Star-Spangled Banner flagI love this stuff!  Don’t blame me, it’s genetics.  Mom and Dad were both history buffs and history teachers.  I can’t seem to help myself when something historically interesting grabs my attention.  Nerd.  Whatever.  So be it.  This blog will take advantage of something historical, educational, and in keeping with my online friends and associates.

How is this literary?  Follow me with this.  I was in Starbucks, yeah I know you want to say, “Again?!?”

Anyway, I was in Starbucks and saw an interesting headline in the latest issue of USA Today.  They published an article entitled, “America’s ‘Whatever’ War,” written by Rick Hampson.  Of course I took immediate offense to that accusatory title but I was wrong.  No, the article does not discuss our attitudes about Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, or anything like that.  It’s all about the War of 1812.

I know what you’re thinking.  Now you want to say, “Oh.  That war.  Whatever.”  See???

USA Today’s Mr. Hampson shares a very well written article that contains a lot of “I-didn’t-know-that” content.  It also tells us all about what Canada is doing to celebrate.

Oddly enough, I was also alerted to an article written by Joy Neighbors, one of my cemetery friends, which speaks of the exact same topic.  Timing is everything.  On her blog, A Grave Interest, Joy shares even more tidbits about this somewhat confusing piece of our history.  It seems that several things we are all familiar with originated at this time.  How can we I not know these things?

Yeah, I had to look up that last one.  I knew I had to know it but I couldn’t figure out why.  Go listen to it, then you’ll say, “Oh, I know that song.”  (If you’re on Facebook, come over to the blog so you can get access to the links.)  Joy’s article on A Grave Interest shares just how the lyrics were written for that song — it was actually another great teaching idea.  Poetry and song lyrics are literary, by the way.  At least I see them as such.

The anniversary of this fallen-off-our-radar war is on Monday.  The date Canadians will be commemorating, partly on our behalf, is June 18, 1812.  We have such good northern neighbors!

Why did I just have to share this?  Must be the caffeine.  It’s all Starbucks’ fault.  Again.

This came out of left field and the impulse to share it was overwhelming!

Two years ago I cut all caffeine out of my diet.  When it got to the point that a cup of coffee from Starbucks or Seattle’s Best followed by a Diet Coke chaser, was only the kick-start of the day, it became obvious that the caffeine overload was gettng out of hand.

It was not until I was introduced to a Starbucks’ Caramel Frappuccino that I realized just how much I missed it.  I am also a much nicer person when I have just a little caffeine.  They did say it’s good for women to have a cup of coffee a day, right?  Does this count?  Some website upgraded the Caramel Frapp from a D- to a D+ once you remove the whip cream.  Hooray!

I had to soften this bad-boy beverage a little so I just do the coffee Frapp without the whip cream and often with soy milk.  I’m still happy, I’ve rekindled my love affair with caffeine, and Starbucks loves me.  My pocketbook doesn’t see, or appreciate, the difference!

Anyway, I was waiting one evening, yes evening, for my Frappuccino.   There were a lot of newspapers — Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc.  “Why are these here and not in the downtown stores?”  I was more than a mile outside of Downtown Honolulu.  There are two Starbucks downtown but they don’t have any of these reading materials.  Whatever. I bought a Wall Street Journal.

A few weeks later I was about to throw it away when a copy of the Wall Street Journal magazine slipped out of it and fell on the floor.  I did not know there was such a thing.  Did anyone?

Wall Street Journal magazine.

I confess, from time to time the Wall Street Journal does catch my attention.  It is full of news-related content, a lot of which you will not not hear or read elsewhere.  It is a fine publication.   But, a magazine?  I picked it up and looked at the table of contents.  “THE NOVELISTS p. 28″  Really?  The Journal went in the trash, the magazine went with me back to the couch, along with a notepad, a pen, and a used Starbucks bottle for photographic emphasis.

Edna O’Brien and Andrew O’Hagan

This was a simple article that was, for me, simply inspirational.  After reading about them and their friendship I couldn’t help but be reminded of the film, Out of Africa.  I liked that movie.  Do you have to be eccentric to appreciate that film?  It did win best picture but others I know didn’t seem to appreciate it the way I did.  But, it’s all about the conversation.  I get visuals of journals, pens, coffee cups (or maybe tea), and all of that with a hint of quiet sophistication.  To the photographer and the writer, Alex Clark, thank you both!  I really enjoyed this piece and the photos were regal!

