Wednesday, April 29, 2009

N is for Nine Nineteen

Writing is a discipline. One I should spend less time on, actually. And by less time I mean it should take me less time to actually write a paragraph. I've got to work on getting everything that needs to be said out in a decent amount of time. So today's writing endeavor. Writing whatever I can in 9 minutes and 19 seconds. Yes, I am using a stop watch. The general idea is to just keep going. Don't stop to think about how to craft a phrase or how to tweak a sentence. Just do it. As a dear friend says, "you can't edit what you don't have written down." All too often my problem is that I wait for inspiration, or I'm a perfectionist through the whole process of writing. I like to craft as I go, not spew words forth and come back and rearrange them later. I suppose it would end up taking the same amount of time in the end. Maybe. But by jove, get it done while you're thinking about it is my philosophy for a lot of things. So while I glance at my stop watch and realize that I've said very little in the 5 minutes and 49 seconds it's taken me to write all this, I am reminded of the fact that anything worth doing is worth doing badly. That, and that the perfection of any discipline requires just that...discipline. And a whole lot of practice. And a whole lot of patience. Oh my, I have just over a minute and a half to go and my computer battery level is at 7 percent. Will I make it? While I have absolutely no idea how many words I can type in a minute, it seems that after this little endeavor I will know how many words and how long a paragraph I can crank out in 9 minutes and 19 seconds. So now I must...

Monday, April 27, 2009

M is for Micah

I was re-reminded today that "plaque verses" need not remain merely plaque verses. In some circles I've been a part of John 3:16 was the plaque verse. Other it's been Romans 3:23 or Isaiah 40:31. Though I wouldn't quite call Micah 6:8 a plaque verse quite yet it was very quickly headed in that general direction when I realized a couple of weeks ago that I don't think I have ever read the entirety of the book of Micah from beginning to end. I have heard sermons on Micah chapter 6, heard Micah 5:2 quoted at Christmas time, but I had never taken the time to look at the context from which those passages are so often quoted. And so a couple of weeks ago as I and a friend were bemoaning this fact together, we decided to read through the whole book of Micah a couple of times and then discuss it.

The first read through was a little discouraging. It took me until the next to the last verse of chapter 1 to say, "ooo, that I've heard of!" Even then it was only a one liner, "...the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam". But that one line helped me put the previous 15 verses into the proper context. All those places and settings, people and events were integral parts of Israel's history, their story leading up to the point of their redemption and their being set apart as a remnant. Adullam sent me back to the story of David, his exile and flight from Saul whose passion and drive in life was to see David dead. From there I stumbled across the story of David who after becoming king sought out members of Saul's household not to retaliate but to whom he could show mercy for his friend Jonathan's sake. There was one, Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan who remained of Saul's house. He had been crippled since the age of five after his nurse dropped him as they fled the city at the news of Saul and Jonathan's deaths. This man, this cripple, was the remnant of a former age, a past allegiance, an old friendship, and David wanted to make sure that mercy was extended to the man that had gone from greatness in family status to utter obscurity due to his grandfather's mistakes. David ended up altogether adopting Mephibosheth, "So Mephibosheth ate at David's table, like one of the king's sons." (II Samuel 9:11)

In that day, declares the LORD,
I will assemble the lame
and gather those who have been driven away
and those whom I have afflicted;
and the lame I will make the remnant,
and those who were cast off, a strong nation;
and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion
from this time forth and forevermore.

Micah 4:6-7

It thoroughly boggles my mind how every story really is just a small scale reenactment of The Story. The thread of redemption is woven through the tapestry of time. That thread of scarlet that links the mercy of a benevolent provider to the need of a desolate soul. The Story that constantly reminds us that it really is the least and the last who will be the first and the foremost. The Story that continually recalls the refrain "and this not of yourselves". Mercy truly is a gift for which we are utterly unable to boast.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah...

Micah 5:2

It is to you who are too little, you who are crippled by the affects of the fall, you who have no right to eat at the King's table; to you who has been shown so great a mercy goes forth the call to go and do likewise. You, oh Christian, whose debt has been paid, whose sin has been atoned for, what doeth the Lord require of you...

to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

L is for Light

I was the first thing spoken into existence, and yet I existed before. I give freely to all who seek me, show mercy to those who do not. Though some men love the blackness rather than trust my revealing ray, I will ultimately pierce the shrouds of night and transform the shades of gray. Color is made evident in my presence. Beauty is shaped by my existence. The sun is my servant, and though I am a powerful master I can be a revealing friend. Hurling my shafts to harrow the most defiant of souls, I do so only that the day may dawn in the hearts of all who seek my truth. Those in whose eyes flicker the reflection of my glory ultimately become the hope of the world. They too are servants, they too are friends. In their hearts a knowledge not their own has been illuminated. When anything is exposed by me it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is me. Let me shine on you.

