Saturday, October 26, 2013

Somethin' Stupid

I have two lines running through my head.

For years now, one of my "mantras" has been one originating with two dear internet friends:  "God must be God and love must be enough."

A few weeks ago I walked away from a brief encounter and  the following line from an old song popped into my head:  "And then I go and spoil it all by saying somethin' stupid like 'I love you.' "  I hadn't actually said those words to my friend.  What I had said was, "I miss you."  But it may as well have been "I love you."  That's what lay behind it.  And I fear it showed.

This was an encounter with a friend.  But I had to make it happen.  I know where she works.  We used to see each other frequently, but she and her husband quit frequenting the place where we saw each other most -- church.  Just like that.  One week they were there, the next they were gone.  Too busy.  Have a big project they're working on.  No time for church.  No time for friends.  Gone.  For four solid months.

I do not have the gift of telephoning.  It's not as though I don't like to talk on the telephone.  I'm fine with it.  I just don't like making calls.  They don't go well for me.  I consistently interrupt more important activities rather than catching people at a convenient time.  I'm the one who calls your cell just as you get to the front of the checkout line and need to interact with the clerk.  So I generally don't call people.  However, I do somehow have the knack of encounters.  The encounter at hand was at the workplace,  I walked in just as my friend walked out of an inner room and had a few minutes to chat before being called to another task.  She wouldn't have had to be there.  Her schedule isn't predictable.  She might have been dreadfully busy or out of sight.  It was a serendipitous encounter.  My days often bring me that sort of "luck."  But my gift of encounters has failed me in respect to these particular friends the entire summer.  It has been one of near misses other than when I have forced encounters by showing up at their project.

And I have missed them.  Because I love them.  We have been friends.  Good friends.  We have been part of a group that has camped together, hiked together, even vacationed together.  They have made a tremendous contribution to who I am.  I love how much better I am for knowing them.  Now they seem to have simply walked away from our friendship.

So many choices in how to respond.  The church would have me woo them back.  Call them.  Send them cards and letters.  Invite them to my home.  Run the border of harassment in the name of Jesus.

I could treat them as they are treating me.  If they no longer want to be our friends, so be it!  It's not as though I'm so needy I have to run after them and beg them to come back into my life.  Right?  I have other friends.  Right?

Somehow letting them go but continuing to tell them I love them every time I see them doesn't fit any prescribed model.  I feel like it makes me look pathetic and weak.

The thing is, it's authentic.  I can let them go.  Our attachment is not so strong that I can't live without them.  I've done so for going on five months now without plunging into a deep depression or anything.  They aren't my all-in-all.  They're simply friends.  But I miss them.  I miss the good times we had together when our children were teenagers and strengthened our bond with their own friendship.  I miss what they bring to my life.  In short, I love them.

"God must be God, and love must be enough."  But how stupid it is to tell people who obviously no longer want or need you in their lives that you love them.  It's simply asking for further rejection.  How can such pathetic love have any power in it?

Is love enough?  Is it "stupid" to display unrequited love?

Maybe the better question is:  Is authenticity worth the pain of rejection when it puts unrequited love on display?

I choose to love.  I choose authenticity.  Even when it means telling people who have walked away from me that I still love them.  Even when my failure to pursue them beyond what chance encounters may come my way might make my words seem empty.   Hopefully, they aren't offended by my words simply because they don't come with cards and letters and phone calls.  Hopefully, they know they are far from out of mind simply because they're out of sight.

Several years ago an emotionally needy person decided I was the answer to her neediness.  In light of how little value has been placed on my friendship over the years, I found her confidence in the sufficiency of it a bit amusing.  I could give her a list of references to vouch for how mistaken she was in that confidence.  It's usually not all that surprising to me when people figure out they can do better and walk away.  But the friends who have done so recently seemed to actually like me for longer than most in spite of knowing me better than most.  I can go on without them.  It's not as though I haven't been through this before.  But I do value them highly and can't help but let it show on the rare occasion when I see them.  I hope they are doing well.  I hope they are finding fulfilling relationships.  I hope they haven't left God behind in leaving the church behind.  I hope life is wonderful for them.  Because I love them.  Still.  And I may as well say it.  Because it's true.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Is your diet healthy?

My doctor asked me that question a couple of weeks ago.  I laughed and told him I am a gardener.  He repeated the question:  "But do you eat right?"

