Terri Kraus

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

100 Most Beautiful Words

#7   blandiloquent
Beautiful and flattering.

#8   caliginous
Dark and misty.

Meditation:  Prayer When Words Don’t Come, George Matheson (Scotland/1842—1906)

O my Father, I have moments of deep unrest—moments when I know not what to ask by reason of the very excess of my wants.  I have in these hours no words for Thee, no conscious prayers for Thee.  My cry seems purely worldly; I want only the wings of a dove that I may flee away.  Yet all the time Thou hast accepted my unrest as a prayer.  Thou hast interpreted its cry for a dove’s wings as a cry for Thee.  Thou hast received the nameless longings of my heart as the intercessions of Thy Spirit.  They are not yet the intercessions of my spirit; I know not what to ask.  But Thou knowest what I ask, O my God.  Thou knowest the name of that need which lies beneath my speechless groan . . . Thou knowest that because I am made in Thine image I can find rest only in what gives rest to Thee; therefore Thou has counted my unrest unto me for righteousness, and has called my groaning Thy Spirit’s prayer.

Book Review:  The Help, by Kathleen Stockett

From the cover:
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. 
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
 Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. 
My review:
With great humor and compassion, Stockett gives us a very intimate, compelling look at southern life in Jackson, Mississippi during the tumultuous 60’s, narrated by a privileged white woman and two black maids—“the help.”  From these two perspectives, we see the relationships between white people, between black people, and between white and black close-up, at a time in which smothering social/racial rules existed.  These rules are about to be broken, but not without cost, and we are caught up in the suspense as we anxiously anticipate what will happen when barriers are crossed and conventions challenged.  This book is heartbreaking, funny, eye-opening, and completely absorbing.  I could barely put it down.  The main characters are so endearing, we come to ache for their struggle, while we come to detest some of the characters around them as their hypocrisy, fear, racism and dishonesty are exposed, and at the same time we’re made to understand how they are products of their environment. The writing is superb, skillfully capturing the essence of the life, language and culture of both the white and black communities. You will find yourself completely engaged in the unique setting and swept up in the story.  I highly recommend this book.  Another great choice for book club discussion.

Quotes:  Walter Wangerin, Jr.
O, Christ!  When you died, you broke the wall that divided us from God; you struck it, you cracked it; you tore it apart—you made a door of that which had been death before.
Quotes:  Wendell Berry
We clasp the hands for those that go before us,
And the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other's arms
And the larger circle of lovers,
Whose hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures,
Passing in and out of life,
Who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it
Except in fragments.

Sermon Snips:  The Manifold Wisdom of God—Matt Chandler, Sr. Pastor, The Village Church, Highland Village (Dallas), Texas

…So what we want to do here week in and week out is very, very simple. We want to teach the gospel. So what’s the gospel? I think sin, when all is said and done, although it’s viewed very negatively, is really a good thing. Let me you why. Sin gives you framework for why it’s not working. Let me give you some examples of sin that are kind of unorthodox. You’ve got, “Okay, killing someone is a sin,” or “I get the Ten Commandments. Those are sin,” but here’s what I would tell you. Sin is really you taking anything other than God and making it ultimate. If you make anything other than God ultimate in your life, you’re going to eventually be dashed on the rocks. Let me give you some examples.
Yesterday I was in my office working when my five year old daughter ran in. She was just beaming going, “Look! Look! Look!” She has her first loose tooth, so she’s showing it off. So I play with her little loose tooth in my office. And it would be so easy for me to take my daughter, take my son and make to make them ultimate in my life. But here’s what happens if they become ultimate. If they become ultimate then my identity is built on what happens with them. What happens if one day they just turn their back and walk away? I get dashed on the rocks.
…So what’s going to happen when they leave and they start their family? Well now I have no identity anymore. I love my wife. I way out-punted my coverage. I have a very, very beautiful wife who is fun and brilliant and one of my best friends. But women make horrible gods. They can’t fulfill, they can’t sustain, they can’t transform. Husbands make horrible, horrible gods. But here’s what I would tell you. If you’re tying to make your husband your god and he doesn’t fulfill you and he doesn’t satisfy you, the sin is yours, not his. He is not God. To find your fulfillment or even seek it in him is in the end preparing you to be dashed on the rocks.
So take money, take your career, take any good thing and make it ultimate. It’s just a matter of time before it betrays you. Not only that, but you’ve got to become very insecure and very manipulative and very greedy because you have to protect your god. So anytime somebody flirts with your spouse or anytime your kids look bad or anytime you get demoted or anytime somebody gets promoted above you, there are these things that happen, jealousy, anger, bitterness, rage. Why? Because your identity is in temporary things that will always fail you. That’s what’s gone wrong. That’s why it’s not working. And not only that, it’s a blatant offense to God on High, who has created you to worship and love Him, to make Him ultimate. And when that happens, it just works. Because now I’m not putting a weight on my wife that’s unbearable. Now I’m not putting a weight on my children that’s unbearable. Now I’m not making more of my job than what it is. Now money doesn’t define me anymore; I get to give it away. Power doesn’t define me; I get to use my power for good, for the glory and kingdom of God. This what happens, you just get free.
There’s a difference between religion and the gospel. Religion would say that God accepts me because I do; the gospel says God accepts me because of what Christ did. That’s why we celebrate the cross. It’s the wrath absorbing work of God that forgives us. That’s why it’s such a weird thing to watch Christians boast. They have nothing to boast in. I’ve heard people say that Christians are more moral. That has not been my experience. I have met many a pagan who are more moral and better people than some Christians, which makes sense because when you come to Jesus, you come all busted up and He starts sanctifying you over a period of time. This is the gospel.
…This is the gospel, it’s what we want to teach here. Week in, week out, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, the cross of Christ. What you’re about to see is men and women show this to you by being buried with Christ and resurrected. He’s making Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteous, perfect life of Christ. What an exchange.

