Friday, December 18, 2009

We See, We Dream, We Make Believe

Sometimes we feel that there are not enough worries to take on, not enough issues to deal with, not enough challenges to overcome, and so we conjure some up hoping that maybe, just maybe these we will be able to control since they are of our very own making.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lessons from a Week, Questions for a Lifetime

I have long appreciated the nature of the question. I have studied it, asked questions of its essence, its purpose, its origin. I have asked them of other people who know more about them than I. I have asked them of my students who know less about them than I. I have gathered those same students together to help me count the number of questions there are in Scripture because I felt that some answers to my questions about questions would surface in that endeavor. So I now know that there are approximately 2,534 questions in Scripture. I know that Job has 262—the most of any book in the Bible. I know that Isaiah and Jeremiah come in behind with 168 and 169 respectively, followed in number by Psalms with 146, John with 145, and Luke with 135. The process of counting questions in Scripture caused me to love questions all the more. I had a hunch that questions played a vital role in the educations of the Hebrew nation, and I felt a bit of confirmation in the discovery of those 2,534 questions in Scripture.

This past week I greeted, stroked, and helped burry, I talked and cried with the parents and family of, I read to, gave gum to, and played with the siblings of a beautiful baby girl who was able to make more of an impact in the short time we got to see her than many have in their lifetime. Sweet Mary Genevieve raised so very many questions. Why? How? What if? What will we do? What should I do? One seems to question much when death visits a home. But one questions so much more when it is the death of a child. Why is this grief so different?

I have heard many propositions about questioning in the midst of difficult times of grief or trial. Many of those have taken the road of supposed least resistance and said that we should not question God and His purposes for our lives. But I have seen many who have taken that road crumble under the weight of guilt, go mad with the agony of loss, or work themselves into the grave trying to create a redemptive story from one of loss and pain when they themselves yet have no hope. Some of them end up ok. But they never move past the grief or trial to being more than just ok. Why is it not only fine to ask questions but good to ask questions at such times as these?

If in my search I had found one or two questions in Scripture—maybe even five—I would have questioned the importance of questions in human life. But knowing that there are at least 2,534 causes me to realize that God intended us to be a questioning people. But remembering that we as a questioning people are made in His image, we must also remember that He is a questioning God. The first recorded dialogue between God and man in Genesis 3 came at The Fall when God asked questions of both Adam and Eve. “Where are you?” “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” “What is this that you have done?” The first recorded dialogue between Jesus and man in Luke 2 came when Mary and Joseph were looking for Him during the Feast of Passover “Son, why have you treated us so?” To which Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” The first recorded encounter with the Holy Spirit and man in Acts 2 caused a flurry of questions. “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” “What does this mean?”

Though God’s questions are often different than our own questions, He is our ultimate standard since we are made in His image, which means that we should seek in all things to be more like Him—even in the asking of questions. His questions are never selfishly motivated. His questions are never a complaint. His questions are never vindictive or accusatory. His questions are, on the other hand, always probing, expectant, revealing, sincere, intentional, and full of hope. The question should not be, “Is it right to question God?” but rather “Am I asking the right question of God?” Is my act of questioning born of a victim mentality or out of a longing to be changed and truly comforted?

Father, we know that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. But we are feeble, weary, and worn. What does it look like? This grief we are to bear? Teach us to grieve, even as you teach us to love and question you as we ought.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 17: Disambiguation—G.E.G.

"Faith believes God to be truthful: hope waits for him to display his truthfulness at the appropriate time....Faith is the foundation on which hope is build: hope feeds faith and keeps it alive. And just as no one can expect or hope for anything from God without first believing his promises, in the same way the weakness of our faith (which, weary, must not falter) must be supported and preserved by persevering hope and expectancy." —John Calvin, Truth for All Time

In Psalm 3 we cactch a glimpse of David as he is overwhelmed by foes surrounding him, foes both of his own household and those without decrying owe and ill. In verse 3 David says, "But you, Oh Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head." He cried aloud to the Lord hoping—in his wearying faith—that these things might me true. Hoping that he will be given the faith to believe more fully. Hoping that God will display His truthfulness at the appropriate time. And then David went to sleep, "I lay down and slept" (verse 5). It's amazing what rest can do to disambiguate an overwhelming situation. Rest for the body. Rest for the soul. Rest for the mind. Rest in the One Who made us and in Whom we are hoping. God can use rest—that time when we actually dispare of our own competency, our own strength—to renew us body, mind, and soul. And in this rest God bestows on us, just as He did to David, the courage a new start and a new day has to offer. "I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid..." (verses 5-6). David's hope and expectancy is brought to fruition and faith is renewed. Not only does David truely believe once again in God's promises, but now he has been given the faith and strength to live like it, "Strength belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people" (verse 8).

