work.  Because the weather mandated a late opening, I didn't have to be at work until 11:30, so it was a bit inconvenient that I got the dryer call just before noon.  Dryer dude and I didn't hit it off immediately, as he was only about ten minutes away when he called.  I'll spare you the details of my not-so-pleasant phone demeanor because I was probably an over-reacting jerk.  So after being at work about 45 minutes, I left again.  In the first five minutes of my dryer's exam, I got great news that the problem was in the outlet, so I could have the apartment folks fix it, and I'd be back in business.  Then he took that back and decided that the real problem was in the timer switch, which is apparently as expensive to replace as a whole new dryer.  So my streak of things needing replacement in February continues.  At least it wasn't a car this time.
Since I was already home from work on a school day, I decided to go ahead and find that new dryer, in hopes of having it delivered sooner rather than later.  After doing very little research and choosing not to drive to North Little Rock or Bryant, so that I could focus on spending tons and tons of time reading labels and standing around waiting to ask questions of sales folk.  I will say that I encountered the nicest sales folk ever at both Best Buy and Home Depot.  I will also say that February is a great time to buy new appliances because everyone is running sales to cash in on all that tax refund action.  So I ended up buying the cheapest thing I could find because that's how I make decisions.  This uninspiring photo is my new Admiral (made by Maytag) dryer.  I can't show you what it looks like in my house yet because it won't be delivered until Saturday.

I'm sorry.  That was an awful lot of information about household appliances.  Sorry.

So here's something a bit more interesting (I hope).  Last winter weather incident I started knitting a scarf for someone, probably not me.  I put that on hold last week to start on a more time-sensitive baby knitting project.  I did my first project in the round and once again took no in-progress photos.  Blogging fail.  And after two false starts on circular needles (left), one too tightly cast on and another too loosely, I had to switch to double-point needles (right), which seemed like the scariest, most complicated thing ever.

As you can see from this delightful diagram lifted off the internet,  you have to put a third of your stitches on each needle and then use a fourth empty needle to knit onto.  Then once you knit all the stitches off a needle, you use that needle as the empty one.   I'm confusing myself with this.  But once you get started, it's not as bad as you might think.

And here are the results:
Here's an almost blurry flat view.  Also the colors are off in some of these.  It's a sweet little pastel variegated cotton yarn.
With a head inside it, it won't be so oddly shaped.  See what I mean about the colors.  I need to find some better lighting in my house.

Here's a a view of the top.  I'm fairly pleased with the decreases, especially for a first attempt.  
Most of the hat is done with a seed stitch, which is precious.

See what I mean about the colors and the lighting and whatnot?

All that knitting talk got me off track from the how I spent my week thing I was doing--maybe you didn't realize there was a purpose here.  Sorry.  Thursday I didn't go to work at all because I woke up feeling the cruddiest of cruds.  I am as certain I can be without owning a thermometer that I was running a fever, which is exhausting and ick.  But being sick is boring, so no more talk of that.

After listening to everyone in my life assure me that Lost got good again after I quit it at the end of season 4, I am considering giving it another shot.  I started watching season 1 on hulu yesterday afternoon.  I thought I might as well start with the part I definitely like before working my way back into the terrible, stupid season 4.  So I'm enjoying reliving the glory days.  We'll see how it progresses.

There was a rumor of more weather coming our way tonight/tomorrow, but something tells me I've used up my allotment of snow days for the year, so I won't be waiting around on that call tomorrow.  

The indecisive weather did have a role in canceling my planned weekend trip home to hang with my moma and the Popster, but the Saturday dryer delivery put the final nail in the that coffin.  Good news is that they're coming here next weekend.  My grams has been in Arkansas since Sunday, but dumb weather has kept me from seeing her.  Boo on that.

And surely that's enough random for one night.

Monday, February 8, 2010

the year in books: nightlight, a parody

*****Series note:  It was not my intention to only post one book a month in this series.  I have just been so distracted by knitting and tv and the Daily Bible and blogging for the past month that I haven't been finishing books.  I've started a couple, but this is the first I've completed since Skeletons at the Feast.  Disappointing, I know.*****

One of my favorite things about working at the library is that I spend so much time talking books with my coworkers that they can actually make appropriate book recommendations to me, and I know enough about what they read and enjoy that I know whether or not to trust them. My friend Joi, who works at a different branch than me now, will actually put me on the hold lists when she discovers that authors we like are releasing new books.  It's handy, and as often as I play personal librarian to my friends and family, it's nice to have her (and other work friends) looking out for my readings interests.