I am amazed by both of these writers.  I can only wish to someday be even half as beautiful as Edna at her age.  Wow!  These two love each other.  But, they’re not in love with each other?  My arse!  Prove it!  If not, they should be!

Do I have anything in common with them?  Ethnicity.  A passion for words, for talking, and for writing.  I have a desire, but they’re already there.

I wanted to share their story so I took the chance and, “I’ll be darned!  It’s here!”  Check it out: “Edna O’Brien and Andrew O’Hagan share a passion for life, letters and conversation.

If you’re on Facebook, follow the link back to this article and you’ll see the link to go to the story.

Especially on a Tuesday!  Then I can join in for Teaser Tuesday with MizB and my other blogger friends.  Here’s how we play:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Cemetery Walk by Minda Powers-DouglasHere’s mine:

“Perhaps this time of year, when orange is the color and lawns are carefully littered with plastic witches, light-up jack-o-lanterns and cotton candy style spider webs, the tombstones have more attention paid to them.  I have a feeling that New England doesn’t really need made-up haunted houses; they probably have plenty of the real deal.”

Cemetery Walk: Journey into the Art, History and Society of the Cemetery and Beyond
by Minda Powers-Douglas

I cannot tell you what page that quote is on because I am reading it on my Kindle.  It can be found near the end of the 10% point.  I just started reading it so I have not gotten very far. Why am I reading this book?  When I post a review of the book, I’ll share the reason with all of you! then!

If you want to participate, go on over to the Teaser Tuesday headquarters and  either leave a link to your own Teaser Tuesday post, or share your ‘teaser’ in the comments of that site if you don’t have a blog of you own.

Your comments are, of course, always welcome here as well!

We argue with each other about a lot of things but, at this time of year, there is a very good argument between Scrooge and his nephew.  Scrooge scoffs at his nephew and cannot see what good could possibly come of this holiday.  The nephew sums it up very nicely.

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round–apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from Charles Dickens as he writes.that–as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

I agree!  Charles Dickens was brilliant and so very good with words.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”  A Tale of Two Cities

In memory of Charles Dickens…

No, this is not about Halloween. Actually, just the opposite. We are looking at a publication put together with a lot of thought and first-hand experience at watching various Christian parishes go under due to a lack of the life and luster that Christian love could have (and should have) brought to their parish doors.

Welcome to the blog tour for Zombie Church by Tyler Edwards!

About Zombie Church:

A creative, entertaining approach to resurrecting the undead church.There is something missing in the church today. Stuck in a rut of routines and rituals, the church is caught up in doing what it is “supposed to do” but is lacking the true essence of what it is supposed to provide: life. Real faith–and a real relationship with Jesus–is not about playing by the rules, attending services, and praying before meals. Real faith is more than religionBelieving there is a way to breathe life back into the church, Tyler Edwards adopts a contemporary and entertaining metaphor–zombies–to highlight and challenge the problematic attitude of today’s believers.

Written for the discouraged, disenfranchised, and anyone unsatisfied with their same-old church routine, Zombie Church challenges readers to turn away from hollow religious practices, which characterize “zombie Christianity,” and turn toward a radical relationship with Jesus.

While other books have addressed legalism in the church, this is the only book that effectively capitalizes on a popular entertainment genre in order to diagnose and correct the problem. Realizing that even his own church is part of that problem, Edwards has written an accessible and often humorous book that will help believers change the Spirit-draining (or life-draining) habits that stop them from achieving a full, fulfilling life in Christ. Order a copy here.

Here’s a link to buy the book:

About Tyler Edwards:

Tyler Edwards is the lead pastor at Cornerstone Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri, where he works to help people learn how to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and look like Jesus—so they carry out the mission of Jesus to the world. He graduated from Ozark Christian College with bachelor’s degrees in both Biblical Literature and Christian Ministry. He has written articles for Lookout Magazine, spoken at various campus ministry events in Missouri, and served overseas in Mbale, Uganda.

Tyler loves cheesy horror films. He is particularly fond of movies like Dawn of the DeadThe Signal, and 28 Days Later, where zombies run wild and threaten to infect an entire town.  Connect with Tyler on Facebook.

You can see what others have to say about the book by checking out the Blog Tour Schedule at http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13424384.

The publisher is sponsoring a $50 Amazon.com giveaway open to all of us.

About the Giveaway!

