Monday, July 30, 2007

Tennis Camp

Trip and family friend, Fred, hosted a tennis camp for the eight Angell children and guests (Tsheko, Mariah and Jake) at Bard College this evening. The coaching was pretty intense; we could have been training for Wimbledon! Not all of us (or, should I speak for myself?) were up for the competition, but Tsheko mastered the evening and was named King of the Court. While we may not have all been Tennis Kings and Queens, thankfully there was no discretion in who was invited to enjoy an icecream at Holy Cow!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


No matter whether I am gone for three weeks or a whole semester, coming home is always filled with love and hugs. Home is such a different place from the rest of the world; sitting down to dinner and singing praise reminded me of what a unique place home really is.

But I can't forget the images of life away from home. Every time I rode free public transportation in Phoenix my eyes were opened to the plight of a people and a culture that I normally never encounter. Particularly carved in my mind's eye is the picture of a skinny little boy, who sat with his mother's arm around him, complaining of hunger. His mother tried to love him, but presumably drugs had taken their course several too many times, and here this young child bore the repurcussions.

And it wasn't as though these reflections on the curse of sin were limited to those whose lives intersected with mine for only a moment. In the longer conversations with those whose lives looked well put together, there was pain and deep struggle and confusion. Yet, somehow, even though the evidences of sin were so clear, interacting with the world through these small experiences of the past weeks allowed me to know the heart of Jesus more. He was the one who came to heal, not the healthy, but the sick. He knew what was in the heart of a man and yet pursued man with life-giving love anyway. At the end of several days, the only prayer I could muster was, "Thank You for the cross. Thank You for redemption. Thank you that, because of grace, it doesn't have to be this way."

But coming home is special, even after only three weeks, because I come back to a place where redemption has been received and where the cross is doing its redeeming work. It is certainly not a place of perfect people. No, not at all. But it is a place where the transforming work of God is taking place within community, where the sick have said, "Lord, heal me." And it is in experiencing work of healing that I recognize more and more the calling that Dostoevsky so eloquently puts forth in The Brothers Karamazov:

One may stand perplexed before some thought, especially seeing men's sin, asking oneself, "Shall I take it by force or by humble love?" Always resolve to take it by humble love. If you so resolve once and for all, you will be able to overcome the whole world. A loving humility is a terrible power, the most powerful of all; nothing compares with it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Sense of Place

I love how different seasons of life bring new appreciation for old and familiar stories. In the theater of my mind I have replayed again and again, in recent weeks, the story of the centurion with a sick servant recounted in the ninth chapter of the gospel of Luke.

While the faith of the centurion who believed that Jesus would heal his sick servant is particularly highlighted at the end of the narrative, I especially love the middle of the story. To me, the climactic scene occurs when the centurion sends out his servants to meet Jesus on the road to beseech him, “Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” But, not stopping there, the centurion instructs the servants to explain, “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.”

I guess it is simple, but I appreciate how clearly the centurion knew his place. He knew the realm in which he was called to obedience and submission and he knew the realm in which he was called to leadership. In understanding his place he seemed rightly able to acknowledge the authority of Christ.

In addition to attending about five other science-teaching workshops today, I attended a seminar entitled Taking on Leadership. It was largely a forum to discuss the qualities needed for effective leadership and it provided time to introspectively gauge our own leadership abilities. The underlying implication seemed to be that, ideally, one should strive to be a leader in every possible area of life.

This implication is a difficult one for me to accept and I realized that while engaging the tasks of a leader can be important in specific times and places, it is just as important to know the places where we are called to be obedient, or simply put, to follow.

Why aren’t there ever any workshops entitled Taking on Obedient Following? The centurion said that he was simultaneously under authority and in authority. Why is it that the in authority part becomes glorified and the under authority part so frequently gets dismissed?

I am a woman under authority. In some places of my life I am in authority. I must seek to practice the duties of each accordingly. Elisabeth Elliot writes, “A sense of place is important for a Christian. We cannot give honor duly – where it is due – without a sense of place. Who is this person, who am I in relation to him? We are people under authority at all times, owing honor and respect to a king or a president, to parents, to master, teacher, husband or boss, to ministers and elders and bishops, and of course always and most important to Christ.”

