Random Thoughts, April 28…

DAY 21/365: Hmmmm...

David Cosand via Compfight

Sometimes I think on purpose about things, and sometimes the thoughts just find their way into my mind in random order. This has been that kind of morning so far. And since all two of you loyal and attentive readers are waiting with bated breath and hanging on my every word, let me share some of that random goodness with you.

  • I discovered the Turtle Creek Chorale a couple of Christmases ago, and their album, Psalms, is one of my favorites. It was the soundtrack for this morning’s pre-dawn jaunt, and once again, I was inspired by the powerful ancient words coupled with the harmony of organ, brass, and men’s voices.
  • The Turtle Creek treatment of the Psalms reminded me that I could enjoy that style of music as a regular diet in worship. I know it further confirms my uncool/unhip status, but that music jacks me up more than the light show/rock concert/skinny jeans/unsingable show that passes for worship in most modern churches. I have the same emotional response to this great music as some modern worshippers have to the rock-driven performances.
  • One other thing about Turtle Creek’s Psalms. Apart from the faulty theology of the third-person pronoun in the middle section, their version of Psalm 91, “In the Secret Place,” is one of the most beautiful and powerful songs I’ve heard.
  • I also thought this morning that two of the most powerful words for harmonious human relations should be “None taken.” As in, “No offense.” “None taken.” See, in this culture of easy and frequent “offenses,” it would be refreshing and well, human to understand that not everything is intended to offend. I know the Bible reminds Jesus-apprentices to not give offense. But often, there would be no offense if people weren’t always looking to be offended by things that are out of their comfort zone. The Bible also reminds us it is a good thing to overlook offenses, to give them the attention they deserve, and to expect the best out of others, even those with whom we might disagree.

The Most Creative People on the Planet…

Avec ma compagne... dans son atelier... l'amour de l'art en partage...!!!

Denis Collette via Compfight

From my morning pages today. I may have gotten into a little whimsical groove toward the end. Be gentle.

Someone once opined (sang, maybe?) that the devil has all the good music. Actually, a little web search tells me it was first suggested by the Right Reverend Rowland Hill, a Surrey pastor in 1844: “The devil should not have all the best tunes.”

When I read articles about creativity and artistic endeavor these days, it seems only Buddhists and other “nontheistic” practitioners have an exclusive path to creativity. One has to be mindful (whatever that means). One has to find his path (whatever THAT means). And so on and so on.

I think Jesus people ought to be the most creative people on the planet. (Did I say “on the planet?” I think I meant “in the world.” Buddha, you know…).

If we are created in the image of  a Creator God, if we have been redeemed for a purpose by the Maker of all things, if we are part of the Greatest Story Ever, and if we are designed as His masterpieces, then our lives and work – all our lives and work – should be testimonies of the creative spirit.

Our creative work – our art, our words, our lives – should bear witness to the Spirit of Creativity who lives in and empowers us. Rather than searching for some mystical, mythical Muse who shows up (according to Stephen King, in his boxer shorts with a bag of magical dust, every morning, as soon as the writer sits down at the keyboard), and guides our efforts, we should be living fonts of creativity. Jesus Himself said that the life He gives us will in turn spring up and overflow into the world around us. Our creative efforts should be redemptive. Our art should be in a sense, sacramental, as it should convey God’s grace and glorify Him to the ends of the earth.

We follow in a long procession of a great cloud of witnesses who have been creative people. People who have written and sung songs. People who have created art, functional and beautiful. Artisans. Craftsmen (and -women). Makers with skill and talent and most importantly, a spirit of wonder and worship, grateful that God blessed them with His gifts. Crafters of poems, tooters of horns, pluckers of strings, singers of tunes, speakers of words, tellers of tales, sew-ers of clothes, and sharers of things made, all in the gifted tradition of people created to create.

Part of Me…

Confused Signal

Stef via Compfight

Part of me wants to cry a lot of tears.

Part of me wants to write a “Dear ____” letter. Not to get involved in anybody’s business, but to say thanks for the good parts and get clarity on the bad.

Part of me wants to stay away.

Part of me wants to stick around and see what happens next.

Part of me wants to say it’ll be OK.

Part of me wants to say, “Wake up, grow up, quit messing around, and get on with your life!”

Part of me wonders why.

Part of me says it’s really not my concern.

Part of me says yes it is.

Part of me wants to help.

Part of me wants to know what happened.

Part of me wants to get over the possibility.

Part of me is glad I never had to do this in the age of social media.

Part of me hopes somebody else comes along, if that’s the way.

Part of me wants to reach out to one, part to the other.

Part of me wants to gather both together.

Part of me is grateful.

Part of me is confused and angry.

Part of me doesn’t know what to do next.

Part of me says it’s not up to me.

Part of me doesn’t want to see it end.

Part of me is relieved.

Part of me wonders what might have been and still might be.