Psalm 3
1 O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God. Selah [1]

3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

7 Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people! Selah

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Short Sabatical

Yup, I know. This is not another installment of the 20 Days of Randomness. Let me apologize now. Due to a conference here, a conference there, and the minor tragedy of computer harddrive failure, posting has been anything but proficient these days. And as I am about to flee the country I must confess proficiency will not get any better within the next two weeks. But before I go I just wanted to say that I'm excited. And that while I'm away I have absolutely no plans save getting to my destination. I shall be bringing only the necessities, and I've whittled down the necessary books to equal 5. I was shooting for 3, but justified two more due to the fact that they are rather small and I could probably read them both twice a piece just on the flight over. But don't worry, where I am going there is a rather good and recourseful library so don't think that I'm starving myself due to the fact that each additional check in bag cost one arm plus $25.

Here's what I'm taking to English L'Abri, and heaven only knows what all I'll be bringing back:

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Day 16: Belly Button Lint—G.D.W.

From the moment the last remaining bit of umbilical cord falls off till our dying day, we carry with us a companion that sticks with us through the toughest of times, maturing and growing better with age even as we do the same. It is the one constant, the ever present, the always faithful. It can start out small when we are small then grow to fill an ever growing void. It sees us through our first birthdays when our parents think it's cute to let us eat cake clothed only in a diaper. It holds our attention in kindergarten when our long-suffering teachers can not. It then becomes a teacher's aid when our elders seek (to no avail) to instill in us the importance of cleanliness in adolescence. From there it is little thought about, little heard of, little valued. Until the octogenarian age. Then it is rediscovered and appreciated for it's age and complexity, mostly because some one else has discovered it while giving us a sponge bath. Just think, it all started with a bit of left over cord, and then speck by speck, particle by particle it came into its own through ripe maturity. To it we owe a debt of gratitude, for it is part of who we are today.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 15: Mirror—N.G.R.

A Brief Glimpse into the Life of La-a
(pronounced la-dash-a) the Mirror:

(enter a frequent visitor)

Giiirl, you an idiot! Stop lookin’ at me AGAIN. Of course you’re butt’s too big. Your lil’ friend there ain’t gunna tell you that, but you hang around me long enough and I tell you all about it. Oh, and by the way, that hair color just ain’t you. You should go more with a kind ‘a auburn or magenta instead of jet black. You lookin’ like Cher ‘cept not as cute. Whoops, you dun got water all over the sink! Wait, where you goin’? You ain’t gunna clean that up? Ser’ously. I have got one word fo’ you: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. You should find out what it means to me.

Oh hey, honey. You lookin’ nicer than that last girl that just walked off. Actually child, you lookin’ good. What’s that you wearin’, Cerruti? I ain’t seen no Cerruti since I passed through New York from where I’s manufactured in South Carolina. New York, New York! It’s you girl, it’s you! Oh, ok. You off. A’righty, it’s been real nice talkin’ to ya. Come on back some time ya…aaaaaaaaan’ she gone.

It’s ok. I don’t mind bein’ in here all by myself. Some body’s gotta look out fo’ people in here. Ooo, there’s the door. Awww, lowdy! I knew I soon as that word “people” come out I shouldn’t ‘a said it! Son, you ain’t supposed ta’ be in here. Shoo! Shoo! Aww lordy, there’s a man all up in here! Son, can’t you tell you ain’t in the right kinda place? HaaaHa! He dun noticed ‘fo he made it five feet in, good fo’ him! Yeah, that’s right, you better be lookin’ at me all apologetic like, an’ fix yo’ hair. Get now, ya hear, an’ don’t cha come back no more, no more, no more, no more!

(exit a non-frequent visitor)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 14: A Bowl of Freshly Cut Toe Nails—M.V.

Talk Show Host: This week on “Shoe Living” we’ll go inside the shoe household and see just what all goes into bath night when there are so many children that you don’t know what to do. How does the Old Woman do it? You’ll find out, so stay tuned!

(insert dramatic TV talk show music here)

Old Woman: Thankfully I jus’ give the kids a bath once a month. Gotta set aside a whole day, I mean, how else can I do it? There’s so many of the little buggers runnin’ ‘round. Ain’t no way I can keep a runnin’ tab a who had a bath what day ‘er nothin’.

Talk Show Host: So basically what you do is line them all up and give them a bath one after the other?

Old Woman: Sorta. We got color teams here in the shoe. Them kids are divided up, kin’a like colors ‘a the rainbow. Let’s see we gots the Purple Kids, the uh Blue Kids, we got the Green Kids, let’s see uh the Yeller Kids, the Or’nge Kids, and the uh, who’m I missin’…oh yeah, an’ the Red ones.

Talk Show Host: So they’re in order of color? And they just know when to come?

Old Woman: Yup! In that there order that I just spouted off to ya. Then that last ‘un calls the first ‘a the next, an’ so on til they all come out shinin’ like spit on a hog…but a might bit better smellin’ mind ya.

Talk Show Host: That doesn’t sound too hard, guess you just had to get the system down, huh?