Lesson Study

Three weeks of studying teaching methods and chemistry lessons in two states and with amazing teachers is wonderful, but all good things must come to an end and having a clothes dresser and a bookshelf is starting to sound very attractive. I look forward to returning to Bentley Farm tomorrow. It will be fun to encounter the incredible progress of the past month at Bentley that has been so well documented on the BFG, thanks to Mom’s burgeoning photographic/journalistic talents!

In the meantime, though, a slice of life from Chicago with eighty other Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Fellows: chairs, computers and nuclear chemistry lesson study partners (this is our third summer studying nuclear together and finally our lessons have bonded - hopefully through fusion and not fission!).

Cousins Gather at Bentley

Uncle Sam and Aunt Jeanne stopped by with their family after a week at Silver Bay, Lake George. Sam and Jeanne entertained the group after dinner with a special rendition of a lovesong that told the history of their romance.

The Big Breakthrough

The construction broke through today when Lawrence put in a door between our house and Grandma's addition. Tom and his brother Sam put sealant on the addition's basement wall. And Isaac continues to prep for the new sidewalk.

Friday, July 27, 2007

With Isaac at the saw, Caleb at the hose, and Nathaniel holding down the straightedge board, the two cuts that formally finished the patio cement project (and divided the space into quadrants) were completed. What better way to celebrate than having a four square game!

The Fun Goes On

After some of the most intense foursquare competition Bentley Farm has ever seen, the family and guests went to the Rec Park for an equally fierce game of volleyball. The night hours did not stop Isaac and Luke from beginning the newest project in the dark: the sidewalk that will connect to the new patio.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Secret of This Moment

I have never had more opportunities for conversations with such a varied and diverse group of people than I have had in the last weeks in Phoenix and now in Chicago. If there is one common connection in all of the conversations that I have engaged, it is the theme of longing.

If my conversations are any indication, longings and hopes run as deep in the human nature as DNA. My single friend was longing for a relationship and hurting from the past of a broken one; my friend who was in a serious relationship, longed for engagement and commitment from her man; my friends who were engaged longed for relief from the stresses of work and the worries of whether marriage would be all that they hoped for; my friend who was recently married longed for the days when her husband’s six-year long residency would be over so that she could actually spend time with him again; another recently married friend was longing for space and time and rest because she had been so consumed with the tasks of married life together; a mother who had been married for twenty-five years hoped so deeply for the successful future of her children. The list could go on.

These conversations bring me to reflect in these moments on a simple word: contentment. “I have learned the secret of contentment,” Paul wrote. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” These words have played through my mind so frequently throughout these conversations of the past weeks. They have focused my heart on the importance of satisfaction through the sufficiency of Christ. They have focused my heart back on the big picture of life which thankfully transcends so many of the longings of the heart.

The big picture tells me that the glorification of God in my life is preeminent above all other hopes. Any longing in the present moment can never remove the opportunity for this amazing task.

Be glorified, Oh, my God and King
Be glorified, Lord, in everything
Be glorified in the offering
Of my life, Lord be glorified (Be Glorified, Times Square Church)

Cement Work

Projects always seem to become bigger than one originally thinks. That was what we were all thinking in the midst of mixing, pouring, and leveling of the cement for hours today. We had two mixers going and at least six hard workers constantly toiling under the hot sun. Needless to say, it was a tremendous relief to get it done by dinnertime, and to think we might be eating there tomorrow. And.....Bentley only walked on the wet cement twice!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nothing Compares to Yankee Stadium

Chase Stadium may be air-conditioned, but it is definitely no substitute for a good old Yankees' game. The Diamond Backs played the Marlins in a somewhat anti-climatic game that provided many moments for socialization with two of my roommates (one went to Wheaton and one I have known well for a couple of years from Long Island). The good news is that it is a whole lot easier to drive out of Chase Stadium than Yankee Stadium.

Hmm… I “want to be a part of it…New York, New York.”

A Farewell Sunset

With Chicago on tomorrow's horizon, it has come time to bid Arizona good-bye. About fifteen of my classmates and I ventured to watch a Phoenix classic: a sunset from South Mountain Park. It was beautiful but it doesn't begin to compare with the sunset over the Catskill Mountains as viewed from the highest hill at Bentley Farm. The idea of driving to see a sunset is not in my cultural background. Less familiar is the idea of parking with a group of other cars to watch the sunset with fifty other people. Somehow it seems like it should be a more solitary experience.

