Saturday, December 17, 2005

Visual Imagery

I really love photography. I'm amazed at people's eye for a moment in time, at composition, at color (or lack thereof), and just being able to see things I've never seen before through another's lens. So I'm adding some beef to my blog. Flickr is a great website to see the creativity of your fellow man -- and woman. I don't know if it is illegal to use a Flickr photo or two in my blog... I will never claim that all of these images are mine.

By the way, this is the way the outdoors looks these days in Western NY.

Friday, December 09, 2005

To Be Is To Do

"The work is more important than the talking and the writing about the work." - Dorothy Day

"There have been enough words, enough sermons and books. What matters now is deeds." - Emmy Arnold

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My Prayer Today

As we approach the holidays, let's remember the following:

Lord Jesus, open my eyes to the vacant space inside of someone's life today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Rude Awakening

This morning started out poorly. As I dragged myself out of bed, eyes half open, and stumbled to the bathroom to do my business, I stepped squarely on a deposit of cat yack on the bathroom floor. Not being a morning person only added to the distress and confusion over what had just squished between my toes. And I’m sure the cat did not understand anything I was saying about what she had done. Note to self: even though it is distressing, it might be helpful to turn on the lights before getting under way in the morning.

Movie Review: “Capote”

I saw “Capote” over Thanksgiving weekend and I give it four bells out of four.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know much about him and wasn’t sure what the angle would be: would it delve into the crime that prompted his book, “In Cold Blood,” or would it focus on a flamboyant and eccentric character? It was neither.

“Capote” is a fascinating study of Truman himself and gets into the psychology of why, and how, he wrote the first true-crime novel. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the lead and is outstanding. I’ll never be able to look at him again and think of anything but Truman (just like I can’t look at Ralph Fiennes and think of anything but Nazi). The film adeptly draws you into Truman’s personality and leaves you wondering throughout whether he really cares about the crime’s victims and the perpetrators, or is he just there for the story. Along the way, there are some nice surprises about his social circle (including the fact that he was a childhood friend of Harper Lee, of “To Kill A Mockingbird” fame). Other than a flashback to the crime that prompted the book, the movie was pretty tame.

I think we have a “Best Actor” nominee here, so see it if you can. It’s a good one.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Still Fed Up

It seems to get worse, which is so disappointing. See my previous post on being Fed Up.

Veteran’s Day

I know I’m a few days late, but I have an affinity for this holiday. For one thing, it is my birthday. Since my mom always flew the flag on our house when it was any friend’s birthday, naturally I thought everyone knew it was my birthday due to the many Old Glory sightings on 11/11. Yes, I was disappointed when I learned at a young age that it had nothing to do with me.

I have come to appreciate Veteran’s Day by growing in my appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who have served in our Armed Forces. My family is full of veterans: my father, four uncles and two cousins, and a great-great grandfather who was in the Civil War and spent time in Andersonville Prison. I have seen many photos of fighter jets with noses painted like sharks. I’ve admired the dress uniforms. I’ve seen a Purple Heart. I’ve heard many stories, both of those who served and how those left behind survived in the absence of loved ones. Most of all, I’ve absorbed the respect and dignity that is portrayed and offered by the ones who sacrificed for our country. I am proud to be one who grew up as I have, surrounded by heroes who love me and teach me. I’m a much better person for it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Matters of the Heart

Recently I attended a worship service where we sang, “Lord, I Want To Be A Christian.” This song is very familiar to many, including me, but for some reason, I was very moved by the words this time. The verse that hit me was, “Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.”

I’ve been thinking about the words to this song, and why it affected me this time and never before. It has reminded me about my heart, and why its condition is so important to God. I don’t know about you, but I think it is easy to become focused on the mind. We seek to fill it with information because we think the more information in there, the better. We think that Bible study is important because it feeds our minds. We forget about some key verses about the heart like “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7) Or, “Create in me a pure heart, O God. And renew a right spirit in me.” (PS. 51:10) Or, “Search me and know my heart…” (PS. 139:23). I’m not suggesting that knowledge isn’t important, but the Bible doesn’t say, “The Lord looks at the mind…” or “Create in me a pure mind…”.