The book I've just finished was the result of a coworker putting me in line for a book.  This time it was Cory the page who just knew that I'd enjoy Harvard Lampoon's Twilight parody, which was released last November.  I made my way up the hold queue a few weeks ago, and I'd had it checked out for 27 days before I realized that it was due back the next day, and as it had other holds waiting, I can't renew it.  So I started it on Sunday night.  Thanks to some completely unexpected snow on Sunday night/Monday morning, I got the day off on  Monday to finish the last chapter or so and eat ice cream cake and take a nap and blog and all those things that are best about a snow day

Let me say that when I read the first three books of the Twilight saga, I enjoyed them.  I wasn't all adolescent-girl, obsessed-with-a-fictional-character crazy.  But I liked them.  I was eager for the release of the fourth book, and then I was overwhelmingly, vastly disappointed.  The story just got silly.  It was such a departure from the first three books that they actually seemed worse by association.  So I was/am vastly amused by the idea of a parody.

Pale, gifted, tragic teenager Belle Goose moves from Phoenix and her mother to the small town of Switchblade, Oregon and her father.  It alternates from the painfully ridiculous to perfectly biting critique of the themes of co-dependence and obsession that always existed in the Twilight books.  It was just too awkward for me in a few places, but overall, it was a very pleasant reading experience.  I laughed out loud enough that Jess was bothered by it. 

I pulled out a few absolutely favorite quotes to share:

On Belle's first "date" with Edwart Mullen to an Italian restaurant in a neighboring city:

"He was more worldly and more otherwordly than I.  What world could I bring to our relationship?
The underworld, I thought, resolutely ripping in half my 'Get Into Heaven Free' coupon.  Looking back, I probably could have come up with a better world if I'd given it another  moment of thought.  Sea World comes to mind."

I giggled.

Then a few pages later, Belle is explaining to her dad about her new relationship with Edwart--that's right, Edwart:

"'I'm in the deepest love that has ever occurred in the history of the world.'

'Gosh, Belle.  When someone asks you "what's new?" the correct answer is, "not much."  Besides, isn't it a little soon to cut yourself off from the rest of your peers, depending on a boyfriend to satisfy your social needs as opposed to making friends?  Imagine what would happen if something forced that boy to leave!  I'm imagining pages and pages would happen--with nothing but the names of the month on them."

If you haven't read  New Moon that won't be funny at all.  But it does underline the parental neglect that leads to teenage girls falling in love with vampires.  Charlie would never have asked such a pointed and insightful question to the real Bella.

And just one more:

"Sometimes, the cape my imagination constantly projects onto his back distorts how I perceive reality."

You see, it's funny because it's true.

Final thoughts:
Great literature?  Of course not.
Amusing and insightful look into a cultural phenomenon?  Absolutely.
Recommended for people that haven't read Twlight?  Probably not.
Worth the time it takes to read 150 pages?  Certainly.

While I've been typing this, I got the call that I get another snow day tomorrow, so perhaps I'll have another book review for you later in the week.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

project 4:4: week 5 or if i can make it through february, this'll be cake

It was a tough week in the Daily Bible.  Last week, we read about God describing the materials and dimensions and requirements for the building of the tabernacle and the priestly garments.  This week those things were built, just as God commanded, which is a good thing and all, but the descriptive passages were nearly identical.  It was too soon to go through that again.  I'm not a great visualizer.  So I didn't really get the tabernacle picture last week, and I still don't have it.  Oh, I've seen pictures.  But when I read it, I kind of go into a survival mode where my only goal is to finish.  And that's not the right attitude, I know.