I'm still trying to figure out the answer.  At 55 I'm struggling with a few extra pounds I seem unable to shed in spite of being favored genetically in that area.  It's difficult to get away from the American diet.

Sometimes I think back to my youth, to the days when Grandma would bring Pepsi with her when she came to visit and we would beg for this exotic treat that tickled one's nose.  The only other time we had soft drinks in the house was when someone was sick.  The belief that clear carbonated drinks are good for an upset stomach brought us ginger ale and 7-Up during that time and left me with a lifelong aversion to such beverages.  But I love Pepsi!

For normal beverages we had milk with every meal in the winter.  In the summer we had Kool-Aid for lunch and supper.  Sugary drinks.  We often had dessert with our meals.  But we also had fruit with every meal and vegetables every meal except breakfast.  And we rarely ate out.  I remember the terrible awkwardness of visiting Ponderosa for the first time as a teenager with a group of my peers and being completely unfamiliar with the place.

When our children were young, I involved them some in meal preparation and taught them the four food groups of the era -- meat/protein, bread/cereal, fruit/vegetable, and dairy.  When they were responsible for menu planning, they were expected to include something from every food group.

Do I eat well today?  This is fair week.  I have eaten fair food the past two nights.  The first night I had a corn dog.  The second night I had a fish sandwich with cola and mooched some of my daughter's cheese fries.  I'm thinking taco-in-a-bag tonight.  As fair food goes, that's not bad.  I have yet to buy ice cream or a funnel cake or cinnamon rolls or even my own french fries.  However, it's certainly not the tomato, lettuce, green bean, and sweet corn diet my garden is offering me.  I'm not sure there will be enough veggies in tonight's taco to offset the complete lack of fruits and vegetables the past two nights.  We did have BLTs and a small cantaloupe for lunch today and I've been snacking on cherry tomatoes, but the green beans still need to be picked.

When my low-carb dieting friends tell me they can't eat something I grow in my garden, I resolve to never be on a low-carb diet.  I have a theory that if every American was given a garden plot and a small barn lot and restricted to eating only what they grew and processed themselves, there would be very little obesity in the land.  If I grow it and eat it fresh from the garden, I figure I can do so guilt free.

So do I have a healthy diet?  By the standards of my youth, I would say the answer is no in terms of balance.  On the other hand, if I ate today like I did in my youth, I suspect I would be even more weight challenged than I am now.  Three full meals every day.  Cereal and toast and milk and fruit for breakfast.  Often sweetened cereal.  It would never do to start my day with that many calories today and then go on to have a sandwich plus fruit and vegetables for lunch and a full dinner every evening with milk or Kool-Aid.  I don't have enough activity to work off that level of consumption.  But then, I don't remember that we ever snacked between meals.  Snacks are a part of life now.

Do I eat well?  I guess the answer is:  I could do better.

Maybe I should take some cherry tomatoes to the fair tonight to add to my taco-in-a-bag.

Friday, July 26, 2013

On the World of Poverty

I'm sinking more and more deeply into poverty.  It's an interesting place.  There are those who would fix it.  At this point, I'm still trying to figure out which parts of it need fixing.

Just to be clear, my husband and I are doing fine financially.  In fact, we are blessed in having enough to share with others.  But one thing I'm learning is that giving people money is rarely, if ever, the best response to poverty.

The economic values of those living in poverty have long been of interest to me.  When I was young, I found them disturbing.  First some history:

In our first year of marriage, way back in the late 1970s, my husband and I were poor college students living on a shoestring budget.  In that year, I never went down the pop and potato chip aisle at the grocery store.  There simply wasn't room in our budget for such things. (And in that era snack foods didn't hold the position in the American diet they do today.)

Not long afterward, I stood in line at the grocery store and watched someone buy potato chips with food stamps.  Something rose up within me at the sight.  What business does someone depending on government assistance have buying junk food?  Ah, the righteous indignation of youth.

As I contemplated that scene and sought a more charitable response, I considered a couple of huge differences between what I had observed and my own experience with living on a tight budget -- 1) the skills and discipline to develop and live within a budget; and 2) the light at the end of the tunnel.  We were within twelve months of being awarded engineering degrees when we married.  If we could just hold on for a year, we could then start cashing in on our education.