Obviously, God is trying to point out that there is a big difference between our mind and our heart. To me, it is saying that we can think we are right in our minds (no pun intended), and act as such, but our heart may tell a completely different story. We can hide behind the front we project with our minds, but the truth of our character lies in our hearts.

Back to the song. It says we must be Christians in our hearts, not our minds. We must be more holy in our hearts. We should seek to be more like Jesus in our hearts. And the one that moved was to be more loving in my heart. I was confronted by the fact that many times my heart is pretty ugly. As I seek to draw closer to Jesus, I want it to go beyond my head to transform my heart more and more. Let us not forget the matters of the heart.

Friday, November 04, 2005

I’m Fed Up…

… with rules that exist for the sake of simply being rules, with no regard for sensibility. Like companies that won’t order something because it isn’t on the “approved list,” even when that something is cheaper than what IS on the approved list. Or organizations that won’t give money to a worthy cause because it is outside their money distribution guidelines, never mind that they could save someone who is starving to death. Unfortunately, I have to remain vague here so as not to incriminate myself. But do these types of situations irk anybody else, or is it just me? What if Rosa Parks had said, “Well, I better get to the back of the bus because that’s where they told me to sit.”

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Rosa Parks

I didn’t think much about Rosa Parks until she died last week, but for some reason, her death has stirred a lot of things within me. I came across the following quote of hers, with I think is profound:

“The time had just come when I had been pushed as far as I could stand to be pushed, I suppose. They placed me under arrest. And I wasn’t afraid. I don’t know why I wasn’t, but I didn’t feel afraid. I had decided that I would have to know once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen, even in Montgomery, Alabama.”

The reality of the lives we live today has been shaped by what Rosa Parks did. Her courage was the catalyst for change and justice in a social system that was clearly wrong. I wonder if the perpetrators of the racial injustices knew they were wrong, or were they just enjoying the power they had?

It is probably considered a privileged existence for me to have not lived through the turmoil of the 50s. Maybe that makes it easy for me to be astounded that this diminutive woman (in size, but not in spirit) took such a stand and risked her life. I have no reason to doubt her when she said that she was not afraid, but that is equally astonishing. It has been interesting to see some of her contemporaries sharing at the various memorial services in her honor. There is a whole horde of small, old black women who still speak to injustice with power and conviction!

I can’t help but wonder if I would ever have the courage to do anything like what she did. Only with God.

Back At It

It's been ages since I've posted, but my mind has certainly been actively ruminating on things. So here's to hoping that I can go from thinking to doing, even if nobody reads it but me. It's all about the therapy of writing, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I Wish I Was A Runner…

… but I’m not. I hate to run because I don’t have much stamina. But I like to be involved in fun things so I've taken up the alternative. I walked in a 2-mile race over the weekend. There’s a lot of energy at such an event, especially as the 10K specialists are lining up and everyone anticipates their takeoff. I found it very anti-climactic to be the last event and to prepare for the words, “Ready --- Get Set --- WALK!” It took me half the race to overtake the high-stepping girl of about 11 years old who was just in front of me. Then a heavy-set woman, with whom I was keeping a good pace, pulled in front of me. I was determined not to let her gain much ground and worked hard to keep her within reach. I was able to do so and we finished together, only to be quickly shooed out of the way because the first 10K runner finished literally right on our heels. Oh well…. it is good to be humbled now and then, right?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Keen To The Lie

I receive an email devotional each day, and one recent one included a prayer asking God to, “Make us keen to the lie and hunger for the truth.” I love the phrase, “Keen to the lie.” Not only is a wonderful turn of a phrase, but it also was very thought-provoking to me. What lies do I need to be keen to?

That I am not worthy of God’s love… that my sins are not really as bad as someone else’s… that it is my job to point out another person’s short-comings… that if you are a Christian, life will be pain-free… that I am a second-class person because I am not married…that I have not accomplished much in my lifetime… that a perfect church, with no problems or issues, exists out there somewhere… that I have to say “yes” to any ministry opportunity that comes my way because I have to perform for God in order for him to accept me…

I pray that God will make me keen to all the lies he would want to root out of my mind. No doubt, more will come to me as I pray on this topic and we can continue to expand the list.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about community and this blog is an attempt to compare the ideas of two authors. I’m reading Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” (as is much of the rest of the U.S.) If you’ve read it, you’ll remember that he suggests one of the purposes of our lives is that we were formed for God’s family. This refers not only to Christians being children of God and thus being in God’s family, but also being a part of the family/community of a local church. I would say Warren’s (and others’) definition of community extends beyond the “noun” of the specific group of believers, but also to what happens between those people as they seek to love God, each other, and to serve Him as they grow in understanding of their calling. (Apologies to RW if I’ve oversimplified or misunderstood him.) I realize that this info is probably not meaningful to ones who does not have some form of a relationship to God and Christ.