About Books:
While readers are stampeding to buy Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol, the critics of his writing are no less harsh than they’ve been about his last two books.  I think you will enjoy the humor in the following from an article in the British publication, The Telegraph by Tom Chivers:

The Lost Symbol and The DaVinci Code author Dan Brown’s 20 worst sentences
…Edinburgh professor of linguistics Geoffrey Pullum says, “Brown's writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.” He picks out some excerpts for special criticism. The female lead in Angels and Demons learns of the death of her scientist father: “Genius, she thought. My father . . . Dad. Dead.” A member of the Vatican Guard in the same book becomes annoyed by something, and we learn that "his eyes went white, like a shark about to attack."
Below we have selected 20 phrases that may grate on the ear. It’s not a definitive list. It couldn’t be: he has published five novels, each around 500 pages long, and the arguments over which are the worst bits will go on for a while. But it’s our list. Add your own in the comment box below.

20. Angels and Demons, chapter 1: Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-year-old Langdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an ‘erudite’ appeal — wisp of gray in his thick brown hair, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete.
They say the first rule of fiction is “show, don’t tell”. This fails that rule.

19. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 83: "The Knights Templar were warriors," Teabing reminded, the sound of his aluminum crutches echoing in this reverberant space.
“Remind” is a transitive verb – you need to remind someone of something. You can’t just remind. And if the crutches echo, we know the space is reverberant.

18. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: He could taste the familiar tang of museum air - an arid, deionized essence that carried a faint hint of carbon - the product of industrial, coal-filter dehumidifiers that ran around the clock to counteract the corrosive carbon dioxide exhaled by visitors.
Ah, that familiar tang of deionised essence.

17. Deception Point, chapter 8: Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes.
It’s not clear what Brown thinks ‘precarious’ means here.

16. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move." On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly. Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.
A silhouette with white hair and pink irises stood chillingly close but 15 feet away. What’s wrong with this picture?

15. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: As a boy, Langdon had fallen down an abandoned well shaft and almost died treading water in the narrow space for hours before being rescued. Since then, he'd suffered a haunting phobia of enclosed spaces - elevators, subways, squash courts.
Other enclosed spaces include toilet cubicles, phone boxes and dog kennels.

14. Angels and Demons, chapter 100: Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers glorified the four major rivers of the Old World - The Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Rio Plata.
The Rio de la Plata. Between Argentina and Uruguay. One of the major rivers of the Old World. Apparently.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 5: Only those with a keen eye would notice his 14-karat gold bishop's ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds, and hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliqué.
A keen eye indeed.

