Treasure Island

I grew up in a typical ’50s ranch. 3 (tiny) bedrooms. 1 (tiny) bathroom. 1 (tiny) dining room. 1 (tiny-to-average) living room. And 1 (tiny) galley kitchen. You know. The kind of kitchen that doubles as a hallway. So that a person must walk through it in one direction, then turn left to access the dining room. Or walk through it in the other direction, then turn right-ish to access the living room.

At least it was a through-street galley kitchen. It may have been squished for cooking but it was ideal for running circles around the inner core of the house. In pairs. Going opposite directions.

My first adult-apartment-galley kitchen, not so much. It was one of those architectural wonders tucked into a back corner of nothing. You know. The kind of kitchen that doubles as a hallway. To nowhere.

I’m all grown up now and I have a kitchen that still serves as a hallway in some respects. But that doesn’t matter because now I have an island.

That place around which crowds gather.

For a long time.

To talk. And feast. And talk some more.

It is quite possibly the 8th wonder of the modern world.

Late on Wednesday nights, after a crowd of college women depart my house (where they have consumed several loaves of banana bread, many tall glasses of milk, some mugs of coffee, a few cups of tea, and a portion of Scripture) my island is tangly. Busy. Scattered.


Wednesday's treasure island
Wednesday’s treasure island

It’s my favorite night of the week. It’s my favorite view of the island.

Except for those very rare occasions when the power goes out just before dinner on another night. And the only way to eat the 9×13 pan of goulash is by candlelight. Candlelight that evokes Advent. (Or maybe radioactive elbow macaroni.)

Thursday's treasure island
Thursday’s treasure island

What’s more lovely than enjoying a candlelight family dinner around the kitchen island? The glow is joyful. The ambiance is restful. The quiet is soothing. And the goulash is especially splendid.

Of course, the looming question soon becomes this: what, exactly, happens next? After we take our last bite? After this unexpected sweet dinner vigil is over?

Because, well, you know, there’s no power. There’s no way to use anything requiring electrical juice or internet bandwidth.

Panic. (I can’t live without modern conveniences which makes me an immigrant-descendant super-failure.)

Stress. (So are we supposed to just talk all night?)

Sadness. (We used to know how to play board games.)

And then sweet relief. (Oh look – the power’s on. We are saved from our pathetic selves.)

…and then…

Sadness. (It was prettier by candlelight.)

Stress. (We’ve become those people – the ones who are defined by their power adapters.)

Panic. (How can I recover just a tiny little sliver of that peaceful beauty, proving I’m not one of those people?)

With a flip of the power-company master-switch (and the hard work of many devoted employees), my kitchen island went from being an oasis in the dark to being a harsh glare of manufactured light. Which changed everything about the room. And the meal. And us.

Sure, we could see better.

But it wasn’t as sweet. Or as peaceful. Or as (dare I say it) holy.

So I acted. With a flip of the electric-customer kitchen-switch (and a few puffs of breath to soften the candlelight even more), my kitchen island went from being drenched in glaring rays to being cloaked in whispered light. And it changed everything about the room. And the meal. And us.

Thursday's recovered treasure
Thursday’s recovered treasure

For about 5 minutes. Because powered habits are really hard to break. So the electronics are running full force. Like usual.

I find that sad.

Even so, my kitchen island – whether lit by a satin-nickle triple-globed ceiling fixture, 10 candles, or just 1 – is a treasure, more than adequate for hosting a feast, surviving the darkness, or welcoming the occasional castaway. Or all three.

I think Robert Louis would approve.

Inverted Psalm

Book of Psalms, 1882
Book of Psalms, 1882

Monday morning. Psalm 5.

Sometimes it’s just too early and too soon and too messy to wrestle with all the nuances of David’s lyrics. The Almighty’s intolerance, destruction, and declarations of guilt – are these really the point of this song, or merely reflections of David’s emotional circumstances? Are these things upon which to build a doctrine, or simply the cry of a creative and wounded heart? Are these descriptions that saturate all of the sacred Word, or rather one poet’s attempt to wrap in human language that which is spiritually unknowable?

God’s infinite grace, love, and forgiveness – as demonstrated through creation, incarnation, and resurrection – sweep aside all doubts about His nature.

But still there is this Psalm (and many others) that lie before us – words that must be read, chewed, digested.

On this particular Monday, I find that the verses of Psalm 5 are best considered and consumed when inverted from ancient poetic statements into modernly personal queries. Soul-baring queries. Uncomfortable queries. Convicting queries.

