Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Practical REDOX Chemistry - Reversing Silver Tarnish

I just finished teaching electrochemistry. While I have been teaching electrochemistry, I have daily encountered an annoying electrochemical situation: every time that my silver ring is exposed to our water, which is heavily concentrated with sulfur, my ring turns awful shades of dingy and dull car-part metal. It is commonly known that silver sulfide (Ag2S) is the compound that is causing my ring to look all dingy.

But... better living through chemistry! If you take sulfur-tarnished silver and allow it to undergo an electron-transfer reaction with aluminum foil (aluminum is more active than silver), you will find that the shiny luster of the silver reappears. This is a classic single replacement reaction: 3Ag2S + 2Al → 6 Ag + Al2S3.

For those who don't like chemistry, but do like polished silver jewelry, check out this link to learn about an easy way to take advantage of this extremely easy and beautifying oxidation-reduction reaction. Basically, if you put tarnished silver jewelry on a piece of aluminum foil in a pie pan with baking soda and boiling water, you will be pleasantly surprised by the results!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Husband Training School

For approximately the last four months we have heard bits and pieces of Isaac's endeavor to begin a husband-training school. This is a unique school because Isaac is both the teacher and the student. Unfortunately for his roommate (sorry, Eric), and some of his other male friends, his open enrollment policy means that when you are with Isaac, like it or not, fiancée or no fiancée, you will be given free lessons in preparation for marriage. Isaac has command; what Isaac does, everybody does.

The first step of the training process involves learning to leave a clean dinner plate. Isaac is convinced that a wife would not want a husband who leaves food on the plate because it may suggest to her that her cooking was not met with entire satisfaction. However, Isaac doesn't want his students to assume that the wife would be doing all of the cooking, so a second part of the training school involves learning to cook breakfast and dinner. I hear that pancakes and tomato sauce on pasta are really popular items in Ithaca these days!

Isaac thinks that at the end of a day, a wife may just need to relax. So Isaac has instructed his students that all of the dinner dishes should be washed by the gentlemen. Isaac and his students practice by washing their own dirty dishes. Revolutionary!

Even though I am just Isaac's sister, I was recently the recipient of a benefit of Isaac's schooling. While visiting him in Ithaca, we started discussing what to do for dinner. Isaac looked at me and said, "Sarah, I really want to do what you want to do." I figured out pretty quickly that this was one of the most important lines that you will learn to say when you are in husband-training school.

Recently, Isaac has been calling us to report that he has taken up juggling. He is beginning to move beyond husband-training, to father-training. Juggling is apparently an important skill set for a father to have, because, according to Isaac, it will entertain the young children while the wife is attending to the infant!

Isaac, you are too fun and you always make us laugh!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Visiting My Boys

After not being able to visit Sarah during her college years on the West Coast, it is such a treat to see my boys at their East Coast universities. Pictures of a happy mother and father with their college boys are featured below. - Janet Angell

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Don't Waste Your Life

If any reader is in need of relevant and well-thought inspiration and focus, Desiring God Ministries offers a full audio version of a talk given by John Piper entitled, "Don't Waste Your Life." (He also offers a book under the same title.) The talk comes with full recommendation from Isaac who watched the talk on video in a packed room with two-hundred and fifty people from Cornell on Friday night.

A Birthday With Girlfriends

(Rebecca and her friends had a picnic in the fields this weekend to celebrate her birthday. Thanks, Emily, for taking the picture!)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Becca's Thirteen

We all were so happy to celebrate Rebecca's thirteenth birthday with her today as we enjoyed the first strawberry shortcake of the season for dessert (although she blew out her candles on the cupcakes!). We all enjoyed her fashion show that highlighted some of her new presents.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Searching Shepherd

"Does that mean," asked Mack, "that all roads lead to you?"

"Not at all," smiled Jesus, "Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you."

- William P. Young, The Shack

The Emergence of New Life

The hope of spring is in our hearts as we find ourselves so contented with our seasonal pastimes. Caleb, especially, has enjoyed fishing in the pond behind our home, even though his catch had to be returned to the water.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nothing Spells Delight for the Soul...

...better than a glorious spring day and the first load of hung laundry.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

North and South on the Pacific Coasts

What a wonderful week was spent in Portland, OR (with friends from college) and San Diego, CA (with other teaching fellows through the Knowles Foundation). Notes are posted on most pictures below.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Arch of the Divine

Left, right, above
Drifting with the current
Admiring the beautiful pillars
That were planted along the banks
Of the glimmering waters of grace

The pillars were etched
With divine permanency
Like the stone tablets
That Moses sent crashing into oblivion

The etchings were distinguished
And almost virtuous
Pompous was the man
Who staked claim
At the base of the pillar
No question that truth was on his side
The divine word could not be mistaken

Justice was named on the base
Of a well-marked camp
Across the river
To the other side of the waters
Was another camp
Beneath the etching
Called Mercy

Farther along
More bases, more camps
More pillars and etchings
Divine Sovereignty – Free Will
Works of Charity – Personal Faith

