Wednesday, June 28, 2006

We Went to the Animal Fair

91, 90, 90, 91, 92, 91 - that's the temperature forecast for my week, in centigrade. Some of you crazies out there actually like it that hot, but, as I already said, you're gonzo, wacko, round-the-bend kind of loony. Anyway, in spite of the forecast, we headed off to the zoo (or zoological park) this morning. The temperature was supposed to rise one degree for every twelve minutes we were there. It was hot.

We have a beautiful zoological park (or zoo) about 30 minutes from us. It's huge and sprawling and hot. We went in the Africa entrance today and it felt like, well, Africa. They do a good job like that, making you feel as if you're actually walking through one of the vast African savannahs, making you wonder whether you'll get out alive.

We saw pink-bottomed baboons, silverback gorillas, yellow- and red-footed tortoises, scarlet ibises, and many more colorful and diverse animals. There's a surprising amount of diversity in the animal kingdom, it would appear. And a lot of colors. You don't hear brown used in many descriptions though. So when the animals are brown, they give them funny and interesting names. For example, there's this eensy-teensy-weensy deer called Kirk's Dik-Dik. Now, I don't know who this Kirk fellow is, but the other biologists are getting some mileage off of that one.

Zoo Map

Zoo Altitude

So here I am pushing the stroller up this mountain range they've built the zoological park/zoo upon. (I've included the map - you can see a Class-5 climb as well as two HC, or Above Classification, mountains.) So walking through Africa is a tiring proposition. I was bent over the handlebars of the stroller like a domestique dying on the slopes of L'Alpe D'Huez. Sweat dripping off the tip of my nose. Shirt soaked. (I do sweat occasionally - not sure if I've mentioned that before or not. It may have something to do with my being big-boned, but who knows.) And of course I was the only one sweating in the entire park. On the way back down the hill, I carried the Raccoon on my shoulders and completely soaked his crotch from my hair - or he soaked my hair from his crotch, I'm really not sure which way it was. Fortunately, when you're that hot it doesn't really matter. Getting out alive is the goal. And getting out alive with your slew of children is the icing on the cake.

Speaking of which, we once had a mutt named Kid who would lead her puppies out onto the back 10 and would, inevitably, come back missing a few pups. "Go get your babies, Kid. Go get 'em," we'd say encouragingly. But now that I have children, I better understand the little dog. Especially when one of the kids, I won't mention the yellow-haired child's name, sits down in the middle of the sidewalk and begins making much ado about nothing. You pick her up and make her come and she screams so loudly that people start giving you those I-wonder-if-that-fat-sweaty-man-is-stealing-that-sweet-golden- haired-child looks. Hey, Lady, my smile suggests, Go a couple rounds with her. Be my guest. And buy her a freaking lemonade Icee while you're at it.

Anyway, it is a long haul for little people.

It's a long haul for big people too, but once your shirt becomes completely soaked it simply looks as if you've stepped under one of the many misting posts stationed in various places around the zoo (or zoological park) exclusively on the North American side of the park - so you're cool. (Even though you're hot.)

We had fun. Now that Laura and Sophie are home, it's kinda like Every Day Is Saturday®.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Summer is officially started in the Lyons's home. (Yes, just now. My wife teaches at an extended-year school. 200 days instead of 180.)

Our beach house in Nags Head where we'll be vacationing at the end of July has WiFi. It will only be used when necessary, however, so don't get too uptight. It's not like I'll be playing Halo all week long. I mean, Pshaw! It'll be useful for finding activities, directions, and the like. I might even give that job to someone else in the family. You know, just set up the laptop for anyone who needs to use it.

Summer is officially started in the Lyons's home. It's short, but it's here.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Yellow-Haired Child Eats Soup

Black Bean and Chicken Soup

My wife has made a couple of batches of delicious soup in the past two weeks. Last week it was Broccoli and Cheese. This week it was a spicy Black Bean and Chicken soup. The kids, of course, are somewhat adverse to the idea of soup - all of them but the yellow-haired child. Two days this week she and I have sat down at the table together with a bowl or cup of soup. It's precious time for me, this fellowship of soup, this breaking of bread (or crackers).

She blows the heat right out of her soup, along with the occasional piece of broccoli or kernel of corn. And she doesn't mind the spiciness, so long as she has enough Kool-Aid to fight the heat.

They say eating hot foods helps to keep you cool on a hot day. They're wrong.

Uh, Hot


It's so hot, I've forgotten what the F stands for. I have an idea though.

