Thursday, December 21, 2006

Incarnate Gifts

A balloon that says “I’m Sorry”, a cold drink, a photograph of sunshine, a note on Durrer stationary, not just a regular but an autographed CD, a tall vanilla latte. These are the tangible. These are the physical manifestations of an inner gratitude that would otherwise go unacknowledged.

What if God had simply desired to save His creation and yet done nothing about it? Christ is the tangible. Christ is the physical manifestation of an inner desire that would have otherwise gone unacknowledged.

We give the gifts of incarnation because The Gift of Incarnation was given to us.

Monday, December 18, 2006

One Body, Many Members—Romans 12:4

”By using the example of the body, Paul teaches that it is impossible for any one of us to do everything on our own, for we are members of each other and need one another. For this reason we ought to behave toward one another with care, because we need each other’s gifts.” —Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles

I have only begun to understand this concept within the last few years—more like year and a half really. I never thought of myself as having the narrow minded view that we are all called to the same task in life, but I was called on it whenever I complained to Der a long while back about a mutual friend. I don’t remember exactly what I said, nor exactly Der’s response, but the idea and the chastisement hit home. It was basically this, “Don’t criticize other people for having a different calling than you.” I didn’t even know what my calling was at the time, but I remember not being too pleased that our friend was not conforming to the educational mold that he had sought to put himself under. An equal arrogance on my part was in thinking Der would care or agree.

The second most important aspect in my journey of learning about the Body of Christ—in all its diversity—is walking so closely with friends and community. I see their strengths, I see their weaknesses, and I’ve begun to see how it is we all fit so well together. We complement each other’s gifts, we hold in check each other’s weaknesses, and often step in to aid when one or the other of us doesn’t have the capabilities of another.

Pelagius, in his Commentary on Romans, was right:

”For as individuals we could not have had all the gifts, for then we might have become proud….Nor could we all have the same gift, for then the likeness of the body of Christ would not be present among us.”

Saturday, December 16, 2006


I've been told I need to write more. That I need to lower my standards and just do it. That I shouldn't wait for divine inspiration. That my little sister writes more than I do in an average e-mail. That my mama wears army boots. Wait, no body told me that.

Truth me told, I have been writing a little. In a Moleskine not on a blog. I've been doing a verse by verse study of Romans 12, chewing it over, then writing reflections. I thought about sharing on here, but thinking doesn't always materialize into tangible action.

I also wrote a little bit on my evolving view of country music. I'm beginning to respect some of it. Some, mind you. But I will have to post those thoughts another day.

And then there's my documented wrestlings with a new side job. Also in a Moleskine. Back issues of which are likely not to be published on here, but future thoughts very well could be. I dunno, what do you think about grant writing?

I'm currently in Charlotte, North Carolina--in a hotel. Never in my life did I picture myself in a hotel in Charlotte. A house maybe, my house even, but it's a little weird coming back as a visitor to this city that I lived in (or around) many...ten years?

There, these are my thoughts. I have been writing. But I've been doing more thinking about writing than actual writing. So now I've done it. I've lowered my standard and just done it. I haven't waited for divine inspiration. I have now written at least as much as my little sister in one of her average e-mails.

And just for the record--my mama doesn't wear army boots.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lessons on Burden Bearing

Why do we carry burdens? Why do we hurt so badly and feel so helpless? Why do we get weary and our defenses lower? What causes the heaviness felt so real in the chest it’s as though bricks were piled there? What brings on the shortness of breath? Why, why does God command us to share in such feelings of hopelessness and deprivation? Why is it a command, not a suggestion or an aside? If I’m not mistaken, it says somewhere in Galatians, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” How is that the deciding factor, the crowning point of following and completing the law?

I suppose it teaches us to get messy. That life is messy. To roll up our sleeves and get involved in one another’s lives. I guess you could say it’s a part of being that “living sacrifice” Paul talks about in Romans 12. The step beyond the dos and don’ts, it’s the action that replaces the inaction. It’s stepping outside of our comfort zone—we can control how we obey the law, but we can’t control people, their emotions, and relationships. It’s a messy affair but we are called to it, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Life is unpredictable. We could laugh one minute and be on the verge of tears the next. Someone could be a Christian school headmaster and football coach at one stage in life and then be diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes and kidney before the age of 40. Some one else could be hysterically amused by the simpleness of Blue Bugs, sweet tarts, and blue ink early on in life only to come to an incomprehensible impasse with life in general at a later time.

Such is life after the fall. We laugh, we cry. We are commanded to share in both because that is how Christ has chosen to incarnate the message of the gospel—through the practical, tangible mercy of bearing one another’s burdens. We are not meant to be alone no matter how badly we may wish to retreat to a corner and hide.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Just Under 12!

In just under 12 hours we will be at the start of the Uttermost endeavor! Here's a look at some of the things we'll pass along the various routes of the Shelby Park:

Monday, October 02, 2006

More Things Worth Doing

Uttermost Link

Eat, sleep, breathe, repeat. That seems to be what I'm doing with the Uttermost now that it's October. It's not that I'm expressly busy with the planning and coordinating at this point so much as wracking my brain to figure out who else I can tell, where else I can post a flyer, what other creative things I can come up with to get people to GIVE MONEY! Especially on-line. I was so excited about getting an on-line giving feature up on the website, and you know how many people have donated...TWO! Come on folks! I love y'all with all my heart, but we can do better than this.

This week begins mega planning for me on the financial end of things. I'm in charge of keeping track of the financial donations that come in from around the country to help support organizations such as Blood:Water Mission and African Leadership, digging fresh wells and nurturing both the physical and spiritual needs of our indigenous brethren in Africa. Money to keep Mercy Children’s Clinic a thriving and vital part of our community, enabling them to give medical attention to a wide variety of children with varying needs and means. And then there's Servant Group International--what better way to bring the peace of the gospel to the Middle East, minister to our persecuted brethren, and raise up the next generation of Iraqi politicians, business men, and spiritual leaders than from within the country itself. I want desperately to be so busy this month that it takes me weeks to calculate how much money we've raised for these great missions groups!

These are exciting times. These ministries are doing exciting things. Won't you join us in encouraging them in their Kingdom calling?

Cropped Shelby Logo
Go to to find out more!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Things Worth Doing

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.” —Reinhold Niebuhr

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Chapter 3 of a 4 Chapter Book

This weekend I'm in North Carolina. The land of Cheerwine, Cherry Lemon Sun Drop, Bojangles, and Pet Chocolate Milk! Those are the things I remember best about this state that nurtured me through childhood. Along with Ronnie's Wings, K & W Cafeteria, Elizabeth's Pizza, K & W Cafeteria, Eddie's Pizza, K & W Cafeteria, Mayflower Seafood and, lest I forget, K & W Cafeteria--along with all these places came a sense of place that was indiscernable to me as a small child, incomprehendable as a jurnior higher, and unacknowledged as a high schooler. Who knew that food could root a person like that? Who knew that those chicken wings, those house special calzones, the bowls of strawberries, mac 'n cheese, and occasionally fried mushrooms, followed by strawberry pie for dessert--who knew that would come to mean so much after I've gone?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

To Sunshine

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. —Anthony J. D'Angelo

Friday, September 08, 2006

S4theD: Every Season by Nichole Nordeman

Every evening sky, an invitation
To trace the patterned stars
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours
And I notice You
In children’s games
In those who watch them from the shade
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder
You are summer

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and was to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Realizations of Redemption

The last few weeks have been more than subtle reminders that we live in a fallen world. Yet they have been no less than dramatic reminders of the sovereignty of God over every stage and facet of life...

Special places on the body that can be poked to bring a person back to consciousness. The right person who knew where that special place on the body that can be poked to bring a person back to consciousness. Impulses in one part of the brain rather than another just so doctors could call something "pseudo-seizure" rather than "seizure" simply because it was doing no real harm neurologically. Strategic placement of a tree to break what could have been a fatal fall. A friend to rescue and give the breathe of life. A stranger to donate the blood of life.