Each side of the river
Was occupied
With those who loved
Its name
Who could not see
To the other side
Of the glimmering waters of grace

Struggle and conflict
Necessarily were evidenced
Flaming arrows across the river
Had been hurled
Because Justice is
The opposite of MercyAs Sovereignty is
The opposite of Free Will
And the etch of the divine
Is clearly marked
On the base of the pillar
That each camp can see

The banks of the river were

The river was

But only from the river
Could one see
That above the clouds
Beyond sight
There was a place
That the pillar called Justice
Met the pillar called Mercy
And that the pillars were not pillars after all
But only two bases of an arch
Where the meeting point
Was shrouded and concealed
By Him whom
We call

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Sacrament of Desire

To my treasured Catholic friends: I do not mean to use the term "sacrament" in disrespect to the seven commonly cited sacraments of the Church. I use this term in its most generic sense only.

For as many happy memories that I have of childhood, there are very certain things that I am daily grateful for in my adulthood. At the top of my list is the ability to actually think and reason through some of the irrational fears that childhood naturally entails. It is really quite liberating to not fall asleep wondering if there are monsters in the closet. But even more importantly, I have been grateful for the opportunity that an adult mind offers to reason through some of the desires of the heart that can so easily become quite binding and even debilitating.

I think often, when we examine our ideas about "controlling" the life of the mind we end up with this image of a wrestling match where the goal of the will is to pounce on any thought that is deemed not pure, lovely or admirable and pin it into obliteration. Needless to say, this is a rather intense process that I presume often gets abandoned in frustration.

But what if we disengaged the traditional wrestling match and began to see every desire of the heart and each thought of the mind as holding sacramental possibility?

If a sacrament is an outward manifestation designed to point our carnal eyes to a spiritual reality, then it seems that desire is perfect sacramental material. What is nearer to us than the longing of the heart? What do we know more closely than the hidden inner thoughts of the mind? Why couldn't these intimate pieces of our being be the very tools that God would use to draw us to Himself? What if the desire of the heart was an instrument of grace and not the start of a wrestling match?

St. Augustine famously said, "Our souls are restless, until they find their rest in Thee." Perhaps this thought could be paralleled to read, "Our longings are always misplaced, until they find their place in Thee." If our longings, as wayward as they may initially present themselves, bring us back to our Ultimate Longing, then it seems very reasonable that any desire or thought, could be a sacrament.

For instance, what if, when experiencing anger or a desire for retribution, we simply prayed, "God, thank you for a longing for justice. My heart craves justice. You are just. You will work, in Your time, justice in this world. In these moments, I am long for justice now, but let me remember to be grateful for mercy and to practice mercy while it is still the day of Your forbearance"? Or, what if, when experiencing fear, we thanked God for an opportunity to be ultimately reminded of our eternal desire for rest and security? Or, what if, in the face of misplaced sexual desire, we thanked God for making us relational beings who desire intimate union that is ultimately fulfilled in the union of Christ with the church and offered prayers that our love would be molded to be as pure and self-giving as Christ's?

Perhaps the nuance is slight between allowing desire to instigate a wrestling match and letting desire become a sacramental tool of grace, but I believe that the former potentially breeds frustration and the latter has the possibility of propagating joy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Silencing the Stockyard

When I was about ten and Isaac was about eight, we had the very memorable experience of visiting the St. Paul Stockyard (St. Paul, MN) for a morning round of cattle auctioneering. Any cattle auction is a sight to behold, but the St. Paul stockyard was so impressive because of the sheer volume of cattle that were auctioned off in any given day.

I have three distinct recollections from my day in the St. Paul Stockyard. I was extremely impressed that the auctioneer could tell when a man (yes, I think this was a man's world) had bid on a cow; most of the buyers just winked at the auctioneer and didn't even raise a hand. Secondly, I remember empathizing with the cows. Most of the cows were old and getting sold for fast-food beef; needless to say, the cows were pretty dismal looking. Lastly, I wondered how anyone could discern the garbled language of the auctioneer. The only word I could make out was "Sold!"

Today's New York Times reported that the St. Paul Stockyard has seen its last auction because of the growth of suburbia. If you have never seen a cattle auction before, be sure to check out this informative multimedia clip.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gloves, Balls and Bats

Nate has already attended one Yankees game, John Sterling's voice is again an unmistakable part of the background noise at our home, and Caleb is warming up for another little league!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Season of Singing Has Come

See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. (Song of Solomon 2:11-13a)

Pictures below are taken from an evening hike with Emily at Poet's Walk on the Hudson River.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Intention Is...

...allowing the will to mediate the mind's dialogue with the heart's emotion.

...remembering that morals were decided upon for the times when they don't make sense.

...trusting that the goal is more important than the circumstances.

...waking up each morning and deciding that the day's worth is not based entirely in personal satisfaction.

...having every free access to what is easiest and most desired, and not indulging it for the sake of what is noble. emptying of the self-focus of the heart so that is finally free to be consumed with something other than itself.

