Exploring where life and story meet!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A state of practical disbelief

"Unicorns don't care if you believe in them any more than you care if they believe in you."

I ran across this quote as a kid sorting through my sister's 'Magic the Gathering' card game and thought it was kind of cool and for some strange reason it has stuck with me through the years though I have forgotten many far more important things.  Personally, I do believe in unicorns and fairies (not in a biological sense mind you, but certainly in a philosophical sense, whatever that means) but I don't believe in atheists.  Yes, you read that right, I don't believe in atheists (this is where an atheist falls down dead and can only be revived by clapping...or was that fairies?...I suppose the atheists out there would only roll their eyes at me and get on with their dull and tedious lives in which no wonder dwells).  Now don't get me wrong, I am fully aware that there are people out there who proclaim they do not believe in any superior being/force or anything supernatural but that is not an atheist, an atheist is theoretically someone who does not have a god, but that is impossible, because we, as humans, are wired to worship something be it a God, a philosophy, a cause, an ideal, a physical object, a pet, a person, or ourselves.  There are no atheists, we all worship something, the only question is what?

In the neighboring state, football is a religion.  There is a museum dedicated to Spam (the canned meat product).  There are people who 'marry' themselves.  Some choose to worship science or evolution or the cosmos instead of a Creator.  Some see saving the planet or the animals or the rainforest or whatever as their purpose for being.  We all have a religion, most of it just doesn't happen in church or mosque.  Some of us proclaim a particular creed but live an entirely different way.  The Pharisees in Jesus's day are a good example, proclaiming to be the most fervent followers of the Hebrew God yet lusting after power and wealth far more than they ever concerned themselves with what God actually wanted in a follower.  I love the example of them tithing their spices but neglecting the most basic tenets of the faith.  We all worship something, regardless of what we think or say we believe, what do we actually believe?  What do our thoughts and actions and words reveal about where our hearts truly lie?  We are none of us atheists, but are we living as we truly wish to live, and if not, what can we do to change that?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Joy in the pursuit

It's been a year since our daughter quite literally appeared out of nowhere and we were parents overnight.  After we adopted our son, I said never again, only to repent of my hastiness and try the whole thing over again, and this time it was nearly three years of waiting and we were about to give up for good, when BAM!, there she was.  I've spent eight years at some stage of waiting in the adoption process, but with the finalization of our daughter's adoption a few months ago, we are done for good (unless something really weird happens), and it feels really odd, to tell you the truth.

The waiting was extremely difficult at times, time seemed to drag by whenever you stopped to wonder if the phone would ever ring.  Your heart ached with a longing impossible to describe.  Your life felt like it was on hold, that you were 'person interrupted,' as if things just paused there until something or nothing happened.  But there was something taunting, intoxicating, exciting in it too.  Every day might be The Day, every phone call might be The Call, what would happen, how would it go, what would it be like?  A million unanswered questions dancing in tantalizing fascination just beyond reach.  Amid all the heart-rending ache and dread and ennui there was this exciting, mysterious inexplicable Hope.  Then it happens and you have a rush of euphoria, joy, and excitement, and then things settle back down to 'life as usual.'

You've felt it, or something like it, be it waiting to find out if you got into that school or you won the raffle or you got the job or if you've ever saved up for a house or a car or a big trip or if you've waited for him to pop the question or are waiting to fall in love or get pregnant or whatever.  It's the same rush that drives people to gamble and stay up until three in the morning because they just have to finish the book.  And then you finish the book, now what?  Here's an article that gives each of us thrill junkies an eternal hope, no matter how many books or weddings or adoptions you've look forward to, there's something even bigger, and far better, in the wings.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Love vs. Fear

'Perfect Love casts out fear"

It's one of those sayings you've always heard and acknowledged as true but somehow, inside your head or deep in your heart or somewhere in your soul, you have never realized the truth of the matter.  There is no room for fear in the presence of Perfect Love.  That being said, all our mortal loves are certainly imperfect, no matter how sublime, so don't freak out if a little fear sneaks into your relationships every now and again, it's part of our fallen and broken reality.  I grew up with the opposite however: Perfect Fear casts out love.  I've spent all these years trying to understand Love, knowing what it was on paper but never in practice.  I don't know what it means to be loved unconditionally, no matter what you do (or don't) or who you are (or aren't), at least as a parent should love a child.  At my house, fear was the rule rather than the exception.

