Monday, February 22, 2010

A Hymn for the First Sunday of the Lenten Season

We've been in a blogging drought, but I'm hoping this season of reflection inspires me to write more. (Gaines, though not entirely lost to the internets, has way too much reading for school this semester. But one can hope.) Maybe he'll link to something lighthearted like Rock Sugar. Anyway, on to the meaty stuff I've been mulling over this week.

Last Wednesday night I attended an Ash Wednesday service at Gaines' grandmother's church. The Hueytown United Methodist church happens to be one of my favorite sanctuaries because it is circular, just like Yielding Chapel, which my fellow BSC alumni may also remember fondly. In a circular sanctuary the entire congregation can see each other. You are reminded that everyone -- choir and congregants alike -- are participants in the service. You can see everyone singing. You can see the toddlers and the kids and the adults and the babies and the elderly all joining in together during the responsive reading. Everyone is on the same level except the minister, whose podium is elevated. I like this because it elevates the preaching of the Word, while still focusing on the Table in the center, which reminds us of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Marva Dawn, in her book Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, describes how Christ should be both the subject and the object of our worship. There are many ways to emphasize this in the service, but I think that the layout of the sanctuary certainly helps, especially if it reminds us that we are participants in worship and that our worship is directed toward the Lord. It helps take away that whole stage mentality. But I digress.

The other important thing to remember about a circular sanctuary is that everyone can see everyone else. They can see your cute baby. They can see your cute baby when he's crying. They can see your cute baby when he bonks his head trying to crawl under a pew. And they can see when you're the one whose phone goes off -- twice -- during the scripture reading and you can't figure out how to turn it off -- twice. Also, circular sanctuaries make it really easy to hear everything, like when your almost three-year old comes up to the altar for the "Imposition of Ashes" and proclaims, "I don't want a cross on my head!"

Thank goodness no one seemed to mind. They were nice to this visiting mom of two and even were gracious when I had to trade off kids halfway through -- I went back to the nursery to leave Ethan and ended up bringing back a clingy, sick Jacob, who mostly sat on my lap. Surprisingly, he paid attention to even the message, because when the minister repeatedly talked about how the ashes were made from last year's Palm Sunday branches, Jacob asked me, "Where are the palm trees, Mommy?"

One of the highlights of the service for me was singing this hymn, a children's hymn. I'd never heard it before, but was grateful for the words as I help my youngest in my arms and thought about how much I am in need of a reminder, especially in this season, to die to self and hope only in Christ. I thought some of you might appreciate it as well.

"Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days"
Words: Clau­dia F. Her­na­man, Child’s Book of Praise; A Man­u­al of De­vo­tion in Sim­ple Verse, 1873.
Music: St. Fla­vi­an, Day’s Psal­ter, 1563

Lord, who throughout these forty days
For us didst fast and pray,
Teach us with Thee to mourn our sins
And close by Thee to stay.

As Thou with Satan didst contend,
And didst the victory win,
O give us strength in Thee to fight,
In Thee to conquer sin.

As Thou didst hunger bear, and thirst,
So teach us, gracious Lord,
To die to self, and chiefly live
By Thy most holy Word.

And through these days of penitence,
And through Thy passiontide,
Yea, evermore in life and death,
Jesus, with us abide.

Abide with us, that so, this life
Of suffering over past,
An Easter of unending joy
We may attain at last.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Beginning of the End

How much will we even see of these dudes this season?

With much fanfare and anticipation, mixed with a little angst, the final season of LOST is now upon us. Allison and I have finished our re-watch of Season Five, including all the cool DVD bonus features. I think we are ready. I hope we are ready.

As far as predictions for the new season go: it just dawned on me that the premiere is on Groundhog Day. (Aside -- thanks to Gen. Beauregard Lee for not seeing his shadow!) So maybe each episode this season will start with the crash of Flight 815 and feature all the wacky things that could have been.


Seriously, I've given up on making too many predictions about LOST, since the show keeps surprising me. Each new season takes the show in an unexpected direction, and the overall result is simply fantastic. I'm just going to enjoy the ride.

Also, just in time for the premiere, the Sky1 channel in the UK commissioned the always-excellent Reduced Shakespeare Company to distill five seasons of LOST into ten minutes of awesome: LOST REDUCED.

Update: It just dawned on me that LOST isn't the first show to end a season finale with a nuclear detonation* -- Sledge Hammer! ended it's first season with an atomic blast. I'm going to trust that LOST's writers know what they're doing, and haven't used Sledge Hammer! as a prototype for resolving their own story arc!

(*Disclaimer: Okay, I assume that Season Five ended with a detonation, but things on LOST are rarely as they seem.)


Monday, February 01, 2010

Product Review: Puj Baby Bathtub

When I was pregnant with our second son, I got into all these cool baby items that were coming out on the market, one of which is the PUJ baby bathtub.

Last fall, I signed up to be a product tester and wouldn't you know, the tub arrived in the mail right before we moved. So, this review is a little late in coming. But better late than never, right?

I've liked the look of this bathtub since I first heard about it in 2008. Back then, though, it was way more expensive ($99) and didn't seem to be a necessity since we already had a clunky blue plastic bathtub that worked fine. Well, I might've been mistaken. The PUJ is one of the most unique baby bath tubs I've ever seen and would be a great addition to any new mom's wishlist.

Since my two boys are too big for this (can be used up to 6 months), I tried it out with a doll and also had another friend try it out with her baby.

  • The Puj tub stores easily. It arrived in a large, lightweight, flat box, and is only about an inch thick. You can hang it on the back of a door, like I did here, or you could slide it in a linen closet or even hang it on the wall of the shower.

  • The Puj tub is easy to maneuver -- no assembly required. Once I figured out which way the flaps folded, it stayed securely in place with magnets (which are safely covered). The design is deceptively simple.

  • The Puj tub cleans quickly and effortlessly. I wiped mine down after use and let it hang to dry. There is no drain plug to get clogged or dirty and no place for standing water to collect.

  • The Puj tub let me wash an infant securely. When using the tub, I felt like the baby was safer than in the infant tub/sling I used when my sons were newborns, because in the Puj there was no danger of them being covered by water. Also, it fits nicely in our bathroom sink and doesn't slide out or tilt at odd angles like my other tub did.

  • You can't use it with babies who are older than six months. Seriously! I liked it that much! I suppose at that point babies are too big and wiggly anyway and want to sit up, but it sure would be nice if I could just plop my toddler in something like this!

  • The only drawback I noticed is with an older baby who likes to grab things, the close proximity of the faucet might be a distraction.

  • The tub might not fit every sink or be right for every baby. In my friend's review, she thought that, "Overall, it is a very cool idea, but didn't work out well for my baby. He enjoys bath time when he's immersed in the warm water, but the Pujtub wasn't big enough to immerse him - so we'll have to stick to our bulky plastic bathtub." I hadn't thought of that perspective before, so perhaps that is another drawback.

    Still, I think the benefits of being able to quickly and safely wash a newborn in a tub that fits almost every sink would've been great for all the travelling we did when our boys were little. The Puj tub packs light, dries quickly and easily, and seems to be a unique invention. They are now only $39.99.

    Check out the Puj Tub for yourself at Puj's exclusive new website for baby bath tubs!

    Giving Back:
    Though this is not a reason to buy the tub, I did notice that right now 10% of their sales are going Save the Children in Haiti.