13 and 12. The Lost Symbol, chapter 1: He was sitting all alone in the enormous cabin of a Falcon 2000EX corporate jet as it bounced its way through turbulence. In the background, the dual Pratt & Whitney engines hummed evenly.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 17: Yanking his Manurhin MR-93 revolver from his shoulder holster, the captain dashed out of the office.
Oh – the Falcon 2000EX with the Pratt & Whitneys? And the Manurhin MR-93? Not the MR-92? You’re sure? Thanks.

11. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: Captain Bezu Fache carried himself like an angry ox, with his wide shoulders thrown back and his chin tucked hard into his chest. His dark hair was slicked back with oil, accentuating an arrow-like widow's peak that divided his jutting brow and preceded him like the prow of a battleship. As he advanced, his dark eyes seemed to scorch the earth before him, radiating a fiery clarity that forecast his reputation for unblinking severity in all matters.
Do angry oxen throw their shoulders back and tuck their chins into their chest? What precisely is a fiery clarity and how does it forecast anything? Once again, it is not clear whether Brown knows what ‘forecast’ means.

10. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: Five months ago, the kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still reeling from the blow.
Did they hit him with the kaleidoscope?

9. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 32: The vehicle was easily the smallest car Langdon had ever seen. "SmartCar," she said. "A hundred kilometers to the liter."
Pro tip: when fleeing from the police, take a moment to boast about your getaway vehicle’s fuel efficiency. And get it wrong by a factor of five. SmartCars do about 20km (12 miles) to the litre.

8. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 3: My French stinks, Langdon thought, but my zodiac iconography is pretty good.
And they say the schools are dumbing down.

7 and 6. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 33: Pulling back the sleeve of his jacket, he checked his watch - a vintage, collector's-edition Mickey Mouse wristwatch that had been a gift from his parents on his tenth birthday.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 6: His last correspondence from Vittoria had been in December - a postcard saying she was headed to the Java Sea to continue her research in entanglement physics... something about using satellites to track manta ray migrations.
In the words of Professor Pullum: “It has the ring of utter ineptitude. The details have no relevance to what is being narrated.”

5. Angels and Demons, chapter 4: learning the ropes in the trenches
Learning the ropes (of a naval ship) while in the trenches (with the army in the First World War). It’s a military education, certainly.

4, 3, and 2. The Da Vinci Code, opening sentence: Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery.

Angels and Demons, opening sentence: Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.

Deception Point, opening sentences: Death, in this forsaken place, could come in countless forms. Geologist Charles Brophy had endured the savage splendor of this terrain for years, and yet nothing could prepare him for a fate as barbarous and unnatural as the one about to befall him.
Professor Pullum: "Renowned author Dan Brown staggered through his formulaic opening sentence".

1. The Da Vinci Code: Title. The Da Vinci Code.
Leonardo’s surname was not Da Vinci. He was from Vinci, or of Vinci. As many critics have pointed out, calling it The Da Vinci Code is like saying Mr Of Arabia or asking What Would Of Nazareth Do?

Psalm 13:5-6

But I trust in your unfailing love.  
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.

Psalm 107:33-35

He changes rivers into deserts,
and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.
He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands,
because of the wickedness of those who live there.
But he also turns deserts into pools of water,
the dry land into springs of water.


  1. I JUST had a friend recommend the book "The Help". Thanks for a great review. It is next on my must read list. I also loved the scripture and the bad Brown sentences!

    I am not sure how to work the "Comment as" part so this is Carolyn Switalski

  2. My earnest prayer is that Professor Pullam of Edinburgh never get hold of a copy of my book! I'm not sure any writer could withstand that.

    A "favorite" sentence from THE SHACK: "Mack inhaled the visual symphony." (I picture him snorfing up the brass section.)

  3. Once again you have hunted down beautiful words, caught them, and served us a gourmet meal. Thank you. Last week, I read "Listening for God by Renita Weems: A Minister's Journey Through Silence and Doubt". A truly remarkable, honest, offering from a gifted writer. But my best words come from an article, I read by Ms. Weems in Essence Magazine a few years ago "Sanctified and Suffering"

    When I am tempted to doubt myself
    and question my gifts and experience,
    remind me, God, of all that I know,
    and those things that I don’t know that I know.
    Remind me who I am, and whose I am.
    Even when I hide behind my piety
    to avoid doing what must be done,
    and use you as an excuse for indecision, for lack of action, for silencing myself.
    Love me enough to lift the lid off my basket,
    And order me to stop crouching in the dark,
    like a woman without a God.