Except for those couple of chapters that we skipped last week that we're going to pick up again sometime in the future, we're finished with Exodus.  This week's readings also covered a few bits of Leviticus, the rest of which we'll find with those missing Exodus chapters later.  But the lion's share (or so it seemed) of this week's reading was from Numbers.  Oh, Numbers, how you test me.  There's a passage in chapter seven that describes the offerings brought by the leader of each tribe.  They all brought identical offerings of twenty-six different items over the course of twelve days and seventy-one verses.  Then in case one missed out on those seventy-one verses, there's a summation of the total offerings from all the tribes.  Numbers chapter seven tests my faith.  I'm just being honest here.

I understand, or at least try to understand, the importance of those careful instructions regarding tabernacle construction, and I'm going to understand later the importance of the details of the law.  God's in the business of making these people set apart.  Holiness doesn't just happen.  It's not easy, and an obedient heart, a heart that seeks to draw near to God through the methods that He prescribes, is the big deal.  So I read most of these passages that occasionally get repetitive, and I appreciate that God, through Moses, is trying to emphasize that obedience matters.  So I can be as understanding and appreciative as can be, but it's still a tough read, when taken all together.

But just in case careless readers didn't understand that God is serious about obedience, in this week's reading, we also have, from Leviticus 10, the unauthorized fire of Nadab and Abihu.  This is an interesting story to me.  It's not the first or last time that some Bible character will know what God expects and do something else anyway.  But it is one of those instances when the consequences for disobedience are immediate and final.  This sparked a decent amount of discussion in our class this morning.  Why does Aaron, who creates an idol for worship, get off with an admonishment while his sons use the wrong fire and get swallowed up in fire instantaneously?  A very wise commenter in class saved me from more useless speculation by declaring it a heart issue.  God knows the hearts of people in a way that we can't, and perhaps there was something unrepentant or so blatantly defiant in Nadab and Abihu that required their punishment.

As the discussion went on around me, I was struck by the similarities of Nadab and Abihu to one of the few New Testament examples of God's swift and irreversible punishment:  Ananias and Sapphira.  I don't want to steal a story from next November, but these two early Christians sell a piece of property and lay a portion of the money at the apostles' feet.  No one was forcing them to give anything, but when others were giving all that they had to the young community of faith, Ananias and Sapphira keep something back and lie about giving it all.  And God strikes them dead without so much as a "how do you do."  Just as in the case of our priestly brothers, they weren't the first or last try to serve self and God at the same time.  But they were punished in a very public and permanent way.

It occurs to me that in both cases, these folks were caught in their sin when their respective faiths were still young.  God was still laying down the Mosaic law to the Hebrews when the unauthorized fire incident occurs, and the New Testament church is still in its earliest days in the Acts 5 account.  This is purely speculative, but perhaps it was important to show the followers of these fledgling religions that obedience mattered--that though God is merciful and to quote VeggieTales "the God of second chances (Praise the Lord)," He's still God, and His judgment can be swift.

Additionally, both Nadab and Abihu and Ananias and Sapphira were sinning in a worship context.  The unauthorized fire was in the tabernacle, where God encountered His people.  Ananias and Sapphira brought the partial offering to where the apostles were assembled.  It doesn't seem accidental that if you mess with God in His house (and the NT version of His house is the people), you get what you get (or you get what they got).  This is all the worst kind of speculation, but they're just the thoughts I was having as we talked about Leviticus 10 this morning.

One last thing I'm processing as I re-encounter God's covenanting with the Hebrews is this story as a foundation for the Incarnation.  As the church is a pre-cursor to Heavenly fellowship, the Judaic law is a model for the God-relationship that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus guaranteed for us.  The sacrifice and intercession that God is establishing with this people in this tabernacle are imperfect harbingers of the perfect salvation that is to come.  And it's that thought that's going to keep me slogging through Numbers.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

if i had more money than sense

Whenever the Powerball gets up into the hundreds of millions, the Popster always buys a ticket.  He doesn't bother when it's any less than that, apparently tens of millions of dollars aren't worth his time, but hundreds he'll trouble himself for.  And when he buys a ticket, and sometimes when he doesn't, he and my moma decide what they'd do with hundreds of millions of dollars.  The nice part is that I usually end up getting a few million out of the deal.  In fact, the first things my moma usually lists off when she's playing this little game is who all she'd give money away to:  her kids, her sisters, the church, and so on down the line.  I  think most people probably say that they'd give money away whether they actually would or not, but when my moma and the Popster say it, I believe it.  They are generous folks, and I don't imagine the addition of eight zeros to their bank balance would change that.