The Girls, a Date (a la panthera-leo play)

"Do you want to go on a date with me?" she said.

"But I have big, sharp teeth," (s)he said

"No one cares about that," she said.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Nikko Blue

Nikko Blue Hydrangea

I wish you could see my hydrangea - it's gorgeous, one of the best things about our house. The flowers are beautiful - that's a picture from this morning. Most of the flower clusters don't yet have this reddish hue in the center of the individual blossoms, but this was my best picture. (You can click on the picture for a closer view.)

It's difficult gardening with so many of our flowering bushes on the side of the house near the road, such as the hydrangea in the picture. It's not difficult with the girls, who are old enough to know better than to wander into the road, but the Raccoon goes wherever the spirit takes him. And the road calls out to him. And he answers: "On the road again, just can't wait to get on the road again."

We're so highway-minded, that we sometimes forget the simple goodness of a garden - sometimes we forget that the greatest truths are robed in mystery and in beauty, that the beautiful is the truth.

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'
- Keats


Will says, "Hee," whenever he wants to give you something. The last few days he's been saying "Hee" with little bougars in his hand. Then yesterday he brought me a dead fly. "Hee," he said.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Waiting for the Other Shoe

Okay, so, I might as well face it: Walt Disney's Cinderella has one of my favorite scenes in cinematography. I know, loopy. But with all the girls in the house, I'm up to my neck in pink - just thank your lucky stars I'm not talking about a Barbie movie again (and there it is - Blast!).

Go on, mock me.

[as Cinderella prepares to try on the slipper]

Grand Duke: Come, my child.
[beckons to the Page Boy, who runs carrying the slipper. The Stepmother sticks out her cane and trips him, causing the slipper to shatter into pieces]

Grand Duke: Oh, no! Oh, no, no, no, no. Oh, this is terrible. The King! What will he say?
[clutches throat]

Grand Duke: What will he DO?

Cinderella: But, perhaps, if it would help . . .

Grand Duke: [sobbing] No, no, nothing can help now. Nothing!

Cinderella: But, you see, I have the other slipper.

I catch my breath every time I see it: All hope is gone. And then it isn't.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

FYI: Worship

Here's an article on worship for those of you interested. The author's boneheaded, but the article itself is reasonably well-written.

Why I No Longer Teach English

Yesterday the yellow-haired child saw a man on TV and wanted to know who he was.

"What is dat man?"

"Who is that man?" I said.

She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I don't know."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Loch Ness and Other Strange Facts

It's raining today, thanks to Alberto. Thanks, Alberto.

I've pruned down my blogroll. I apologize to those of you I cut who frequent the site. My reading time has shrunk and I'm trying to list only those sites I regularly read - after all, I use my blogroll more than anyone else. If you're a regular reader and you want the link, let me know. I'll re-roll you.

Dairy gives me gas.

Speaking of blogrolls - if you know of some excellent blogs out there that you think I might be interested in, please let me know. And don't be shy, that includes you.

For some reason blogrolls is making me think of bagels. I could go for a bagel right about now. I love bagels. Maybe I'll become Jewish next.

My wife only gets four weeks off for summer break. My daughter six weeks. The last week of summer vacation will be spent in Nags Head on the beach with my extended family. I'm jazzed about it. I saw that in Kitty Hawk they have hang-gliding lessons, but then I saw they had a weight limit. I also saw that I was over that limit. That sucks. Apparently the law of aerodynamics is more a general rule of thumb, you know, for skinny people. Stupid little pansy gliders. I think I'll go eat some bagels.

I woke up to walk this morning and Alberto was outside, raining. The entire cosmos conspires against me.

The yellow-haired child just told me to go out in the rain. "You are not the boss anymore!" she said. "I am the boss now!"


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Rabbi Shmuley


I love Shmuley. He has a show on TLC called Shalom in the Home that's quickly become popular with Laura and me. Maybe we'll be tired of it in a month or so. But for now, we're fans. Take last night's show for instance: He spends time with a broken family to heal deep wounds and two months later some things are better, and some things aren't. He didn't fix all the problems. He offered shalom, but not everyone wanted it. Or they may have wanted shalom, but not at the price it costs. Whatever else it may be, shalom is costly.

Not even in TV Land can you heal real people who do not wish to be healed. You can speak God to them, proclaiming His love for them, and still you may fail. God does not call us to "succeed"; He calls us to love. The results are His business.

So here's to Shmuley and his mission of shalom - our mission also, by the way.

