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Archive for September, 2008

Repostings: Things I’m Still Thinking About

September 29, 2008 1 comment

From Jonathan Brink‘s “Chaos vs. Order”:

There is something about order that seems to feel right, at least in principle. Order implies the world is working right, that things are aligning and people aren’t hurting each other. …Yet for some reason God doesn’t choose to establish a controlled order in the universe.  He allows chaos… He could have assumed control and brought order to the world.  But to do so would be to go against love.

…The sad thing is, it’s just easier to live in control than it is in love.  It’s just easier to establish a law that keeps you from stealing from me than it is to practice and teach love, which accomplishes the same measure by choice.

A quote I ran across from John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man:

The system, however, is fueled by something far more dangerous than conspiracy. It is driven not by a small band of men but by a concept that has become accepted as gospel: the idea that all economic growth benefits humankind and the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits. This belief also has a corollary; that those people who excel at stoking the fires of economic growth should be exalted and rewarded, while those born at the fringes are available for exploitation.

From “A Clean Shot” by my latest favorite band, The Myriad:

I would die to be your lover lost at sea
And I’d fly to hear your arid sirening
And I’d scream “My love!” through bloody hurricanes

Would you say so if you thought of me?
And would it crush you if you saw me bleed?
And would you dance the same if you knew that I could see?
Do you feel the same for me?

From Cinemagogue‘s review of Ratatouille:

Remy the rat was told he was BORN a certain way… into a certain time, place, and culture, and he must accept this as his reality and truth. At on point Remy says “No. Dad, I don’t believe it. You’re telling me that the future is – can only be – more of this?” His father says “This is the way things are; you can’t change nature.”

Can our nature be changed? If we are rats on this ship called life… trapped in a sociopolitical situation like Hindus in the untouchable caste, or genetically predisposed a certain direction – are we locked into that? Is our identity FIXED? Is our destiny dictated by our birth and/or environment?

The message of Ratatouille is NO – it CAN be changed… and there IS hope.

And for whatever reason, the first stanza penned by Eliot in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

And finally, the fact that Kirk Cameron never takes his wedding ring off or kisses another actress not his wife. Cute, perhaps, or stubbornly moralistic of him, especially given the realm of moviemaking he inhabits these days. I find it admirable however, because if it were me, I don’t think I could do any differently.

Two Things That Disappear When You Name Them

September 25, 2008 1 comment

1. Silence.

2. Your humility.

Good vs. Best

September 21, 2008 3 comments

It came up again this morning, the theme of Good versus Best. The good things in life that are great and fine and no one would really ultimately complain about, pitted in a battle to the death against the best things, the dynamic, risky, life-giving sorts of things that old people on their deathbeds babble about. Today it was a talk from a woman who was surprised to find herself spending the rest of her life in Mexico running orphanages instead of being a good church-going person in Cincinnati. A few years ago it was The Notebook, when Allie has to choose between the man with money, status and influence who would provide a comfortable life, and the man with passion and purpose who would take her on a much riskier and more deeply satisfying path. And again a couple nights ago in The Wedding Crashers, with the same actress in a different role faced with the same choice and the same consequences.

When I lay it out this simply, the choice seems easy. Passion, purpose and a meaningful life versus security, stability and predictable days?

The Good life is ultimately about me. It’s a life of mortgages and soccer games and friends and business deals and going to the movies and dying old. It’s about me being happy. It’s mostly linear and largely predictable and insurable. The Best life is ultimately about other people. It doesn’t necessarily exclude the former things, but it’s also a life of impossible goals, messy friendships, sacrifices of time and money, and the vulnerability of making myself available to friends and strangers alike. It’s about making a difference in the lives of other people. It’s unpredictable and dangerous and if you ask me one of the most difficult things to stand up and buy into. The two lives may overlap quite a bit or they may not, but you can only choose one.