To enter all you have to do is send a tweet (using @litfuse) about Zombie Church  or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we’ll capture your entry when you use @litfuse.  If you share it on Facebook or your blog, just email us and let us know (info@litfusegroup.com).  Easy.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Zombie Church by Tyler EdwardsFirst of all, I do need to tell you that FTC regulations require bloggers to disclose whether or not they have been given free products in exchange for a review. They sent me the book for free. That, however, does not mean the author gets off easily!

First of all, I love the title!  “Oh I gotta read that!”  As you read, there are a lot of phrases in this little book that start you thinking, “Yep.  Uh huh.”  There are also a few sweeping generalizations that I feel need to be addressed.  I’ll use a few quotes to explain all of this a bit better.

The issue?  “What is a Zombie church? 

“A Zombie church is a church that goes through the motions.  It may behave like a healthy, living church, but the Zombie church has lost its connection to life.  The people have the name of Jesus. They sing praise to Him.  But it has been a long time since they really lived their lives for Him.” 

The author is quick to admit his own failings so we have to respect him for that.  He says, “Perhaps a better title for this book would have been Confessions of a Zombie Pastor.  I was missing my connection to the source of life, and so I wasn’t leading anyone else to it.” 

Those are pretty strong words.  He also admits to a feeling, or an understanding, of the sense of hopelessness in seeing this “disease” and having a strong desire to find a “path to healing this condition.”  The Introduction to this book is a marvel in its own right.  The author almost pulls you into his quest.

“As we look at the problems facing the church, the easiest solution does seem to be to walk away.  But simply walking away from the church because she is broken is not what God would have us do.  The church is Christ’s bride, and we are Christ’s followers; shouldn’t we then fight for the bride of our Lord?”

Okay, I’m listening.  But, of all things, why would he have chosen zombies?  The author could see a resemblance — “Neither dead nor alive, they are beings trapped in a mindless existence.  Zombies do not produce anything.  They do not accomplish anything.  All they do is wander around aimlessly, consuming everything in their path (including non-zombies).  They are a corrupt and destructive force that taints all they come in contact with.  Zombies act like they are alive, but they are dead.  They just don’t know it yet.

It is kind of humorous but, “They just don’t know it yet?”  That is the saddest part!  These “zombies” have mentally cut themselves  off from the Body of Christ, like a leaf from a branch.  They look alive but, alas, they are not and soon they will wither.  This is the “disease” that Edwards is looking to heal.  Is this book the healing?  The vaccination?  Perhaps it is more like a vat of ice water to wake up the complacent Christian and break the Zombie fever!

Edwards makes a lot of good points and there are a lot of great quotes to be had from this book. There are some that you nod your head in agreement:  “God is cool.  No matter how many times we get it wrong, He is still right there to offer us life.  Who else does that?  Who else offers such perfect love and forgiveness to such undeserving people?”

Edwards addresses many of the failings we all seem to have from time to time.  He talks about how people do what’s safe and what’s easy, and, ultimately, what’s politically correct.

“We can try to make religion safe by hiding in the woods, but that only makes us undead; to truly live we must face God’s expectations of faith and courage regardless of personal consequences.  Our effort to preserve our life, to hide, is sometimes the very act that endangers it.”

I like this one:

“When we become more concerned about offending people than about transforming people, we have lost what it means to be Christian.  Too much focus on comfort or conformity makes us spiritually sterile.

As we tame new generations of Christians, we make more copies of the same problem.  The call of God is to a fanatical mission that requires fanatic devotion.  When you answer the call of God, you answer to no man.  God’s call is not to enslave you with laws and regulations but to send you out like an arsonist to a flammable world.  When we make it something less, we take God out of it.”

This is more strong language that is not all that “politically correct” but, in this case, that is a good thing!  I like the idea of being a zealot, for sure. BUT, and this is a big but, we have to be kind, loving, and not too over-zealous about it.  Edwards points out that, “Few people are crueler than a Christian who disagrees with your theology.”  Ever visit an online, Christian chat site?  Oh my! “Some of the most belligerent people carry extreme views on nonessential biblical issues, and if you even hint at disagreeing with them, they would all but try to revoke your Christian privileges and stamp you with the mark of the beast.”  I chuckled at that last remark but it is, unfortunately, so true.  I have seen exactly what he is talking about here.

Then he talks about those who try to make deals with the Almighty.

“God, if You will fix this mess I made, I will pray more.” I have tried to make my faith a spiritual investment where I get as much out of it as I can while putting in as little as possible.  Ever done That?  This attitude degrades the church.  Oftentimes we show up looking for what we get, not what we have to give up.”