A Task For Everyone

With Isaac soon leaving for Cornell, and with Grandma's arrival date getting closer and closer, the work demands a task for everyone!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

In Awesome Wonder

What is Arizona without a trip to the Grand Canyon? One of my roommates and I ventured to the canyon today and drove back through Sedona (the red mountains in the collage below). I have never seen anything in nature quite so awe-inspiring or impressive - what else can I say but, "How great Thou art!"

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Wonderful Presumption

There is so much in life that cannot be presumed upon. Perhaps this is the sentiment of James in teaching us to say, "As the Lord wills."

But, today, I have been particularly thankful to repeat over and over again, "I am sure that I can presume upon the goodness of God." Ah, there are certainly times of life that teach us to recognize that God's goodness is far richer in understanding than our own ideas of goodness. And how gracious is His understanding.

What a wonderful presumption, when so much of life is uncertain: The goodness of God is for sure.

Bentley's Teacup Rides Again!

Another wonderful night on the Hudson! This night the water was a bit choppy, only adding to the fun for those on board.


Finally, one of our major summer projects is done! The rock wall had its final rock placed just before the dinner hour. Phew!

Floating on the Salt River, Day 2

A group of seven of us went back to the Salt River today because one day on the Salt River turned out not to be enough. I proved it possible to bring a camera on the entire trip and leave with a camera (still dry). One of our members overturned in one of the rapids; somehow my camera and I survived. I will forever treasure the pictures.

This is Crazy!

I was recently introduced to the game of Crazy Uno, where amidst wild adaptations to the original game, players randomly slap the table and yell, “This is crazy!” If this day had been a card game, I would slap my hand on the table and say, “This is crazy!”

Why? Well, I don’t normally wake up before 5am on a Saturday. I have only rarely woken up early with the sole intent of climbing a mountain. And I have never ever woken up before 5am on a Saturday to climb a mountain in Arizona desert heat. But today I did. My roommates inspired me to this awesome task of climbing Camelback Mountain without really letting me know any details (suffice it to say that one of these roommates never made it to the top!). We were hoping to catch the sunrise, but apparently that didn’t quite happen. It was a grand hike involving all four major appendages. I have never lost so much water while hiking, but it didn’t seem to matter. Three of the five original hikers made it to the top by 7:30am. The top was grand, but could have been perfect if only there was a slight breeze to evaporate some of the water from our skin. We could see miles upon miles, including the whole Phoenix skyline. The “dirt” was perfectly red and so now my shoes bear the distinct imprint of this literally breath-taking hike. Breakfast followed at La Grande Orange, a perfectly California-styled restaurant with the freshest of tomatoes and avocados. How fun are crazy little ideas!

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Gift of Change

During today's lesson on relevant ways to teach stoichiometry concepts, a visitor from an education political action group walked into class and was allowed a few minutes to share his concerns. He had a particular interest in engaging the business sector in funding educational pursuits and was hopeful that strengthening this link would allow for a positive push in science education. He was particularly interested in helping teachers develop a modeling approach to their teaching curriculum and implied that older teachers were resistant to this change. At this point in his speech, he said something that particularly caught my attention, "You know, we just have to wait for these old teachers to die, because they aren't going to change."

That was a pretty strong statement on his part, and my classmates and I gasped in astonishment that he held such adament feelings on the subject. As I reflected on this mini-lecture with another classmate later in the day, I realized that I just don't approach life at all like this educational activist. I refuse to believe that it is only death that brings change to a person's character or actions. How miserable would it be to think that only in death would the world be saved from your misgivings?

One of the most fundamental hopes of my life is that God is mighty to work within me His character, even when that comes at the expense of me changing. Change is hard and change is painful, but how hopeful life is when we recognize what is impossible to man is possible to God!

Floating on the Salt River

I have never enjoyed sitting in a black tire-looking tube as much as I did today, floating down Arizona's Salt River (no, for some reason it’s not salty) with my friends and classmates. The river was picture perfect, although I am still trying to decide if “beautiful” is the correct adjective to describe the desert and sand hills that surrounded the river. Anything so natural, though, holds some degree of loveliness and I was almost convinced that “wondrous” would describe the surroundings when I encountered three wild mustangs drinking on the banks of the river. I kept desperately wishing aloud to my company that I wanted a camera for the ride but whenever we got hit by a torrent of water they would laughingly say, “So, do you want your camera now?”