And yet I've noticed a particular radiance from the stars on the evenings that weren't cloudy. Mars was never discovered yet always sought night after night. I love it when there is a criss-cross pattern on freshly mown grass. Crickets have a more lovely sound when listening from a hammock. Standing in the rain often captures the smell of fresh showers better than a special formula of Tide.

The dramatic and emotional, the frightening and the unexpected seems to always drive us back to the mundane and believable, the comforting and constant. We are driven away from the superficial stabilities we attempt to place around us because when we begin to really take note of those truly constant things around us we realize our efforts are ultimately vain when working with toothpicks and duct tape.

So when the sun plays peek-a-boo over an obstacle in your life, half-casting a tree in radiant light, half in the chill of shadows, remember that joy cometh in the morning. And with each new morning brings a fresh start, and with each fresh start there are sure to be no less than resplendent reminders that God is at work in all things.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blah, Blog, Blah

In this particular stage of my life I find that I’m focusing more on new kinds of music rather than say new books, foods, or shampoos. I love music that tells you what it wants to tell you on multiple levels. I love fresh turns of phrase. I love creative melodies. I love the appropriate use of both violin and piano in pop music. I suppose the reason I haven’t been blogging about the music I’m listening to is because I have yet to find an effective, practical, and tangible way to post MP3 files.

I love music! But I feel that to post lyrics and make comments about the songs I share would be a poor justification for the whole of the musical art form. Because, despite popular opinion, I sincerely believe that means and message should compliment each other in a seamless tapestry of imaginative innovation. They should not contradict each other.

Today I discovered what I labeled at first as “Christian music that I might actually listen to”. I haven’t listened to the entirety of the newly released CD by Leeland entitled Sound of Melodies, but I already like this young group because it appears at first glance that they are giving a good go at putting some substance into Christian music. There seems to be more here than simply making sure you have a chorus, three verses, a bridge, a tag, and rhyming endings—there is actual artistry. Am I saying it’s a brilliant masterpiece? No. After all the lead singer, song and music writer, Leeland Mooring, is only 18. But what I can say is that it is well envisioned, well written, well rounded—in short, it’s extremely refreshing. It’s nice to know there is something to hope for and follow in the Christian music industry.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Google Video

Wow! Google continues to astonish to amaze me! It was revolutionary to be able to search the breadth and depth of human knowledge when began, with the addition of image, map, and news search the web became more of an inovative tool than ever before. And then Google introduced video search. From MacGyver to Johnny Cash, the German Coast Guard to Mac's 1984, Bud Light to Vince Young collegiate football snapshoots...the world wide web just got a bit more collasal and a lot smaller at the same time!

Here is Johnny Cash in one of my favorite music videos of all time. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Hillary Clinton of Over-the-Counter Meds

I speak from personal experience. I've seen it. I've been diverted an additional 2 minutes from the Wal-green's check out simply to stare, wonder, and read all that the alluring green packaging had to offer. "Is this for real?" was the first thing that came to mind. But then I thought maybe my mind was too wracked with intencity of thought to not be real. It rather reminded me of "Spray-and-Walk-Away". The simplicity was too profound and sincere to be taken for either. But apparently I'm not alone in this mind-numbing consideration. Apparently it's a phenomina, a whirlwind of speculation that does more for the product in discussion than any low-budget, monochromatic screen ever could.

I share with you a few other takes on this new glue-stick-homeopathic cure, one a summery by Seth Stevenson of Ad Report Card, one a humerous take from NPR's Brian Unger, and here a link to a visual parody on the product with rapper Lil' Jon. Bear with the seeming repetition of materials here, it's all part of the scheme:



the mezmerizing ad for headache gel

By Seth Stevenson

The Spot: A woman rubs what appears to be a glue stick across her forehead. The voice-over repeats one sentence in triplicate: "HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead." We cut to an image of the product in its packaging, while the voice-over tells us that "HeadOn is available without a prescription at retailers nationwide."

When I first saw this ad, I was convinced it was a viral prank. Everything about it—the woman serenely rubbing stuff on her forehead; the lack of explanation as to what this stuff is; and, of course, the mind-numbing repetition of that weird catchphrase—just seemed too bizarre to be an actual commercial for an actual product. When I logged on to, I expected a jokey Web site that would eventually redirect me to a promotion for Burger King or Axe deodorant or something.

But no, it turns out HeadOn is for real. (That is, the product does exist. I'm not sure I can use the word "real" in any reference to a topical homeopathic health remedy.) HeadOn is meant to treat headaches and is a gel suffused with various plant extracts that you apply—say it with me—directly to the forehead. I am told that doing so creates a cooling sensation. HeadOn is available at Wal-Mart for $5.24 if you care to check it out for yourself. Caveat emptor.

As for this ad campaign, it is utter genius. With this one 10-second spot, the makers of HeadOn have torn down all the pretenses that have gummed up the advertising industry for years. Production values? Persuasion? Emotion? Humor (of the intentional kind)? These are stalwarts of the old, outmoded advertising paradigm. The new, head-on (or HeadOn) approach holds that advertising is about blunt force.

It really is sad when you think about the hard work that gets done inside advertising agencies. All the writing and rewriting, the late-night brainstorming, the mining of creativity from the deepest recesses of one's cortex. And then there's the casting, the directing, the high-budget locations. The question we must now ask is: Why bother with any of this? The HeadOn ad is more effective at reaching its goals than 99 percent of the ads on television. And it succeeds on the strength of a few, bare-bones tactics that most advertisers carefully shun:

Repetition: According to Dan Charron, VP of sales and marketing for HeadOn, the company used focus groups to test all sorts of marketing tacks. One experimental approach maxed out on repetition, and the results were incredible. The focus groups' recollection of the ad, and of the product, was light-years better than with any other method. Which, of course, seems completely obvious—how can we forget something when it's being jammed into our brains? And yet I've never seen an ad embrace this insight with so much gusto.

I suspect most advertisers avoid the broken-record technique out of fear that it will annoy people. Which it does. But so what? Maybe a small percentage of us will snootily refrain from buying HeadOn—as an act of protest against an ad we find irritating—but this is a small price to pay when millions of other folks are now familiar with HeadOn, curious about it, and unlikely ever to forget its name. The repetition method serves no purpose for a well-established brand ("Coca-Cola: Pour it down your esophagus. Coca-Cola: Pour it down your esophagus"), but for a new product fighting to get noticed, it makes a lot of sense.

Kitsch: This ad was made in-house by HeadOn, and it boasts production values so bad they may seem intentional. (They're not.) That green, graph-paper background. The way the volume fades and surges on the voice-over loop. The big, yellow-arrow graphic in the middle of the screen. And above all, the very image of this chick rubbing goop back and forth across her noggin. It's mesmerizing in its cheesiness and also eye-catching because it looks and sounds like nothing else on television

Mystery: We all know how to use the product. (My understanding is that it's meant to be applied to the forehead. In a direct manner.) But the ad never tells us just what HeadOn is for. I had assumed this was in compliance with some kind of FDA regulation, the way pharmaceutical ads never say just what a pill does. But in fact, according to Charron, HeadOn (being an over-the-counter product) is not even subject to these regulations. The omission of a key detail here is a purposeful marketing technique.

"A good way to get attention," says Charron, "is to not say what the product does. It touches on people's curiosity." Indeed—curiosity is what sent me to the HeadOn Web site, and it no doubt sent millions of other people there, as well. If some percentage of those people are headache sufferers, and also gullible, they might well be moved to buy some HeadOn.

Grade: A+. And I haven't even touched on yet another powerful theory: These ads give viewers headaches, thus spurring demand.