I Am Light.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

K is for Krispy Kreme

It's an obsession really. One that can't much be helped given my background, my tastes, my regional influences, and the fact that my grandfather used to take me to the original Krispy Kreme location in Winston-Salem, North Carolina when I was a small child. Grocery store doughnuts never have been a temptation for me. I've only on occasion bought Kripsy Kreme from a grocery store and those only on road trips and only the cake swirls. I'm a purist. Original, Hot-and-Now doughnuts were good enough for Vernon Rudolph back in 1937 and they're good enough for me today. Simplicity is an art. Food is an art. Simple food is no different. It requires great effort, much thought, and creative execution to make a simple food. Bells and whistles, color and pizzaz, or, in this case, icing and sprinkles don't actually make anything deliciously just right. There has to be an rudimentary recipe, a time tested taste that is the basis for culinary success. Then and only then can icing and sprinkles or custard and jelly be added to supplement and already exquisite substance.

I like my coffee black. I like my Krispy Kremes in their original form. The only variation on a theme you would ever catch me eating may be an occasional raspberry filled Krispy Kreme. But never, never would you catch me eating a raspberry filled Krispy Kreme in place of an original! In addition to, maybe. Probably. Ok, actually, yes...that's the way it would be. Or maybe in addition to two original Krispy Kremes. And depending on the day those delectable delicacies would either be helped down by black coffee or whole milk. As I say, depending on the day. More like depending on the time of day actually. If it were morning, coffee most definitely. Afternoon calls for some milk.

There were two times in my teenage years that I filled out an application to work at a Krispy Kreme. It was a dream job for me. Most people I see in a Krispy Kreme appreciate it for what it is. They Ooooo and Aaahhhh when they walk in and see the hot doughnuts rolling along the line and into their take home box. Young and old alike are eager to receive the free doughnut when the Hot-and-Now light is on. And then they taste it and the Oooooing and Aaahhhhing begins anew. It's always fun to watch. I'm sorry but being a rip off of Krispy Kreme and starting 20 years later and stealing the idea of alliteration for your company name just doesn't cut it for me, Dunkin' Doughnuts. And obviously your customers aren't the same kind of folks that come into Krispy Kreme to enjoy a sweet snack because all they come to you for is the coffee!

Ok, I've said my peace. Back to my applications to work at a Krispy Kreme. Well, I always loved seeing people's reactions to everything about Krispy Kreme. I loved their product, their logo, their service. And then one day I decided that I wanted to keep on loving all of that. I didn't want my ideal to be tainted. I didn't want my love to be made trivial by too much of a good thing. So I never turned in the applications. And so now, to this day I still have a fond affection for and abundant good memories of Krispy Kreme. In my older age I have come to better realize that the best things only remain the best things in moderation. While I practice practicing restraint now, I know that it will only make the occasional future indulgence all the sweeter!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

J is for Just Do It

Just do it. Journal. Joanna. Jayme. Jenny. Joseph Micah. Jehalla Cleona. John. Jewell. Joe. Jay. Jessica. Jenna. John Jacob Jingleheimmer Schmidt. Juvenile. Jesse Jackson. Joy. Jack-o-lantern. Justification. Juxtaposition. Jocularity. Jiminy Cricket. Jaunt. Jabbing. Junk. Juggling swords. Just As I Am. Jesus I Am Resting, Resting. Journeys. Jump shot. Jelly Belly. Jagatai (supposedly a real word in the Asian language!). James. Juice. Jason's Deli. J. Alexander's. Just a minute. Jayber Crowe. J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I is for Idiot

I really wasn't going to keep writing about things that happened in the hospital, but I just re-discovered this picture and the first word that came to mind is IDIOT! And believe it or not I am actually referring to myself.

