I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How do things get their names? Part I

Delores E. Topliff

For this post, I’ll focus on the origination of some American auto brands. Their names are often linked to their inventor or developer. Henry Ford may be the best-known example. However, the Edsel, named for his only son, was intended to be a successful separate brand but appeared during a recession and is now remembered as the term for a project or idea that failed.

Scottish-born Detroit-based inventor, David Buick, founded his Buick Motor Car Co. in 1903. His cars benefitted from the overhead valve engine he invented, a major improvement still with us.

Cadillacs are named after Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac, the French nobleman who founded Detroit in 1703.

Industrialist William Durant developed General Motors and named the Chevrolet for a popular, fearless Swiss race driver involved with his organization for a time. Besides, he liked the ring of the name.

Pontiacs were produced by the Pontiac Buggy Co., originally a horseless carriage manufacturer, and named for a renowned Great Lakes area Ottawa Indian war chief.

Lincoln Motors was founded in 1917 by Henry Leland. An engineer, Leland named his car and company after Abraham Lincoln, the first presidential candidate for whom he ever voted (in 1864).

There are enough car makes and models for a l-o-n-g list, so before this puts you to sleep, take a look in your garage? Did the name of a make or model name influence your purchase? (I hope not. Mine is a Nissan Rogue).

One Freshman English textbook contains a great essay teaching classification through matching cars to people’s stations in life. If they could afford them, young men drove fast, racy sport cars. Young marrieds moved up to coupes or sedans, and families expanded into station wagons or vans. My mid-size SUV matches my happy stage of life and is great for projects and grandkids

If you invented and sold a new car or model, how would you choose a a name? Would you emphasize the maker? Or its traits? Names that might be true but should not be used include, Guzzler, Beast, Auto Loan, Budget Breaker, Mortgaged to the Hilt, Mechanic’s Nightmare. Attractive names that exist or have existed include, Runabout, Wind, Zephyr, Voyageur, Nomad, Mountaineer, and many more. 

Now, please tell us about the best car you’ve ever owned, or name the future car of your dreams. Happy driving, and have fun!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Art of Brevity

 by Teri Smith

William Shakespeare once said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”  Many other writers have advised us to keep our writing concise because no one enjoys slogging through many words for a nugget of a thought.

Sometimes after church, I review my notes for a “sentence sermon”. Here are a few examples from my recent notes:

“God says to you: There’s nothing you can do to surprise me.”

“Man keeps trying to make heaven on earth, but there’s only one heaven.”

“If there were no Jesus, we would just be humans longing for Him.”

I enjoy single, pithy sentences like these because the concept stays with me longer.

For similar reasons, writing teachers encourage their students to keep their writing concise.

James Scott Bell in his book, How to Write Dazzling Dialogue, encourages writes to “cut dialogue to the bone.”   

I’m astonished how applying that one piece of advice makes dialogue flow. If you add tension between characters within the dialogue, it sizzles.

Even high school English teachers caution their students to exchange weak verbs coupled with adverbs for a single strong verb. (Or at least they should!) For example, change “walked quickly” to “strode”. 

The Elements of Style, a classic book first published in 1918, remains one of best expositions on writing.  The author advises us to not overwrite, to avoid fancy words, and to not use two words when one will do.

So whether you’re speaking or writing, Shakespeare’s advice still stands. Boil it down to one word: brevity.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Antique or Classic? What makes the difference?

Delores E. Topliff

The word antique, from the Latin antiquus meaning old or ancient, describes collectible items usually at least 100 years old. They are desirable because of age, beauty, rarity, condition, personal or emotional connection, and/or other unique features. Representing earlier times, they show high-quality craftsmanship or skilled attention to design, and are usually found in antique shops, estate sales, online auctions, barns, old buildings, or may be inherited.

Classics earn their label when over time they are judged to be outstanding and of the highest quality, whether describing a classic novel, other literature, music, or classic cars, etc. To me classic also means something so well done, it can't be improved on, à la Dickens, Shakespeare, Rembrandt, the King James Bible, etc.

I had fun last week attending a public library event featuring Mark Moran, an antique appraiser often on the American T.V. program, Antiques Roadshow, described as “part adventure, part history, and part treasure hunt”. Appraisers like Moran are experts at finding the current value of objects and often, the fascinating stories behind them. I took a chair that was already an antique when given to me at my wedding many years ago. It is a well-made “Continental Hall Chair” with an ornate inlaid wood design in the seat, still showing original color. Moran says it was made in Germany or Austria in the 1880s, and displays nicely turned “Barley Twist” legs. 

