Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Bog People, or What I Did on My Christmas Break 2005

{I have all these hilarious blog posts just sitting in the Drafts folder. I think they deserve to be published!! Here's one from almost five years ago. Wow!}

Between the Christmas and New Year's holidays, Ashpenaz and I traveled with our parents up to the Pittsburgh, PA area, where Grandpa G, Aunt and Uncle SteelersFan, and the Cuz live.

Two years ago around the same time, we toured a lovely Victorian mansion and grounds, ate at Primanti's, and shopped at Station Square. This year was even more educational.

Who needs shopping when museums are available? (Oh, but museums usually have gift shops! How can Elena resist?)

Ashpenaz tried to drag me to the Andy Warhol museum. "But if you were just exposed more to his work, Elena, you would appreciate him," she enthused.

"Ash, I've had all the Andy Warhol exposure I could ever want. I heard and saw an interesting CBS Sunday Morning segment on the guy. I don't need to see rows of neon Campbell's soup cans up close to appreciate Mr. Warhol. He was odd. His art was odd. Nuff said."

Little Sister just harumphed her college-know-it-all-art-history-major harumph...and finally gave up.

In place of the Warhol whatchamathingie, we chose the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning on the campus of University of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History.

First, we passed the Heinz Chapel. Yes, Heinz....the ketchup people. It was a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Too bad it was closed till after January 1. It would have been a neat tour. The quote from one of the Heinz folk, upon the dedication of the building, is actually quite moving: "If those who come under the influence of this place go out to face life with new courage and restored faith because of the peace and calm and loveliness they found here … this commemorative sanctuary will not have been built in vain."---Howard Heinz, from the Dedication Address, November 20, 1938

First stop was the Cathedral of Learning. The what of what? Yes, a cathedral. Yes, it really looks like a cathedral. Yes, "of Learning." Classrooms and administrative offices can be found on almost every floor.

Why this building? Well, supposedly, in the 1920s, the new chancellor of the school was hailing a taxi. The cabbie didn't know how to get to U of Pitt, so the chancellor decided he needed to figure out a way to put the university "on the map."

Now, not only are classes held there...and office tasks...tasked...but also you can tour the Nationality Classrooms. Various nationalities of people who live in Pennsylvania form committees and raise money to decorate and furnish a room to reflect that nationality's culture. We saw these rooms: Armenian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Greek, English, French, Irish, Scottish, German, Early American, Indian, Austrian, Swiss, Chinese, and Japanese.

Next stop was the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art. Unk SteelersFan and I were the only ones of our group to decide we'd view the "Mysterious Bog People" exhibit. Think Shrinky-dinks....made of people....with....a lot less color. Makes desert-dried denizens or your proverbial sea-salted sailor look quite healthy. Of course, the Bog People are dead. Very dead. Hundreds of years dead. The entrails of one guy are even hung out for all of creation to see. And there were little kids going through this exhibit!

Experts have some theories as to why the people were killed and why they were buried in the bog. You can read all about it for yourself.

Heh-heh... ever had Bog People Coffee? Chock full of caffeine it is. Kept me up till 3:00 a.m. Eastern one night while we stayed in Canonsburg. Yikes! I think I could have deconstructed Derrida with all that java in me.

I think this was the first time I've ever been to a true natural history museum. When they say "museum of natural history," what they really mean is "lots of dead animals...stuffed." Not the same thing as all those cool exhibits of birds, fish, and reptiles you see at any one of the aquariums around our country. The aquariums are usually working with organizations to preserve animals and their habitats. The natural history museum will take 'em when they're dead.

* Casts of famous pieces of architecture, making our beloved Parthenon's collection look puny—Mr. Carnegie had this thing with collecting casts of architecture
* The four Christmas trees decorated in themes based on four poems (The Owl and the Pussycat, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, Sing a Song of Sixpence, and some other poem I can't remember)
* The Precepio—an Italian version of the Nativity scene, set in the Middle Ages and including many more pieces than what you'd find in your tabletop Nativity scene set
* The paleontology lab—you can watch workers carefully tending to dinosaur bones
* The Gems and Precious Metals exhibit—ooh, shiny stuff!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wisdom Wednesday: Wise Words from Jon Acuff

Who is Jon Acuff? He's the blogger who runs Stuff Christians Like and author of the book of the same name. In a post today, Jon describes what I call wanting the download of wisdom without the dreaded slog through experience. He even includes one of my favorite Bible verses, Job 23:10.

But Jon doesn't stop there. He backs up to verse 9.

Jon writes that
being shaped is never easy. Becoming gold is never as easy or as quick as I would like it to be. Have you ever felt that way? Whether it’s a job that is slowly wearing you down, a relationship that feels tangled, or a dream that is dying on the vine as you work somewhere to pay the bills, life is not always easy. And to be honest, there are days when I want to yell, “Where are You, God? I catch no glimpse of You!”

But the truth for me and … you is that He is at work.

Even if we do not see Him. Even if we catch no glimpse of Him. Even if the testing weighs heavy, He is in motion. He is unchanging. He is relentless with His grace and mercy and love.

He knows the way we take.

And He will bring us forth as gold.

These truths remind me of the way Aslan is depicted in The Chronicles of Narnia books, particularly in The Last Battle, which is as the title suggests, the last story of Narnia. {*SPOILER WARNING!!*} For a good deal of the book, Aslan, who is allegorically parallel to our Lord, Jesus Christ, spends his time away from the Narnians (sound anything like Job 23:9 to you? does to me), but they mention him a great deal. They keep saying, "But he is not a tame lion," to explain all sorts of suppositions, claims, and ponderings about various actions carried out by one side or the other. Much is done in his name, but not all of it is as he would have done. And because of his long absence, some question his existence or decide that he doesn't exist.

Ultimately, Aslan does prove to the Narnians and others that he is as good, kind, and just as the "old stories" described him. But not all believe. Those who do are richly rewarded. They come through the trials of their last days and moments in Narnia "as gold," as Job 23:10 describes.

The believers, as I call them, are brought through the door into Aslan's Country, before all of the world of Narnia is destroyed. The rest of the book describes the journey "further up and further in" that the Narnians and other-worlders take in Aslan's Country. Lewis's words create such a vivid image of their final destination; for me, a sliver-size foretaste of what heaven will be like.

So often we need to remember, as Jon Acuff and Job point out, that our journey will result in what is the highest good: being with God, in a perfected state, in a perfect place... forever. And through that lens, the things of today can be less daunting.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Wisdom Wednesday: Lessons from Plants

Just a quick post today, folks. Mostly links.

Second only to autumn, spring is one of my favorite times of the year. And I'm not sure why this year, but for whatever reason, I keep coming across others' blog posts that reveal how God teaches us through His creation. (Wowee, did He include a huge reminder that we are not in control, when the thunderstorms hit middle Tennessee this past weekend, storms which led to massive amounts of flooding -- of historic proportions!) And probably not coincidentally, He's also used children -- our own growing ones (well, others' kids, not mine) to point out these nuggets of truth to adults.

Here are some of my favorite posts:

* This Is How We Grow - Pastor Pete Wilson describes what Gage and tomato plants taught him about the role of prayer in our growth.

* Ellie and the Weeds - Angie Smith and her daughter Ellie tackle the weeds and learn about God's work in our lives.

* Tree of Mystery - This one is another from Angie Smith about God's using her daughter Ellie to reveal deep truth. Ellie shows us something about true beauty. (Warning: You might need a hanky for this one.)

(Belated 6th birthday, dear blog!)