Old Woman: That’s jus’ the bathin’ part though. There’s more that goes into bath day then jus’ the bathin’!

Talk Show Host: Like what?

Old Woman: Like the cleanin’ up and the getting’ rid ‘a all that nasty water and trimmin’ the toe nails and such!

Talk Show Host: Well then tell us a little bit about those things? And is all that stuff just as hard as the actual bath time?

Old Woman: Awww, Lawd! I think all that’s a bit worse! Oh but we did get that there contraption from those Sears folk (‘cause we came on this show). It does ‘at fancy thang where it takes our nasty water and turns it back inta drinkin’ water. That’s real nice. It’s jus’ the getting’ it to the crazy thang that’s a pain. Baths ‘er at the toe ‘a the house, that thang’s at the heel. I can’t be spendin’ all my time cartin’ that stuff from one end ‘a the place ta the other! Say, ya don’t think “Extreme Make Over: Sole Edition” would come ta my place an’ do it up right nice, do ya?

Talk Show Host: So…(cough, cough)…tell us about trimming the kids toe nails.

Old Woman: Well, first off that’s done right after bathin’. Gets the toe nail all soft like, ya know. Makes it easier an’ faster ta trim. Now my older ‘uns, piece ‘a cake! Don’t take me no time with them ‘cause they sit real still. The younger uns’, well that’s somethin’ different. They bring their toys with ‘em but some times it take more then that. That’s why I’d also like ta thank Sears fer the tazer they gave me fer bein’ on this show. It works real well with the li’l ‘uns. I can just snip an’ clip an’ put ‘em on inta bed.

Talk Show Host: So basically you’re saying that life was a lot harder before our kind friends at Sears helped you out?

Old Woman: Guess I am! But there’s still that problem I got ‘a disposin’ ‘a all them toe nail clippins. We done had our time ‘o glory by getting’ put in the Guinness Book ‘a Records. They told us we had the biggest bowl ‘a freshly cut toe nails they’d ever seen. But now I don’t know what ta do with ‘em no more. I been thinkin’ about donatin’ ‘em ta the Elmer’s glue plant down the street, but…

Talk Show Host: And that’s all the time we have for today, ladies and gentlemen! Next week tune in to hear how the Old Woman avoids the hassles of the city sewage system. Until next time, “sole long” from “Shoe Living”!

(insert dramatic out-take music here, followed by this week’s jingle)

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn't know what to do.
She gave them a bath and she scrubbed them just so
Then she clipped and then snipped each nail of each toe.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 13: Tropical vacations—K.B.G.

deep breath

"Ahhhhhh. Smell that air! Drains the stress right out of me. It's taken me forever to get here. So much stuff to do all the time, I just couldn't get away until now. Those salty waves sound so inviting. Think I'll just sit here though, close my eyes, relax, soak up the sun, and drink my girly drink with a little green umbrella in it...just because I can. That sand feels so good between my toes. Makes me want to make a sand angel. But I won't for now 'cause it just feels so good to sit. No one's around. That's a change. I'm so used to people. It's nice to not hear any voices though. Just the sound of the sea. I hope everyone back home will be ok without me for a bit. Ok, stop. Enjoy this time while you have it! There's always work to be done. After all like Wilbur said, 'Jesus is the only one that can truly say "It is finished"'. So since everything will be there waiting for me when I get back I'll just sit here and enjoy...just because I can."

deep breath

"Ahhhhhh. Why is it so hard to chill? Listen to those trees. Almost as nice as the waves. The two together sure make a delightfully soothing sound. This orange drink sure is good. I'm going to have to get the recipe. I think it's hard to relax because I don't do it on a regular basis. It takes times like this to get me to chill and even then only a little. And this is going to the extreme to try and chill, this beach trip. I should find simpler ways to relax. I'm not saying that those waves and this sand aren't worth it. Ahhhhh, they are. It's funny how you can kind of see the sun even though your eyes are closed. It's so dang bright! But it's so incredibly warm and relaxing. I think I'm going to take a nap now...just because..."

phone rings to the tune of "When I was a Rich Girl" by Gwen Stefani

"Dang it! I forgot to turn my phone off! Who is it?"

"Hello, Miss Shore? I'm calling from the Red Cross. We'd like to thank you for giving blood in the past and just wanted to let you know that we are once again in need of O positive. We do have a shortage in our blood bank right now, and..."


"The Red Cross. They want my blood. They always want my blood. I thought I left this phone inside. Grrr! I'm all tense again. So much for my relaxation. I give up. Where's my bag. There it is, 'Tropical Vacation in a Bag'. I do have to say this was a worth while purchase though. Ok, let's make sure every thing's back in here:

Sun glasses...check.
Vial of sea salt water to rub under my nose...check.
Mini suntan lotion...check.
Little green umbrella for my drink...check.
White noise sound machine with ocean waves...check.
Small pail and shovel...check. (Didn't get to use that this time, darn!)
Foot-sized sand box...check.