Taking an Annoying Pain Commercial Head On, by Brian Unger:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Concluding Thoughts

I finished Tim Power's book Dinner at Deviant's Palace last evening and found it incredibly...intriguing. The pithy phrases teetered off a bit towards the end but there were still a few noteworthy and picturesque moments:

"I'm never at my most charming right after amputations."

"Lisa sat down and had a drink herself, from the neck of the bottle."

And my favorite line of the whole book...

"Jaybush leaned back and indulged in a fit of laughter that set his corpulent body jiggling like a rack of carne asada on a windy day in the meat market."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Would Ya Please Pass the Puddin'

The refurbished old prison is a beautiful sight to behold! As soon as I walked through the door I forgot that I hadn’t eaten much all day, I even forgot why we were there, I just wanted to go explore the levels and levels of original hardwood floors, the antique style chandeliers and light fixtures, the local artist’s murals, and the jail cells in the basement now used as kitchen space. Monell’s is certainly the best new Franklin development project I’ve seen in a while.

I had no idea what I was getting into last night when I agreed to go to dinner with my friend Jayme, but I knew that she had never steered me clear of any adventure in the past so it was a sure thing that she wouldn’t start with the dinner plans. In true Jayme form, she had me talking to complete strangers around a large wooden dining table, passing a feast of southern foods, before I even realized that I was having a good time. Connections were made, stories of “our people came from…how about yours” abounded, and if I could have just gotten the nerve to ask the nerve to ask the newcomers to pass the fried chicken one more time I think my social adventure of the year would have been last night. Oh well, gives me something to work on the next time I need to be a bit out-going!

If I even entertained the idea that after dessert and coffee our adventure would come to an end I really should have known better. It was just the beginning really. On our way out the door, Jayme struck up a conversation with a fellow that looked like he was in charge. He was—of this and four other Monell’s restaurants. Michael King, the owner, kind of reminded me of the vim and vigorous Robin Williams. He had the storyteller enchantment of and actor and the charisma of a stand up comedian. He gave us the fully narrated tour I’d longed for since walking through the door. A detailed description of the building’s history, the crazy and frustrating (using a few other fun words) nature of having to deal with codes for a historic building, and—after a few guided and genuinely inquisitive questions from Jayme—told us about the Indian chief he hired to “smudge” the place because the vibes were more than a bit disconcerting, especially around the hook and trap door area of the second floor where hangings were performed on Mondays at the old prison. All in all, it was a fascinating adventure as Jayme and I took more than a moment to reflect.

And I suppose I’ve been reflecting ever since. Jayme made a comment after dinner something to the effect of, “I guess now whenever we think of Michael we can remember to pray for him”. It was really more the nature and way she said it than what specifically she said—though that has been given much thought as well—that set my mind a wondering…

I remember a few zealous years ago when I complained about the sheltered, religious nature of my life. I just new there had to be more than going to a Christian school, going to church on Sundays, going to lunch with church friends after church on Sundays, going to assist with Wednesday night children’s programs—also at church, and having all the people you associate with in between be those same souls you would worship with on Sundays and Wednesdays.

In the days since those zealous years I suppose I have become comfortable with the fact that all that I am and all that I do is associated with the church, Christian schools, and ministry. My jobs themselves are located within the walls of church and chapel. And I would have it no other way at this point in life because I know that here is where I am called. Yet the zealous taste of external Christian curiosity was left in my mouth yesterday evening.

But I wonder, I wonder something new. Something that maybe the space between those zealous and these mild mannered years may have given me. I wonder if within the mere act of living out ones calling in the simple, every day, ordinary affairs of life, I wonder if one can then be in the world but not of it. To be sure within that simplicity to take all the opportunities that come your way to listen, share stories and introductions, and maybe even plant seeds of truth and faith with those who are unbelievers, but to do so in a way that is neither revoltingly activistic nor zealously uninformed. In other words, when you meet a Michael take the time to cultivate a relationship. Ask, share, listen, be yourself, then commit to pray and see if and where God will allow your paths to cross again. Who knows, maybe we'll meet up with Mr. Grass again at his regular table, find an evening to pass the greenbean caserole to "Gran-gran" at the end of the table, or find ourselves sitting in the presence of a sweet Nashville ladies devine southern accent. Who knows.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Newest Designs In Baby-wear

"Shhhh! I'm workin' on somethin' ova here!"

According to the Jinx web site: The beauty of this baby creeper is that at any given moment, this could be (and probably is) true. In addition, the J!NX Baby Research Team (JBRT) has found that even if the pooing has yet to happen at the time this creeper was fitted onto said baby, it will happen within 2.3 hours, and probably when there are no diapers readily available.

To order one for a baby near you go to today!

Stylin' and profilin' in the comfortable flexibility of cotton.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


I can't tell a story verbally for the life of me. Occasionally, when moved by the muses of creativity, I can write a mediocre one. But boy, do I love to hear them! Because I love good stories so much I have always found it a bit strange that I can't sit down and read them. That has always been a great struggle for me. Though I enjoy reading, it doesn't come easily for me. I tend to pickup theology or history before picking up a novel. So this summer I'm trying to train myself to broaden my horizons by reading a few good stories. So far I have read The Digging Leviathan by James Blaylock, Falling by Colin Thubron, and I am currently in the middle of Dinner at Deviant's Palace by Tim Powers.

The first was simply a science fiction to get me jump started on this discipline of nailing my bottom to a chair for a few hours in order to read a story. I occasionally had to read out loud—as I've been told you should do with a good story—just to get the feel of the story telling process.

The second is by far my favorite. I caught myself more than once saying out loud, "I want to write like this!". But I will save all review of Falling for another entry because I simply could not do it justice right now.

My current novel is more for the sake of getting over my snobbish embitterment of Time Powers. I simply have never read him for the simple reason that everyone else in my simple circle has and I simply wanted to be the only one who had not. There. I've come out with it. I am a snob! But quickly repentant one I hope. Powers turn of phrase and fresh spins on old clich├ęs are what have struck me most as I read Deviant's Palace. They are quite enjoyable:

"Some people simply have no will to survive—they're walking hors d'oeuvres waiting for someone who can spare the time to devour them."

"Money is just the checkers in a game played by unhappy children."

"...the vacuous inattention of a couple of long time communicants, on whose faces the obligatory smile sat like a welcome mat in front of an abandoned house."

That is that. I'm tearing down all reading prohibitions and finding that there is a wellspring of creativity out there that I have never bothered to jump into. How refreshing!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Oooooo, Aaaaaaaahhhhh....

I'm just glad that it wasn't the Chinese that we decided to break away from because then we wouldn't be able to have so much fun with their awesome invention!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006



(I have to admit, before finding the silverware I thought about using the flat-headed screwdriver part of my Swiss Army knife to eat each individual Crispix bite, then I thought I'd use my icec ream scoop, then I decided my mouth wasn't big enough so I opted for the coffee scoop instead. Thanks to all you concerned and caring folk who were thinking about getting me some silverware!)

Monday, June 19, 2006

In Today's News:


(I can't find my silver ware...still!)

Friday, June 16, 2006

House Warming Boy Scout Style

In this time of crazy uncertainty and change, there are a few things that are sure to be anchors of hope…The grace of God made manifest through 1) the kindness and generosity of His saints and, 2) the reliable camaraderie of a good Swiss Army knife.

In a weeks time I’ve gone from doing my first thorough search for a new place to live, to interviewing at one place, to securing the housing. A week to the day from looking at the place I moved in, which brings this harried search to lasting a grand total of eleven days—under 2 weeks. In that amount og time I have learned the following:

1) Be nice to your friends and maybe they’ll help you look for a place to live.
2) All I own are clothes and books.
3) Except for the cut out art and pictures I hung on my walls.
4) Never hang anything with photo corners.
5) Never hang anything with packaging tape.
6) Friends are here to keep you humble and to remind you never to hang anything with photo corners or packaging tape.
7) God will provide a place to live (through Sue, Der, and Wilbur).
8) God will provide a bed, table, and chairs (through the Taylors).
9) God will provide a nice white lamp (through the Grants).
10) God will provide…and when He does…
11) Be nice to your friends and maybe they’ll help you move.