And this is why though the idea of it seems easy, and clearly the Best life is more fulfilling than the Good, the actual grasping of it seems much more elusive. This is because if my track record is to be believed, I am not that good at taking risks. Not that I choose the wrong things to risk for, or that I go at it half-heartedly. Just the opposite, probably. I choose what to me at the time are things most worth risking for, and throw myself completely into the pursuit of them. Which by itself is not problematic, except that when I do this I rarely come out having gained what I risked for. Probably you could argue it is due to poor planning in advance, or poor adaptation to twists or initial setbacks. Perhaps I become too single-minded and slip into a black and white world where everything is either for or against my purpose, guaranteeing me partial blindness and near-total failure. Or perhaps I have actually come to learn how to approach risk soberly and in a measured manner while maintaining my passion and commitment, and I’ve just happened to fail every time. All of which you can imagine doesn’t exactly make me want to seek out more things to risk for.

And yet I can’t stop wanting the meaningful, fulfilling life. Not that I don’t have elements of it; I certainly do. It’s more and greater things I want for my life and the lives of people around me. I heard it described today as a burr under my saddle, which I either ignore and allow to callous, or continue to be bothered by until I do something about it. Thing is, me and that burr, we have a strange little dance. Sometimes I flail and scratch and stomp all over it; sometimes it rides my back and weighs 95 pounds. Most days it seems I just contort myself to a certain point where it doesn’t rub so harshly and I can function normally.

Certainly there is a simpler way to handle it.

Fifty-one Hours

September 17, 2008 Leave a comment

That’s how long we were without power this week, from Sunday at 3pm to Tuesday at a little after 6pm. It’s a strange thing to live without, given that the kids’ routines depend on it quite a bit – movies during nap/quiet time, TV while we make meals, that sort of thing. On the one hand it forced us to be a little more creative and resourceful in playing with them, while on the other hand our ideas and their interest in them began to run real low real soon.

Half a tree came down in our backyard, hurting nothing, as well as another half a tree’s worth of branches and leaves. (That’s not an actual photo – the only one currently lives on my phone.) We carted off three truckloads of the stuff and raked two more loads worth down to the street for the city to pick up sometime between now and October. It kept us busy for the first 24 hours at least.

The worst part of course was the plight of the freezer food – the goop that dribbled out of the seal on the door, the full half gallon of ice cream that tipped over and deposited its contents in a slimy pool on the freezer bottom, and of course the loss of all of it in the end, a trash bag full of lukewarm meat and leftovers that had its life support pulled and is now somehow dripping out of the trash bin outside and down the driveway. Must remember to bring the hose around.

LeaderMan vs. Servant Leader

September 10, 2008 Leave a comment

Ah the truth in humor.  Read the original post here. Some excerpts:

Servant Leader: Has something to say

LeaderMan: Wants a platform on which to say something

———–

LeaderMan: You almost feel you know his family, because he’s your Leader

Servant Leader: You allow him to influence you, because you know his family

———–

LeaderMan: Wants you to know he’s a Leader

Servant Leader: You’re not sure he knows he’s a leader

———–

LeaderMan: Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization

Servant Leader: Helps you find where God is leading you

———–

LeaderMan: Gets together with you to talk about his vision

Servant Leader: Just gets together with you

———–

LeaderMan: A visionary who knows what the future looks like

Servant Leader: Knows what your kitchen looks like

———–

LeaderMan: Talks about confronting one another in love

Servant Leader: Actually confronts you in love

———–

LeaderMan: Invests time in you, if you are “key people”

Servant Leader: Wastes time with you

———–

God at 3 and 4 Years Old

September 8, 2008 2 comments

The other night I was putting my four-year-old to bed and I asked her if there was anything she wanted to say to God. “I already asked him to help Gianna’s leg feel better” she said. The baby’s leg, incidentally, is broken. She got caught in a sibling sandwich Tuesday night and is back this morning to the hospital to get it casted.

“You can tell him again,” I said.

“Ok,” she said, and grabbed a blanket from her bed. “I have to go into my secret place.” She pulled the blanket up over her and was silent.

“Ok, go ahead,” I offered.

“I am, I’m whispering,” she confirmed. And sure enough her little whispers began to creep from under the blanket. After a short time she popped back up again and said “Ok, I’m done.”

This sounds like the sort of thing parents teach their children to do and then are tickled to see them actually do it. This though she came up with on her own, which tickles me even more.

