Archive for the 'Musing' Category



That Nameless Faculty Again

Journal Entry – 13 September Tuesday 2011

11:15am  Writing trumps the Y. I’d planned to go to the Y today, but Quigley got me up at 3:30am with diarrhea, then woke both me and Stu up around 4 by barking at something unknown outside, And then he had to go out again around 4:30. When I went out later there were three piles of runny poo so I decided to drive over to Speedway Vet Clinic to get some Fast Balance GI for him, stopped on the way back at Starbucks for an iced mocha latte and scone plus a bag of decaf whole bean Cafe Verona. When I got home, Quig wanted out again — after I gave him a dose of the Fast Balance — and did another poop. While looking for that and cleaning it up, I found a bunch of monster goathead weeds in the back corner of the yard and even more in the alley so I had to pull all those up (goatheads are evil plants; they even look evil, and grow like wildfire — I can’t even pick one of the horned seeds out of my shoe without impaling myself on it). After that, since Quigley was just standing about oddly, I pulled regular weeds while I waited to see what he’d do.

Finally I left him outside for a while (it’s finally cooling down) and decluttered my old files to make room for newer stuff that I’ve got piled here and there. I went over my 15 minute time allotment probably by two times, and by then I started to get upset. Here it is 11:25 now and I haven’t even gotten to Sky.  But agitation is not God’s thinking. It’s my flesh. So… rebound guilt, anger, frustration, power lust, self-pity…

(Oh, earlier I also retyped my routine charts, took stuff out of the morning routine and put it in the afternoon and evening routines– with less in the morning, I should be able to get to the writing quicker… Still, it took up time and suddenly it’s way later than I’d hoped to get started..

So, though I had planned on going to the Y in about an hour,  based on priorities — given all the walking I have do with Quigley, I’ve decided writing can trump going to the Y. So I won’t be going today.

I’ve also been reminded of the importance of… empty time, I guess. Dorothea Brande talked of it, as have others… I know I’ve blogged on it before, but somehow I just keep coming back to this…

“[The writer] will only know that there are times when he must, at all costs, have solitude, time to dream, to sit idle. Often he himself believes his mind is idle, empty… [but] the idleness is only surface stillness. Something is at work, but so deeply and wordlessly that it hardly gives a sign of its activity till it is ready to externalize its vision. The necessity which the artist feels to indulge himself in solitude, in rambling leisure, in long speechless periods… “

I’ve had some of this time of late and it is delicious. It feels right, it feels rich. Peace wells out of it. I find my thoughts going to the story, the world and people of Sky. Not in any purposeful way, just going there.

I always want to find fault with all this. I feel like I’m bad. The world advises you to come up with a plan, to try to control it, force it. It offers the motivation of ambition, greed, jealousy, approbation, money, success… fear. Guilt. None of that jibes with the “something” that is at work, deeply and wordlessly.

Time and again I’ve read about the empty stage, the waiting period, the artistic coma, the “nameless faculty.” I’ve even experienced it, and I believe it’s a part of the creative aspect of our souls, believer and unbeliever alike. I suppose the clearest notion for me is the old, out of vogue right brain/left brain model. The right brain is non linear. It doesn’t communicate in words and lines of logic, but images, sounds, feelings, scenes. It’s holistic. It’s mysterious because much of our existence is governed by left brain things — the logic, lists, categories, plans, execution of plans, problem solving (though of course right brain activity often figures strongly in the latter…) All those things involve activity, doing, accomplishing, solving, actively working. Not just sitting idly. Waiting.

We live in an impatient culture. No one wants to wait. Often — maybe too often– we don’t have to wait. We don’t want to take the time to rest. And, as my husband said recently, “no one wants to pay people to rest on the job,” anyway.  Even if it would make them more productive in the same amount of time.

And yet, the prime element of the Christian way of life IS rest. We’re to fear nothing but not entering His rest.

We don’t understand how the creative faculty works, it just does, often quite independent of our efforts. This is for believers and unbelievers, a part of our brains, that we don’t understand, where processes we can’t follow or explain are taking place. All people have it, some more than others. One minute we’re blank, the next the entire scene unfolds before us and nothing we “did” caused it to happen.