All of this has been shown through the kind graces of kingdom saints. But there comes the time when I’m left with all this stuff, in boxes, in an unfamiliar place and an overwhelming apprehension floods over me. So I pulled out the God-provided (through Mrs. Tan) bread roll and decided to bake a little bread. There’s nothing that cures dread like some good, focused productivity, and we all know that the best kind of productivity is centered around food!

The bread is done. The search begins for something to cut it with. Thought process:

1) Drat! Everything is packed!
2) No, my forks, spoons, and butter knife are still at the other place.
3) A butter knife is no good any way.
4) I have nothing to cut this yummy chicken-stuffed bread with.
5) Key chain pocket knife?

I knew I had seen it in one of the open boxes…some where. Scramble. No luck. Found it! (sigh) Ahhh. The memories flooded in…every where this faithful knife has been with me…AAAHH! Quick, SOAP—need anti-bacterial soap! IT'S BOXED UP!!

Thought: “I’m gunna die from putrefied-10-year-encrusted fish gut bacteria or something!”

But as I was rinsing the knife under extremely hot water, wiping it thoroughly with the one towel I could find, I was thinking about all the places I’ve been, all the memories a simple little tool from Switzerland can evoke, and all the apprehension of newness and unfamiliarity melted away.

I have been through this before and each time I am reminded of the greatest gifts God gives through the simple graces of His kind saints and the small comforts of a ready Swiss Army knife. And when I ate that ruggedly sliced chicken-stuffed bread my thought was:

God is good.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Universal Tight-Rope Act

I’m preparing for an upcoming move. I’m in between. It’s a weird little stage--creating more loose ends than tying up. There's so much unceasing urgency. I fell that I've finished as well as I could with this last season of life, but beginning well in the next has always been a rather un-balancing act for me. My move is both a physical change of location and a practical change of calling. Everything seems so uncertain, unstable; a tight-rope walk that is both incredibly intimidating with every step yet spectacularly invigorating as I can see some distant end in sight. I know not whether the next step will hold me up or cause me to slip.

I recall a quote from a play I was once in, "Hope and the world hopes with you. Despair and you despair alone." It seems subjectively true. The very nature of hope is more widely inclusive, more diversely encompassing. While despair is a solitary confinement from any semblance of relation, any hint of sympathy. Why must there be such extremes?

I invite you to click here to follow what my dear friend, Jayme, has observed on this very reflection. It is from her that my introductory lilt and content are mimicked, and it is to her that I extend my utmost thanks for initiating this pensive session.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Logical Thoughts

I've been thinking a bit about logic lately. 1) Because I'm concluding the first year of, what I hope will be, my teaching career, having done so as a 7th and 8th grade logic teacher, and 2) Because I've just committed another year of my life to the same subject. I have been wrestling with a good many ideas of what logic is or should be, all in anticipation of the question I know my students will ask me at least once more before they walk out of my classroom for the last time: "What's the point of Logic again?" I’m struggling with a good answer primarily because I am struggling with the nature of logic itself and how it should be taught. Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about:

• Logic cannot be used to answer all questions.

• One of the goals of logic is to show that everyone has "common sense", and then to instruct on how to use it.

• Logic should not be approached mechanically—it should not, does not, operate on fact alone. There is no neat clean category in which all things can be placed simply because we do not live in a neat clean world—we live in a fallen world.

• As Christians we know that people matter. Yes they are messy because of sin, but that does not mean we are to discount their intentions or callings because of a difference of opinion or worldview.

• Some say that passion is all that matters. Some say that it is the intention of the heart. Some say it is what you do that counts. Are any one of those things enough? Yet can we do any more than any one of those things on our own?

• Christ gives us a three-fold witness (John 5) because He knows that there is more to a person than just the ability to reason. We must also take into account feelings and experiences. No one of these areas alone can support the weightiness of truth, but together provide the objectivity that truth demands.

• All of the fallacies my students will study in high school with Dr. Grant will just focus on one of the three characteristics of man. The really appealing and persuasive ones may focus on two. But no other religion, no other way of thinking genuinely addresses and acknowledges all three and attempts to give an answer for each.

• We are not all made the same. Because of that, a really affective argument (i.e. discourse or apologetic) must incorporate and apply the three-fold witness.

• It should be only natural…but it’s not. But it should be—especially if our goal in this poor fallen world is to build up and mend rather than tear down.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Confesions of the 12 O'Clock Mouse

I'm stealing from a friend. But I will fully credit her superb cleverness and editorial accomplishments by directing you to the original source of this landmark variation of time honored children’s' tales: I do hope you enjoy this half as much as I did, and if you feel the need to make any historical clarifications of rhymes or fairy tales from your past, by all means send them along!

"Hickory, dickory, dock, the mice ran up the clock,
The clock struck Twelve.
Then Seven ate Nine & Ten.
And so Twelve ran down,
Filed an insurance claim, called the police, and charged Seven with cannibalism.
Hickory, dickory, dock..."

....The Untold Story of the Twelve O'Clock Mouse....

After recovering from the concussion he received from getting struck by the unusually long minute hand, the 12 o'clock mouse, was able to acquire massive amounts of insurance money from the emotional trauma of seeing his friends eaten...Since 12 o'clock was an extremely wise investor he became very wealthy and, by the end of his life, was a billionaire. But, the 12 o'clock mouse had always been a very generous mouse and so when he died he left all his money and his estate to the poor, forgotten 11 o'clock mouse, whom he had just met a few days before, when 11 o'clock was playing his violin on the sidewalk near 12 o'clock's house. The 11 o'clock mouse was struggling financially and had been mugged and beaten up, which had left him blind. 11 o'clock had not been able to find work for years and so he went on welfare, because no one wanted a blind mouse in their nursery rhyme corporations. As a result of inheriting all this money, 11 o'clock was able to use the money the 12 o'clock mouse gave him, and he traveled around the world with a few friends to help him find other blind mice. He discovered one who joined his quest, and they found a third, but an unfortunate event took place upon discovering him. The second mouse that they discovered was a farm mouse, right as they convinced this mouse to join them, so they could start an independent business, the farmer's wife came rushing at them with a knife. All three mice survived, but they all lost their tales. So, the three mice, joined forces and created their own company called, the Three Blind Mice Organization, and they spread their story of overcoming great obstacles and survival to the world in a rhyme. They became wildly famous and started a foundation for other blind and injured mice who could not find jobs and helped them get on their feet.

Later on, they expanded their business to not only help mice, but all individuals from other Rhyming Corporations that needed aid, including providing homes, jobs, etc. They even helped Miss Muffet after she left her job over at Little Miss Muffet Inc., because the new spider they had hired was verbally abusive. They also helped the fifth little Piggy from the This Little Piggy Co. after he had to have an operation on his vocal chords and couldn't scream, "Wee! Wee! Wee!" anymore. In addition, they helped the entire Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Co. after they had to make a huge job cut when fewer and fewer people were asking what stars are, since science is removing the mystery. So the Three Blind Mice organization had an incredible impact on its community, helping countless numbers of individuals and continues to, even today, despite the downfall in the use of really worthwhile Nursery Rhyme Companies.

There is one thing for certain though, whenever you ask the 11 o'clock mouse/the First Blind Mouse where he gets his inspiration, he will always tell you the same answer, "It all began with one individual.......The 12 O'Clock Mouse..."

Disclaimer: This post is the product of a very long week and may also be credited to another pensively discerning individual.

