Eye of the Beholder

Welcome Eye of the Beholder, my (sometimes) daily journal. Thanks for your visit. Be sure and leave a comment, or write me at glynn@glynnsbooks.com

Location: San Augustine, Texas, United States

Read more about me at www.glynnsbooks.com

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I'm consolidating my Blogs.

Like a glutton whose eyes are bigger than his stomach in an "all you can eat" cafeteria, I ended up with too many blogs on my plate so I'm consolidating them down to two:

1. My church blog at www.christchurchsatx.blogspot.com (with a links to and from Christ Church, San Augustine, Texas web site .)

2. My "literary" blog Glynns Book Reviews, which is linked to and from my Glynns Books Web site.

Both the Christ Church, San Augustine blog and the Glynns Book Reviews blog have RSS links that enable you to be notified by email whenever the content changes at either of the blogs and either of the web sites.

I will no longer upload posts to his blog after May 31, 2006. This blog will be deleted after six months from that date.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

2-12-06 * Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B

O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in thee:
Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the
weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing
without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping
thy commandments we may please thee both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with
thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Preface of the Epiphany
Because in the mystery of the Word made flesh, thou hast
caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge
of thy glory in the face of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Psalm 42:1-7 (Quemadmodum)
As the deer longs for the water-brooks,* so longs my soul for you, O God.
OT: 2 Kings 5:1-15b (Elisha cures Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, of leprosy.)
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (...in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize...)
Gospel: Mark 1:40-45 (Jesus cures a leper.)

The Homily: The Olympics, The Race, and The Prize

It's hard, with the Winter Olympics going on in Turin, not to pick up on the theme St. Paul adopts in today's epistle lesson from First Corinthians: "...in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize." Paul makes the point that an athlete has to exercise great self-control in all things in order to be a winner--and he goes on to say that all this self-control produces in the long run (excuse the pun) only a perishable wreath. In other words, the end result of all the work and sacrifice that goes into winning a race ends up years later as a dusty trophy on the mantle or on a shelf--evidence of former glory, bragging rights for a has-been; a pitiable statement at the end of life that says: "I was somebody great.....once upon a time."

The idea an athletic contest serving as a metaphor for human life is a useful one and comparing it to the Olympics is also helpful. True, athletics is not everyone's cup of tea, but few have not competed in some type of competition, so the metaphor resounds in each of us on the level of personal experience. It's useful to look closely at what we can learn from Paul's Olympic metaphor.

The context of Paul's metaphor is the Olympics: the ancient Olympic contests were religious. The races, the fights, indeed every competition was presented as a tribute to the gods--Mt. Olympus, remember, was the home of the ancient Greek gods and winning a laurel wreath there--though perishable--attributed to the winner something of the divine; the winning athletes were raised to the status of demi-gods and they were celebrated as such in their home towns; not much different from the way we celebrate NFL stars, soccer players, and--yes--even rock stars. But who is less honored that yesterday's stars? Dusty trophies. "Has-beens" and "once weres." Maybe the ancient Greeks were less fickle than we are, but I doubt it. Human nature is always looking for the "next new thing."

Paul takes this facination with the winners of earthly races--especially those dedicated to honoring the Olympian gods--and compares their transient glory with the ultimate victory each of us strives for as we work to glorify the one, true God in our life-races. The first is doomed to wither while the latter "fadeth not away."

Both, as Paul reminds us, require "great self-control in all things" in order to be a winner. And both require a particular attitude toward the contest; the expectation of winning. Who enters a competition he does not expect to win? Or stated in another way, does anyone ever win a competition he expects to lose? Unless one expects ultimate victory, there is no incentive to exercise all that self-control. Unless the reward is as great as the sacrifice, why bother? Perhaps someone might chose to enter a competition for a reason other than winning--but the effort would have to be half-hearted. Certainly it would not be worth the effort Paul implies when he talks of "great self-control," the discipline necessary to be triumphant.