...a choice to live for what is unseen, when what is seen and present is so distracting.

...valuing the gift that is within the heart to offer, more than the gifts that the heart wants to receive.

...working long and hard for something beautiful instead of settling for what is quick and sleazy.

...a pain in the flesh, but a joy in the soul.

Woven Together in the Depths of the Earth

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. (Psalm 139:15-16)

How much of our growing takes place in secret! How often the pieces of life that weave us into who we are meant to be occur in the hidden depths of the earth!

Most days I want to grow into the person I am meant to be while looking in the mirror. I want to plant the seeds today and gather the harvest tomorrow. I want to forget about germination and silence and maturation.

I think the wonder of God is that He works miracles in the shroud of stillness and in the covering of darkness. From the germination of a seed, to the darkened growth of a baby still in the womb, it is the joy of God to impart the most meaningful miracles of growth in the most every-day circumstances.

What delight is ours, though, when we stop to revel in the most ordinary day and find that what used to be just an indentation on the face is now a nose, and what use to be a web of joined bone and flesh are now wiggling fingers!

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Postmodern Post on Painting and Fashion

This post may read like that awkward story told at a dinner party where everyone politely laughs at the conclusion because the story never went anywhere and never had a punch line. Here goes.

Last Friday I visited the Tang Museum in Saratoga Springs with several other teachers to view a fascinating exhibit entitled, "Molecules that Matter." After observing the primary features of the exhibit, we were all led through this exercise called VTS (Visual Training Strategies) where we were told to stare at a painting of a sick man in a hospital bed floating on an endless ocean. We were asked two questions, "What is happening?" and "How do you know?" After several observations were noted and defended by the audience, the presenter commented, with genuine passion, "VTS is powerful. Very powerful."

That comment caught my attention because there are very few things, even things that I love desperately, that I would describe as powerful. If I were to think upon things that stir a fire in my heart, VTS would not be on my list. If I had to choose something that I felt so passionately about that the feeling was almost powerful, I would confess to admitting that I would fervently support any lobbyist who was working to outlaw bull riding!

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Nate and I enjoyed spending the weekend together on the Princeton campus. We attended an interesting lecture on Christianity and the arts (our canvas for the discussion was Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt), watched Kite Runner (I love stories like Kite Runner that completely unveil the propensity in an ordinary human heart for evil or for good and somehow weave in a redemption theme), spent time with our cousin Benjamin, went to church, and ate brunch with the professor of German whom Nate went to England with this past fall.

Nate and I had fun working on a project for Princeton Evangelical Fellowship's outreach team. The signs (a sampling of one of each of the dozen is pictured to the right above - click on image) will be posted around campus simply as food for thought and consideration.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Liberty of Obedience

I recently found a small copy of an Elisabeth Elliot book that I had never heard of (that's a rarity!) at a church give-away and it quickly became one of my favorites. The Liberty of Obedience is a reflection of Mrs. Elliot's contemplation of the meaning and application of the gospel to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. She reflects on the difficulty of bringing the gospel to another people in truth and in love without confining the gospel to its Western interpretation of application.

For instance, Elliot writes, "In my country we hold certain standards of dress to be acceptable, but a costume that would have landed its wearer in jail one year might be common on the streets of a city the next. The Aucas were unhampered by clothing (or by washing, sewing, mending, or ironing) and the caprices of fashion, but stuck firmly to a code of modesty that did not change with the seasons... In their nakedness they accepted themselves and one another for what they were, always abiding by the rules: men and women did not bathe together, women taught their daughters how to sit and stand with modesty, men taught their sons how to wear the string which was their only adornment." Some of her very worthwhile reflections upon the journey of living among the Aucas are copied below.

We shall answer for our actions. Were they good or evil? We cannot answer for others' opinions of our actions. An act should be done not for the sake of the reputation it will gain or destroy for a man, but because it is right. If it appears wrong to some, this is only fresh proof of the impossibility of looking on the heart. This is God's prerogative.

Decisions must be made in the integrity of the heart before God - with an unselfish attention to our brother's good and the glory of God.

We may not say now that we have the answers. Questions of how to conduct oneself as a Christian, or how to serve as a Christian, must be answered by life itself - the life of the individual in his direct, responsible relationship to God. This is a dynamic, never a static, thing. And how can we speak at all of the true meaning of conduct and service if we do not speak first and last of love? For it is love which sums up all other commandments. The one who loves knows better than anyone else how to conduct himself, how to serve the ones he loves. Love prescribes an answer in a given situation as no mere rule can do.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

O God For All These Things

A day as beautiful as today can only make the heart sing one of the best hymns of thanksgiving! (I also saw a stunning male pheasant today on a little country road which made the day even better!)

From mountain height and vaulted skies
Your hand is clearly seen,
We cast our praise with nature's cry
With thanks for all these things!

For promises from age to age
That caused our hearts to dream
Purest adoration we impart
With thanks for all these things!

For refuge from the dark'ning storm
And rest beneath Your wings
We worship You with grateful hearts,
O God for all these things