Some Christian books on writing attribute that to the Holy Spirit. Yet it happens with unbelievers, as well as believers, so it can’t be the Spirit, because He doesn’t abide in unbelievers. Which means it’s something about us as humans in general.  A subterranean process we don’t understand, maybe a collating and sifting and ordering of elements beneath our conscious mind, something that reminds us of how much we don’t know even about our own selves, but common to all.

But while I don’t believe the process itself is the work of the Holy Spirit, I do believe He can guide it when it comes to believers. When we have put off the old man and are allowing Him control of our souls, He can guide the elements of that process, unbeknownst to us. Whatever of God’s Word we have learned and understood and believed, and especially that we’ve applied to our lives, He can use in shaping a story… and not in immediate perfection, for the most part, because His purposes are far larger than the generation of the story itself.

No, it’s a slow process, just like spiritual growth is. He could easily arrange it all in an instant and dump it into my head. So why doesn’t He? Perhaps because He wants me to learn to wait. To trust. To stop trying to take control and instead, start trying to listen. To accept. To be at peace.

To rest.

To know HE is the one who’s guiding me, who has the plan, not me. And my only part is to relax and trust Him to do the work, to show me the way I should go. As He’s promised to do.

But there’s more even than that. Because as I’ve written this, my mind has churned on… it’s not just that it takes a long time, it’s that the initial forays into the work are so messy. Wrong turns, ideas with big gaps in them, initial conceptions that change radically as the work develops… why all that messiness?

That’s like spiritual growth too, but more than that. If I relax and trust him and wait, the slow unfolding and all the “wrong” turns can become a wonderful journey. There is something amazing and exciting and just plan fun about having worked with some material for a time, have it seem dead and lifeless and going nowhere no matter what you try to do with it and then, one day, it all comes together. That is awesome!  To not see for weeks or months or even years and then suddenly, “Whoa! So that’s what’s going on here!”

I think it’s a tiny reflection of what it’s going to be like when we reach heaven, where so many things will suddenly come clear. If I just sat down and it all came running out like water, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun and satisfying and edifying in terms of manifesting God’s sufficiency and faithfulness and the value of trust…

So, the reason it takes so long and is so messy and requires struggle is because it’s better that way. More of a blessing that way!

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An Earthquake in DC?

An earthquake in Washington, DC? That was my first incredulous thought on opening the Drudge Report yesterday and seeing the headline. Whoa, that is weird!

To make things even weirder, there was one in Colorado on the same day, a 5.3 tremblor centered in Trinidad, near the state’s southern border. Coming on top of all the tornadoes, droughts, wildfires, snowstorms, floods and now hurricanes… I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’s warnings of great earthquakes and famines just before He comes back. (Matt 24:7,8)  It seems obvious that God is trying to get people’s attention with all these weather events. Of all the things people are struggling to deal with now, weather is the one most obviously out of our hands.

I think I mentioned when writing about the tornadoes that a number of people remarked how since tornadoes rarely went through cities, everyone thought that somehow the presence of a city warded them off. After Joplin and Tuscaloosa, that notion has been retired, and the reason cities are being hit now is because there are more of them. I just think the only reason more tornadoes haven’t hit cities in the past is because God didn’t allow them to.

I was still in that line of thinking today when I learned that in the recent DC Earthquake both the Washington Monument and the Washington National Cathedral were closed indefinitely because of damages suffered from the EQ. The Washington Monument was found to have a 4″ crack in the top of its pyramidion, and the National Cathedral sustained millions of dollars of damage including numerous cracks in its limestone blocks as well as the loss of several of its pinnacles.

It struck me as significant that the two structures found to have enough damage from the quake to warrant closure to visitors were major and well-known icons of our country.

The Washington Monument, begun in 1848 and finished after the Civil War in 1884, is the tallest obelisk in the world, and was built to honor our first president, George Washington. (Interesting that perhaps our last real/full term president is George W. Bush… ). According to Wikipedia, “As the unanimous choice to serve as the first President of the United States, [Washington] built a strong and financially secure nation that earned the respect of the world.”

Now that monument has a small crack in it, just as our great nation is suffering cracks in its strength, its financial security and its position of being respected by the rest of the world.

