Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Inspiration

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place. . . . Give it, give it all, give it now. 

The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. . . . Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."

- Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Linkage

Today's linkage includes a rather wide-ranging smattering.
Would you rather spend money on tangible items or an experience? This article in Time Magazine weighs in on this dilemma.

How About Orange is a delightful blog. This personality test is especially fun.

William Deresiewicz wrote a sobering post on the concept of love fed to today's young women and the dire consequences of its false idealism. He also wrote a thoughtful post on the consequences of our perceptions of ourselves.

Image Journal published a lovely reflection on unattained plans. 

Christianity Today's article on happiness take a convicting look at our common definitions of happiness.

My favorite quotes from the article were the following:

"True virtue is personal, but it is never merely private. It involves a commitment to civic duty and the common good."

"We must challenge the tyranny of relativism not only in theory but also in our daily lives, families, communities, and businesses. We must show that true happiness comes only from being rightly related to God, the source of truth and virtue."

"The church of Jesus Christ has a special role to play in this moment: to speak the truth in love and to demonstrate our love to the world in acts of service and mercy. This is what Carl F. H. Henry had in mind when he wrote in 1947, 'We must confront the world now with an ethics to make it tremble and with a dynamic to give it hope.'"

The Cardus blog provided a sobering but optimistic perspective on the recent rioting around the world.
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Paths

It's not hard to become jaded. Cynicism is easily achieved. It's more difficult to fight the constant, relentless urge to assume the bad.

Stereotypes are simple. "He always . . ." "She never . . . "

It's easier to criticize than to create. Something can always be done better or faster. Tearing down is fast, easy, and safe. If you never endorse, you'll never be wrong.

Assuming the worst is smart. But it takes courage to insist on seeing (and acknowledging) the good.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the un-jaded. The clear-visioned. The eternal optimists. The ones who refuse to retreat. The idealists. The hopeful. The persistent.

"For they shall see God."

They will see God everywhere. Every day. In every blade of grass. In every failure, every success, every happy ending, every heartache, every wish fulfilled. And having seen God, they will push onward.

There's a catch. Sometimes the fallen world will fail these dreamers and they will land on their face. But what is more tragic: unexpected failure or a loss of hope?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bits and Pieces

I've been a bit absent lately. A nine-day trip home, a newly acquired piano, the beginning of another semester of grad school, and a variety of other factors have pushed blogging to the back-burner. But I am back. 

Although the announcement of the contest's winner is later than I had previously planned, there was indeed a contest and there was indeed a winner. Monica Jacobson, a frequent commenter on this blog and a dear friend, is the winner of Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. She will be receiving a copy in the mail shortly. 

And for the rest of my readers, on this Wednesday evening, I hope you glean as much enjoyment, food for thought, and wisdom as I have from the following passage from William Goldman's The Princess Bride.

"And they lived happily ever after,” my father said. . . . The truth was, my father was fibbing. I spent my whole life thinking it ended that way, up until I did this abridgement. 

Then I glanced at the last page. . . . My father was, I guess I realized too late, a romantic, so he ended it another way. . . .

Yes, they got away. And got their strength back and had lots of adventures and more than their share of laughs

But that doesn’t mean I think they had a happy ending, either. 

Because, in my opinion, anyway, they squabbled a lot, and Buttercup lost her looks eventually, and one day Fezzik lost a fight and some hot-shot kid whipped Inigo with a sword and Westley was never able to really sleep sound because of Humperdinck maybe being on the trail. 

I’m not trying to make this a downer, understand. I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, next to cough drops. 

But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Our stories are funny things. They build us, these tales, piece by piece, moment by moment, that trip, that fight, that beach, that walk, that day. But of course, we build our stories too.

And sometimes we begin a story that won't end the way we want no matter how hard we try. So we have to pick up the pen and begin to write another chapter from the broken paragraphs and run-on sentences we are left holding when the page turns against our will.

Our stories pile up inside until they are less like coherent sentences than a foaming seething mass of words and letters and phrases, so many magnets on the fridge. But the stories are still there, emerging at unexpected moments, reminding us when we need it most of who we are and from whence we come.

So we continue to move through our stories, sketched in indelible ink, shaping and being shaped as we slip through the pages.

But sometimes we get lost. G.K. Chesterton said, "Every man has forgotten who he is. . . . We are all under the same mental calamity. we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are."

And we have to remind ourselves of our stories when the paths that we have walked become hazy. It might take a jog around the block or a trip across the country or a journey around the world to remind ourselves who we are.

In a few days, I will drive west towards a part of my story, towards a house whose windows shine late into the night, towards small hands and warm heads and time with those I love, towards piano keys whose silky sheen I miss and towards a driveway never still for long.

In a few days, I will hear the familiar clamor and open the familiar drawers and sit at the familiar table. I will hold the books that I know and sit in the room that I share and then, in a few days, I will remember.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

One Sunday Morning

Repetition was, for better or worse, a large part of my education. It started early as I recited the presidents chronologically in 2nd or 3rd grade.

"George Washington; John Adams; Thomas Jefferson...."

And then there was "The Village Blacksmith" in 4th grade.

"Under a spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands..."

Middle-school ushered in an era of Latin conjugations.

"Amo, amas, amat...."

How my parents and I avoided losing our minds during my finals is beyond me.

Repetition, for better or worse, sticks. Thrown off of a horse in high-school, I remember staring up at a sea of faces, trying to regain a bearing on where I was and when and why. Terrified by my own inability to dig out of the confusion that clouded my mind, I grasped frantically for some piece of reality to hold.

On that hot July day, bruised, sore, reality and dreams blending as I faded in and out of consciousness, the first thing that came to mind was the page of my Latin textbook that I had so carefully committed to memory.

"Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant..."

I worked my way slowly and painfully through the familiar forms, working myself out of the hazy muddle back into the light of reality.

On Sunday, after a long week of chaos and crisis and busy-ness and work that seemed to have no end, I stood in church and repeated familiar lines.

"I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth..."

Once again out of the murky darkness of the week's labor, repetition provided me with an anchor to reality, a reality bigger than myself or work or politics or world news.

"We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God..."

Slowly my head stopped swirling and my heart stopped racing and my mind stopped rushing as quiet settled over me.

"For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven . . ."

And through the darkness, I grasp for something real and unchanging and solid. In the midst of questions and confusion, the repetition reminds me of the real and the certain and draws me back to what I know.

"He suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again . . ."

Perspective regained. Priorities reordered. The important things, the really important things, sifted to the top above the clamor and demands of the transitory and fleeting.

"And his kingdom will have no end."

And once again, the repetition of the familiar slowly lifted me out of the hazy shade back into the light.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Quiet Gift

I expect grace to be dramatic and surprising and startling. But I live grace every day, really. Grace is the reality that failure isn't final, that setbacks aren't fatal.

Grace is knowing that, at the end of every wearying day, rest awaits. Grace is that relentless quiet force that enables me, after countless frustrations and mistakes and wrong turns, to meet each new day as a chance to try again.

And really, what is more dramatic than that? The force that makes each day a new gift is as ingrained in nature as the sun rising and setting.

The surprise is that it comes from an unexpected and familiar quarter. While I look for something new and startling, grace steadily and patiently stands at every turn. After I have wearied myself by chasing after the glamorous, the grace of the ordinary stands ready when I can't run any more.

And so I slowly learn that every moment, every breath is the gift of grace.