1. Are my prayers intensely honest to the point of groaning?

2. Do I look to God alone for my soul’s help?

3. Do I pray daily with patient expectance?

4. Do I foolishly assume that God overlooks and tolerates my sin?

5. Does my pride keep me from drawing near to God?

6. Am I truthful and honest in all things?

7. Do I enter God’s presence in awe of myself or in awe of him?

8. Do I invite God to lead me on His chosen path?

9. Are my words untruthful, destructive, foul, or falsely flattering?

10. Have I been caught in my own trap of rebellion?

11. Do I love the Lord’s name and take joyful refuge in it?

12. Do I pursue a godly life and rest in His shield of love?

Suddenly Psalm 5 is my Psalm, for these are questions my heart needs to face and my soul needs to answer.

These are questions that bring me to a narrow place of reflection, a focused point of confession, a singular place of desire –

to rely only on God (not the things of this world)

to rely always on God (not just when I am confused and wounded)

to rely wholly on God (not also on myself)

and to rely humbly on God (acknowledging my selfish helplessness and his loving grace).

Welcome to Monday. Welcome to Psalm 5. Welcome to life. Welcome to divine love.

For the chief musician. A Psalm of David.
For the chief musician. A Psalm of David.

Subjunctive – schmunctive


Just to clarify: I am not the grammar police. Not even after 20 years of being a professional writer and 8 years of being an English teacher. It’s too frustrating. And heartbreaking – it’s to show possession, Smith’s to indicate plurality, and their to contract “they are.” There are just no words for it. Though if you were Trumpkin, these might do: Beards and bedsteads! Thimbles and thunderstorms! Cobbles and kettledrums! Weights and water-bottles!

Which brings us to the English verb – 3 simple tenses, 3 past tenses, 6 progressive forms, the emphatic “do” form, and hey, how about that modal trinity of can-must-should – and LUCKY LUCKY US, beside all those tenses, let’s not forget The Many Moods of Verbs (which rather sounds like a title of a 70s soft-listening LP).

“If you were Trumpkin” is a prime example of one such mood: the subjunctive.

Of or pertaining to that mood of the finite verb that is used to express a future contingency, a supposition implying the contrary, a mere supposition with indefinite time, or a wish or desire.

Yeah. That thing.

We’ve all heard it.

If I were a rich man, yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.”

If I were king of the for-eheheheheheheheheheh-st.”

From these, one might reasonably conclude that the subjunctive mood has more to do with lyrical freestyling and jabberwocky antics than with a verbal mood.

If I was. If I were. Does it really matter?

To some people, yes. They argue that if we were to subjugate our subjunctives so as to use them less subjectively and more submissively (in respect to grammar rules) and more subliminally (in respect to rhetorical flair) our speech would more accurately reflect our progressive civility and refinement (or maybe our panties-scrunched-in-a-bunch-ness) and the world would be a better place. For you. And me. You just wait and see.

Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know.

But I do know this: if I were a rich woman and also were queen of the forest, I would be able to buy more books and store them in my ever-expanding royal library, which would definitely make the world a better place. For me. For me. You just wait and see.


January calendar

It’s just days past January 1st, which means a majority of the population has already waged battle with their New Year’s Resolutions. And been defeated.

The best resolution this year is to de-resolution your life. To avoid the pitfall of defeat entirely. So that you can’t possibly fail and then feel bad about yourself. Because really, who needs that?

I suggest the following de-resolutions: first because they’re foolproof, and second because if you do fall into the inevitable rut of breaking your New Year’s Resolutions after, oh, say two days, it will still be a victory of sorts.

1: Nap more. The real kind of napping. In your pajamas. Under the covers. With the lights out and the shades pulled. And a really good book to keep you company.

2: Read more (see #1). Not the “should read” books but the “want to read” books. Whatever that means for you. Within the bounds of good taste.

3: Eat more. Especially stuff that you like. Peanut Butter M&Ms, for instance (which are especially good when consumed with almonds at a ratio of 1:1, or maybe 1:1.5 if the almonds are puny-ish). If you eat more of the stuff you like, you might be less likely to overeat the stuff you don’t like, which has to count for something in the end (calorically, if not nutritionally).

4: Comfort yourself more. Preferably with food that is scientifically proven (and approved) for such a task (see #3). Dark chocolate comes to mind. Dark chocolate wrapped around something crunchy and/or salty. Like a pretzel. Or a nut. Or bacon.

5: Live more. Since this is a broad and vague statement, make of it what you will.

Five seems like enough. One for each weekday with weekends off. That’s a pretty happy kind of schedule. And what do we all want? To be happy, happy, happy. (Okay. 6: Watch more TV. Especially Duck Dynasty.)

And for those who truly love the idea of clean slates, fresh starts, and do-overs, you might consider ditching New Year’s Nonsense altogether and instead consider the God who offers such things daily rather than annually.  Being ‘made new every morning’ is soothing to the soul in a way that ‘making myself new every year’ can never ever be.