The Washington National Cathedral has been designated by Congress as our “National House of Prayer” and serves as an icon for our nation’s religious life which has been for most of our history, predominantly Christian. It too has cracks and damage to its first floor and, as mentioned, its pinnacles  — cracks and falling pinnacles that serve as an illustration of the inexorable crumbling of our allegiance to Christianity, not so much as a nation, but as a people. Fewer and fewer attend church, more and more adhere to eastern religions, or none at all, and our laws and culture are growing increasingly hostile toward our faith.

From there I thought back to the Twin Towers, symbols of America’s economic strength — turned to rubble, with a mosque planned to be built atop the remains.

The Pentagon — split open when one of the hijacked airliners flew into it. The heart of our military strength, pierced by a handful of ignorant, hate-filled men armed with box cutters. Yes, it’s repaired now, but who would have thought such a thing could ever even happen? Of all places, wouldn’t the Pentagon be most impregnable?  Apparently not.

Taken together, it all makes for an interesting picture. One I don’t think is coincidence, given the times in which we live.

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land…

But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You shall not prolong your days in the land…

…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendents… ”       ~ Deuteronomy 30:15-19

 

A Multitude of Words

I’ve been thinking of this new media we have today and all the interaction it provides. Or maybe not interaction so much as everyone getting to comment on whatever matter is at issue. And, it seems, even expecting to comment. Used to be, if you published an article in a print publication, the only way someone could respond was by writing a letter to the editor. Only those who were most compelled to respond would go to the trouble of doing so.

But these days it’s easy (except for those of us who are daunted by those  wavy letters we must identify and type in before publishing a comment to prove we’re not cyberbots). But even that is easier than typing out your letter, editing it, retyping, getting the snail mail address, etc. Then you’d have to wait around probably for two issues before you even had a chance of seeing your letter in print. And most likely you never would see it, since the page constraints of print media would limit the number of letters published in each issue.  And in those letters you probably wouldn’t find a lot of repetition among them.

Now between Facebook and blogs and Twitter and Amazon everyone gets to put their two cents in. In fact, for a while now our local news anchors actually take precious time to report what viewers are saying on the station’s Facebook page:

“Sally Sniverliver said, ‘I really think the new development is a good idea and should be encouraged.’

“And Harvey Schmortz said, ‘The new development will only take up city funds that would be better spent for other uses. Like fixing the giant potholes in our streets.'”

This is news??? (Okay, I paraphrased, but what was said was consistent with my paraphrase — it’s still not news). Why should I care what Ms. Sniverliver and Mr. Schmortz have to say? If I want random comments I can ask my neighbor. Or the grocery clerk…Or listen to the local talk show where people call in.  Why are the reporters reading us their Facebook page???

Maybe they think  it makes us feel more connected to the station. More important. Maybe they think it will make us watch more consistently in hopes our Facebook page entry will be read.  Are these really the only way news stations can think of to boost viewership?

But I digress. My point is that there are an awful lot of words being spewed out there in cyberspace and I think it has significance, maybe in what it says about our society. I’ve been to blogs where a post has 857 plus comments. Does anyone actually read all 857 comments? Do the people who wrote the original post even read them?   The most I’ve read of such a huge number of comments is about 50.

Bottom line: it seems like communication, it seems like interaction and connection, but is it really? Or is it just  letters strung together with some spaces in between, a bunch of 1’s and 0’s and not much more…

“Do not take seriously all words which are [written],” says Ecclesiastes 7:21

And, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,” says Pro 10:19. “But he who restrains his (typing fingers) is wise.”

Not to say I don’t appreciate the comments I get from my readers… I do. But mostly you all are very thoughtful, classy commenters and I thank you for that!

Silver Linings

I was out taking pictures of our clouds the other day…er… more like a few weeks back, and this was one. I love our clouds, and the way the sun plays with them, brings out those silver linings.

(Silver linings: A hopeful or comforting prospect in the midst of difficulty.)

