Friday, December 16, 2005

Merry Little Christmas (S4theD)

Lessons and Carols, 400 Christmas cards, hanging ornaments on a tree, Yuletide readings, more carols, evening Vespers service, school plays with Mary and Joseph, lighting candles, parties, gifts...

There's so much to do this time of year that I've often been neglecting the checks and balances I had built into life to keep from being so harried. While all the above are wonderfully festive and delightfully engaging, I've been reminded that to stop and listen is an incredible discipline. This time perhaps more than any other time of year tries and tests all those well-intentioned habits one has sought to develop over the course of the previous eleven months. I'm beginning to see the train of thought behind the ever so popular January movement to restrain the demands of will: the concept known as "the new year's resolution". If well-formed or well-intentioned habits hadn't gone out the window by the fifth month they sure do seem to be quickly forgotten as soon as December hits. It's a month of exceptions! I guess that's why so many people feel so very guilty by the time January rolls around.

Several months ago I sought to punctuate my day with a healthy and reflective pause. I tend to stay quite busy whether I'm actually doing something or not, so I decided to marry my love of music with my desire to slow down. Thus came the "Song for the Day" (S4theD) tradition. I had never stopped to think about the music I listened to nor seriously read the lyrics up to that point, so it ended up being a good exercise in music listening as well as having the desired effect of a mid-day punctuated pause!

It's December. Well-intentioned habits seem to fly out the window when the harried duties of spreading festive cheer beckon. I've just been reminded that to stop and listen is an incredible discipline. According to Der, I've fallen down on the job. The songs for the day have been few and far between these last few weeks and so he kindly took it upon himself to provide the punctuated pause for this day and, unintentionally I'm sure, the reflective inspiration for this blog. He understands all too well the necessity of well formed habits and figured we "needed our daily dose of beauty, goodness, and truth"!

So here in its second hand, phonograph quality, over the phone lines recording glory is Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas as sung by HEM:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
Our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
Our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Until then we'll have to muddle through some how.
So have yourself A merry little Christmas now.

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Voice Inside My Head

It helps to have a voice inside your head that’s not your own. As long as you’re sure that it’s not a part of some deeper duel psyche. And as long as it doesn’t carry on conversations with you such as, “Am I going to eat this sausage pizza or continue to be a vegan?” And as long you don’t give that voice any other name that the one it originally came from.

When I see a sun rise above the tops of early morning evergreens preparing to peer intently through the crisp mist blanketing the earth below. Or when I see the handiwork of the Creator orchestrating something that only He could successfully bring together, I think, “Puuurfect!”…but the voice is in an incredibly delightful, well suited to the awe and majesty kind with a Welsh lilt.

When I’m in over my head, sinking in the mire, drowning in the quicksand of life. Or when I’m getting ready to say, “sure, I can do that” for the fifth time today and the eleventh time over the past two days combined, I hear: “What are you doing missy,” in a short but somewhat sweet, firm but not lacking proper grace kind of voice. Then followed by a gentle, “you need to learn to do what you’re doing well before you kill yourself by adding anything else.”

When I don’t have time for reading or writing—wait. Stop. Rewind. Stop. Play. When I think I don’t have time for reading or writing, or when I’m stuck facing a perpetual onslaught of “amymeeshisms” around the times of December and May, then this little matter-of-fact, it’s as simple as this (incredibly annoying in it’s simplistic nature) tone of voice comes and says: “Just do it.” Just like that. As if to say that if I were to stop mulling over how to mull over the current mulling issue and do something, anything, that would save the world!

When I’ve looked at my check list and can see that rather than five things I was pretty sure I accomplished in my day, it was in actuality only two, that’s when—after I’ve penciled in one or two things that I know I have done just so I can mark them off—that’s when the incredibly profound, jolly-witted reminder comes to me, “You know, the only person that can truly say ‘It is finished’ is Christ!” And I can’t help but chuckle and move on.

I’ve never been in to pet rocks or chia pets. Quite possibly because I’ve never had that multiple personality conversation with my self about sausage pizza versus vegan. While I do often hear voices, I’ve come to accept them. I used to think that maybe they really were a part of my underdeveloped subconscious, suppressed by the overdevelopment of my childlike developmental state...'er something. But now that I’m a bit older I know it’s just that first bit—without the “underdeveloped” part! They really are voices coming from the depths of my subconscious, but they’re really not my own. They are the voices of those who have spoken volumes into my life, and occasionally a nugget of their truth and wisdom manifests itself just in time to save me from myself.

Thank God for the voice inside my head!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Almost...and Yet

Apparently I've been wrestling with the concept of all or nothing faith for quite some time. Searching glassy-eyed through the dusty back corners of computer files in a moment of overworked side-trackation I found this journal entry from a couple yars ago:

November 7, 2003. Discernment is knowing the difference between what’s right and almost right. So said Spurgeon. The great church heresies of the middle ages were labeled as right “except”. In all great ecclesiastical undertakings the church has sought God’s wisdom in knowing where their error lies. The results were historical and covenantal declamations known as “credo” or creeds which means “I believe”.

Nothing can be orthodox save one point. Nothing can be true and followed by a “but”. Nothing can be right with any exceptions tagged on. Yet it’s so easy as Christians to point that out in the lives of others and well neigh look over the issues of our own hearts in which we fall so terribly short. It’s easy to see the blatantly evil in more of an objective light. It’s near impossible to apply such objectivity to the subject of ourselves.