"All right. My bubble's been burst by the blood suckers. As soon as I cross this threshold from the world of sunny porch dreams into my home of the-laundry-needs-folding reality, I shall be through. Finished. The end of my vacation is at hand! Alas, a lack!

"Though, it is Sunday. I suppose I could sit here for a bit longer. I think I shall...just because I can."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Day 12: Sacsayhuamán—J.M.R.

I've often wondered how a civilization can go from producing some of the greatest wonders of the world—the accomplishments of which are for the most part completely undocumented, from being wealthy beyond belief with some of the richest of natural resources, to one of the poorest and most run down, living mostly off of the relics of that past glory. I suppose the most obvious answer is sin. But as I sit here drinking my chicha morada, I wonder specifically about the Peruvian peoples. I first wonder how can a people not document something so great as why their city of Cuzco was built in the shape of a puma, that Sacsayhuamán was more than likely the head and that it's zigzag fortifications may have been the teeth of the beast? Why do we have no plans no notes on something that obviously took up a lot of time not for a few individuals but for most of the civilization because it was such a huge endeavor?

Sacsayhuamán. One Cuzco travel blog had this helpful but true note on how to say this intriguing Quechuan name: "the adultered Western pronunciation being Sexy Woman". Sacsayhuamán is an Incan ruin located just outside the city of Cuzco, Peru, and was allegedly built as a fortress during the time period of the Inca Pachacuti, the man who essentially created the Incan empire. Though the fortress is no where near its former grandeur, there are enough of the foundation stones from the towers, the remains of the bath houses, and of course the three bulwarks or walls left to give us a picture of its former greatness. The walls are the most baffling for archeologist and common man alike—no blade, of steal or grass, can slip in between the formation of these rocks. So flawless is the craftsmanship in fitting the stones together without mortar. It's rather like a giant jigsaw puzzle, no stone could fit in any other place then where it currently sits.

While Sacsayhuamán is a testament to the glory of the Incan empire, it also bears witness to the empire's defeat. Stories say that the Incans finally rebelled against the Spaniards that had settled in Cuzco. Manco Inca and his men took the fortress in 1536, and used it as there central base as they attacked the Spanish. The fighting lasted for weeks before the Spanish—who were outnumbered some say 10 to 1—finally broke free from the city and dispersed out around and into the surrounding countryside only to double back and face the Incas on the opposing hill from Sacsayhuamán. The Conquistadors eventually broke through the native's defences, scaled the walls, and fought them all back into the three towers of the fortress where they put them all to the sword.

And the rest, as we say, is history. A history written by the conquerors. A history that picks up where the undocumented glory of a defeated people left off. A history that left the Peruvian people in a lesser light, one that has left them to a defeated spirit as well as a defeated empire.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 11: Quantumfisix—J.M.S.

First of all, how does my little brother know these big words? Second of all, I love him, he’s adorable, and I’m going to petition the International Science Society to change the spelling because Micah’s way is better! He is going to be a very smart man when he grows up if his 10 year-old self is any indication of what he could become.

I have said it before, and I don’t mind saying again: There’s a reason I’m not in the Math Department. Or the Science Department for that matter. God knew just what He was doing when He put me in the English Department. That being said, I don’t mind one little bit sharing what I know about quantumfisix.

Being a child of the 80’s there are a few trendy things that have stuck with me over the years. 80’s and 90’s television is a case in point. I could spend a whole day talking about MacGyver. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and He-Man ranked pretty high up there too. Then there’s Bonanza, Wild Wild West, Star Trek (the original, Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine), The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider, Remington Steele, and Father Dowling to name a few.

Then there was Quantum Leap. I was fascinated by the notion that someone could jump back and forth across time. The plot was that a quantum physicist named Dr. Sam Beckett was hard pressed to come up with tangible results for the project he was working on or the government would cut his funding, so he rashly stepped into the machine he was developing, called the Quantum Leap, before all the bugs were worked out. He vanished. And reappeared as someone else from an earlier time. Dr. Beckett performed a quantum leap at the end of each episode for five seasons, each time prefaced by his characteristic “Oh boy”, each time trying to right a wrong or fix a problem to make the world a better place, each time wishing his next leap would be the leap home. His side kick all along the way was a cigar smoking, straight talking observer from his quantum physics lab back home named Al who always appeared in holographic form and was Sam’s one link back to the time he came from. We’re left to wonder with the last episode of season 5 as to whether or not Sam ever made it back home or if he kept leaping, righting wrongs, and performing acts of kindness for the rest of his life. As a kid, I hoped he kept leaping just because of the utter fun and adventure of the concept. As an adult, I hope he made it home at some point, if only for a little while.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 10: Building fairy houses out of moss, sticks, rocks, etc. in the back yard—S.O.W.

When through the yard I walked quite set
On searching for some needed loads
Of heather, moss, and sticks I'd get
To furnish yon my small abode.