All I have to say is, a true 21st. Century nursery rhyme could only be achieved through verbal inflation.

Rewriting history, one nursery rhyme at a time.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Memoirs of a Driver's Ed Student

Driver's Ed

The following was found today in a pile of old file CDs. It's been a random day so I feel compeled to share with you writing that is a good 7 or so years old entitled The Incredibly Random Memoirs of a Driver’s Ed Student with Too Much Time on Her Hands. And yes, this is what I wrote in Driver's Ed class instead of notes. If I remember correctly I commented somewhere on the girl's Hulk Hogan shirt that was in the desk in front of me...but that didn't make it into this bit, sorry!

• The beginning— Test time. The room is still and silent save the rambling antics of the old air conditioning unit. The tests are collected and the instructor begins. “How many of you go to church,” Mr. Hedrick asks in his Jonathan Edwards-like humdrum inflection. Nearly the entirety of the class raises their hand. “Good, that means we have a bunch of honest people in here.” We proceed to exchange papers having no earthly idea how our fellow bastion of honesty would have us grade in regards to leniency and answer variations.

• Back form break— The saga of sob stories continues with an overdone appeal to the emotions of we lead-footed modern American teenagers. After the video, we once again repeat every jot and tittle, every gory detail of all three pages in chapter two, which we have covered in such exorbitant and elaborate detail for the entirety of the three hours of our dreary presence here today—save the brief time given to take two tests (even though this is only day two into our grand adventure in boredom).

Hold that thought…we’ve finished twenty minutes early, but wait, that’s not all…. We can’t simply get out early, nooo. We must have a re-incarnation of the “rat walloping” as demonstrated to the world by both The Princess Bride and our very own Mrs. Scheaffer. Surely we cannot commit the unfathomable sin of wasting time, therefore we must— watch our third movie of the day!!

Day 3

• What to know— Tell me honestly, am I looking to become the CEO of Minike or do I simply want to get my permit? What ever happened to sticking to the basics? Crank shaft, drive shaft, pistons, dip stick, and ABS have replaced the good ‘ol explanation of “here’s the car, here’s the keys, ignition, steering wheel, peddles, and gear shift—now drive safely”.

• Wooaahh! Culture shock— We’ve just completed a “What’s your view” info/opinion sheet. The very first statement was, “When I’m in a group, I tend to lead others”. When asked to give our stance on that statement, I expected to raise my hand in agreement with, at least, a handful of other individuals, but found that my phalanges and metacarpals were alone in the vast presence of some 35 of their contemporaries.

• So many opportunities— Not much to write on thus far, other than the sheer fact that I am bored out of my mind. I can not deny the fact that I was warned, but what could have prepared me for this? I venture to say, nothing at all. But for now, I must study for test #3. Lord only knows what that will be like…. Well, um, yeesss. That was, uh, interesting, to say the least. I must congratulate myself—I have officially flunked my first test! Praise be to God, so did most everyone else so the test was not counted. Yet I have this nagging suspecting feeling that such a demonstration of leniency in that manner will not be dispensed again from the honorable Instructor Hedrick.

• Cooked goose— My, I may not get very many good stories out of this experience if things keep going so smoothly. It’s a shame really. I just asked Mr. H when I could possibly begin the driving skills part of my education—expecting, of course, that it may happen after my two weeks of classroom boredom, I mean training. (After all, I did want to help my parents drive this summer.) The man completely surprised me. “I think I can start driving with you on Friday of next week,” he said in (what I now thought to be) his melodiously angelic matter-of-fact fashion.

So now, my goose is cooked, and my stories are toast. Yet I will continue to write of further occurrences through out the next week and a half—whether drab and dreary or exuberant and exciting. But for now I must conclude these past three days of (Hhhmm) yes, well, and thank God for Sunday, for that, is what tomorrow is. Sunday (sigh), untouched by any misconstrued haphazard ideas of drive shafts, death penalties, drunk driving and the like!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Punctuated Life

I received a lovely e-mail yesterday from my good friend Jayme whom I traveled across the pond to see during spring break. She is among the most practical, humorous, and gifted writers that I know. Her turn of phrase is inspiringly original. Her ability to drawl wit from the mere bones of life is refreshingly profound. And her hunger to learn, read, and be more fills up the breadth and depth of her penmanship profession. But of all the correspondence I’ve conducted with the dear girl, yesterday’s e-mail was the most encouraging. There’s nothing like getting a note from a friend you haven’t heard from in some time. There was length to this note, but I don’t think that was the best part. There was humor in this note (Like the line: “sorry you were stuck in wherever-the-heck illinois or something. kinda a funny blog entry. i can't believe you were forced into more mcdonalds. it's just not your month for food.”) that, while refreshing, I still do not think was the best part—though the line I gave you touched on it. In all 306 words, 1,321 characters, and 6 paragraphs, there are about 16 non-ending punctuations, 6 capital letters, and 1 disclaimer:

lastly, i feel compelled (by shame) to acknowlege my terrible punctuation throughout this note - i'm just not in the mood to punctuate well. i'm having a little vacation from it.

Ahhh. That is the best part! How incredibly encouraging is it for a writer to take a momentary holiday from punctuation knowing full well that she’ll get back to it eventually because—as all good writers know—punctuation is a rule and while there are exceptions to most every rule, one must have a firm understanding and appreciation of the rule before one can break it.

So during this inverted season of Easter where the punctuated time of celebration and reflection have become the exception to our rule of the hustle-bustle-I’m-just-not-in-the-mood life, thank you Jayme for this reminder of priorities.

The punctuated life is a rule, one must know it before breaking it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ever Heard Of...

Ever heard of Rensselaer, Indiana? Me neither...until two days ago. It's amazing how little one cares about the small towns you travel through on your way to a specific destination until you get stuck in one of those little towns. By stuck, I mean stranded. In the middle of nowhere. Without a car. The closest restaurants (which happens to be an Arby's and a--*gasp*--McDonald's) are a good 1/4-1/2 a mile away. The road to freedom (Interstate 65) can be viewed by simply looking out your hotel room window and you're on the wrong end of that interstate.

Flat Corn Field
Flat Fields fo Indiana

Welcome to my world. My family's world really. It's been a trip of ironies and providences. We drove up to the Chicago area for the weekend to visit an old family friend who is getting up in years. That goal achieved, we began to head towards Indianapolis in the direction of home Saturday evening only to pull over at a gas station with smoke billowing from under the hood of our van. Visions of family trips going drastically awry flash into my mind. The closest place to get supplies at 9pm to try and patch up the problem was a Wal-mart some 6 miles away from our hotel. Wal-mart. The first irony. I hate Wal-mart. But it was there that a couple of employees heard about our plight and drove us to a hotel. I love Wal-mart employees. Irony #2: There's a McDonald's at the end of our hotel's road. I hate McDonald's...but now I realize I love the McDonald's employees. (Some times it takes dramatic and crazy situations to make you separate your strong dislike for the huge world-wide conglomerates from your opinion of the individuals of those who work for the huge world-wide conglomerates. Good lesson for me to learn!)

Clark Street
Clark Street: The Road to Wal-mart

So, yesterday I set out on a pilgrimage back to Wal-mart to pick up a few things we left in our van and to leave a key in one of those little magnetic hiding boxes for whoever was going to tow the van. It was a good walk. Long but good. I got a good look of the little town we're stuck in. It was a clear, cool day yesterday with blue skies and flat farmland painting horizons in every direction (basically there was nothing around for miles but I prefer to look on the aesthetic beauty side of life!). I went into the little grocery store right beside Wal-mart and discovered a gold mine in the form of a wine corner. Who da thunk! Podunk Indiana has a wine corner! I was so psyched! I've been in similar situations before where I found wine and didn't have a de-corker which means at home I have a collection of wine openers but the one's at home weren't useful at that point. Irony #3: Cashier, "You're not going to like this, but we're not allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays. You could go to Illinois." She says this as she 1) takes away my wine bottle and 2) rings up my wine opener. I admit, I was a little snippy, "Um, I'm not going to need that then am I," pointing to the opener. Sigh. I had to settle for Gatorade instead.