As I hang out with my impoverished friends these many years later, I see the same pattern.  One of the chief reasons people don't want to give money to poor people is because it will go to alcohol or cigarettes.  And that may often be the case.  But not always.  Sometimes it will go toward junk food or high-priced convenience food or pet food for multiple pets or an inside climate more comfortable than the donor's or a smart phone or home entertainment nicer than the donor's or tickets to an amusement park or concert the donor passes over in order to be generous.  It challenges the charitable feelings of charitable people to see the beneficiaries of their donations enjoying elements of a lifestyle the donor considers "living large".  It's even worse when the donor didn't want to give in the first place and was taxed for those indulgences on the part of the poor.

One of the things I'm learning as I interact with people living in poverty is to keep my wallet closed.  There are times and ways to give monetary assistance, but it's generally better for our relationship if it's not my money directly supporting their spending decisions.  None of my friends show signs of starvation.  They are not without resources.  And it's easy for money to become the focus of our relationship if it becomes known that I'll dole it out in response to a well-crafted plea for assistance.

What I'm trying to offer people instead of money is an interest in their lives.  I listen to their woes and resist the urge to offer either assistance or advice, particularly when they are asking for neither.  I'm still learning the lanuage and culture of this community of poverty within the larger community.  It's interesting getting different perspectives, sorting out values, listening to stories and trying to figure out which (and how) conflicting accounts have been "enhanced" in the telling.

I almost never watch television.  There are so many other ways to spend my leisure time that are more appealing to me.  But I am fascinated by the interactive soap opera that plays through my days.  I get to interview the characters off-screen to see what makes them tick and even play a small role myself.  I can walk in and out of the "urban" scenes at will and then return to my safe refuge in the "suburbs".  (If you know where I live this will make you smile.  The "city" has a total population of 1,340 people.)  I have yet to really get my hands dirty.

I'm not sure where all this is leading, but I might have a slightly greater chance of doing good in this local soap opera than any on TV.  And it's certainly both educational and often entertaining, although frequently more tragedy than comedy.

So ... Angela told me last night that people say she's a drug dealer, but she obviously is not or she wouldn't be so poor.  What do I make of that statement?  Why even bring it up?  She says that a mutual acquaintance hits his girlfriend, but the girlfriend told me he has hit her only once -- the time he went to jail for it.  Was she afraid of what I would do if I knew the truth?  What IS the truth?  And what motivation do Angela and the girlfriend have for straying from truth when talking to me?

Years ago, I realized that one huge difference between my shoestring living and the person buying junk food with food stamps was hope.  I had confidence that my poverty was temporary.  And it was.  The person buying junk food with food stamps likely has little hope of their lot improving, particularly since making good consumer decisions seems beyond them.  Hope is the most valuable commodity I can offer my poverty-stricken friends.  I'm still trying to figure out how to package it for distribution.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Would you walk across the street for church music?

Morning thoughts:

Yesterday I drove 80 miles to attend a 2-hour church service.  As usual, I took pains to not fall asleep as I drove.  (This seems important to a lot of people, especially the other drivers on the road.)  I had an enticing audiobook with me but started with music.  As I listened, I made mental notes to prune my portable music collection to make room for new music.  One song went on too long and the lyrics had little to say.  Delete.  Another told a story I don't care to hear again.  Delete.  Sure it's shallow and doesn't value the effort behind the recordings, but there are so many recordings to choose from and a mere 16MB of space for everything I want to carry in my pocket.  I can't keep everything if I hope to keep up with new music coming down the pike.

I also had some podcasts with me, but didn't listen to that serious stuff.  After all, I had only two hours on the road and the candy sweetness of a children's audiobook was calling me.  And I was headed toward a 2-hour church service.

I didn't actually delete the music while driving.  I suspect the state lawmakers who told me not to text while driving would likewise frown on figuring out how to delete music while driving.  Instead, I did it during the two-hour service.  There were a lot of people in the service.  Few, if any, noticed or cared if I was distracted by electronics.  Besides, I wasn't the only one.  And maybe I was consulting my electronic scriptures.  (Rationalize, rationalize.)

Driving isn't the only time my chronic sleep-deprivation is a problem.  I also tend to drowse off when doing nothing but sitting and listening.  Combining listening and driving is good.  Doing either alone tends to make my eyelids droop.  Fortunately, there was a loudspeaker to my right last night that made the sound seem sort of like a car radio and I could pretend I was driving and listening.  That went pretty well.