So when the Powerball gets high, I root for them rather than buying a ticket of my own.  I'm not sure my heart is as generous as my moma's, and hundreds of millions of dollars is a big responsibility.  I hope I'd be generous, but what got me to thinking about the Popster and his Powerball tickets was because I was feeling full of wants today, wanting things that are far from necessities.

So if my olds ever win their hundreds of millions and I end up with a windfall as a result, I'd first try to spread some of that around to causes and efforts that help the hungry and hurting.  And I'd buy the last quarter of the college education I'm not using.  I'd pay off Al, but maybe not get a new car right away.  Al and I are getting along splendidly.  And I'd settle up some credit card debt and make myself a promise never to get mixed up in that again.  I'd stop throwing money away on rent, and make sure there was some money tucked away for a rainy day.  Those are just the smart responsible things one does when one can afford it.

But then, I'd do fun stuff.  The stuff you don't do or buy when you're trying to be a reasonably responsible, frugal adult.
Today, first on my list is a DSLR camera.  I know I just got a new camera, and we're getting along just fine, but the more I see what my little $80 camera can do compared to my sister-in-law's or any of the photographer/bloggers whose photos I drool over, the more I want an expensive big-girl camera of my own.
I'd buy a new couch, one that had never belonged to anyone but me.  I am to the point in my life where hand-me-down furniture is just no fun.  It would also be a color, not tan or beige or any other code word for bland.

I'd buy too many pairs of shoes.  I'd try not to, but it would happen anyway.

And I'd buy at least two more pairs of jeans and at least three more pairs of khakis.  I'm down to only one pair each that I actually like to wear.  And a new shower curtain.  And maybe dishes.  And chocolate-covered pretzels.

So those are the things I'm feeling greedy for right now.  What, imaginary reader, will you do when my moma and the Popster hit the Powerball?

Friday, February 5, 2010

music & me: because you miss those christmas album blogs

 Back when I was talking about Christmas music, I mentioned the story of how I lived without a car radio for six months.  I didn't live without music, but my listening joy was confined to songs I owned in a digital format, so I spent half a year not being exposed to new music.  Though if I'm being honest, I wasn't hearing new music on the classic rock station that I mostly favored before the death of my car radio.  I like music by dead people.  I did sometimes listen to country radio, but there's a lot of junk out there in country music these days.  Just sayin'.

When the death of the Focus (sigh) brought a working radio and a car payment to my life a year ago, I was excited about the prospect of radio.  That lasted for a minute.  I'd been out of the loop too long, and I was too used to a life of hearing only the music I liked.  I don't remember the specific incident that compelled me to give up mainstream radio entirely, but one day in a fit of dissatisfied station-flipping, I stumbled upon Christian radio, specifically K-LOVE.

I had always been that person that judged Christian music, mostly without listening to any of it.  I figured if those folks had any real talent, they'd be doing real music.  I also thought that people that listened to Christian music were probably homeschooling their kids and not watching anything that wasn't G-rated.  I was a jerk.  I get that.  But I'm not really the self-censoring type.  I typically suppose that if my faith or value system can't withstand a few cuss words or drinking or, for lack of a better descriptor, wrong living, then it's not much of a faith.  So there was no reason for me not to listen or watch or read whatever I wanted, and I guess my logic was that I didn't need Christian music or movies or fiction.

What I discovered is that I like Christian music. And apparently any new song I've learned at church and liked in the past seven years came straight from the K-LOVE playlist.  Well, not straight I guess.  Someone had to come along and arrange an acappella version, but close enough.  Another amazing discovery:  listening to "positive, encouraging" Christian radio sometimes actually makes me a better person with a better attitude.  Seriously.  It's not constant and foolproof, but I did notice a difference, especially at first.

I'm not all Christian radio all the time.  The deejays are sometimes enough to send me away.  I can barely tolerate talking on the radio at all, and there's a lot of talk on K-LOVE and sometimes they're just too positive and encouraging [Can I admit that without getting on the fast track to hell?], so I occasionally flip back to a few other stations, but since working radio also means working cd player and since Al has a six-disk changer (a big step up in the world for me, automotively speaking), when I get tired of talking, I typically switch to cds, which these days means Glee soundtracks in a continuous loop.