There are so many topics that Tyler Edwards touches on which actually relate to our personal relationship with God.  Then he talks about our relationships with each other: “It is almost as if everyone glares at you for “intruding” into their perfect setting.  There may have been life there once, but now it is gone.”  How cold and/or distant are we with other members, and most of all, with new visitors who are searching and seeking a relationship with God?

This book definitely makes you think.  It may not all relate to you, but I can guarantee some of it will!

I liked this one:  “God is not getting His list of who will be saved from church rosters.”

There are some quotes that sum up the content of this book quite nicely:  “Living Christians feed on the life that Jesus offers while zombies feed on rules and rituals.”  Okay that could be a reference to those who just “go through the motions.”

Sometimes what he writes does become problematic.  Further on in the book Edwards says, “They expect to find Him in the laws and traditions.  They search for Him in routines and theological debates.  They seek the living among the dead.”  A statement like that one is a sweeping generalization and a definite overstatement.  I like structure and I like knowing what is expected of me.  I also like rules that prevent chaos.  Tradition is a wonderful thing and I would never want to be without it.  I’m just saying.

Perhaps we all need to check for zombies from time to time.  We are all prone to behaving like spoiled children, especially when we get tired.  Nobody can do everything and we can often suffer from over-zealous burnout!  At some point, like a child, you stomp your feet and say, “I’m not doing it.”  But, like a family, there is always someone who will — someone who will do what needs to be done to support and nurture the community.  Let them.  Maybe they will do it better.  That is family life, that is a living Church!

All in all, this is a good book.  Any Christian will gain a lot from Mr. Edward’s thoughts and ideas.   My chosen quotes just skimmed the surface! In fact, I marked a lot of others that had me thinking but they would have taken way too long.  You need to read it!

Yeah, strange title.  Let me explain.  While I cannot seem to move myself to read right now I do want need to talk — or write, as a way of talking.  I am hoping that this Sunday Salon post will be good for this self-created process.  On August 5, 2011, I lost my mother.  My sister and I lost our mother. My two nephews lost their grandmother.  What am I reading?  All of your blogs, your thoughts, your stories, your reviews — reaching out by “hearing” all of you and leaving a comment here and there.

What am I feeling?  Strange? A little bewildered maybe?  “We all deal with things in our own way.  We’re all different.”  That is what they say.  I had one very kind woman, who is well versed in these matters, say to me, “This is one of those times that I feel ‘toughing it out’ isn’t always the best way.” and “Our brains just can’t wrap around such loss and our usual techniques and tricks just don’t seem to satisfy!”  Then let me try to use this new way.  I need to share part of who Mom was.

I need to talk about Mom in a familiar environment — where it’s psychologically safe and beneficial to share.  This is a Sunday Salon post and we are going to talk about books, literary things, and what goes along with them.  Just as we should and as they come to mind.

Mom always talked about Gulliver’s Travels and how there were things that we could all relate to, be you a child or an adult.  I like Jonathan Swift too — I liked his satire and understanding the history of his time as seen through his eyes was always fun.  He loved to take potshots at the leaders of his generation.  Swift’s “A Meditation on a Broom-Stick” will always be a classic in my mind.

Mom actually took Animal Farm and had one (or more) of her history classes read it and then tell her what time in history they thought it was.  The  overwhelming response always seemed to be, “Now.”  Then off she would go with how “history repeats itself,” etc.  Mama was a well-read history teacher.  A good one!  Some of her students from years gone by had this to say about  her:

“Many of us had her for history. She was one of my favorites. They sure don’t make teachers like that anymore.”
George Huffman

“She was a great teacher.”
Mydee Agostosa Viado

“Yes, she was a great teacher!”
Grace Idao-Cabral

“she was the best teacher ever.. she will be greatly missed ♥♥♥ Thanks for everything Mrs. Hunter ♥♥♥ love u”
Rhonda Villanueva

“She had a big heart with great understanding. One of my favorites too..”
Wendy Fitzsimmons-Kaulia

“What an impact she made in my life. I remember Mrs. Hunter always challenging us to always strive to do better. “I remember telling her one day, how much I enjoyed her class, ‘what she told me next, ‘ I will never forget, ‘she said God sent me here to fill our sails, and help us chart a course called life.” Yup one of the greats…”
James Waiamau

“I was just thinking of her recently when some of us gals were reminiscing on our teachers…. She was one of the greats in our time..”
Gaylen Gapol Paaluhi

“I had your mom as a teacher, and she definitely made a difference.”
Doreen Guzman

“She definitely was a great teacher and made a huge impact on our lives.”
Mike Beazley