So here I sit, writing and documenting our adventure, why? Because I have a lot of time on my hands and I just so happen to have 1) my laptop and 2) an Internet connection? Yes, but I'm also looking for all the neat ironies, all the moments along the way where God has provided and our family has had to work together just to keep from going crazy! Oh, and if any one ever needs a place to stay in Rensselaer, Indiana, I recommend the Holiday Inn Express just off I-65. We know the owner now, so just tell 'em the Shore family sent you!

Holiday Inn Rensselaer
Holiday Inn Express Rensselaer

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Too Much to One's Self

A friend of mine recently sent me this quote from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray saying that she thought of me for some reason when she read it:

"Oh, I can't explain. When I like people immensely I never tell their names to anyone. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town now I never tell people where I am going. If I did, I would lose all my pleasure. It is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance into one's life."

She asked if it meant anything to me. My first thought was in regard to my recent trip to England during which I had no communication with the outside world and only left the contact number of my friend in Cambridge for my boss and my parents. No one really knew much about where I was going or what I would be doing. Partly because I didn't know myself, nor did I care, and thought it would be a wonderful adventure to steep myself in the mystery of it all. But then what my young Dorian Gray friend didn't know is that while on this mysterious adventure of a trip I decided to make such mysterious adventures a habit...twice a year if finances allow, but most assuredly every year at spring break as long as I'm teaching. And yes, I did decide that I would not tell anyone where I would be going.

As I thought more about it, I realized that new decision is probably a more healthy hold over from the days when I did more exclusively cherish secrecy, locking it "up safe in the casket or coffin of [my] selfishness". It was once a pet that I would stroke tenderly and privately, consoling myself with the thought that no one knew what I was going through nor did they care. I love C.S. Lewis all the more now that I have been to his house, his colleges, his pub, and his grave. But before I knew anything about him, or cared anything for him, this was the quote that lead me to the path of sharing life through community:

"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, unpenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." --The Four Loves

Our natural tendencies, both good and bad, are a part of who we are, but they need not define us or control our lives. Nor should we rely on them, depend on them, as an excuse or a crutch never to be overcome. To come face to face with the important truth that our greatest strengths can be our greatest weaknesses, and our greatest weaknesses can be our greatest strengths is indeed a sobering yet hope-filled realization!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Light Bulb Controversy

I have a new question to come back with when confronted by the infamous “light bulb joke”. So when I’m next asked by a dear Baptist friend:

“How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb?”

I will reply with:

“Well, is it a European or American light bulb?”

I have a feeling that I could catch them so off guard that rather than answering my question they would once again reply with one of their own, “What?!”

It’s true. There is a difference. I have now seen it for myself and have lived to tell about it. One day last week, while in my bedroom in Cambridge, I thought I had flipped the last switch of a light bulb’s life. Devastated by the blow, I sought to mend, or if not mend—*gasp*—replace. I stood on top of my bed, did little more than merely touch the light bulb, and it fell into my hand. First I performed the shaking test to see if it would respond with inner scratching indicating that it’s innards were in pieces. Then the blackout test—stare at the top of the light bulb to see if it is darkened from internal combustion. Procedures 1 and 2 passed with flying colors—no dead light bulb here. Procedure 3: screw it back in and try flipping the switch again. After all, it could have just been really loose and shifted loose from its proper connective energy flow. Problem. There are two pointy things poking out of either side at the end of the light bulb and there is no sign of any screwage capability. I’m baffled. But I give the Europeans the benefit of a very large doubt by assuming that the internal workings of the light fixture itself accommodates a screwing gesture for this type of peculiarly pronged piece of work.

It took this Presbyterian two minutes to put the light bulb back in. Eight if you count all the testing and mental processing time. But only then after I decided to look up under the light fixture to see that, while it did not accommodate any sort of screwage, it did in fact have two little holes—the size of those pointy-sticky-outy things on the light bulb—to accommodate proper twistage of the light bulb.

Frustrated, but done.

Flipping the switch…“And God said, ‘Let there be light’!”

So the next time a light bulb joke comes my way from a friend, my first question will be, “Is it a European light bulb or and American light bulb”. And if I really just have to put it in layman’s terms for them, I’ll just tell them, “Well, it’s the difference between threaded or prongy-pokey but it really has to do with the difference between screwage and twistage”.

“How long does it take one Americans to properly replace a European light bulb?”

(Blog disclaimer: And if I must tell my joking light bulb friend about my personal experience with the European light bulb, I will most assuredly leave out the end of the story. I went down stairs and my dear host, Jayme, told me the power had gone out for a few minutes. I stayed quiet and didn’t care to mention that it was probably just under ten minutes of power failure. How did I know that? Because it took me eight minutes to assess the problem, and a good two to properly replace the light bulb and flip the switch again!)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cambridge Bound

King's College
King's College

Prologue to the Canterbury Tales:
Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote
The droughte of Marche hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages):
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
(And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes)
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Angle-Lond, to Canterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.

Magdalene College
Magdalene College

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Felt Board Friends

Why is it that all the biblical heroes I heard stories of as a child were male? Not that I'm a man-hater—far from it! But really, apart from Mary the mother of Christ—oh, and John the Baptist had to be born some how too, so I heard Elizabeth's name—I recall no stories of any other women. I remember felt sheep, felt thickets, felt alters, felt thrones, felt loaves and fishes, felt kings, felt shepherds—one could say I felt a lot as a child. But that sisterly struggle between Leah and Rachel was not among it. The youthful foolishness of Dinah was never conveyed. The motherly caring of the Shunammite woman was never experienced. Nor was the crucial stalwartness of Deborah. But more than my wrestling with the fact that all my childhood heroes of the faith were encouraged to be men, is my wrangling with the fact that all my childhood heroes of the faith were perfect. Perfect specimens of wit, wisdom, and holiness...and those chiseled felt features weren't so bad looking either! My heroes were noble champions for all that was good, true, and just. They prayed all the time, even in bed—which I always thought was a feat in and of itself to be in bed praying and not go to sleep. They talked to God as if He were their best bud. And whenever God helped they rip that lion up, shoot that giant down, or fight those evil idol worshippers away, they were always good about telling God thanks.

I'm a perfectionist. It's taken me years to admit that and still I'm apt to deny it when circumstances comply. I'm attracted to the flawless because I hate mistakes. I've been learning the art of delegation, but I've found that my brand of delegation is selective. If there is any doubt in my mind as to the expert quality of my volunteer's work I'd just as soon do it myself so that it will be done the right way. Actually working with people gets messy any way, and who wants mess! If there is that slight chance in a million that I happen to mess the project up myself, it's never as big a problem. I mean, think all the good that will be accomplished when I'm done...and who better to fix the problem than, well, me. Minor details aren't messy when they're your own and you’re in charge. The funny thing is, I think I learned that from my Bible heroes—or maybe I should say from my impression of my Bible heroes. But the truth is, they all had pretty messy lives...the ones I learned about and the ones I didn't.

Esau made last ditch efforts to reconcile himself to his father and mother. When he saw that his brother Jacob had been blessed and told to go to Paddan-aram and take a non-Canaanite wife, he realized just how much his own two Canaanite wives had perplexed his parents. So, in an attempt to search for the covenant—albeit in all the wrong places—he married a daughter of Ishmael.

Leah was the least loved and the least lovely of Jacob's wives. She had pretty good reason to be a little upset and discouraged but we see in her a spring of faith slowly coming up over time that is evidenced in the naming of her children. It was she, after all, and not Rachel that was the forbearer of the Messiah.