Today I burned the biscuits I was making for lunch and then I went and burned the eggs too (I've never burned eggs before!).  Enter panic mode (probably an anxiety attack).  At my house you got in trouble when things were perfect, when things were bad...well, we won't go there.  So now I'm all grown up with a home and family of my own.  I understand that kids make mistakes and are well, kids, and I love them anyway and don't punish them for accidents and carelessness but somehow I can't apply that to myself.  I don't understand that it's okay to make mistakes, that the important people in my life won't quit loving because I screwed up.  I'm programmed that nobody loves me when things are going great, how much less when anything goes wrong?  Fear was a way of life, so much so that I didn't even know it was an issue; it was just how things were, it was normal.

But you know what?  I didn't get into trouble, nobody quit loving me, and while lunch was not as I had planned it, it was okay and now we can laugh about it.  We never laughed or even smiled at my house.  We never celebrated anything.  You never heard 'good job' or 'I'm proud of you.'  Hugs didn't happen.  I'm changing all that and it's wonderful, except I need to learn to apply it to myself as well as to everybody else.  What am I afraid of?  Old ghosts?  I know in my head that things are okay, but my heart is still skeptical at times, but it's warming to the idea.  Perfect Love, how do I even begin to wrap my mind around that idea if imperfect love is a stretch for my feeble imagination?  And it's for me, and you!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The price of a sparrow

If you've ever read the reviews for anything online (products, businesses, services, even people!) it can be a rather morbidly amusing experience and certainly make you question what kind of a world we live in where people actually think (and post in a public forum!) things like that?  Giving a product a one star review because it didn't do what you thought it should (but wasn't designed to do) is rather presumptuous, highlighting the 'me-centric attitude' held by many Westerners, who don't even realize their folly.  X should do Y because I think it should and the world revolves around me and my merest whims so therefore if X does not do Y, it must be flawed (not my logic)!  Here's a little article that stands that assumption on its head, a refreshing, terrifying (in a good way), and much needed wake-up call to many of us!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Nomads and Exiles

Abraham was a chronic traveler, never laying claim to any permanent habitation during his long life.  The Children of Israel were likewise nomads when they fled Egypt.  Eventually the ancient nation of Israel was conquered by various other nations and its people scattered across the whole face of the world.  Jesus proclaims He has nowhere to lay his head.  The epistles tell us that all who follow after Him are likewise nomads, pilgrims, strangers in every country of the world.  This is excellent news!  At least for those who feel this world is not quite right, that something has gone dreadfully wrong, that no matter how perfect your circumstances things still aren't perfect, for those who have every physical need met yet are still discontent.  Silly creatures that we are, we try to fill that gap with things or people or experiences or hobbies or various pursuits but nothing quite satisfies.

We just returned from a two week trip back to see family and friends, and while it was a wonderful time, I came back exhausted and very happy to be home.  I think the main reason people go away is so that they can appreciate what they left behind.  Are you looking forward to going Home, to finding that place you've always sought but could never quite find?  After your wearisome earthly journey, do you know how to finally go Home?  We need only follow the One who has gone ahead to prepare a place, just for us!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Of pronouns and theses

We have to be living in a satirical movie right?  I keep reading articles or watching news clips/interviews that I'm certain must be humorous takes on actual events, perhaps derived from such august sources as 'The Onion' or 'The Babylon Bee,' but no, they are real!  How people can think and say or carefully consider such ideas with a straight face is beyond me.  I just finished reading an article in the alumni magazine from my alma mater and I can't decide whether to laugh aloud or weep in despair, my college was a little, how shall I put this, edgy?, back in the late '90's, so you can probably imagine how it has devolved since then.  It was a serious article featuring a person whose preferred pronoun was plural and a project they were working on for the 'pronounedly confused' or whatever the politically correct jargon is for folk who don't like he/she.  As a writer I would love a gender neutral singular pronoun but that is beside the point, this person refers to themselves(?) in the plural tense.  For a bit there I thought I had slipped into one of those sci-fi novels where a certain alien species is part of a hive mind or multiple minds occupy a single organism, etc!  This is really getting weird.  Am I the only person on the planet that finds this trend more than a little disturbing?