Before the main speaker of the hour(s), however, there were other items on the agenda, including a bunch of music.  It was excellent music -- flawless talent with flawless canned accompaniment.  The quality competed well with the professional recordings in my mp3 collection.  But as I listened, I realized that if the songs were on my iPod, I would delete them.  It's not the style of music I choose for my personal collection.  Not at all.  I wouldn't walk across the street to hear a free concert.  In fact, even as I write this, I am watching time slip away and thinking I might be just a bit tardy for this morning's events and maybe miss the music.

Afternoon thoughts:

We heard this morning that churches should spend less energy worrying about getting the music right.  People walking past the doors don't even know there's music inside, let alone care what it's like.  If they find out we love them, we can stand on our heads to sing and they'll be fine with it.

Huh?  Okay, it's hyperbole, going for the laugh.  But I was listening while sitting in a gathering of people I love.  My sole reason for attending this gathering is to interact with those people.  And yet, I sacrificed this morning's earliest chance for interaction.  And missing the very high quality music was one among several factors contributing to my tardiness.

I have endured much music in the church I don't want to ever encounter elsewhere.  I have also volunteered for church nursery duty in order to excuse myself from concerts.  Maybe music isn't important to many people.  It's important to me.  I will avoid gatherings even of people I love if the music is offensive enough and my sense of obligation isn't strong enough to get me there.

Music isn't that important to many people, but other things are important to them.

"I wouldn't walk across the street to attend a free ______"  What?  A boring lecture on ancient sacred writings?  A lecture on morality and the dire eternal consequences of immorality?  A message about how the God who seems to do nothing to stop tragedy in the world loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life?  An hour of sitting next to friends without interacting with them?

What free event would entice people to walk across the street if their friends were there?

This is something to ponder.  What does it take to make an event designed to offer spiritual nourishment and hope for living more attractive than off-putting?

Sunday, June 02, 2013


Act One

I ran across a friend in a parking lot a couple of nights ago.  We're members of the same church but she hasn't attended with any regularity for several years.  She struggled as a parent of young children.  Seemed to be missing some basic instincts for controlling a toddler.  We tried to help her set boundaries and be kind but firm.  (And by "we," I mean "we the church."  Personally, I have more questions than answers and am not much for taking on the role of mentor.)

Then she was a single mother with troubled children.  We tried to help her through the tough times during her divorce.

Then she ran into financial problems.  We tried to help her out.  It was an opportunity to do more than simply throw money at someone's problems.  We could take her under our wing and offer her financial advice.  Maybe help her establish a budget and stick to it.

Then she disappeared.  Apparently, she didn't appreciate our helpfulness.  She told me she lost her home and her car and sank deep into despair during that time.  She said she is just now coming out of it.  She's doing better.  I see her positive self-talk on Facebook -- "Today is a good day and I'm not going to let anything or anyone get me down!"  She updated me on her still troubled children.  She told me she has no use for people who are phony friends.  (I wondered if I fit that definition in her mind, but didn't ask.)  People don't know your whole story.  They think they could do better in your situation, but they don't really understand it.

As we talked, she hinted at abuse in her early years.  It was the first I knew about it, although I'm not surprised.  Perhaps the most vulnerable thing she told me is that she has taken up cigarettes.  (I already suspected that; it's a small town.)  Our church doesn't approve of smoking.  Her admission may have been a sort of test.  I don't know if I passed.  I've already lost much ground with her because I'm the town library director and she has unreturned library items at her house and I once asked her about them.  Usually she ducks when she sees me coming, even though I have long given up on ever seeing those items again and have moved on to other challenges.  This time I caught her in a situation where she couldn't easily escape.  We weren't far into our conversation at all before she brought up the library material.  I wish I could remove the library materials from her association with me.  I wish I could erase some of the pain in her life, particularly in regard to well-meaning people who crushed her spirit.  For this round, however, the best I could do was practice my skills of active listening.

Ah, you say, but I could have said this or done that or steered the conversation here. Maybe you could have done that.  What I could do and did do was listen.  There have already been plenty of people with things to say to her. Those messages have left her wounded rather than healed.  She doesn't need additional hurtful words and I couldn't be sure I could say anything guaranteed to lift her up rather than tear her down further.  She offered a hug as we parted and I was glad to return it.