At some point, metaphors--no matter how apt--are bound to fail. In this case, the race we run in life is different for some important reasons.

*In the Olympics, ancient or modern, only one person can win the laurel crown--every one else is an "also ran." In life's race, every one who starts can win. The competition is oneself; that's what makes self-control the key.

*Making a mistake in the Olympics--even a small one--usually means losing. In life, God allows mistakes if we acknowledge them and work at overcoming them. (There's that self-control thing again.)

*In the Olympics, one can chose not to compete--especially if there's no chance of winning. In life, you don't get a choice. You're in the competition whether or not you want to be. But you can win in life--everyone can win. But it requires the same dedication to winning as does an Olympic victory. Self-control, anyone?

*Olympic victory--no matter how great and celebrated--ends up as part of the dead past. Victory in life however brings an eternal crown that never dies. But the price is very much the same: hard work, dedication to winning, and the confidence that, with God's help, victory is not only possible, but assured.

Hymnal 1982, #546

Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve, and press with vigor on;
a heavenly race demands thy zeal, and an immmortal crown.
--and an immortal crown.

A cloud of witnesses around hold thee in full survey;
forget the steps already trod, and onward urge thy way.
--and onward urge thy way.

'Tis God's all animating voice that calls thee from on high;
'tis his own hand presents the prize to thine aspiring eye.
--to thine aspiring eye.

Then wake, my soul, stretch every nerve, and press with vigor on;
a heavenly race demands thy zeal, and an immortal crown.
--and an immortal crown.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Lamenting Rejection

and reacting

I was whelmed (not over, but moderately) with depression this week when I heard from an agent that the manuscript for my novel Becky Bright "Was not for her." She had responded to a query letter I sent her with a synopsis and she asked to see the manuscript. I sent it to her with high hopes. I mean, how could she possibly not like it?

She didn't.

Adding to my deep blue funk was the fact that she asked if I wanted the manuscript back. Well, duh. I wrote back and told her that's why I sent the $11.00 money order when I sent the manuscript. She wrote back that she had lost my address; that's why she was asking. Yeah, right. The address was on the box I sent the manuscript in, so unless she had thrown away the box. . . Anyway, I think what probably happened was she had misplaced or forgotten the $11.00. So back to the bottom of the hill.

The road to publishing a book, particularly fiction, runs up a steep hill, like the old tale of Sisyphus who was cursed by the gods to pushing a rock up a mountain and whenever he reached the top, the rock rolled back to the bottom so he had to start pushing all over again. Getting a book published is like that, except that the publication mountain has an ungodly number of pseudo crests: first you have to get an agent to respond to a synopsis (with cover letter and SASE*.) asking to see the manuscript. I got that far with Ms. Baldi before my rock rolled back down when she didn't like the story. "It wasn't' for her." Whatever that means.


Assuming an agent likes the manuscript (which actually means she thinks she knows where she can sell it) you're still not at the top of the mountain yet. The agent has to find a publisher, but at least by then it's her rock to push, but you're trapped into the role of bystander while the agent either aggressively seeks a publisher or doesn't. You've lost control, but if you do get an agent for your work, then you can go back to writing, which is what I'd rather do than send out query letters.

But since my rock was at the bottom of the hill again, I scurried around and mailed out 50 query letters, each with its own SASE, beginning:

Dear Agent Sissy Phus:

Women weren'’t fit to fly airplanes except as a joke. "“Like monkeys playing the piano!"” is how Becky describes the attitude toward women fliers in my novel Becky Bright. Becky Bright is the fictional story of a skilled woman aviator who flew for the renowned WASPs during WWII. A one-page synopsis of Becky Bright is enclosed. I would be delighted to send you sample chapters or a complete manuscript.

Now ain't that a killer opening for a query letter? If you were agent Sissy Phus wouldn't you piss yourself with your pants on for a chance to see the manuscript?

