Wednesday, April 27, 2011

First Harvest, 2011

Here's Elijah holding the first harvest from our little garden--a cherry tomato.  Elijah loves home-grown tomatoes.  He was eager to convince me that this one was ready to harvest.  After the photo it went straight into his mouth--well, after a quick stop by the sink to be rinsed off. :)

We are in the midst of a severe drought here in southern Texas.  They say it's the worst in forty or fifty years.  We haven't had rain since January.  Thankfully our well is fine, so with regular watering, my garden is doing well. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lined Out English Psalm Singing

For the longest time I thought that lined-out singing was something only done in Gaelic , and in a handful of small American denominations--the Primitive Baptists, for instance, and some African-American groups, where it is also known as "Dr. Watts hymn singing".  I knew that the Scottish psalter had once been lined out, but thought that practice had died away long ago.

So, I was surprised to learn, recently, that a few Free Presbyterian congregations in the Highlands of Scotland still practice lined-out psalm singing in English.  The lining out is traditionally done, specifically, during communion table services (while approaching and sitting at the Lord's Table). 

For those who are unfamiliar with lined-out singing: lining out is the practice of having the precentor read or sing each line of a hymn or psalm, after which the congregation sings the same line to the appropriate tune.  The Westminster Assembly in the "Directory for the Publick Worship of God" suggested lining out as a solution for congregations where most were illiterate and could not read the psalm for themselves, or congregations with not enough psalters to go around.  Of course, Free Presbyterian congregations are literate and have plenty of psalters, but lining out is still done at some communion table services for the sake of those communicants who do not take a psalter with them to the table, and who do not yet have the usual psalms memorized.

(Apparently a very small but very vocal group of American Presbyterians think that lining out is the only appropriate way to sing the psalms--I think that argument is well refuted in this article by a Mr. Coldwell.)

I've recently been sent two recordings of lined out psalm singing in English that I thought I would share with you.  The first is a very nice older recording which I've come across more than once, and which you may have heard already.  This is Psalm 116 to Coleshill, lined out by precentor Calum Mackay, in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, Portree congregation.  This recording was made in the 1980s.

The second recording will have to wait till later in the week: a recording of lined-out psalm singing from another part of the world. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I got an unusual sort of love note from a certain little boy this morning...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jeshurun and Other Photos

I thought I would post a few pictures, including some of my little brother.  Hopefully he will forgive me. :)

Jesh has been working long hours these days.  His employers have been happy to put his skills and work ethic to good use by handing him more and more responsibilities!  They've had him traveling a bit in recent months, once to present a paper at a national conference, and several times to give presentations and attend meetings with a client in Mexico.  He's got more traveling planned for coming months, including a trip to Europe to present a paper at an international conference. 

When Jesh is not traveling for work, he is working late, usually not arriving home until well after dark.  But he still finds time to spend with my boys, reading to them and talking to them and teaching them things in an informal way.  Here he is just arrived home from work, reading a story to the boys.  (Jeshurun is not fond of having his picture taken, so he was grumbling "That isn't very nice," as I took this picture.)

You can tell the above photo is a few months old for a couple of reasons.  First of all, yes, that's a pacifier in Noah's hand.  The pacifier is no more.  Secondly, the photo was obviously taken before the last round of haircuts!  I cut Elijah's hair myself the old-fashioned way (with scissors), but Mercy (my sister) cut Noah's hair with her clippers.  I wasn't sure how Noah would feel about the clippers, but he didn't seem to mind them at all.  Here he is getting his hair cut.  (Please pardon the clutter.)

An "after" shot.  Isn't he handsome?

Jeshurun and Matthew (Mercy's stepson) just happened to be wearing matching shirts that evening, so I had to get a picture.  Mercy had just cut Jeshurun's hair as well as Noah's.  She cuts a lot of hair, including mine...which reminds me, I think it's about time for a chop! 

Monday, April 11, 2011


"But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" 1st John 3:17

By now we've all seen the heart-breaking images of the devastation caused by the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, which has a presbytery in Japan, has set up a Japan Relief Fund to assist the victims of this tragedy.

You may know that I attended a couple of RPCNA congregations in the past, one as a teenager, and another more recently, just before moving here to Texas.  I do have a few points of disagreement with the RPCNA church, but have fond memories of them just the same: the congregations I attended were warm and friendly, and taught basic Reformed doctrine; and I thought they did an especially good job of reaching and teaching those with little to no church background at all.  (I'll never forget their membership class--quite an interesting experience!)  Also, they do sing the Psalms!  ...though of course they use the "wrong" Psalter, in my humble opinion. :)

Anyway, of the various groups doing relief efforts in Japan, the RPCNA is the one that I have decided to support, because as far as I can tell they are the most like-minded, and have the resources and local connections to bring effective relief.

Donated funds go directly to the RP Japan presbytery, which has set up a relief committee, headed by a minister from Sendai (hardest hit by the tsunami). 

In case any of my readers were looking for a way to help, here is more information:
An RPCNA pastor's blog post about the Japan Relief Fund
For recent updates-- the RP's Japan Relief Fund Facebook page
To donate online--visit the RP Global Missions website
To donate via "snail mail"--write "Japan Relief Fund" on the memo line of your check or money order, and send it to:

RP Global Missions
3004 5th Ave.
Beaver Falls, PA 15010-3671

Friday, April 1, 2011

First tomatoes!

Over the past week, my tomato plants have started producing lots of baby tomatoes:

These are cherry tomatoes.  Looking back at last year's garden-related blog posts, I see that I have gotten a much earlier start this year--last year my tomatoes weren't even blooming till the end of April.  Hopefully this means I will get a good crop of tomatoes before the stink bugs show up (I haven't seen any yet).

(Is that sad, that I use my blog for record keeping?)

There's a story behind these tomatoes.  I was out one afternoon when I got a call from Jeshurun.  He told me that a friend was getting rid of some unwanted tomato plants, and asked if I would like him to claim some for me.  "Sure," I said, picturing a plant or two, or maybe a tray with six plants.  Well, I got home to find that Jesh had brought not one, not two, not six, but fourteen tomato plants!  And various seed packets and onion starts as well.

Well this was wonderful of course, except that I didn't actually have enough garden space for all of it.  I grumbled about this a bit.
Jesh said "Well, just dig up another bed, right there."  He pointed. 
"Easier said than done," I grumbled some more.
Jesh, being a "Get it done" sort of person, strode to the appropriate point and stuck the shovel into the ground.  "Oh wow," he said as he turned over a shovelful of stiff, sticky, heavy clay, "this soil isn't very good, is it?"

A memory from the previous spring popped into my head.  I was hacking and stabbing at rock-hard dried clumps of soil with the shovel, trying to break them apart.  Some of the clumps were so hard, they might as well have been chunks of concrete.  In fact, some of them *were* chunks of concrete (left over from the construction of our house, I suppose).  The problem was, I was never sure which I had--a chunk of dried soil or a chunk of concrete--until I had been hacking at it with the shovel for a couple of minutes.  The difference was not obvious.

"No, it's not very good," I agreed with Jesh.

(Thankfully, the beds I dug up last year are much better this year, perhaps due to the addition of peat moss, compost, etc.)

Jesh finished digging up a 4' by 4' bed for me, and with that, after some clump-hacking, I was able to get all of the tomatoes planted, along with a few carrots, beans, onions, and basil.

I'd still like to plant some hot peppers and some okra, but that will entail more digging and clump-hacking, so it might be a while before I get it all done.