I mean what person in their right mind being quarantined from their sick siblings so that they don't give their father, who has just had quadruple bypass surgery, any kind of virus because he has a weakened immune system would go and add to the stress of all those things and further deplete their energy supply by giving blood and then dragging their mother, who isn't quite as experienced at giving blood as her daughter, into the adventure of giving blood too? Only an idiot. In this case, me. Did I think about the consequences? No! All I thought was, "Wow, I haven't given blood since I changed my phone number and now that the Red Cross doesn't call me any more because they don't have my new number I have been forgetting to give blood, so why don't I go give blood and give them my new phone number so they will start calling to remind me again." Oh, and, "Hey Mom, you wanna come with me?"

I realized I probably shouldn't have done that when my best friend virtually yelled at me via text, but I didn't call myself "Idiot!" until we were visiting my barely conscious father in his hospital room and Mom started feeling lightheaded enough to where she had to find a chair to sit down in. It was at that moment that I thought, "What have I done? Your mother is going to collapse right here in this hospital room and she'll probably break a bone or hit her head in the fall and then she'll have to be admitted to the hospital too and then you'll have both parents in the hospital at the same time and it's all your fault, you idiot!"

I've been called smart. I wouldn't go that far. I've been called observant and logical. That I'll admit to. I love the fact that with any strength there is an equal weakness. I wouldn't say and equal and opposite weakness because it seems to me that my weaknesses mirror my strengths.

For instance, in the not too distant past I was planning out my summer schedule—the conferences I needed to attend, the work I needed to accomplish, the job transition that needed to take place—around a trip that I was going to take to England. I had a travel voucher that was enough to cover the expense of the flight and so I set about to meticulously plot out what I needed to do so that I could be freed up to take the trip. And as the time approached I realized that I had absolutely no money to go to England. I had never had the money to go to England. All I had was a travel voucher that paid for the flight. What would I do when I got there? Sleep in the airport and fast for a week, wearing the same clothes because I didn't even have the money to pay the stupid new baggage fee? For all the time I spent planning what needed to be done here at home so that I could visit across the pond, it never once entered my mind to plan how things would play out once I got there. My strength was planning. My weakness...a lack of planning. I didn't go to England that year. And my summer schedule had a nice big week and a half hole in it where I didn't have to attend any conferences because I hadn't planned to be here to attend any.

Some times our greatest strengths can be our greatest weaknesses. The things we are so very good at we occasionally miss or mess up entirely either because of over confidence or because it is so second nature to us that we give up dedicating actual though to it. It's a kind of checks and balance. A great opportunity to learn the lessons of humility. There are times I need to call myself an idiot. Those are the times I am most reminded to pursue repentance and not seek to justify myself. It's a process!

Friday, April 03, 2009

H is for Hospitals

If the distance could be measured over my lifetime, I and my mother have probably walked the course of a marathon throughout hospitals around the country. There have been hills to tackle, long, empty barren stretches where not a soul meets our eye, and the crowded places where many have been there to cheer us on. There have been those moments when we've almost tired to the point of quitting, then rounded a corner to see a familiar face to encourage and walk with us for a while. There have been those who have come just when we needed water most, and those who have—through tougher love—exhorted us to stay the course, finish the race, and finish well.

We find ourselves once again in a familiar place, the place where our endurance is running low long about mile 23.2. The place where so much is behind us that should be encouraging, but instead those last 3 grueling miles fill up our horizon with daunting uncertainty. Our energy is low, our bodies are tired, our minds are hazy. We stumble only to find that here is where the "marathon chasers" have been purposefully stationed, those who are surrounding us to cheer us on at such a time as this. We are not alone. When our patience is wearing thin and we've reached the point of wanting to be done but not caring how we will be done, when we've wearied of making any more decisions however small, it is then and there that someone is stationed to remind us of the simplest of profundities: that we need only put one foot in front of the other for a while longer.

The cloud of witnesses is so great. The encouragers, the comforters, the reminders. Yes, our endurance is tested, but oh the sweet grace of having friends recall to our weary minds that we need not worry about how the race will be finished but that we have a finisher that will carry us through to the end. We are blessed indeed.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..."
Hebrews 12:1 & 2

Thursday, April 02, 2009

G is for Geeze Louise!

Geeze, we've had a lot going on! Craziness you could call it. Good craziness and crazy craziness. Here are some pictures to explain "Geeze Louise!":

We all three wore our EKG heart shirts the day of Dad's bypass surgery.

Our little corner of the waiting room.

A moment of deserted, solitary quiet.