While I was printing, addressing, and stuffing (each with its own SASE) those 50 query letters, I had the idle thought that if I put about a tbls of talc in each one.....but in about three minutes every available federal agent (not involved in warrant-less wire tapping duties) would be on my doorstep with a free ticket to an undisclosed location--like Gitmo--but what the hell, I've always wanted to go Belgrade or Prague, but maybe not, so I forgot about the talcum powder. I don't have any and I don't feel like a trip to the store.

I would like to accompany one or two of those query letters to see what actually happens to them. I deeply suspect that most agents put them in an aging pile and after 3 weeks to a month, they get drunk on Moegan David or some other cheap wine--maybe smoke a doobie--and rip open the envelopes, put a "It's not for me. Good luck, sucker" form letter in your SASE and mail it back to you. What agents and publishers really want is a query letter that has "This is the next De Vinci Code" stamped on the outside of the envelope in a lively shade of neon orange. Instead, I suspect they actually roll up all those query letters and synopses into small tubes which they use to clean the wax out of their ears. If I ever meet an agent with waxy ear holes, that's where I'm sending my queries.

A heaping glass of Moegan David and a doobie don't sound all that bad right now.

*For the uninitiated, SASE means Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope.

The Tough Go Shopping?

I drove to Nacogdoches on Tuesday for a doctor's appointment(checkup only) and used the trip to do some shopping in the "big" city. I took some things to have them framed, including: My father's college diploma from Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas that I discovered in my mother's papers after she died, a needlepoint sampler my brother Richard gave me. (See below.)

Plus two antique Italian engravings, and a painting my mother did for me in 1961 (a sunset scene of Hong Kong harbor.) Except for the diploma, all the others had been framed before but had been damaged in moving.

I also browsed the antique shops in Old Town Nacogdoches looking in particular for andirons, fireplace tools, and a mirror to go over the fireplace. I found a set of fireplace tools, which are kind of 'brassy' for my taste, but only cost $29.95.

I also found a good deal ($10.00) on a "coal oil" hurricane lamp to replace the one I broke during Rita. I've now replenished my "hurricane" kit and I'm ready for next summer, if one can ever be ready for that sort of thing. One of the reasons I decided to retire in East Texas was to get away from the threat of hurricanes. God got the last laugh (or next to last?) when Rita roared through San Augustine with winds that were still Cat. 1--even though we are almost 200 miles from the Gulf Coast.

The lamp is on top of a chest I discovered ($99.00) in the same shop. It has glass drawer pulls and knobs, which aren't exactly the look I want, but I can replace them with something else and I also have a use already for the glass pulls and knobs.

I also found a mirror, above, for ($39.95)to go over the fireplace in the living room, but I'm not sure about it. I think it may be too small for the space, but it's a start.

And, because I was spending money like a drunken sailor already, I picked up a pressed glass holder for a votive candle, left, for ($5.00).

A Note of Explanation: When I retired in 2003 I had an estate sale after I sold my home in New Orleans and sold off almost all my stuff. Those familiar with my ancient history will recall that after I sold my home in New Orleans, I bought a travel trailer and expected to live in it for awhile touring around promoting my novel A Perfect Peace. I learned very quickly that I wasn't cut out to be traveling trailer trash. When the folks at Christ Church here in San Augustine asked me to come do Sunday services for them, I decided to sell the trailer and move into a house here in San Augustine. That's why I'm slowly re-accumulating treasures--and I'll admit enjoying it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

2-5-06 * Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

Psalm 142: Voce mea ad Dominum–I cry to the Lord with my voice;* to the Lord I make loud supplication.
Old Testament: 2 Kings 4:(8-17)18-21 (22-31)32-37 (Elisha revives the Shunammite woman’s dead son.)
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.)
Gospel: Mark 1:29-39 (Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law and many others.)