Its value? The price of many antiques has dropped to about half of what they were even ten years ago because of changing popular tastes. Values are also affected by the availability of many well-made modern reproductions, which lower interest in authentic antiques. My chair, worth $400 a few years ago, would do well to bring $200 now. No, thank you—I’ll keep it and enjoy it myself. (Pictures of Moran and my chair are provided).
I learned there are both classic and antique cars, though the latter are not yet quite 100 years old. See this photo of a darling 1925 antique Ford Model T pickup owned in Minnesota by the same family for 71 years. Asking price? $10,950.  

It seems that in writing, art, music, and life, labels and values may change according to popular tastes and opinions. Even styles revered for centuries may fall and be replaced. I believe that objects or projects created and executed with excellence deserve to achieve and retain classic status. It seems the best guarantee for that is for artists, writers, musicians, and craftsmen, to create to conceive and achieve our very best so that its unique beauty is recognized and long remembered in the eyes of its beholders.

Your turn. What antique or classic possession do you own or love? What work of art or literature do you believe deserves a lasting permanent place high on the list of acclaimed and valued classics?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Crumbling Foundations

The Leaning Tower of Pisa demonstrates in a most infamous way what can happen when the foundation is inadequate. The tilt began while it was still under construction due to the ground being too soft on one side.

But I'm concerned about another type of foundation that seems to be crumbling in our society. The foundation of truth, honesty, what is right and wrong.

In our world, we can't even agree if there is a right and wrong. "It's how you feel about it," they say. Well, here's how I feel about it: if there's no right and wrong, then is that statement right--or wrong? Obviously we have a logical fallacy driving that sentiment.

But with mass murders, religious jihads, folks confused as to what gender they are, political disarray, abortions, greed, and other ugly traits squeezing the life out of our society, surely we can agree that some of our foundations are crumbling.

And that's not even touching some of the enemies of our country who would love to see us fail because of our national debt or other foreign meddling in our affairs.

King David asked in Psalm 11:3, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" I think we need to take note of this question for our nation, our homes, and our personal lives.

Now just so you don't think I'm all gloom-and-doom, the Bible also tells us that we who believe in Jesus Christ have been built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. That's a foundation we can count on 100%.

What do you think we can do make sure our foundations are strong?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

There are fascinating origins behind most nursery rhymes.

Delores E. Topliff
I love discovering the history and origins behind most common nursery rhymes that bring added details on the life and times of real people and events. Children may singsong these easily memorized words and tunes on playgrounds which adults could noy openly say then for fear of punishment.

For example, some believe Rockabye Baby in the Treetops, dated to 1765, concerns the newborn son of King James II of England and Mary of Modena, Italy, who many believed was not their son but a child brought in and presented as theirs to insure a Catholic heir to the throne.

Goosey, Goosey Gander, dates to 1784 and involves religious persecution in the days when Catholic priests hid to say Latin prayers prohibited even in the privacy of home. In the original version, the narrator discovers an old man “who wouldn’t say his prayers. So I took him by his left leg. And threw him down the stairs.”

Three Blind Mice (1805) is thought to speak of “Bloody Mary” with the three mice representing three Protestant bishops Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Radley, and The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer who conspired to overthrow her rule and were burned at the stake for heresy. Their blindness describes the religious beliefs banned in her kingdom.

There are many more but lets return to modern times. The Bible instructs us to pray for our leaders and trust God to promote or remove them, but we often make comments about various leaders shown on national currencies, or the faces of presidents that should or should not be carved on America’s Mt. Rushmore.

I wonder what  nursery rhymes will arise from our times. I would not want to wear the shoes or bear the responsibilities of elected officials, but without being cruel or criminal, is there a catchy phrase you’ve heard or thought of concerning a current world leader or event? Also feel welcome to share an honoring phrase that fits real people and times.

In fact, I think I’ll spend the rest of today trying to coine up with one and share it next time. I hope you’ll join me.

Some credit to The Dark Origins of 11 Classic Nursery Rhymes, Jennifer M. Wood, http://mentalfloss.com/article/55035/dark-origins-11-classic-nursery-rhymes

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hot topic: Hymns!

What?? How could something so gentle and sweet as a hymn be controversial?

After all, no one can deny that the Bible promotes singing and making melody in our hearts. David wrote hundreds of Psalms meant to be sung. The disciples sang a hymn with the Lord at the Last Supper. Paul and Silas even lifted a tune in while in prison!

But I've met some folks who think hymns written  less than 50 years ago just aren't right. Some may even insist on going back 100 years.

Well, I have to admit I do love some of the old hymns like the one in the picture. I can sing that one and "Amazing Grace" at the top of my lungs...unless the words really get to me. Then I reach for a Kleenex and wipe away a few tears. And don't get me started on "Holy, Holy, Holy" or "Just as I am".

But do we really need these new, modern hymns? Well, certainly not if they're accompanied by drums! (Just kidding! I need a little help with the beat.)

So why should anyone write a new hymn? Don't we have enough? No, we never will have "enough" hymns. As long as the love of the Lord Jesus inspires the hearts of His people, we will never have too many. In fact, if there are no new hymns, I think it would grieve the heart of our Savior...as though His love no longer inspires our hearts.