I like this picture - it makes me laugh because I pulled it off of David Duke's site. I found it through a Google Image search. I didn't stick around to see what he was doing with a picture of the good rabbi, but I guess he must be a fan too.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Letter Saying Why

Reid is a good friend - the kind of flesh-and-blood friend we all need. He is commenting on my post "Because I'm Feeling Ornery" with the following questions and I thought I'd address them as a separate post.

"I'd rather like to know why you're ornery (or hopefully were ornery - are you over it yet?). Why did you quote, or set up, two Protestant "saints" and then knock them over with James the Lesser? What's eatin' at you man?

Because I'm a sea, or a large puddle, of doubt, Reid. I have great respect for much that Luther and Calvin have thought, of course, and have no intention or desire to excommunicate them. They are far bigger men than me, intellectually and theologically if not in other ways.

I suppose, when it comes down to it, I am deeply wounded. And I feel as if I've lost the ability to be certain, which is part of that hurt. That is not to say that there are not things of which I am certain. But my brain is still my brain, my soul my soul, and regardless of the outward (some might say extreme) changes of my life I am me. I don't know that I could ever be a fully contented child of any church (though of the Church, yes). And I don't know if that is the blessing of God or if it is the curse of my rebellion.

I am a catholic Christian. That also makes me, now, a Catholic Christian. Every Sunday I proclaim my justification by affirming the creeds. But like Bono, as far as a particular institution is concerned, I still haven't found what I'm looking for. What I long for is a blending of the best that is Catholic/Orthodox and Protestant. And I don't mean the via media of Anglicanism, though there is much that I find admirable there. One Body. And I want to be challenged - not with rote answers, but with the intellectual and theological struggle that I understand as signifying life.

I see the excellences and I am aware of the dangers. And it all makes me so transitional.

I rankle at others' certainty. Even the certainty of Luther or Calvin or Catholicism, perhaps especially their certainty. (Maybe not even so much the certainty as the militant certainty, the stridency.)

I wonder if Western thought has muddled theology, in general, by being insanely, definitively cataphatic. There is a time, people, to let off. To know that salvation is not in the knowing, but in the being known. There is a time to trade in the smallness of our orthodoxy for the affluence of our love. I am not against right teaching. Nevertheless, orthodoxy is not primarily a sword, but a salve.

Perhaps we should hold our authority as believers less as soldiers and more as parents or brothers or sisters. There is a time for discipline and correction and rebuke. But that lies within the greater context of love - love of God and love of neighbor.

And now I'm rambling.

I am hurt and I am confused by the hurt. I lash out to hurt others because I am hurting. I am like you and you and you. I am both lost and found. I am both now and not yet. And theological systems make me crazy.

Does that help you answer your questions? I hope it does. You know me because you know yourself. I only want the peace of Christ, a peace that cannot be found merely in the teaching of Christ but only within His person.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Duplo Angels

The Raccoon got a big box of Duplo blocks for his birthday. He's quite the engineer: He opens the box, lifts it as high as possible, and dumps all the blocks over his head and onto the floor. He then lies in the blocks and either swims through them or makes Duplo angels in them. I clean them up an hour later. He repeats the exercise, as often as he feels necessary.

I'm looking for the receipt.

This morning after creating an intricate and well-thought-out mess with the blocks, he got up, took off his diaper, walked into the girls' bedroom and peed on the floor - little urine Raccoon tracks exited the puddle, making quick work out of tracking him down.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Because I'm Feeling Ornery

Martin Luther said, " 'Justification by faith alone' is the doctrine on which the Church or individual stands or falls."

John Calvin said, " 'Justification by faith alone' is the hinge of the Reformation."

James the Lesser said, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Wake Up!

I overheard Anna badgering, "Wake up! It's not time for you to be asleep. You can sleep later. Right now, you're supposed to be awake!" And on it went. I almost mustered enough energy to go into the other room and tell her to let the yellow-haired child take a nap for goodness' sake.

But a minute later she found me and said, "How do you wake up your foot when it's asleep?"

I'm guessing the lecture didn't work.

Over the Hedge

A couple of weeks ago, I got a postcard in the mail from our old church advertising a three-week session on Catholicism - you know, how to talk with these misguided folks who live across the Reformational Hedge that separates our two properties. (Yes, that's right, I go to the Catholic Church next door to my old Protestant Church. A dense strip of coniferous and deciduous vegetation keeps them visibly separated. Denseness, in general, keeps them spiritually separated.) So on Saturday, I met with my former Pastor of Adult Ministries to discuss Catholicism. I would have preferred going out to a restaurant and having the discussion, but instead we met, very pastorally, in his office. This man has been influential in my life, please don't think I view him with anything other than respect - he's one of the godliest men I know and has taught me much. He's also nutty about Puritan writers, but someone has to be. Right?