When we got to the last pick-up station, my little tube was behind the majority of the group and from the banks someone yelled, “Stand up.” Being very obedient, I did stand up, only to find myself in a strong current in which I lost my footwear and my footing. There was no way I could stand up and still hold on to the black tube, so I tottered back and forth in the water until some kind soul in my company decided to stop laughing and offer me a hand. I guess I wasn’t really supposed to stand up where I did, but as I finally walked onto the banks, my friend laughed and said, “I so desperately wanted a camera.” But at this point I was very glad that none was to be found.

So, the pictures show no Salt River, but only the parking lot, tube rental station, surrounding desert, and fun sun hat that I found in a recent care package from my sweet college roommates (thanks Kristiane and Trina!).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Our Father

I relate so readily to the disciples as they beseech Jesus, “Teach us how to pray.” In categorizing some of the New Testament prayers (by no means an exhaustive compilation), I have found myself reflective on how a few basic themes become so recurrent with the turning pages. (Some of the texts quoted below are slightly paraphrased.)

1. Forgiveness of Sin, Promise of New Life
May you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing may you have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
May your sins be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Acts 3:19)
May you receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith. (Acts 26:18)

2. Knowledge of God and Understanding of His Love
May we understand what God has freely given us. (1 Corinthians 2:12)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
May God give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him. (Ephesians 1:17)
In him and through faith, may we approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
May you be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the width, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ, which passes knowledge. (Ephesians 3:18-19)
May you be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)
May you be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that you may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that you may know the mystery of God, namely Christ. (Colossians 2:2)
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

3. Holiness
May you live a life worthy of the Lord and may you please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)
May God strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (1 Thessalonians 3:13)
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
We constantly pray for you, that our God may count your worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:12)
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. (2 Corinthians 13:7)
May you be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. (Philippians 2:15)

4. Strength
May you finish the race and complete the task that the Lord Jesus gave to you, the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:23-25)
May you stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (Colossians 4:12)
When the day of evil comes, may you be able to stand your ground. (Ephesians 6:13)

5. Hope and Comfort
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. (2 Thessalonians 2:16)

6. Unity of the Body of Christ
May you glorify with one heart and mouth the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:6)
May God give you endurance and encouragement and a spirit of unity as you follow Christ Jesus. (Romans 15:5)
May the body of Christ be built up. (Ephesians 4:12)

7. Evangelism
May God open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. (Colossians 4:3)
May our teaching not be slandered. (1 Timothy 6:1)

8. Desire/Need
May the way be opened for me to come to you. (Romans 1:10)
May I come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. (Romans 15: 32)
May our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. (1 Thessalonians 3:11)
May we live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:2)

Who Needs Men, Anyway? I do.

I have been gifted with the opportunity for so many fun and energetic conversations with fellow students over the course of my academic studies in Phoenix. Not only have I met people from all over this country, but I have heard story after story of international experiences in Vienna, Romania, Russia, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, China and the United Kingdom.

Tonight, while dining at a rather noisy venue, the conversation turned to the discussion of observed cultural differences in international familial structure. We discussed China’s one-child-policy at length; we compared our astonished observations that many of our international student acquaintances have left spouses and children to pursue an education in America; we heard about a recent documentary on the life of a close-knit African family and we lamented our own country’s care of the elderly. At length the conversation turned to make note of a Chinese matriarchal society where the ruling women had many husbands and assumed no care of the children at which point the despairing question arose, “Who needs men, anyway?”

I had no intellectual reaction to the question at the time but only a deep-sinking sadness in my heart that ‘needing men’ was actually in question. I am so deeply grateful for the men in my life and I am grateful to them as men, in a distinctly different sense than I am grateful for the women in my life.

Yes, I can make a living and support myself. Yes, I can be independent and live alone and open my doors and read my own Bible and change my oil and pay my bills and drive my car and think for myself and mow my lawn and vote for myself and chop my wood. And, yes, hypothetically, I could try to live my life without men.

Yet realizing that I could potentially live my life without men is about as attractive as understanding that I could, theoretically, live my life in isolation and solitude. For that matter, I could always eat cookies and never drink milk; I could possess a glove in the cold and refuse to wear it; I could watch the perpetual rainfall and blind myself to the rainbow. But one would only do such things if they understood the meaning and purpose of life to exclude satisfaction, warmth and beauty.