Act Two

Yesterday I mentioned to a couple of people that one of my friends is very generous.  This friend is also poor, underemployed, cohabiting with his fiancee, ignorant in certain areas, and has anger management issues which consistently lead to other problems.  Studies have shown that poor people are often more generous than those better off.  My friend is a good example of that phenomenon.  He is genuinely generous in spirit and had given time and effort to help a project involving my two companions succeed.  When one of them made a face and said, "Yes, I suppose he is, but he sure has other problems," I had to do a little anger management of my own.  What ungracious words from one of the least generous, most self-promoting "Christian" people I know toward someone who showed up to help without promise of reward.  I waited a couple of beats before responding.  She was no longer listening by the time I quietly said, "Don't we all."

Act Three

This morning, I asked in a group setting if there was any good news concerning an unemployed person not present.  The response was negative.  The further comments were more negative.  He says he's trying to find work but our reporter doubts he is trying very hard.  Someone else jumped in and talked about the need for persistence when looking for work.  I tried to suggest that being terminated from a job and having multiple job applications rejected can bring on debilitating discouragement.  In response, I was peppered with more advice about the value of persistence.  An anecdote was offered by someone who can testify to the value of persistence.  Not a single person in the group expressed empathy for the unemployed person dealing with discouragement.  I regretted having asked about him.  Being completely unsuccessful at stirring up any empathy for him after several attempts, I finally gave up and changed the subject.

Lesson Learned

There's one more thing in every person's story about which we have no clue.  We don't know what it's like to struggle with the particular problems of the particular children my friend is trying to raise as a single mother, particularly with the history of abuse she carries.  We don't know what it's like to carry the particular pain my unemployed friend carries.  We don't have their personality and history.  We think we could and would do better if we were in their shoes.  But we have never been and will never be in their shoes.  We will always be in ours, with our personality, our background, our personal baggage, not theirs.

Stop being negative about the negative people.  It's a reminder I need to review often.  I'm glad for the example of a generous spirit my poor, underemployed, ignorant, "sinner" friend shows me.  I would do well to emulate it.

The biggest question this makes me ask is, Why do I have to look outside the church to find such an example?  And why is it so difficult to stir up empathy for others among Christians?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

On being outstanding

This morning I read a couple of glowing accolades from a recent memorial service.  They spoke highly of the dearly departed who was an outstanding person in multiple ways.  When I ran across this heretofore unpublished blog entry, I thought it might be a good time to post it.
Last evening following the rehearsal for a wedding I'm playing for this afternoon, someone asked me two questions as one: "Do you give piano lessons and do you do any recording?"

I understood the first part. The answer is no. I've tried. Giving piano lessons is not in my skill set.

I didn't understand the second part. What type of recording? I sometimes make amateur accompaniment tracks for people wanting to practice a song or audition for something. I've never done anything that goes beyond a mic on the piano attached to whatever device is used for such recordings in a given era. There's a reason for that. I'm not that good. I started my piano career far ahead of my peers. I learned my first Bach 2-part invention in early elementary school. When my piano teacher moved away, I continued with independent study -- playing for hours a day out of any music I could find. However, I developed my skills "a mile wide and an inch deep." I can dabble in most types of music from reading "moderately advanced" printed notation to chording along with the latest popular worship song. The problem is that I never perfect anything. I just dabble here and there. I'm "moderately advanced" in a few areas, but not outstanding in any.

My last post was a five-minute special. I cheated on it. It was supposed to be done without editing. It turns out "without editing" is not an option for me. My backspace key gets a lot of compulsive use as I type. That's why I have so little to show for my five minutes. But even with compulsive editing, my writing is not outstanding. Sometimes people tell me it is above average. I have no reason to discount their assessment, but I'm pretty sure it's not outstanding.

I wonder what percentage of the world's population is outstanding in some area. How many can measure up to Robin Williams for ad lib comedy? How many writers of satire can stand in the same class as Samuel Clemens, a.k.a., Mark Twain? How many cellists have skills on par with Yo Yo Ma?

I'm sure there are many people who are outstanding in various areas and yet not famous, people who do what they do in outstanding ways who have never had their skills recognized beyond a limited sphere of time and space.  Even in this day of viral YouTube videos which give anyone a potential spot on stage if they can do something people enjoy watching.