Looking at this photo, I can see that the bright linings show the sun is shining beyond the cloud and perhaps soon will be fully manifest. Kind of a cool analogy to the Lord… He’s always there, shining, but sometimes clouds get in our way and we can’t see that. Forget to see that. In tonight’s lesson, Pastor McLaughlin reminded us that when we react to people, to unjust treatment, to a difficult situation, it’s because we’ve gotten our eyes off of the Lord — we’re no longer occupied with Him, but with ourselves.

Never a fun place to be. Especially since, when occupied with self we become like those smudge pots they used to use in orange groves to keep the fruit from freezing — belching out black smoke that further obscures our view of our Lord. Our Good Shepherd.

I’ve had a busy, draining few days… well, nearly a week now, I guess. Started feeling the effects of it yesterday (Monday) but had housecleaning and the monthly trip to the cancer center with my mother. I told myself I would rest today, but then kept coming up with all these things I “should” do. As it turned out, I rested despite myself, because it was one of those flitter days, where I flit from thing to thing and can’t recall quite how I ended up doing the things that I did. Generally when I get to the end of such a day I start to condemn myself, but today I recognized the pattern. It’s part of being tired, part of the resting. So I’m going to stop with the condemning and just enjoy the results of the day. Which is that I’ve gotten to rest, and when I do that it always surprises me what a difference it makes in my motivation and my attitude.

Is Koran Burning UnChristian?

After last week’s post on the guy in Florida who was going to burn the Koran, I was asked by several people what I think about a Christian burning a Koran in order to deliberately provoke the Muslim world — isn’t that unChristian? I’ve thought about it all weekend and can’t come up with a definitive answer, though I’m probably closer to “how silly” than “ooh! That’s bad!” And at the same time very aware of the fact that God can use silly, sinful and even evil acts of man, including Christians, to fulfill His plan and bring glory to Himself.

There is no verse that says “Thou shalt not burn a Koran.” Nor is there one that says, “Thou shalt respect all other religions.” Yes, we are to be at peace with all men – so far as it depends on us. And yes, sometimes we are to operate in the law of love and sacrifice, giving up what we are free before God to do, but over which the person we are with will stumble. We’re not supposed to deliberately make people sin.

On the other hand, Jesus deliberately cracked corn in front of the Pharisees on the Sabbath (which you weren’t supposed to do), He healed people on the Temple steps on the Sabbath (no healing allowed either), told a guy He healed on a Sabbath to pick up his bed and go report to the Pharisees (aren’t supposed to pick and carry things like a bed) and in every case provoked the Pharisees to anger, judging and outrage. Of course they were already angry and judgmental and looking for ways to discredit Him, so I’m not sure He actually provoked them, so much as brought their inner true motivations to light.

In any case, I can’t say categorically that to burn a Koran to provoke a reaction (or prove that you are not going to be intimidated by the threats of fanatical and violent devotees of an evil religion?) is “unChristian.”

As for the idea that burning a Koran will not bring Muslims to the Gospel, but rather drive them away — How do we know that?  Yes, absolutely such an act is not going to bring a diehard believer in the Prophet to Christianity, but neither is anything else. But what about those with doubts? Might they actually be swayed — inspired even — by the sight of someone daring to “insult” the book that is supposedly the word of a god so thin-skinned and impotent he has to rely on people to defend him?  In some ways you can look at burning a Koran as a defiance of a false god — one that shows the tyranny of one religion and the freedom and mercy of another.

I also don’t think we are supposed to “respect” Islam as a religion. It’s a compendium of evil and lies, it’s tyrannical, it blasphemes God, insults the Lord Jesus Christ. I can respect someone’s right to believe it and will leave them to do so, but I don’t respect “Islam” at all.

At the same time, I’m not comfortable with the whole activism scene. I don’t think that’s really the way Christians bring change to a nation, so personally I would not be out burning Korans to make a statement. I can’t see any need to incite Muslims, since if you noticed my update to the Koran burning post last week about Michelle Malkin’s column The Eternal Flame of Muslim Outrage, it doesn’t take much to incite them: Underwear, sneakers, fast food packaging, teddy bears…

Still, I have to say in the end, there’s just something creepy about someone believing a book can be insulted, and that it’s their duty to make sure no one insults it anywhere in all the world, threatening to kill those who even suggest they might. It’s the bullying I don’t like. And the tiptoeing and hand-wringing from our leaders that I like even less.


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