Warren says that it is not just enough to believe, but we must also belong. “In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Rom 12:5). Our relationship with Christ is personal, but not intended to be private. God has given each of us gifts, equipping us to serve in specific roles which we miss if we are not attached to a church. This point is backed up by the whole biblical analogy of the body, its parts, and how they work together and are necessary (Rom. 12).

Warren’s reflections also reminded me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together.” (Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and participant in the resistance movement against Nazism. He also worked within an underground, illegal seminary during WWII.) I believe Bonhoeffer probably is speaking at times about literally living together with other Christians, but it certainly can be applied to the church as well. Bonhoeffer says, “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” Also, “But if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians!” Also, “The goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation. As such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community.”

What led me to think about all of this is the people who claim to be Christians but choose to not fully participate in community. I find these people annoying, disappointing, and prideful. Some feel it is enough to watch a televangelist on Sunday mornings, or they feel a walk in nature is enough to be close to God. I don’t doubt that they have received spiritual gifts. But they are choosing isolation, and they are choosing to hoard the gift God has given to them by not offering it to a community. These folk may argue that they are involved in a broader ministry somehow, and that’s great, but not at the expense of their local community or church.

I also get frustrated with those who bounce from church to church, always experiencing something they don’t like so they move on, looking for perfection. Bonhoeffer treats this in an interesting way.

“The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves…..Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive….When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament.”

As a person, I know I often walk the fine line of being judgmental, and God forgive me if I’ve crossed it here. But I just wish that we could set aside petty differences and pride and come together and serve God, no matter the risk, as He would have us do. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)

Thanks to Rick Warren and Dietrich Bonhoeffer for their insights.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Americana and Contrasts

I had the opportunity to attend a wedding this weekend near Havre de Grace, MD. The trip was an excellent reminder about the rhythms and cycles of life, as well as the eclectic nature of regionalism.

To get to MD from where I live, you must cover a lot of territory through the back roads of PA to get to the main artery heading east. We so enjoyed all the small towns we passed through, the interesting homesteads we saw, and the beauty of the terrain. Along the way, as we proceeded to the eastern seaboard, we passed from the simplicity of dairy farms to the opulence of horse farms; from the faded antique advertisements on the sides of barns to the crisp paint on crown moldings over the doorways of new builds. We left drab, early spring and entered Technicolor full spring.

Instead of seeing a bar on every corner, we encountered a multitude of churches – all denominations with no regard for rural vs. suburban settings. It was great to see them active and experiencing people streaming in for everything from yard sales to revivals to worship. So many had adjoining cemeteries that I could visualize the humorous adage of “hatching, matching and dispatching.” We even learned that the church hosting the wedding, built in the early 1700s, is struggling with the current issue of contemporary vs. traditional worship styles. Apparently history is not necessarily an insulator against the creep of modernity.

At one point on the journey we came upon a large open area surrounded by a fence where there appeared to be large group of cloned people watching some sort of event. We finally realized that it was a group of Amish men watching harness races. It was an interesting picture. It made me think about that sect and wonder how they have been able to maintain their lifestyle in today’s modern, changing world. What a challenge for them.

I came away from the weekend being thankful for creation, diversity and freedom as I witnessed all three in a myriad of ways.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

It's All About Something

The title sounds ethereal and cosmic. But I believe that what happens to us, who we encounter, what we hear and see, all combine for a purpose and God uses it all to teach and shape us. Figuring out meaning can be a challenge, but working it out on paper (or screen) in the absence of a listening ear is always cathartic. Hence, the title.

Every day I have thoughts and ideas that I wish had more legs than jots in my journal. And I look forward to writing about more than hard goods, which I do all day. Scriptures, novels, music, nature, interactions, crises -- it's all fair game to me. Hence, the blog.