I'd stop to pick no matter where
The items that did catch my eye
A pebble here, a flower there,
A bit of bark from tree so high.

The bit of bark t'will serve as roof,
Leaves of clover shingles cover.
These sticks will be my warp and woof
O'er which my friend will surely hover.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 9: The house with the big open hall and stairs and lofty 2nd floor—D.E.R.

Some times all we have are memories. There are no left over tokens of a life once lived. There are no photographs to correct our idealistic recollections so who's to say our recollections are idealistic? But if we're honest, we'll admit it ourselves simply because we love recalling the memories so much.

So it is with a place I once called home. It was two houses after the apartment where I slept in the closet. While that was a fun adventure in and of itself and some thing that all my friends used to envy me for, it was the "log house" that was the headquarters for all my greatest youthful adventures.

If I were to guess, I would probably say that I lived in the log house from age 7 to age 12, give or take a bit of time that makes little difference as a youngster. My family and I stumbled into renting the "blue house" and then the log house from an older couple with children all grown and mostly married. A good portion of the family lived all around the homestead and helped take care of the family landscaping business. We were the only non-family members on the whole road, but from the start we were counted as part of the family. Mr. and Mrs. Goode were another set of grandparents to me. I played with their granddaughters, I biked and hiked with their grandsons, and I went to visit them up the gravel road whenever the fancy struck me just because I could. Mr. Goode's antique car collection was the reason for many trips to see him, I'll admit. They fascinated me. I couldn't tell you now what kinds of cars he had, other than a Pontiac LeMans that my grandfather sold him, yet the impression of their grandeur is still implanted in my memory.

The log house, back garden, surrounding woods, and the gravel road that lead down to the creek were a youngster's paradise. The traffic along the gravel road was pretty well limited to family and friends who trekked all the way to the end of the road to go to Mrs. Goode's (the daughter-in-law) hair salon, so even the road was free for the playing. It was that gravel road where I had my worst bike wreck to date—and the one I credit with giving me back issues I still have to this day. It was that creek at the end of that gravel road where I learned how to fish. It was those woods that introduced me to copperheads, tics, moss, ferns, deer, and dirt all of which I still have a firm respect for and fascination of to this day. It was that garden where I first got a taste of the joys of community life because it was there that I helped Mrs. Goode pick vegetables and it was there that hot air balloon flying overhead would hover to chat for a bit. But at the center of all these dear memories was the log house itself. I have yet to find as fun a home anywhere. From lay out to setting, it was the most unique log home I've ever seen or been in, and among the most unique homes in general I've ever seen. The best part about it was the open ceiling to the 2nd floor. To not have a ceiling your living room is pretty darn cool, but it was especially cool as a kid. On the 2nd floor there was room to walk along the outside of the railing and look down into the living room from all sides. That was the most fun part, because it was that advantage that spurred many a creative invention most of which involved pulleys and rope. I remember one ingenious design in particular that was an endeavor to help Mom get the laundry from the first floor to the second. After an attempt or two, the result of which was the tumbling and undoing of nicely folded laundry, I think it ended up working actually. But in the end the process took just as much time as carrying the load up the stairs!

And then there were the "nooks". My second favorite part of the log house. The down stairs nook I best remember for being where I set up my first punching bag. I had always wanted a punching bag for some reason and so I took the liberty of making one myself using old socks stuffed into a larger sock and, you guessed it, rope. I think I envisioned myself a boxer in the downstairs nook because I remember spending a lot of time with that silly stuffed sock on a string! The up stairs nook ended up being my indoor play place. I didn't spend half as much time indoors as I did out but that nook was the place where I kept my toys and whatever "valuables" I held dear as a kid. It was a little nook that went with the slanting of the roof and being too small for a door was partitioned off by a curtain instead. There was something special about that curtain for me, it was just substantial enough to provide some closure and a safe place to retreat to, but just sheer enough to know that the outside world was just on the other side.

I won't hesitate to say that that log house with the address of 2420 West Mountain Street was by far the best place I've ever lived. But I also won't hesitate to say that I probably think that simply because of the memories. Memories of a simpler time, a simpler place, memories of the innocence and adventure of childhood. Memories of many firsts: the first time I went fishing, the first time I got to drive a car, my first and only dog, MacGyver, whom we called Mac for short. There are some pictures, but mostly memories. Memories vague with age right along side memories vivid with idealistic recollection. All in all, they have become the tokens of a life once lived and a foundation for greater things to come.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day 8: What is the most important room in a home and why?—R.P.M.

In all honesty, I think it depends. The most important room in my attic loft as a single person is different from that of a family's ranch-style or two-story home simply because of occupants and space. For me things are classified more as areas then as "rooms". I have my dining area, my reading area, my kitchen area, and my sleeping area. Realy the only part of my home that could be classified as a room would be the bathroom. It is the only area in my house that has a door seperating it from the rest of the house. So if I were to have to name the most important room in my home it would have to be the bathroom by default. But if I were to name the most important area of my home I should have to say the reading area. My Wilbur chair takes up the majority of the space in my reading area left over after a bookshelf went on either wall, but books and chair—strategically placed by the front door which can be swung open on beautiful days—are enough to define my home as the peaceful place of respite that it is.