Wanna hear more about music I love?  Maybe I'll blog about my Glee-love one day soon.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

humility is not in my skill set

Today is Groundhog Day here in North America.  Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, so we're in for six more weeks of winter.  I like winter, so I'm not complaining, and I'm also considering honoring Phil with a viewing of the Bill Murray classic film in a little while.  Can you call films from 1993 classic?  I hope so.

Today is also Candlemas, or the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple or the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin as it is forty days after December 25.  In France, Candlemas is also Crepe Day, so it's a good day to be French.

Today is also World Wetlands Day, so care about the wetlands, officially.

On this day in . . .
. . . 1790 the United States Supreme Court convened for the first time.
. . . 1876 the National League of Major League Baseball was formed.
. . . 1882 author James Joyce was born and on this day in 1922, his novel Ulysses was published.
. . . 1931 Judith Viorst (author of the Alexander books) was born.
. . . 1947 Farrah Fawcett was born.
. . . 1953 Duane Chapman (Dog the Bounty Hunter) was born.
. . . 1977 Shakira was born.
. . . 1990 in South Africa the African National Congress was allowed to function legally.
. . . 1996 Gene Kelly died.

 . . . and most importantly, in 1979 I was born.

I am never afraid to talk about myself.  Never.  But I sometimes think there's something just a bit tacky about making a big deal about your own birthday.  We celebrate birthdays for everyone in my department at work, but when it comes time to celebrate mine, I feel silly saying what I want (and then I say anyway).  This sudden bashfulness, which I don't possess in any measure for any other aspect of my life, crowds me.

Lucky for you, imaginary readers, there's just enough disconnect in this form of communication that I don't feel the least bit bashful about blogging my birthday.  You're welcome.

So I'm 31 today.  In fact about I turned 31 at 10:49 a.m.  I started this birthday the way that I prefer to start each birthday.  A few minutes after my alarm went off but before I had made any effort to get out of bed, my phone rang.  My moma and the Popster sang the Popster's special birthday song rendition.  I can't describe it or recreate it.  But it's phenomenal and integral to the birthday process.  I get grumpy when my moma isn't the first person to call me on my birthday.  She's had to learn that one the hard way.  I make life so hard for my sweet moma.  But not today.  My usual thing to ask her when I talk to her is if she feels better today than she did however many years ago.  I was borderline afraid to ask her that this year since it's been a hard few weeks on my moma.  And before we hung up, she said the sweetest thing, that made up for 7 a.m. and being in my 30s and anything else that was going to make me grumpy, "I love you even more today than I did thirty-one years ago."  That woman is nonstop precious.

I debated taking the day off like I did last year, but I eventually decided to go to work.  Tuesday is a busy day for us, with six classes of students visiting the library throughout the day, and I hated to dump all of that onto someone else.  So in honor of my birthday, my delightful coworkers planned and put together a feast.  We had nachos piled with every good thing and a chocolate cake that was amazing.  I'm glad I showed up for it.  But I did leave early--just because I could.

Faithful readers will recall that I did the birthday with the fam a few weeks ago when we were together celebrating Pinkie's birthday, so I've already gotten some loot.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks because of my girl-crush on P-Dub.  Thanks, Shelle.  The new bathmat because I stained mine with hair dye a few months ago.  The ice pick because my ice maker leaks and creates a giant ice glob in the tray on a regular basis.  The Willow Tree because it's sweet and I'm sweet and my moma is sweet.Thanks to my moma and the Popster for all of that.    And that necklace because it's beautiful and there's a beautiful story for it. is part of a ministry that feeds children in Uganda and supports adoptive families.  Ugandan ladies make these necklaces out of magazines and sell them through this website.  It's an important work, and I don't have the words to tell you about it, so go here or here to read more.  In the meantime, my necklace is gorgeous.  Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law and kiddos for it.

There is more loot and, more importantly, more dessert still to come.  I'm spreading this celebration out as far as I can.

project 4:4 week 4

Last 4:4 post I chose not to delve into the Moses/hard-hearted pharaoh/plagues story because it was split between the two weeks' readings.  I also claimed to have much to say on the topic.  I hate when I set myself up for failure and writer's block.