There was a time I longed to join the outstanding crowd, to be at the top of the pack.  Now I realize I'm not willing to pay the price. I would rather be part of a team, working together to produce something adequate for the need.  Doing my part, carrying my part of the load, but not standing out as above and beyond the rest of the team.

It turns out the person questioning me has a band.  They need a keyboard player.  But my life is full of lesser things that add up to more when taken all together.  At some point I made the choice to give up being outstanding.  I think I'm all right with that choice.  Even though it means I will likely never make a list of top bloggers of America.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Parable of the Great Banquet -- Luke 14:15-24

DIY Photo:  Today's photo is of a maze.  Since it's a do-it-yourself photo, you may select whatever type of maze pleases you.  Maybe one from a pencil game book.  Or maybe one for mice.  Or one made of shrubbery and intended for meditation.  Or a midwest fall "corn maze".  Or a game with a marble to roll around.  So many possibilities, why should I choose for you?  As always, thank you for handling this part of the blog on your own.
Sometimes I think myself into a maze -- twists and turns and dead ends impeding my process.  I worry I won't be able to find my way out the other side.  That happened this week.

The setting was a small group Bible study.  We were looking at Jesus' parable of the great banquet in Luke 14.  Someone noted that poor and crippled and blind and lame people were seen as sinners in those days.  Their infirmities were evidence that God was punishing them.  The message of the parable is that God invites sinners to be saved and enter His kingdom.

The difference between that view and the one emerging in my own mind was too subtle to explain well to the group.  Maybe I can get a better grasp on it here.

When the original invited guests were too preoccupied to attend the banquet, the master looked around for other guests.  The ones who agreed to attend were the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.  They were well-pleased to accept the invitation.  "Sure, we would love to come!  When and where?"

As my friend noted, Jesus' listeners would have seen these people as sinners, rebels against the Master of the Banquet.  The difference between us has to do with the truth behind that perception.

In my friend's view, the listeners saw the invitation going out to rebels who then set aside their rebellion and accepted the invitation.  They repented of the sin evidenced by their "punishment" and entered the hall, even while still broken by that punishment.  It's a message of grace and redemption.  Former rebels have been wooed back into relationship with the Master of the Banquet.  They still bear the results of their former rebellion, but they are now welcome at the banquet.

In contrast, subtle as it is, I deem it important to note that Jesus' listeners were mistaken in their assessment.  Being poor, crippled, blind, or lame is not a sign someone is a rebel.  However, those infirmities label them as rebels in the view of Jesus' listeners.  The point of the parable is that we are often wrong about which people are likely guests at the banquet.  People we're certain are not Christians and will never be given admission to heaven apart from repenting of their sins and beginning a new life that looks more like ours may actually be in a better position to attend the banquet than we are.  While we are too busy doing worthwhile things to show up, the broken people around us may be closer to the heart of God than we are.

I think I'm moving away from the former interpretation and toward the latter because of my interactions with poor people.  I often find them to be more generous, more accepting, less self-focused, less judgmental than my middle-class church friends.  In many ways, they have much to teach me about kingdom living, even though they seldom darken the door of a church and have never studied Luke 14.  They haven't claimed their kingdom citizenship yet, but they aren't in rebellion, just a bit unsure if they can come up with the entrance fee.  When the invitation arrives, their response will be, "Sure, we'll come.  When and where?"

Recently, I have seen the stark contrast between the worst of professing Christians looking out for their own interests and the best of unchurched "sinners" stepping aside rather than demanding their rights.  When I look at the parable of the great banquet, I see the gates of the kingdom swinging open to the latter group.  And I hope to find my way in with them.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I like my own writing

Today's DIY photo:   spiral notebook with a hand holding a pen poised over fresh white lined paper.  (Got it?  I do appreciate your contribution in this area, dear reader.)

I was chatting with my daughter this morning, the one who blogs over here.  We were talking about blogs and research papers and writing and I commented that I enjoy returning to what I've written in the past.  Even when I don't remember writing it and can't fill in any gaps that didn't make it from mind swirls into words, I still enjoy reading it.  Is that a good thing?  Would I like it even better if I invested in some schooling on the art of writing and allowed an instructor to hone my skills?  What does it say about the development of my skills if I can go back eons in time to the beginning of this blog -- AKA eight years -- and find pleasure in reviewing my own words from that less mature time of life.