But in general I would say that the most important room in a home should be whatever room reflects best what the family or individual holds dear. If it is family then probably the living room or dining room. If rest and retreat then probably a bedroom or library. If it is productivity then probably an office or bathroom. But as for me and my house, I will say the reading area!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 7: How to parent children without spanking them or telling them "no"—R.P.F.

My favorite example of positive parenting was when a child was about to run out into the street and the Mom yelled, "Danger!" Well, I'd probably get corrected—by verbal affirmation, of course—for using the word "yelled". I'm sure the mother actually said it in as close to her normal voice as possible. "Danger" was an attempt to tell the kid to stop and tell him why he needed to stop all at the same time. There is a distinct need in the process of positive discipline for the parent to feel that they are being straightforward with their child, calmly giving their child all the reasons why something is wrong or why something could hurt them, often without taking into account that the kid could care less and has already started plotting how they can go about the same endeavor in a different manner or, if he or she is a rather compliant child, thinking about moving on to the next toy to be played with. "Danger" is itself negative. It brings ill tidings, it bodes ill consequences. It strikes fear while cloaked in the guise of logical reasoning and explanation. Reasoning cannot take place at the climax of an emotionally charged event. A mother fearing for her child's safety is probably going to end up yelling "danger!" in the same manner she would holler "stop!" or "no!". So why not simply shout a command that will cause them to actually stop, gather your wits, and then explain to the kid that they could get hurt by running out into the street, rather then trying to issue the warning and the explanation all in one foul swoop.

There are many reasons why we should not spank our children. One takes the approach that our parents did it that way and we should find a better way. Along a similar line of fallacious reasoning I found this tid-bit on why not to spank:

"Spanking is seen as punishment for a crime or payment for a debt. In other words, once paid, they have a clean slate. Spanking gets in the way of allowing a child to develop a conscience. The guilt that follows misbehavior is a prime motivator for change. Spanking takes away the guilt, because the crime has been paid for."

Hmmm. I fell like that's the key to why young children turn into men and women who wallow in shame and live with guilt they constantly try to medicate away. Don't spank him, let the kid wallow in his guilt. Guilt is a prime motivator for change, the kind of change that causes a teenager to cut or a college student to binge. But for the sake of positive parenting let's just hope that from the depths of your child's contrition one day will bloom the flower of conscience. And while you're waiting for that lovely bloom, experts tell us to "let your child know that you know he wants to do the right thing and you are here to help him learn how".

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Day 6: Ice Sculptures...a worthy artistic endeavor, or not?—C.E.F.

Ice Sculpture Pros:

Takes great skill and knowledge to work in freezing temperatures
Has the potential to show craftsmanship in form
Can bring in a good chunk of money for the artist
Can be practical/functional
Fun and unique

Ice Sculpture Cons:

It melts
It's cold
It melts
It's not lasting craftsmanship
It melts
You have to take a picture to remember it
It melts
You can't keep it on display past a few hours
It melts
Can be highly impractical
It melts

One of the primary stories in Scripture that speaks to artistic endeavors is in Exodus 31. The flight from Egypt is a not too distant memory for the Children of Israel. They have been given the 10 commandments, laws about alters, slaves, restitution, sabbaths, and festivals. Now they are making plans for how to live out the mandate they've been given. They have consecrated priests and are tallying up the needs to make the tabernacle a reality. It is here that we meet the two chief men God put in charge of seeing these great endeavors through to the end, Bezalel and Oholiab. These men have been given knowledge and craftsmanship, ability and intelligence "to work in every craft" (Exodus 31:5). But the crafts that are listed are works in "gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood". These are things that last through generations. And the result of these works of craftsmanship are things that ended up being used for the edification of the covenant community and the glorification of God.

But then there's "the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place". Oil and incense are not lasting. And yet it took skill and craftsmanship to produce them in the prescribed way for the desired affect and aroma. And seeing as these were intentionally used for the purpose of worship and sacrifice, it was probably someone's express job to make the oil and the incense. But I would venture to guess that the folks who mixed the oil and incense did not have the same skills as Bezalel and Oholiab.

Conclusion: We shouldn't squander the gifts we have, use them in their proper place and for their proper purpose. If we have the ability to create a sculpture it seems that it would be of more lasting import to carve from wood, to chisel marble, to work with gold, silver, or bronze. But then there's the fun and unique, pretty, and memorable aspect of ice sculptures, and to that I echo Solomon: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..." whether it's something lasting or something that's just darn cool!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 5: Living—M.L.S.