As much as I enjoy both the new and the old hymns, I do look forward to one hymn in particular. "And they sang a new song, saying 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'" (Revelation 5:9)

Now that's a choir I look forward too! And no one there will object to the tune or the rhythm.

What are some of your favorite hymns or spiritual songs? Do you have favorite Christian artists?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Funny Things Happen on our way to Written English - “Though the written word may stay you, the spoken word can slay you.”

Delores E. Topliff
If the above words aren’t already a famous quotation, they should be, since correct word pronunciation often trips us up. I remember being a dreamy sixth grader who loved practicing new words. One morning as I looked at the sunrise through our classroom window, I described, “winter’s roseate dawn!”
       My longsuffering teacher patted my curly head and said, “You’re been eating Coleridge’s poppies and honey-dew.” I didn’t know what she meant, but continued repeating and reusing any word I loved until I wore it (and my hearers) out. I ran into trouble though by learning words through sounding them out if I didn’t know how they were said. I once waved a hand and described something as “gigantic” using hard “g” sounds. When no one responded, I assumed they hadn’t heard me so repeated “gigantic” even louder with stronger hard “g” sounds.
         “Oh, you mean ‘gigantic’ like the word ‘giant’!” someone hooted. My face burned with shame as I noted that word, but I still have to stop and think each time I say it in public.
That experience made me sympathize when a bright college freshman I taught years later had also learned words based on how they look instead of how they sound. Kathy had written her essay on “Origins of the English Language” and confidently shared it out loud. Describing England’s transition from speaking English to French after 1066 she had written, “King Edward the Confessor died without an heir” but we heard her say, “died without a hair.” We swallowed our smiles as she continued. “And that’s why William of Normandy came to ‘press his suit.” That’s when we lost it and roared as we pictured a bald-headed man standing at an ironing board pressing his royal robe. She became a gifted writer and speaker, but that day we all learned a lesson in taking greater care to pronounce words by how they truly sound, not by how they appear
          For me, others words easy to stumble over include yacht, colonel, isthmus, aluminum, and Worcestershire.
I’m sorry for non-English speakers who have to learn our language and figure out our words and phrases that do sound quite different from how they appear.
What words challenge you or turn your face red as you mispronounce them? What tips can you share to make learning new words more manageable? 

Monday, March 20, 2017

What Can A Person do if Justice is Delayed?

What would a hot shot TV crime reporter do if her own sister was murdered? What if the convicted killer sat in jail with his execution date hovering over Reporter Andi Hollister's days?

Most of all, how would Andi react if a letter surfaced proving that the man was innocent?

Could anyone find a detective who would go far enough to find out the truth...and do it before the wrong person is executed!

My friend, Patricia Bradley, has written an excellent romantic suspense book with all these elements! Throw in some diamond smuggling, a murder, and the clock ticking on the possible innocent man's life, and you'll have a story that not only keeps you from putting it down, but also one that you'll think about long after you read it.

You can find a copy of Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley at Amazon, Christianbook.com, and Barnes & Noble.

Let me know if you read it! We'd love to know what you think!

--by Teri Smith

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Southern Exposure

                                                                               Delores E. Topliff
Today I finish three months of great Southern living 860 miles south of Minnesota where when temperatures dropped to -26 northern Mississippi dipped to 23 above but rose to 71 in a few days.

I used to be amused by people who became snowbirds but find now I am one. It’s been a heartwarming and pain-free culture change. Mine has been better by having several good friends here whose many friends instantly become mine. Many things have made my first winter in southern climes truly enjoyable.

Here when you meet people for the first time instead of asking where you live or where you work, they ask, “Where do you go to church?” 

Some say this genteel town is like TV’s Mayberry, U.S.A. So far, I agree.

Southern warmth, hospitality, gentility, good manners, Christian spirit, and more are measurable here. My neighbors have brought cookies, quiche, and the best homemade pecan pie I’ve ever eaten—and teach me how to pronounce words with Southern flair. Even Walmart’s staff and clients are modestly dressed, well-behaved, and patient—far different from the frazzled super-centers I try not to frequent up north, especially after dark. In December, clerks and shoppers only said Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays, and horns don't even honk in traffic.

This friendly neighborhood is blessedly quiet and peaceful. At night, the back windows of this home face the lovely stained glass windows of a Baptist Church two blocks away with its large white lit cross.

Though it’s not yet officially spring, warm temperatures already make daffodils, forsythia, gardenias, and all fruit trees burst open in beautiful colorful blooms. Here are pear blossoms from my back yard. The pollen count is high but songbirds are singing. I head back north today with wonderful memories to eagerly return come fall seeking more Southern exposure.

Who knows—in time I may even acquire a little genuine Southern drawl.