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins and give us, we beseech thee, the liberty of that abundant life which thou hast manifested to us in thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Homiletic Remarks: Satirical Criticism and Religion

The grand furor over the publication in Denmark of satirical cartoons critical of Islam has prompted some to say that Religions ought to be exempt from satire, even if the satire is well deserved. Recently in the United States, the American Family Association (AFA), an on-line watchdog for Christian moral values, claimed to have forced NBC to modify an upcoming episode of the sitcom Will and Grace. According to the AFA, the script called for a pun on "Cruci-fixins," as the made-up name of a catering venture--If I recall correctly what the offensive use of "Cruci-fixins" was supposed to be. Regardless of the context and use of the word, the idea is silly and offensive--but then so is the vast majority of what happens on Will and Grace. Silly and marginally offensive as the show is, it is no sillier or more offensive that most of what passes muster as sitcom on television.

In today's lesson from the Epistle to the Corinthians Paul says he hopes to become all things to all people if in doing so he can bring them to the Gospel. With this in mind, I think St. Paul might have permitted himself a chuckle over "Cruci-fixins" if in doing so, he made himself appear silly in order to align himself with a potential convert to the Faith who might be convinced by silliness.

To the extent that it is a bit of sly satire aimed at the too-frequent examples of moral posturing and public piety evidenced by so-called Christians, the pun is pretty much on target. The sort of public piety exibited by the AFA seems to be uncomfortably close to that very Public Piety that Our Lord warned us to avoid.

Hymnal 1982: #635. Words: Georg Neumark (1621-1681) tr. Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)alt. Tune: Wer nur den lieben Gott, Georg Neumark

If thou but trust in God to guide thee,
and hope in him through all thy ways,
he’ll give thee strength what e’er betide thee,
and bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
builds on a rock that nought can move

Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving;
so do thine own part faithfully,
and trust his word, though undeserving;
thou yet shall find it true for thee;
God never yet forsook in need the soul
that trusted him indeed.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I'm Pushing Spring

February is maybe a bit early to get Spring Fever, but yesterday I began pushing the season. I got out the tiller last week and dug up a new 9.5x5.5 foot flower bed around the young dogwood tree I planted last fall where I can see it from the kitchen and breakfast room windows. I planted a ring of white and purple pansies and snapdragons around the tree and another border of alternating purple and yellow pansies around the flower bed. I also planted 40 daffodil bulbs in two groups of 18 and 22 respectively on each side of the dogwood. The bulbs had been in one of the vegetable bins in the refrigerator since last fall and a few had already begun to sprout! Two bulbs had rotted.

I also planted white, purple, and yellow pansies in two planters.

Just as I was finishing my planting (about 4PM) it began to rain and the rain continued all night long. It could not have come at a better time--after weeks of prolonged and chronic drought--to set the new plants.

Dinner from my new crock pot was chicken cacciatore and it was delicious along with salad and a very fine bottle of Syrah red wine: Columbia Crest, Grand Estates from the Columbia Valley of Washington ($9.69 at the grocery store.)

After watching the the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, I spent the evening reading in front of the fire in the living room. Life has few pleasures as nice as a winter fire with a weather front blowing through town full of thunder booming, lightening flashes, and the steady brush of rain hard against the windows.

Right now I'm reading Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms and After the Victorians by A.N. Wilson. I have already read The Victorians by the same author. I'll probably review both at my review blog when I'm finished with After the Victorians. You can order them by clicking on the links below.

I did some chores today that I've been putting off: got a cell phone (in preparation for a trip later in the month to New Orleans and maybe Key West), went to the doctor's office to get three prescriptions written and faxed to Medco, my pharmaceutical mail order people, and left the truck at the dealership to have the oil changed, to take care of a recall having to do with the speed control, and detailed, if they could get to it. (Note: They didn't get to the detailing, but got the rest done.)

Supper was red potatoes boiled with Polish sausage, carrots and cabbage. After supper I watched TV: a "biography" of Tony Curtis, CSI, and Without a Trace.