Likewise, a world of only skirts and never trousers would be life in only a very small portion of its glory, because men and women, in their distinct natures were meant to need each other. Dry cookies, cold hands and rain can paint only a picture of scarcity. Considering life with no men sketches an equally harsh reality in my mind.

I want the men in my life to know that I need them and that life without them would be no life at all: Thank you for your leadership and for changing my oil and mowing the lawn and for teaching me from the Scriptures and for driving my car and chopping the wood and opening the doors and helping me make decisions. And though it’s fun to sometimes do these things with you, your leadership and fulfillment of your call allows me to be the woman that I was meant to be.

There is no way that life would be just as fine without men.

On Clarity and Trust

About a year ago, Isaac introduced me to this short story involving Mother Theresa and a man named John Kavanaugh who sought clarity about his future. Although the story was written originally by Brennan Manning in his book, Ruthless Trust, the particular rendition below is compliments of Mark Daniel's blog.

As part of John Kavanaugh's search for future direction, he volunteered to work for three months at "The House of the Dying" in Calcutta, India, a place founded by Mother Teresa. The very first morning he was there, Kavanaugh met Mother Teresa. She asked him, “What can I do for you?”

He paused to think and then asked that she pray for him. “What do you want me to pray for?” she wondered. “Pray," he said, "that I have clarity.”

Her abrupt response took him aback. “No," she told him, "I will not do that.”

When he asked why not, she told him, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”

When Mr. Kavanaugh observed that she seemed to have the kind of clarity he wanted, she laughed out loud and told him, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

A Most Welcoming Homecoming

Mom and all the girls were gone unexpectedly for hours this afternoon. They came home to a welcoming surprise: Tsheko (complete with our KISS THE COOK apron on!) with two little helpers, had made one of the best dinners ever! He had never let us know of his incredible culinary skills before tonight. We have already him signed up for tomorrow's dinner!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Masons In the Making

The retaining wall is finally coming together thanks to some big rocks, a lot of cement, and some hard working youth.

Bentley's Teacup Is Up and Running!

With great excitement we made our way down to the Hudson River last night to launch our newly renovated old row/motorboat for its maiden voyage! A great success! It was a humbling experience to approach the Rhinecliff Landing with the fancy boats being trailered into the water. Our little boat and motor looks about sixty years behind the times.

But old or new boat, it was a fantastic evening; one that we will soon not forget. The motor actually powered the boat and everyone had a ride on the Hudson. All the enthusiasm and fun was noted by the curious bystanders. One older man, after studying the boys getting Bentley's Teacup all ready, approached Mom and asked, "What fun camp are all these guys from?"!

The rowboat was named with respect to the happy memories shared on a real motorboat with Trip and Sally at their beloved Tea Island.

It's Like Having a Dream Uncle

Caleb and Rebecca were treated to a special lunch out yesterday with "Uncle" Tsheko. One of the many blessings of Tsheko's visit has been his special relationship with Caleb and his encouragement of his character development. Today marked Caleb's reward!

Sweet Pickings

One of summer's all time favorite activities is picking berries, and we had not gotten around to doing it yet this summer until today. Some of us went with the (anything but blue!) Blue family for a delightful time of picking blueberries up in beautiful Columbia county. And now we will see what comes out of the Bentley kitchen!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Crepe Making

Apparently chemistry teachers make good cooks, because my fellow classmates have been super impressive with their meal creations. Tonight's selection was crepes and it was like Paris come alive in Phoenix, Arizona. If only the weather reminded us of Paris...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Arizona's Caught Me By Surprise

Andrew Peterson's Nothing to Say was particularly apropos for my trip through the Arizona Desert en route to Los Angeles from Phoenix. The only modification that I should make is that Rich Mullins was on my iPod, and not on the radio.

Hey, Jamie, would you mind
Driving down this road a while
Arizona's waiting on these eyes
Rich is on the radio
And I think we ought to take it slow
Arizona's caught me by surprise

Hey, Jamie, have you heard
A picture paints a thousand words
But the photographs don't tell it all
I see the eagle swim the canyon sea
Creation yawns in front of me
Oh Lord, I never felt so small

And I don't believe that I believed
In You as deeply as today
I reckon what I'm saying is
There's nothing more
Nothing more to say

And the mountains sing Your glory hallelujah
The canyons echo sweet amazing grace
My spirit sails
The mighty gales are bellowing
Your name
And I've got nothing to say
No, I've got nothing to say