A few nights prior to this I was putting our 3 year old to sleep and somehow God came up in conversation. He looked at me matter-of-factly and declared, “God is white.” Once again – let me be clear – not something to my knowledge he’s been taught or prompted to say. And I certainly haven’t noticed him studying 20th century western Christian imperialism on his own. So I was amused.

“Like, his clothes are white?” I asked.

“No, God is white.”

“You mean his skin is white?”

“No,” he insisted, “God is white.”

“Ok then, ” I conceded, and replied with something dumb about God being lots of colors.

If he ever clarifies that statement, I’ll be sure to blog about it.

The Meaning of Everything

September 2, 2008 2 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about meaning. You know, the big questions humans have asked since we first opened our eyes. The church woes and faith crises of late have brought this to my mind, as well as a series thoughtful conversations with a friend. It’s strange though how present a topic this has been for me, in the un-full moments of life where I’m looking out a car window or the full ones where I’m working on the Avid or wrangling chilluns. I’ve never really had cause to consider it deeply before; I always knew what I considered to be the meaning of life – something to the effect of living in a way that glorifies God and inspires others to do the same. Or something perhaps more biblical or Rick Warren-ish. No I take that back, I wasn’t a huge fan of his book (Rick’s that is, not God’s). Anyway, that core issue isn’t so cut and dry for me these days. I wouldn’t venture that I’ve discarded my philosophy necessarily, but it’s not as simple for me anymore. Perhaps my familiar explanation doesn’t quite address the question of meaning satisfactorily.

The trouble for me is this: meaning as I grasp it, while based on tenets and beliefs is inherently experiential, and my experiences lately have been against the grain of the meaning I’ve subscribed to thus far based on the beliefs I’ve come to adopt. Not contrary to it necessarily, but different enough to cause me to take another look at the bigger picture.

I realize entering into thinking about this that I’m toeing a strange and fuzzy line here. If I believe one thing, and my experience belies another, does it make the first thing untrue? If that’s the case then meaning in life essentially becomes meaningless, changing with every contrary experience, or else I pick the lowest common denominator among all my experiences, which would probably end up being pretty bleak. If however it’s a no, and the original thing is true despite any experiences I have, then the door opens for my beliefs to become more and more detached from reality, and my lifestyle to become either fanatic and abrasive or else reserved and internally conflicted.

That said, I’m banking on this not being a yes or no question. On the one hand, I think there are things about life that are always true regardless of individual experience, not the death and taxes sort of things, but laws of love and responsibility. On the other hand, the actual playing out of these things is rarely if ever so simple as fables or children’s books represent. Which renders most of life an inexplicable gray area where the things that are true intersect with the messy physical world of humans and our environment, and we’re left to sift through it all from the narrow perspectives of our individual slices of knowledge and experience and derive some sort of meaning from it. I call meaning the ultimate question because the why seems to answer it all, after the who, what, when, where, or how. You can’t convict without motive, and you can’t navigate life without some grasp of meaning, whether ethereal and grand or simple and straightforward (or both).

So if until recent years my meaning has been simple – love God and love other people – and the path to pursuing it has been clear – go to church, read the Bible, pray, and live my life accordingly – it’s become increasingly complex lately. The tenets and rules don’t work in such a straightforward manner. Or maybe it’s being simplified, I can’t tell yet.

I think life and the universe hangs on laws – the scientific kind, the interpersonal/societal kind, and the relational or spiritual kind – but these days I think those laws aren’t the point so much as the context, the structure within which the real stuff of the universe happens – relationship, or more specifically, love. I’m becoming increasingly taken with the idea that there is a person who is good at navigating all this mess, who is perfect at loving and knowing where to draw the lines or how to handle unpredictable situations, who is ultimately good, not in the sense of being more good than bad, but that everything, whether seemingly bad or good to me, is ultimately good. A person who is a verb, not a noun, someone alive and active and real, not a concept or theory or ideal. And probably most importantly, someone who is all these things to me, or at least can be. If there is no one out there who can do it right then all my efforts only contribute to that lowest common denominator life and I live among people who like me are only trying to make the best of a losing situation.