Think of the speck Christ talks about in Matthew 7. It could actually just be the log in our own eye obscuring our vision and superimposing that speck into another’s eye.

I remember hearing some time back about a psychiatrist who said something to the effect that the reason a person commits a murder is because they have had something in their background that they haven’t been able to cope with and they themselves want to die. Though obviously absurd, I think a similar view could be more accurately applied to the Matthew 7 scenario. The reason people are so eager to lash and point out the downfalls of others is because they see those same or worse short comings in themselves and seek to remedially clear their conscience.

Thus, we are almost right except. We’ve pointed out our brother’s abnormal wart and taken no heed to the tumor over our own hearts.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Wisdom of Fenelon

We've come across a small book through a Lamplighter Publishing catalogue that some one had given Der some weeks ago entitled The Wisdom of Fenelon: Education of a Child. The book came on Friday while Der was out of town so I decided to read it before I gave it to him. While a fairly small book (I should be done with it but haven't had the time), I've found it to be simplistic yet needed, full of common sense and yet profound...and Fenelon even quotes Augustine on multiple occasions! Here are some of my favorite sections from the book so far, displaying everything from keen observation to deep Scriptural wellsprings. All in all, pieces of the well-written to reflect the well-read:

"Fear is like those violent remedies which we employ in the most severe cases of disease; they purge it is true, but thy alter the temperament, and exhaust the organs."

"We spoil our taste for simple pleasures as we do for ordinary cuisine; we accustom ourselves to high-flavored dishes, till those which are simple and unseasoned become flat and insipid. Let us then fear those great emotions of the mind which lead to weariness and disgust; but above all, they are to be feared for those children who never resist their feelings, and who are always seeking emotion. Let us give them a taste for simple things, to the end that simple amusements may content their palate. A simple walk through the woods or splashing in a stream brings contentment to the soul and appreciation for God's beauty in a manner that extravagant amusement cannot. Moderation is the best sauce; it gives sufficient appetite, requires no high seasoning, and is a stranger to intemperance."

"In every period of life, example has an astonishing influence, but in infancy it is everything. The great delight of children is to imitate others...."

"Actions have a far greater weight, and leave a far stronger impression than words; if therefore [children] see persons act differently to what they pretend to teach, they will learn to look upon Christianity as ceremonial, and upon virtue as impracticable. It is to this end that our children need to see the soul of Christianity, if I may be allowed to use this expression: to maintain a sovereign contempt for this life, and a great affection for the next."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Most Memorable Thanksgiving (Part 5)

TO JOJO, my light switch flipper:

December 2, 2003. Good byes were said and Mr. Trent picked me up at the hospital to take me to the airport. Between my discussion with him and phone calls to Joanna, I had the distinct stench of fish in my nostrils. Mr. Trent asked one too many questions in two too many different ways about what my plans were when I got back to Franklin. So with mixed feelings of dread and a bit of relief I got on the plane to Tennessee.

It was never so good to see Joanna’s face as it was that evening. She asked what I wanted to do and where she could take me out for my birthday. It sounded to me as though she was suppressing her enthusiasm which, if you ask me, is not healthy for some one…and I assumed that some one was me. So my answer was something to the effect of, “I want to go somewhere where no one knows me.” (Insert the sound of suppressed enthusiasm being squelched) The “oh” and longish-short pause that followed were unforgettable, and while she recovered quickly I resigned myself to the fact that it was more than likely not going to be a just her and I kind of evening.

“Well, before we go to Friday’s or something, do you mind if we run back by my house real quick to get your present that I forgot on my way to pick you up?”

“Sure. Whatever.” Followed in my head by, “Yeeeaaah, right. You forgot.” And another verbal, “Whatever”.

Cradling my splinted hand that had gotten cracked a couple of days before in a fit of enthusiastic joy while hugging my mother, I sat quietly in the passenger seat of the most adorable baby-blue bug convertible ever as Joanna kept getting phone calls from “friends”. Oh, we needed to stop by Kroger on the way to her house to pick up my present before we went out to eat too. I had almost forgotten about that. I must admit it was all a grand show! The only reason I was so anal is because I was so daggum tired and suspicious.

We pulled into the infamous Grant gravel driveway and there were no cars that didn’t have a Grant as an owner. Der and Mrs. G had gone to bed and Jesse was out and about somewhere or other. I relaxed a bit and was already to collapse on the nice big red couch as soon as we walked through the door. And in the 3 seconds too long it took Joanna to find the lights in her own house, all enraptured visions of comfy couches poofed from my dreams.

There, standing before me, was pretty well weigh every single person I knew in Franklin. If I had not seen the picture of my face and eventually apologized to Joanna, I’m sure she would still think that I was about to kill her. Truth be told, I was. I had never seen so many people in my life standing in the Grant house, staring at me, and then asking me what I thought. “Get-me-out-of-here,” was the first thought. “There’s so many people,” was the second thought. “Joanna put this together and I didn’t suspect until today,” was the third. I think what zapped the speech from me most effectively was the diversity of the people that were there. Mrs. G even commented afterward that there were people from my past, present, and those whom I knew I’d know better in the future. Young and old. From mentors to basketball girls, co-workers to students, choir members to room mates. Community was standing right in front of me. Someone just had to turn the lights on before I could see.

I wasn’t very talkative that night. I was soaking it all in.

Once I was an island—or at least considered myself one. I tried most everything in my power to alienate myself to some remote part of a hypothetical sea. I had to be taught, over time. But there was one mile marker, a point in time where I can look back. That was the one.