Every day that passes should be lived in light of the past, in light of the future, and in light of eternity.
—Thomas Chalmers

Living is an action. That means it's more than just not being dead. But that does not mean that the act of living is to always be in motion. The act of inaction is itself an act. The first question of the Westminster Catechism is, "What is the chief end of man?" The answer of course is, "To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." This is not an act we can achieve in a day, rather it is a long process over time, even after the occasion of our deaths. It is a journey to learn how to glorify God. We do not want to all the time, our hearts are sinful and our desires selfish. The journey takes us through repentance before we come to the place where we are able to glorify God, and repentance itself can be a long hard road. One encouraging thing is that the answer the Westminster Catechism gives—which is truly in line with Scripture—is full of intentionality and purpose. From the time in Genesis 2 that it was said that Adam "became a living creature" until his dying day, Adam knew his purpose in life. Likewise, we too are not left to wonder, "What is our purpose in life?" We have our purpose, clearly stated and marked out for us. To be sure this purpose will look a bit different from person to person depending on calling, giftings, time, and place, but we all have a common goal, "To glorify God and to enjoy him forever". Within this goal there is both the surety of individual calling and the security of corporate calling. Thus the act of living is the act of being in community with intentionality. Or to paraphrase Chalmers, our duty in living is to recall the lessons of the past and stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before so that we may be better informed, better prepared to strive along side our fellow laborers towards a future work, so that in the end we may have done all we can do for the Kingdom. It is a good end, it is a worthy purpose, this act of living.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 4: Pens—M.L.M.

Pilot Custom 74

There are some things in life I care passionately about. Craftsmanship and quality are two of those things. Pens are a third.

This afternoon, ironically enough, I spent a good hour and a half flipping through a stack of magazines and perusing through on-line catalogs to find the next pen worthy enough to have the Franklin Classical School font and crest emblazoned on the barrel. Mass produced custom pens have a reputation for being cheap and gaudy. And when you need them most they fail to work properly if at all. And the last thing I want is a faulty, poorly designed pen giving our good school a bad image. But at the same time we do not have the money to invest in 500 Watermans just to make our image more respectable, nor do we want folks saying, "Wow, they must have spent a small fortune on these pens!"

Pens are a tool. They enable us to better accomplish the work we are called to do. Just as it is true with computers when we say that our technology does not need to rule our lives, rather we need to rule over our technology, so it is with the use of our more ordinary and common tools such as pens. The moment a pen stops writing mid-sentence it stops fulfilling its created purpose: to be useful. As with any tool, pens are designed for functionality. But is that all God had in mind when He told Adam to subdue and take dominion over creation, to simply make sure things run as smoothly as clockwork? No. God intended beauty to flourish, creation to be enjoyed, fun to be had. He threw an element of creativity and joy into the process.

Aurora 88 Demonstrator

Tools are made to be functional, durable, of good quality, but some tools such as Macs and pens have room for the creative element of craftsmanship to go into the very tool that will in turn produce quality and craftsmanship when properly used. As Christians, we believe that God imparted purpose into all of His creation. We, as sub-creators under The Creator, have no less a responsibility to create with intentionality everything we set our hands to make, and to pattern everything we do after the craftsmanship and quality that God Himself instilled in Creation.

Let me be frank. I love pens. The Germans make pens that are both functionally dependable and simplistically creative. I probably own more varieties of Lamy than any other brand of pen. I love fountain pens. From the surprisingly smooth Pilot Varsity disposable to the upper scale Waterman Phineas, fountain pens are a delightful tool to use in the pursuit of intentionality. Who all do you know that would sit down and have a photo shoot with his or her pen collection. Hmmm. I hope I'm not the only one. Please don't think that I am staunchly against buying a pen that cost anything less than $25 to $100. As you can see from this snippet of my collection, I have some cheaper pens that I take great delight in writing with as well.

Craftsmanship and quality are two of my great passions in life, but imbue those two qualities into the embodiment of a pen and boy howdy, watch me get real excited!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 3: Thubron's Travel Works on Central Asia—D.L.R.

Four days from now, on June 14th, Colin Thubron will celebrate his 70th birthday. Born in 1939, this Eton College grad has for the last forty years been one of Britain's premiere travel writers and novelists. His journeys, across Asia especially, have been vicariously lived through many of his generation who have shared his curiosity to know more about the countries whos politics have dominated the world stage for so long.