David was the man after God's own heart. But you know what, it wasn't because he was perfect. He slept with another man's wife, then had the guy knocked off to make things less awkward. All the liturgical advances, Messianic foreshadowing, and grand building schemes couldn't cover up the mess David got himself into. But ya know what, it's not what he did that made David the man after God's own heart, it's who he was. And being a quick and genuine repenter was a part of who David was.

No matter how much I "felt" as a child, I never got that lesson. People are messy. Heroes are messy. True heroes are quick and genuine repenters.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Small Graces and Fresh Starts

Whew! It's Monday! The first Monday in quite some time that I haven't dreaded. What is it about Mondays that bring with it a sense of odious loathing? Why does it seem that the weekend is never long enough? Do we really dislike working, laboring for food and family that much? As one of my old friends used to say, "Sounds like a personal issue to me." And maybe it is. But something struck me anew this morning, this Monday morning, this brightly shining, crisply cool morning: It's a new day. Not only that, it's a new week. Not only that it’s the first full week of a new month. We have days. We have weeks. We have months. All which represent in them selves a new and unique start, a fresh spin on life, an opportunity to start anew. All too often I try to trudge through the next week always in anticipation of the next weekend or the next break. I don't think about new starts until January 1st!

God is so good to punctuate our lives with a Sabbath rest, but He is also so good to give us the small grace of starting each day anew, each week afresh, each month again as if He were to say, "I have taken care of the past. I will take care of the present, and if the future is too much for you to think about, continue in this day and know that I will still be tomorrow."

Thank you Father for Mondays!

I'm Feelin' Good by Nina Simone
Birds flying high
You know how I feel
Sun in the sky
You know how I feel
Breeze driftin' on by
You know how I feel

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me, yeah
It's a new dawn, it's a new day
It's a new life for me
And I'm feelin' good

Fish in the sea
You know how I feel
River runnin' free
You know how I feel
Blossom on the tree
You know how I feel

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me
And I'm feeling good

Dragonfly out in the sun
You know what I mean, don't you know
Butterflies all having fun
You know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done, that's what I mean

And this old world
Is a new world
And a bold world for me (yeah, yeah)

Stars when you shine
You know how I feel
Scent of the pine
You know how I feel
Oh, freedom is mine
And I know how I feel

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me

Oh, I'm feelin' good!

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Hairy Follow-Up

I'm in a very hairy mood!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

You Lookin' Good!

Who ever decides what looks good as a haircut and what doesn't any way? One day last week I woke up to the most unruly head of hair known to restless sleepers. Had no time to mess with it other than put a little de-frizzer on it lest it remind someone instantly upon sight of me that the Einstein look is still fashionable. During the course of the day I received more comments on how cute my hair was since the time I first had my long wait-length locks of brunette hair chopped off as a senior in high school. What gives? I mean, granted, some people could have secretly been harboring the all too honest thought of, "Poor child, looks like she had a long night", or " were on your way to lookin' good when you got your hair cut, now you just need somebody to help you out with the stylin' and profilin' part!" But honestly, I think most people really liked it. Don't get me wrong, if less stress and a little mess get me by then I say "Lord bless"!

But then there was today. Ten people--I kid you not--said my hair looked real good and asked if I had gotten it cut. After number four I wanted to release my inner child and scream out, "I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!", but figured that would not be appropriate given 1) my age, and 2) the simplicity of the topic at hand. Once again though, the hair decided to do its own thing. I didn't tweak it. I didn't argue with it. I even let it part a little more down the middle than to the side in memory of the fact that my father no longer even has hair down the middle. It did its little curl under thing without aid or assistance and without ever even asking me if that's how I like it done or bothering to let me know whether this was a once in a lifetime look or if it might actually decide to be accommodating for a change. I think all the attention kept it in its place.

Today was a more orderly traditional look. Last week was going for the wind-blown-I-paid-a-lot-for-this-look look. Both received complements. I wonder if they were from the same people. If so that might be a personal issue! I think I'll work on a mullet look and see what snide remarks--if any--or inquiring acknowledgements--if any--I get from that. Then again, may be I should just learn my lesson and let nature run its course! Hmmm, what will tomorrow's hairstyle be....

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Meet Me in London in Twenty Dayes!

Preface to The Pilgrim’s Way
By Arthur Quiller-Couch

It is a disease of us English, and I think a reproach to that reformed religion which most of us profess, that we no longer go on pilgrimages. We travel more furiously than ever, and our propensity for it has passed into a by-word among the nations: but we travel among phenomena, and either in that rage for sight-seeing which Matthew Arnold summarized once for all, or in pursuit of bodily, not spiritual, health. Yet we were once a great people for pilgrimages for our spiritual health; and the roads along which we tear in motors or on bicycles intersect and sometimes follow for miles the tracks whereby the Englishman used to ride or trudge—once in his lifetime, perhaps, but for his soul’s great benefit—to Canterbury, Walsingham, St. Michael’s Mount. For most of us the frequented stretches of these old roads have had their significance rubbed out of them: it is where the track diverges—where the rider on his way home from the hunt crosses a ribbon of short turf winding over the downs—that the lesson is more likely to be read: and this is a pity, for it effaces by a foolish antiquarian interest what should be a present practical one. If the new road lead us better to Walsingham than the old, by all means let the old be superseded. But does the new lead to Walsingham?

I want to urge here a reason or two why this good custom of our fathers, of going on pilgrimages, should not be discontinued.

In the first place, a man ought, at least once in his life, to commit himself to some great undertaking such as a pilgrimage; for a man has only one life to live. Also it will help to make him an agreeable fellow. He will derive an astonishing amount of amusement from planning the cost, pouring over maps, and discussing the adventure beforehand with his wife; and afterwards he can tell his neighbors about it.

Next, although a holiday is good, a pilgrimage is better; for it proceeds from those impulses which, though he repress them by daily work, still intrude and whisper that he was born for higher things. Almost every man feels that his fate holds him down to a rut; that, though he love his wife and children, he has missed for their sake to do God (whatever his God may be) some service which had been within his free capacity. Therefore his release upon pilgrimage offers him something which is more than a holiday, and at the same time something which is better, being less. It has not the dissoluteness of a holiday, which so often disappoints because the holiday-maker has cut himself off from his interests, and changed them for

Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized,

Whereas the pilgrim is one who has made an appointment with his higher self, to meet at some distant date and place. As Donne says—

Meet me in London then
Twenty dayes hence, and thou shalt see
Me fresher and more fat, by being with men,
Than if I had staid still with her and thee.

“By being with men”—that is another gain of the pilgrim’s. He not only, like Ulysses, visits cities and foreigners, and learns their minds: he makes acquaintance, among his fellow-travellers, with men at once “practical”, taking the day as it comes, and congregationally bent on bettering their souls. Their sociability (you may note this in Chaucer’s pilgrims) does not hide their serious common purpose, but rather takes it for granted, and so makes it more real.

Again, the pilgrim is doing what the race has done constantly for many thousands of years; and to any one with a catholic mind (no matter what his creed) this ought to be a tremendous argument.

Lastly, he is putting into drama and acting for himself that parable which—so true is it—has in one way and another inspired the very best books in the world—among them the Odyssey, and Aeneid, the Divine Comedy, Don Quixote. All these are but different versions of the Pilgrim’s Progress: and if this little book dares to follow the parable, it is because a truth so universal covers the small equally with the great.