“Your mom was such a wonderful teacher and made such a difference in so many of our lives. She will not be forgotten.”
Lorene-Lori Souza

“I agree with everyone she was an icon and her legacy was larger than life! To have made a difference in so many, is the ultimate calling set by god – he was more than pleased with your mom’s body of work. Love you mom Hunter rest in peace!”
Edmund Faagai

Those comments came from Facebook and students from Waianae High School’s Class of ’81 and Class of ’82 when they heard the news.  Heart-felt hugs and thanks go out to the students at Waianae High who remember her so kindly, and with such gratitude!  Is that not how every teacher wants to be remembered?  I will include other comments in this post if and when they appear.  Mom was an awesome lady in so many ways!

Moving on with the books, I have to share how Don Quixote (Man of La Mancha) was a story that Mom loved.  She even had this picture (the one you see on the cover to the right) on our wall for years.  I need to read this book.  I have it on my Kindle because of my book-blogger friend, Zohar, over at Man of La Book.  Judging from the name of his blog, Zohar obviously thinks very highly of the Man of La Mancha as well!

I think I may also need to find that print somewhere and hang it on my wall!  Maybe I’ll hang it at work.   I always wondered why Mom liked that kindergarten drawing so much.  Hey, I was a kid.  How was I to know that it was actually a Pablo Picasso?  Mom liked art.  She loved musical art too!  We could talk about her adoration of opera but I don’t think  anyone wants to read any librettos right now.   Of course she would want to know why the hell not, but we’ll touch on that another time.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte was always one of Mom’s favorites.  I was supposed to read it.  I have not.  It is on my to be read list.  Shame on me!

Rarely at a loss for words, there were times when Mom would eloquently say, “…when I shuffle off this mortal coil…”

“Mama!  Stop saying that!”  I would complain.  I hated that phrase!

Then she would grin and continue on with whatever it was she wanted to say.  I am an English major.  How could I not have recognized that line???

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Gasp!  How could I not have seen or remembered that this was Shakespeare’s Hamlet???  Shame on me.  Again!

It would only be fitting to follow the mention of Shakespeare with a short mention of the word bereavement.  It is an interesting word.  I looked it up.  The thesaurus portion shows the synonyms as loss, deprivation, mourning, and affliction.  I would say they all fit — at different times and at different levels.Clay ghost Mom took with her when she traveled all over Europe.

We sent many things with Mom.  We put icons, prayer books, pictures, dolls, little pieces of clay I made for her when I was little, etc.  It is a very moving and spiritual time.  That reminds me — since we are talking about books and good reads, Mom actually read the Holy Bible from cover to cover, maybe even more than once!

There are not very many books that are more appropriate to talk about on a Sunday!  Besides, whether you are a believer or not, it is still very good reading!

It is here that I feel compelled to publicly share my sincere love and appreciation to our two Russian Orthodox Priests:  Father Anatole Lyovin, for being there through it all and for doing all that was needful for the services and for my sanity; and Father Paul Burholt, who was there to support the family and assist in more ways than even he himself could fully understand.

There were many things that were beautiful about the service.  Our choir sounded beautiful, thanks Coco, the prayers were beautiful, and the friends and family who were there made it all so much more bearable.

View at Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe.Mom’s view is beautiful.  Mom was beautiful!

Mama was so beautiful!

I have to share this beautiful picture that my sister surprised us all with on the day of Mom’s services.  I was so happy that she had this picture!  Mom would have liked that this picture was shared with all who attended, and with all of you!

My sister teasingly called our mother, “Miss Aloha” because she was always so friendly with everyone.  Whether she knew you or not, she was going to say good morning or hello when she passed you on the street.  If you were going to share it, she was going to listen to your history.

She was a loving, caring person.  She was brilliant, she was beautiful, she was and always will be my wonderful mother.  She will always be there because I am a part of who she was.  Thanks, Mom!  I love you!

There are still so many people and places that I need to thank, and I will.  For now, I just want to thank the Sunday Salon readers for letting me share this and for helping me move just a little bit more through this journey.

Hmmm… something is missing.  What is it that I have been forgetting to do?

Gasp!  Teaser Tuesdays!!

I knew I was forgetting something!  It seems like forever since I took part in this fun, weekly activity.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here  is mine from my current read:

“Language differences are part and parcel of human culture. Your emotional love language and the language of your spouse may be as different as Chinese from English.”

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman (pg. 14)

It would always be a good thing to speak the same language as your loved ones!