"My travel books spring from curiosity about worlds which my generation has found threatening: China, Russia, Islam (and perhaps from a desire to humanise and understand them)." —Colin Thubron
source: British Council Contemporary Writers

"I have been afraid of Russia ever since I could remember. When I was a boy its mass dominated the map which covered the classroom wall; it was tented a wan green, I recall, and was distorted by Mercator's projection so that its tundras suffocated half the world. Where other nations—Japan, Brazil, India—clamored with imagined scents and colors, Russia gave out only silence, and was somehow incomplete. I grew up in its shadow, just as my parents had grown up in the shadow of Germany. Journeys rarely begin where we think they do. Mine, perhaps, started in that classroom, where the green-tinted mystery hypnotized me during math lessons."
—Colin Thubron, Among the Russians

The wonder of Thubron's travel writing is that he does not simply wish to travel to all the politically taboo lands of the world and write about their political alienation, but that he is able to see past the fears, tyranies, and deprevations of politics and can paint pictures of lands and peoples that remind us of our common humanity. Behind his own curiosity there is a suspician that behind every tyrant there is a substantive culture, behind every regiem there is a rich history, behind every politician there are simply people. So while Thubron's generation, and that of his parents, were often left to cower and quake because dots were shifting on a map, little flags were advancing across lines, or because printed headlines cast shadowy fears across their hearts and minds, young Colin sat staring silently up at the wan green mass anticipating the people he would one day encounter there.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Day 2: Is Golf a Sport?—R.M.

sport. \ˈspȯrt\ noun. an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. (source: Oxford American Dictionary)

There is a reason Tiger Woods drinks Gatorade. He sweats a lot. The concentrated effort it takes to trek to and from the golf cart just to get to the next hole is more physically taxing than the average Joe understands. There's the mental anguish and wrestling involved in plotting a strategy two, three, even five holes out to surpass an opponent, but there's also the added strain of physical exertion during the process of handing his driver to his caddie before he even sets foot on the golf cart. So clearly, if we were even just to take a look at the first part of the definition of the word sport—"an activity involving physical exertion"—we would see that golf does in fact meet the primary criteria for being an actual "sport".

individual. \ˌin-də-ˈvi-jü-əl\ noun. a single human being as distinct from a group, class, or family; a person of a specific kind. (source: Oxford American Dictionary)

Continuing on with the examination of our current topic, it would be good to point out that the endeavor of golf does in fact consist of individuals. Whether or not they all may be classified as human beings is of little relevance to our present discussion, but we can rest assured that Tiger Woods is in fact a human being. And he is most assuredly "a person of a specific kind". So clearly, we can see that golf also meets the criteria that it can be an individual endeavor.

entertainment. \ˌen-tər-ˈtān-mənt\ noun. amusement or diversion provided especially by performers. (source: Merriam-Webster's)

Golf pants are amusing. No one can deny that football is a sport, so John Daly is simply proving a point when he chose a pair of pants that could rival the 2008 Oregon Ducks' uniforms. Let's take the viewer's perspective for just a second as we seek to strengthen our argument for golf as a sport. Let's say you're a hard-working-paper-pushing-stapler-hoging-long-day-at-the-office man. You're greeted at home by your wife who wants you to take out the trash. You flick on the TV. John Daly's on the 12th hole, your wold is saved! "Honey," you cry, "look at these awesome pants!" The diversion is a success. The trash is forgotten and you are able to see the tournament through to its completion. Undeniably golf is a "diversion provided especially by performers".

So clearly, having met all the criteria stated in the definition, golf proudly and boldly henceforth and forever more carries the name of sport!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Day 1: Love—J.L.S.

Love. What a perfect example of the inadequacies of the English language! The Hebrews have multiple words for the concept of love. C.S. Lewis wrote about four kinds of love just to make up for the fact that in English we just have the one word. To say "I love this meatball sub" is certainly not the same as saying "I love Kenneth Branagh". The love of the meatball sub and the love of Kenneth Branagh are two different things, and yet we use the same word. To say "I love my friend Reba" is certainly not the same as saying "I love my Mom". They are both people which make them more similar than the love of a meatball sub, but still are two different things, and yet we use the same word. To say "I love Aunt Matilda" is certainly not the same as saying "I love my husband Toby". While Aunt Matilda is obviously marked in difference by the fact that she is a woman and Toby is a guy, there still is a little similarity once again in the fact that Aunt Malitda (as far as we know) and Toby are human, and further similarity still in the fact that both are related to you. But again, the love for Aunt Matilda is not the same as the love for your husband, Toby, and yet we use the same word.

And what about Rumpelstiltskin? I LOVE Rumpelstiltskin. I don't love him like a meatball sub. I don't love him like Kenneth Branagh. I don't love him like a friend. I don't love him like my Mom. I don't love him like my aunt. I don't love him like a husband. Come to think of it, I can't even love him really. He isn't real. I suppose I could love the idea of him. I suppose I could love his fairy tale story. Then what's in the love of Rumpelstiltskin? I suppose here lies a common thread between all the different kinds of love in the English language: love is both tangible and intangible. It is both a manifestation and an expression. It can be manifest in an action or a gift. It can be an emotion that is expressed through words. Its object can be the person you spend the majority of your life with or it can be the visionary ideas you spend your life living out. Yet with all things pertaining to love there is a sense of the tangible and the intangible. Maybe I just love the name Rumpelstiltskin. But until we find a better way of expressing all the different kinds of love in the English language, I'm just going to say...I love Rumpelstiltskin.