Where do you draw the line?  What is normal, healthy, acceptable and what is dangerous, unhealthy, unacceptable?  Is anorexia okay because the individual identifies as a fat person no matter their actual weight?  Is a person with multiple personality disorder a murderous fiend if one or more personalities are banished/suppressed if treatment is sought?  What's next?  If biological gender can be considered contentious and mutable, what other natural 'laws' will we also feel free to flout in our search for meaning, importance, and significance?  How does law and order exist at all in a world where everything is dependent on feelings?  What if my feelings contradict yours, whose should get predominance?  How do we know what reality is?  Whose reality is real?  What is a person?  What is not a person?  Does a person have rights?  Where do they come from?  Who can take them away or grant them?  Does the individual or the crowd have more rights?  Which is right?  Is anything wrong?

It's a very slippery slope into philosophical chaos and not much further into social unrest.  What do you cling to when nobody believes anything or everything?  But these aren't new questions, men (yes, in the old fashioned sense meaning humankind inclusively no matter your favored pronoun) have been asking them since the dawn of time; we've just applied them to things no one was ever silly enough to question before (sort of like most Ph.D. theses).  And the answer is always the same, no matter what age of the world you find yourself in: a paradox, an enigma, foolishness.  'For the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.'  And I'm right, this reality is a spoof, a parody, a distortion of what is actually real, and one day we will wake up and find it all an absurd, horrid dream and our real lives will begin in a world we cannot even begin to fathom, but we must become fools, at least in the eyes of the world, if ever we hope to get there.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

An advocate

Our son just started Kindergarten this year and it has been rather eye-opening, or rather a reawakening to the things that are most important in the eyes of the prevailing culture.  For five years he's been at home and according to those prevailing standards, I've failed miserably as a mother.  He couldn't say the alphabet or tie his shoes or count beyond 12 when he started.  I've had calls from the speech pathologist because he occasionally uses the wrong pronoun (Heaven help us!).  He's been screened twice and they thought he should stay home another year.  But I sent him anyway, epic failure that they predicted.  He can now read, count to 100, does basic math and a hundred other things I didn't learn until much later in the process.  They misjudged him and his abilities, they based their decisions on what they could measure on a test or observe in five minutes of observation, it isn't their fault, it's the result of the system they use, but what would have happened to my little son if I hadn't been there to insist that he didn't fit in the box they wanted to put him in?  He needed an advocate, someone to have his back, someone who understands and loves him and acts in his best interests.

A lot of us don't have that advocate, someone who sees us for who we are rather than what we can do, someone who wants what is best for us and does the hard thing because it is best for us.  That's real love, hard love, not the mushy romantic stuff we see on TV or the 'give them what they want and do everything to make them happy' mentality that is much of modern grand-parenting.  But it's hard, it's hard on me and it's hard on my kids.  It would be so much easier to just go with the flow and do the easy thing and be nice and not ruffle feathers and make sure he's happy, or at least thinks he is.  That's what the grandparents do and the kids have a great time, but once they leave, everything falls apart.  They're tired, crabby, selfish, bored, and unreasonable; I really don't like who they turn into after such a visit: think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide!  But you see it in many of the kids in my son's class, for whatever reason be it a broken family or lax parenting, many of those kids do great on the test but their lives are falling apart before they've even begun.  Then they grow up and life gets tough and nothing goes their way and they self destruct.  All because someone wouldn't or couldn't do the hard things.

Life isn't easy, happiness is a fleeting feeling, all of us struggle with loneliness, futility, and pain at some point if not all the time.  But we aren't alone.  There is Someone who loves us enough to do the hard things, He did the Hardest Thing, for the people who least deserved it.  No matter what our earthly parents were like, we have a Heavenly Father who is willing to do the hard things, who loves us enough to insist upon it.  But we don't like it, we want everything to be easy and happy and carefree, but that isn't how life works, He loves us too much to let us destroy ourselves thus.  Just as we initially resented our parents' efforts and our kids resist ours, so too do we call Him officious, judgmental, and the like, but like all good parents, He presses on through the protests, tantrums, and rages and waits patiently on the porch for His erring children to finally decide they've had enough and do the sensible thing and come Home.