I once read a book that had been republished a decade or two or three after it was written.  In the introduction, the author said the publisher had offered him a chance to revise and update it.  He read it through and decided he liked it as it was, that other than using fewer commas he wouldn't change a thing.  And he didn't.  Even the excessive commas were left in.  As I read it I understood why the publisher had given him a chance to revise it and thought he would have been ahead of the game to take that chance.

I am reminded of that book when I find such pleasure in words written by my own hand in times past.  Apparently, I'm not making much progress with my writing skills.

Here's an example of my early blogging -- on writing.  I did do one tiny edit.  I have gradually noticed an overuse of "that" in my writing and deleted one instance.  Any suggestions as to further edits?  It's nice that blogger posts are forever editable.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Queue

When I think about the idea of blogging regularly (daily or weekly), I see a need for planning -- having posts "on deck" in various stages of preparation; having a plan, a schedule; working ahead.

Or maybe I simply need to sit and type for a few minutes on a regular basis and allow some of the thoughts swirling in my head to make their way out.  It would be easier, however, if those thoughts never involved the private lives of other people.  Do I simply eliminate any references to the people who shape my days?  Do I blur their faces in my verbal photos of them?

Insert photo here.  (One thing I need to do is enroll you, the reader, to do your own photography.  It will save me so much time.  I am too lazy/busy/preoccupied to find photos to accompany my thoughts the way the best bloggers do.  The photos I need already exist in your head, anyway. You just need to pull them up.  You can help me out right now by reviewing a video from your memory banks of an interview with an unidentified person whose face is blurred and whose voice is electronically disguised.  See how that's even better than the photo I would have included?  Thanks for playing along today.)

My daughter has resurrected her blog here.  Seeing her actively writing is inspiring to me.  Maybe I'll start ...  Well, we'll see.  Maybe it will be another four months before my next post.  I wonder what the minimum frequency is for being an active blogger.

Related post:  The Problem with Blogs

Monday, January 14, 2013

Heretic? Or no?

This morning I read in Christianity Today (the print edition) about "insider Christians" -- people who embrace Jesus Christ as savior without leaving the culture of their native religion.  One of the things that sent one believer back to his roots was Christians who told him that Allah, the creator-God he had worshiped for a lifetime, was not the same as the Christian God.

How many times have I been told that Allah is not the God we Christians worship.  This has puzzled me greatly.  Islam is a monotheistic religion, right?  One God, creator of all.  That is the God I, too, worship as a Christian.  How much arrogance does it take to claim that my "one God creator of all" is real and worthy of worship and yours is not?

The man referenced in the article initially left his Muslim roots behind and embraced Christianity.  He attended a Bible college and studied the history and culture of Christianity.  Then he went back to his people and stepped back into the Muslim culture in order to spread the good news of "Isa-Masih" -- Jesus Messiah.  He is Christian by faith -- a Christ-follower -- and Muslim by culture and official religion.

Many people will say this is impossible, an oxymoron.  To accept the possibility leaves me outside of orthodoxy by the standards of almost everyone I know.  And yet here it is on the pages of Christianity Today as at least an idea worth noting.

Am I a heretic or simply being led in new directions by the Spirit ahead of the crowd?

Every day I spend time in the Christian Bible absorbing the teachings found therein.  Most of my "heresy" traces back to those pages and applies both faith and reason to what I find therein.

What has become known as the "Wesleyan quadrilateral" bases belief on Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience.  My friends tend to rank them in that order, giving the voice of the Church more credence than that of reason or the whisper of the Spirit within our hearts.  There's safety there.  After all, if our hearts lead us in a different direction from what the church is taking, there's good reason to exercise great caution.  People have done outrageous things in response to what rages in their hearts.  However, in my 6th decade as a dedicated follower of Christ, I am discovering that many changes in the church have lagged behind but eventually ended up where my heart has led me long before.

I think I'm ready to trust my heart as molded by much exposure to Scripture and in open receptiveness to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Which makes me a heretic in a few areas.  I won't bother to list them here.  It might be plenty radical for some to simply affirm that "there is only one God and his name (in Arabic) is Allah."

Also, in my 6th decade, I am discovering that serving Christ in my world doesn't require the blessing of the Church.  Which makes me a bit more bold than I have been in the past in risking the loss of that blessing.

I'm still not ready to say these things and link them to Facebook.  But I might take a baby step of linking them to Google +