March/April Issue


Welcome, Eleanor!

We're thrilled to welcome little Eleanor Oliva to The 12 family. She was born on April 3, 2014, to contributer Theresa Latini. (Hopefully Eleanor will make an appearance or two in future posts from Theresa.) 



From James C. Schaap for Theresa Latini

Congratulations to Theresa Latini, blogger-extraordinaire, who gave birth to Eleanor Olivia on April 3! Please remember Theresa and Eleanor in your prayers. Filling in today for Theresa is a familiar voice, James Calvin Schaap. Thanks, Jim.

We weren't poor. Shoot, we were well off, but when we moved to Iowa long, long ago, we needed furniture and somehow--I don't know how--I got into refinishing old stuff, old stuff we'd pick up at auctions and an occasional antique store. Oak stuff--you know, the people's wood, the wood that won the west.

We're moving again, the house is littered with boxes, a goodly number of them open and gaping. We're both a little edgy because moving is not a happy job and we're now of the age that even minor impediments to daily ritual can be emotionally upsetting, you know. When I was a kid, people my age were just plain old and almost always ornery. My only memories of my own aging grandpa are of a prune-faced old grouch who announced his sober presence by the way his house-slippers dragged on the kitchen floor.

Anyway, one of my projects is itself reclaimed from our past. For the first time in years, I'm trying to make an old piece of furniture not only functional but even a little attractive. It's homemade and it's ancient. It was in the basement of our century-old house when we moved in, a looming old kitchen hutch full of doors and drawers, something stiff and functional and unwieldy--maybe I should just call it "a storage facility."

It wasn't pretty, and, trust me, I'm not about tell you that, with a little stripper and elbow grease, I discovered a treasure. That's not where this is going.


Crazy Beats

From Jennifer L. Holberg

It’s already 9 days into April, or as the literati like to call it, National Poetry Month.  I hope you’ve been celebrating appropriately—or even inappropriately, if that’s what poetry inspires in you (just keep your daffodil-frolicking to yourself). 

As an English professor, obviously, I’m contractually obligated to think of every month as poetry month, but I’ve been doing my bit nonetheless by spending time in my Brit lit survey course with modernist poets, such as Yeats, of whose verse one student wrote “It doesn’t seem like much more than a bunch of words on paper.” Admittedly, poems about odd desert creatures crawling towards Bethlehem or women being assaulted by gods-in-swan-form are a little weird.  And maybe even a little confusing.  

But Yeats is in good company.  I spent an extended period in my car on Monday, and I ended up listening to the radio.  Nothing as elevated as NPR.  No, I admit it: Top 40.  As a culture, we may not read much poetry any more collectively, but we do know song lyrics.  And as I bopped along to the admittedly hooky beats, I realized how many of the current hits are somewhat mystifying themselves. 

Take the current #1 song in the land: Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” Upbeat and joyful-sounding—and completely odd.


Praying in Restaurants

From Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

“Grandpa, we don’t pray in restaurants!”

So declared my daughter to my father, many, many years ago. Our food had arrived, and as was his custom my father said quietly, “Shall we pray?” Three year old Emma’s immediate retort was totally sincere. Her tone was more perplexed than curt. “What in the world is grandpa thinking?” might have been her subtext. 

I felt a little amused and a lot embarrassed. But Emma’s declaration was true. We didn’t pray in restaurants. I don’t recall it being a fully deliberate decision, although young Emma had obviously noted the clear distinction.

Our reluctance had something to do with Jesus’s words about not practicing your piety in public—although, as I’ve often reminded my congregation, the admonition against piety in public is not an admonition against piety in general.


Lent's Pachyderm, again

From Jessica Bratt

Good Monday to you. After much hemming and hawing over several half-baked ideas for today's post, I've decided to re-post this piece. I humbly (re)submit it, for myself as much as anyone. We're nearing the end of Lent, and I often find, as I am finding this year, that I start to lose sight of the message of Ash Wednesday by the time Holy Week draws near. Today I admit that I need to return to old words instead of coming up with new ones (but I guess we people of the Book do that all the time!). Wishing you all a continued holy Lent...

Behold the elephant in the room.

Banksy, the street graffiti artist, had this elephant in the room as part of his first US exhibit (Los Angeles, 2006). Nothing revives an overdone metaphor like taking it literally, I suppose.

I feel like that’s what Ash Wednesday does, too. The stark visibility of the ashes calls attention to realities that we are usually comfortable to leave unmentioned.

Like the reality that all of us participate as both perpetrators and victims in the world’s brokenness, and that we need to account for it in order to experience renewal.

Like the reality that being human has a 100% mortality rate.

It’s fitting that we “impose” ashes on foreheads. Ashes come with a message that is an imposition indeed: we are frail, vulnerable, and in glaring need of help. Try taking that to heart in the middle of your daily attempts to be productive and significant.