So I sat down across from this giant of a man, my San Damiano Cross between chest and shirt, my Bible and notepad on the table in front of me. We opened with prayer and I told him of my journey to Catholicism.

On Sunday, he was going to present the difference in views between the Catholic and the Protestant way to get to heaven - a whole "Different Gospel" sort of presentation. He showed me his information - information that he said he got from a Catholic booklet forwarded by Cardinal O'Connor (God rest his soul).

It showed how Protestants base their entire lives of sanctification on their one-time declaration of justification. And how Catholics live their lives sacramentally, building and building upon their own righteousness until, hopefully, they end their lives with a declaration of justification from God.

This information was the heart of our discussion. What does justification mean to a Catholic? (Because we both know what it means to a Protestant.)

Frankly, he completely misreads the Church's view of justification. Yes, Catholics believe in infused righteousness (Christ actually makes us righteous). Yes, Protestants believe in imputed righteousness (Christ actually gives us His righteousness). These are theological terms that, in my opinion, obfuscate rather than illuminate our relationship with God. Both Catholics and Protestants believe in an admixture of infusion and imputation, regardless of what anyone might say. And to say that justification for a Catholic is simply an endgame issue is ridiculous. It is the foundation of our faith working through love - how could it be anything else? Faith is justification.

So here I am, telling him that I agree with so many of his statements on salvation and Christian living and that the Church agrees with them. And he is telling me that the Church does not agree with them.


He, just as my father-in-law did, tried to use fear to make me reconsider my decision: You will be fine, but what about your children? What is up with this kind of fear mongering? I asked him if he thought his church had taught his children the faith or if he and his wife had taught their children the faith? Me and my wife. Why, then, should my children be trained any differently - merely products of the Church's seeming unwillingness or inability to instruct adult parishioners? Even in Protestant churches one who knows his faith is one who is privately motivated.

This line of reasoning about my children, honestly, is incredibly offensive. As if your Protestant church could churn out a mature believer. As if.

Maturity is the work of the Spirit and of no man.

The other doubt he injected into the conversation was a lecture(?) on my being a stay-at-home dad. As if my not working has something to do with my reversion to Catholicism - idle hands are the devil's hands? Or as if my being at home is sinful in some way, thus opening up the door to further deception? I don't understand his point here. He also talked about the importance of a proper understanding of roles for my children at the ages they are in.


First, my being a stay-at-home dad has never been my choice. Second, I not only take care of my children but am currently quite busy with freelance work. Third, how dare you attack something that God is doing in my life and the life of my family?

Fear and doubt are the enemy. They have no part in a theological discussion, let alone within a relationship. In my opinion, a person who uses them in an argument is a person without an argument. At best.

The discussion led nowhere.

I remain a little frustrated, however, if you haven't noticed.

I am tired of being told what Catholicism teaches by Protestants who operate in open opposition to, if not hatred of, Catholicism. I am tired of being treated as a leper by former friends and family. I am God's servant and will be judged by God.

Here's my request: If you love me and my family, then love me and my family. Do not treat us differently because of a faith decision. Love us. For God's sake, love us. If you never did love us, walk away. I certainly do not need you hanging about making half-assed comments about me and my relationship to my Lord.

If you ain't got love, you ain't got squat.

A final thought on justification that I learned from Tom Wright. Many Catholics and Protestants would do well to learn from it: We are justified by faith. We are not justified by believing in justification by faith. Justification should be drawing us together, not pushing us apart.

Our faith, itself a gift, is the source and sign of our justification. I am justified because I believe. And you can know that I am justified because of that belief. That's the core. But faith was also never meant to be a gift bloated from malnutrition, but fat in its largess. It must walk with hope and love. Our faith should not be about essential belief but rather about the fullness of our belief. Why nibble at a table bowed under the weight of its richness?



On Thursday, our oldest turned seven.

On Sunday, our youngest turned two.

So we have been eating a lot of foods we normally don't eat: cupcakes, cake, pizza, ice cream, and Ben & Jerry's. The Ben & Jerry's was only eaten by my wife and I after the kids went to bed. It's expensive ice cream - why waste it on tiny, unappreciative palettes?

As parents do you ever stop expressing your incredulity at the development of your children? If so, I'd like to know. Because I'm continually knocked on my ass by it.