We are all on pilgrimage here: and though to beguile the road I have sung a song or two, and told perhaps too many stories, there has also been time to make a notebook of a few good thoughts I met on the way and pondered and sometimes took to rest with me. Perhaps the best of all, for all weathers and for every business, is the following of Fenelon’s, which I have kept for my preface:

“Do everything without excitement, simply in the spirit of grace. So soon as you perceive natural activity gliding in, recall yourself quietly into the presence of God….You will find yourself infinitely more quiet, your words will be fewer and more effectual, and, while doing less, what you do will be more profitable. It is not a question of a hopeless mental activity, but a question of acquiring a quietude and peace in which you readily advise with your beloved as to all you have to do."

A.T. Quiller-Couch

Monday, February 20, 2006

Jayme Tagged Me...

Four Jobs I've Had:
1. Church Janitor
2. Farro’s Little Italy Official Dish Washer
3. Admin. Assistant for King’s Meadow
4. Logic Teacher at Franklin Classical School

Four Goals I Set This Year:
1. Finishing my Bannockburn Degree—all I lack is…and yet...
2. Get My Knees In Shape Enough to Run for the FCS Fundraiser
3. Remember More of What I Read
4. Keep Breathing

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over:
I typically do not watch any movies over, much less over and over. So here are movies I have watched more than once.
1. Steel Magnolias
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
3. Harry Potter
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Four Places I've Lived:
1. Hammond, IN
2. Kernersville, NC
3. China Grove, NC
4. Franklin, TN

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch:
Given that I do not have a TV I hope that past shows will suffice.
1. MacGuyver
2. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
3. Star Trek: The Next Generation
4. American Idol (on occasion, and with people like Mr. Wilbur)

Four Vacation Spots:
1. Vacation? What’s that?
2. Home
3. Romney, WV
4. Cambridge, England

Four Websites I Visit:
1. Blogs
2. (many times daily, especially used as a spell check)

Favorite Foods:
1. Avacados
2. Strawberries
3. Meat (Fat Moe’s burgers, Mickey Roo’s bar-b-que, Ronnie’s buffalo wings)
4. Guacamento with Bacon sandwich from the Franklin Mercantile

Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:
1. Any where but Vanderbuilt hospital
2. Home reading my soon to arrive copy of Sophie’s World
3. Driving across Kansas where all I can see for miles in every direction is flat land
4. With friends singing from Arrayed Before the Throne

I tag:
1. Brianna Bleymaier
2. Greg Wilbur
3. Kelly Scherrer
4. Bonnie Buckingham

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day by James Taylor

Beneath the tide the fishes glide
Fin to fin and side to side
For fishy love has now begun
Fishy love, finny fun

Paper moon, paper heart
Pink balloon, work of art
Al Capone, Bugs Moran
Valentine's Day

Bootleg gin, porkpie hat
Dew Drop Inn, dirty rat
Through the heart, Cupid's dart
Valentine's Day

Day to repay the one that you love
Gentlemen take off your hats as I speak thereof
Just a brief break from the push and the shove
We may go a few rounds without boxing gloves

Land your punch, I stand my ground
We break for lunch and a second round
We set them up, we knock them down
Valentine's Day

Me and you, you and him
Him and her, us and them
We keep score, love as war
Valentine's Day

I lost my teeth, I lost my hair
I lost my mind, you don't care
Love is war, all is fair
On Valentine's Day

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I'm a Shrub

A sea of asphalt. Trees of iron. Stars of fluorescent light. Torrents of souls flooding a vast, expansive gully complete with steel reinforcement. They mock me. All things impersonal and even the dearest of friends. But it must be. I could get lost, swept away by either the sea, the forest, the stars, or in the gully itself. I have to have a place of grounding, a point of reference, a navigational placard. I am peculiar, granted--I can agree with my friends on that point. But to mock a poor soul that must--after all other options have been tried or all other choices have been argued--venture out into the dark sea lots and trudge through the expansive gully known as Wal-mart, surely they can grant me some repose, some solace, some comfort that at least my ship has been parked by a true point of reference, a deeply rooted (or newly rooted) edifice of purely natural cause and calling, a rarity in a world of steel reinforcement...a tree.

A friend (yes one of the mockers) was reading through a dictionary one evening (those are the type friends I have...crazy ones that read through dictionaries) and came upon a new nickname for me: shrubby cinquefoil. The following is a description care of Utah State University:

Shrubby cinquefoil is a deciduous, multi-stemmed and many branched shrub, reaching heights of 1 to 6.5 feet. The growth form of shrubby cinquefoil varies; it occurs as a low mat and as an erect shrub. Shrubby cinquefoil has a shallow to moderately deep, spreading root system with thin woody roots. Flowers from late May to late September, seeds mature from late summer to early fall. Regenerates from wind-dispersed seed and by sprouting from the root crown.

I know not why. I know not how. I know not from whence I came to this subconscious, yet decisive conclusion, but when I go any where--drive any where--I always park in front of a tree. Second tree from the left end, right side, second row of the back church parking lot on Sunday mornings. Third tree from the right end, left side in the front of the church parking lot on week days. There is a tree for work. There is a tree for home. There is a tree for my parent's house, for my friends' house, the bank, the other bank, and several at Wal-mart (if I am ever so inclined, or feel the need to go there). I have a fairly poor memory when it comes to the daily tasks and maintenance of my own life. While I can keep track of others quite well, I must employ a long list of checks and balances in my own life to even remember to employ checks and balances. So, I park by trees so that I will not forget.

I know my shrubby appellation fit so very well with my propensity toward tree parking, but it set me on a quest, a quest to be more than a shrub, to do more than just park by a tree...I want to BE the tree!

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

I can only hope that my inner longing to find that navigational bearing in the midst of a synthetic world will lead me to the place where I can be more rooted in something eternally fruitful rather than be swept away down stream, as if I only had the root system of a shrub.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Reading Quotes

"Because it is deeply imbedded in the mines, the finest gold often remains long undiscovered. And in profound natures the sterling qualities of character are not always revealed at once."

"It often happens that quiet personalities tend to slumber complacently in this way until some event shakes them violently out of their lethargy."

"She saw in God not merely a possible answer to prayer, but a certain answer."

Women of the Old Testament by Abraham Kuyper

"We are constantly on a stretch, if not a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or organization. God's plan is to make much of the man far more of him than anything else. Men are God's method. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men."

"Preaching is not the performance of an hour. It is the outflow of a life. It takes twenty years to make a sermon, because it takes twenty years to make the man. The true sermon is a thing of life. The sermon grows because the man grows. The sermon is forceful because the man is forceful. The sermon is holy because the man is holy. The sermon is full of divine unction because the man is full of divine unction."

"The sweetest graces by a slight perversion may bear the bitterest fruit. The sun gives life, but sun strokes are death. Preaching is to give life; it may kill."

"Our being with God is of use only as we expend its priceless benefits on men."

Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds

"If they are our own words they will soon by unavoidable repetition, harden into a formula. If they are some one else's, we shall continually pour into them our own meaning."

Letters to Malcom, Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Fool's Prayer

by Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

The royal feast was done; the King
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: "Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!"

The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.

He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the Monarch's silken stool;
His pleading voice arose: "O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

"No pity, Lord, could change the heart
From red with wrong to white as wool;
The rod must heal the sin: but Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

"'Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
'Tis by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.

"These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.

"The ill-timed truth we might have kept--
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say--
Who knows how grandly it had rung!

"Our faults no tenderness should ask.
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders--oh, in shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.

"Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!"

The room was hushed; in silence rose
The King, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
"Be merciful to me, a fool!"

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Without a Song

What is the world without a song?
The notes that enlighten the soul.
Beats that intertwine the rhythms of the heart
And make known the common things for which we long.

What is the soul without a tune?
The melodious strings of hope.
Lilts lend expression to share moments of joy
And raise lament, for sorrows here follow soon.

What is the heart without a use?
The words that convey and express.
Choruses unite from solitary Source
And voices no more alone, and tongues let loose.

What is the world without a song?
The man that may express his days.
Notes that he forms for long years of remembrance
And chords ringing clear, truths for which we yet long.