And just because transparency is my thing, I'll admit that I got completely behind again this week.  I didn't catch up until Sunday afternoon because I'm a lazy slug.  I knew I was caught up enough for the sermon, based on the sermon title, and due to still icy roads, we didn't have class, so I let it slide when I realized that it would be hard to get caught up before church.  If I can't get motivated to stay on track during Exodus, Numbers is going to be a dark time, a very dark time.  Lucky for us all, imaginary readers, you get to live that experience with me.

So here are my transition-less thoughts on Exodus 1-31, minus a couple chapters in the 20s that F. Lagard skipped but will tie in with other law passages later.

So Moses . . . he's like the star of the OT.  I love his mother and the daring plan to save him as a baby.  She's a part of a long line of biblical mothers who sacrifice and make hard decisions for children who will serve God in a special way.  I love his Egyptian mother who provides protection and a privileged upbringing for the son of slaves.  I love that despite that privileged upbringing, when he sees a slave being mistreated, he must intervene.  I love that even when all he has is excuses, the Lord of all creation doesn't lose patience with him but steadily overcomes his objections until Moses is on board.  And I love that for someone who begins his adventure with God so reluctantly, he's going to end up being a person who talks with God face to face, as a friend.

What about Pharaoh's hard heart?  I've talked about (for several weeks running now) God's intervention in the lives of these men to bring about the promised nation, and last week I felt comfortable with God giving out free will and accomplishing his purpose despite human weakness.  But what about that heart-hardening in the Exodus story?  I think in that flannelgraph version, all I really got about this pharaoh is that he's a bad guy, an enslaver of men, a promise-breaker, someone who sits idly by and allows ten kinds of suffering to come upon his people when the power to stop it was always within his grasp.  But when I read verses like Exodus 4:21, I wonder if the power to stop was truly his.  If God hardens your heart, what does that mean?  Could Pharaoh have given the Hebrews his blessing and kept his word?  F. Lagard and Chuck both told me this week that God recognized the selfishness and stubbornness in Pharaoh's personality and used that as a part of His ultimate plan.  I'm not doubting that the dude had that in him naturally, but that doesn't eclipse the language.  That hard heart gets mentioned something like ten times in this story, and in most of those mentions, God gets the credit as the heart-hardener.  It's a tough one to reconcile for a New Testament Christian, someone who sees God as "patient . . . not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)  I really think I came out of this reading with a better handle on it than I have had in the past, but it's a tough passage for me.

My friend Lacey is in the middle of a blog series about God and remembrance, a topic that I've enjoyed reading about (and one that I once wrote a paper about for my OT survey class at Harding), and in the story of the institution of the Passover feast, we see God teaching his people about remembrance.  It's important--He makes it important.  Even before the law gets handed down, even before we learn the intricate obedience that will be required to be God's people, we (and the Hebrews) see that God sweats the details.  It's important to remember, and it's important to establish an appropriate remembrance.  It's important to pass it on as a tradition for generations to come.  And considering how easily and how often the children of Israel are going to forget God, His miraculous deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and the extreme lengths to which He went to liberate His people, it's clearly a tradition that's needed.

In addition to some clear instructions on the memorial Passover feast, this week's reading covered the beginning of God's renewed covenant with His people and some clear instructions on their end of the bargain.  The ten commandments come down (though the following two chapters of law have been temporarily skipped in my Daily Bible), and intricate barely covers the painstaking care that goes into the design of the tabernacle and implements that will be used in sacrifice and worship.  Clearly there are enough tabernacle details for a 75-week sermon series.  If you don't believe me, I can tell you the story of how I once lived through that.  The thing that really strikes me in this reading is that if God cared so much then about the when and how and with what of worship, can he care any less now?  It makes me worry (probably in a good way) about the state of my heart and the sloppiness I bring along in my head when I come to worship.  And probably, if I'd paid more attention during that tabernacle sermon series, I might have known that sooner.

And for those of you keeping track of all the foreshadowing, this week we see the groundwork for a blemishless atoning sacrifice.  Blood will be shed, but God will never ask that it be the blood of His imperfect people, the people to whom He attempts to draw nearer through miracles and guidance and salvation, then and now.