Home Roasting Update…

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I  tried roasting the first batch of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans on Monday. As I reported, I’m almost certain my popcorn popper never got hot enough for a good roast. Also, after a little more research, it seems the poppers with the screens in the bottom of the chamber (like my first one) are not as suitable as those with solid chambers with vent holes around the sides. So, I’m in the process of procuring another popper.

Anyway, I kept that first batch, although I wasn’t satisfied with the roast. I just ground that batch and did a pourover with my little Bee House ceramic dripper. Ground the beans at medium with my burr grinder. Water at precisely 204º F. Used 26 grams of ground beans. Four minutes brew time. 400 grams of water. The ground beans assumed a mushy consistency in the dripper, and I didn’t get a steady drip and flow as I poured the water into the filter. This may be due to the inconsistent roast.

The resulting cup of coffee is kind of dark amber-brown in color. The taste is not terrible, not great. I’m not sure at this point whether that is a function of the bean or the roast, but I’m leaning toward the inconsistent roast for this as well.

Bottom line for Batch #1: It’s not the satisfying cup I’d imagined when I first started playing around with the idea. I’m hoping the next popper will make a better showing of the roast.

Remember, friends: Life Axiom #4: Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

We Like Christmas, Yes, We Do Redux…

 

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(The latest hullabaloo over Starbucks and the plain red Christmas cups reminded me of this, one of my favorite posts from ten years ago. It’s not exactly the same situation, but it’s related and relevant today. By the way…does it really rise to the level of “hullabaloo” if one publicity-seeking moron raises a stink about a non-issue? I don’t think so. Some of the links may be outdated. You get the idea. Be gentle.)

We like Christmas, yes, we do –

We like Christmas, how ’bout you?

First of all, let’s get one thing straight, since it is an indisputable, undeniable truth of life in the world in which we live: Opinions are like…navels! – everybody’s got one. The corollary to that truth is, of course, that you are entitled to my opinion, whether you asked for it or not. And vice versa.

OK, with all that out of the way, let’s tackle this whole battle over Christmas/winter-holiday issue, shall we?

The great Alabama Christmas classic notwithstanding, this is not a peaceful Christmas time. Just about everywhere you turn, it seems somebody’s getting their stockings hung and their bells rung because of Christmas, or winter holiday, or whatever. As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, so are stories of retailers, schools, governments and whomever else discouraging, disparaging, or outright forbidding the recognition of Christmas flying through our media to our inboxes.

Now, I’m neither an intellectual nor spiritual giant. Nor do I play one on TV. But I’ve been thinking about this issue, and here’s what fell out of my Moleskine this morning. Your mileage may vary…

How should we as believers – not just “cultural Christians” – respond to the “Great Christmas Wars of Aught-Five”?

How about this?

Don’t go out of your way to “offend” others.
And don’t go out of your way to be “offended” by others.

  • We can honor and serve Jesus. How can anyone – a government, a school, a company, a retailer – keep you and me from honoring Jesus? The simple answer: They can’t. If it were suddenly “illegal” to celebrate Christmas, would it stop me from celebrating His birth, His life, His completed mission, His forever reign? If it were suddenly “illegal” to name the name of Jesus, would it change my faith in, and relationship to Him? If it would, then there may be more serious issues than a store clerk’s mandated cheerful greeting. Remember, Herod couldn’t keep the Wise Guys from Back East from searching for and honoring Jesus.
  • We can offer the best gifts we can in the spirit of Jesus. In my neck of the woods, at least, there are very, very few people who will be truly upset or offended by someone sharing a genuine token of love, concern, and caring, whether or not they themselves observe the Christmas holiday. The coffee you buy for the next person in line, the packs of chewing gum and/or Hot Wheels cars you give out to those around you, the yard you rake, the limbs you pick up, the groceries and diapers you provide, the mission offering…all these simple gifts better reflect what Christmas is all about than yapping about someone “taking Christ out of Christmas.” Very few people will not respond to selfless acts of love and service. After all, for “offense” to really happen, there has to be the intent to offend. How about you and I sanctify Christ in our hearts, and live out our hope in practical, caring ways? How about we leave the rest to Jesus and His incredible power to move into our neighborhood and bring good tidings of great joy, glory to God, peace on earth, and goodwill to men?
  • We can refuse to be offended by those who – for whatever reason – choose not to participate in the best part of the holiday season. Suppose we just refused to take offense when the culture at large dishonors or ridicules our faith? In America, at least, we have the right to express and practice our faith. But we don’t have the right to not be offended. Seems to me our world is becoming more and more like the world the first-century Church faced. To be sure, there is open hostility toward Jesus and toward His apprentices. But there always has been. (Here’s a clue: There always will be!) But on the whole, we’ve got a pretty wide-open opportunity to talk about Jesus and our faith in Him. The problem is, we need to learn to compete in the marketplace of ideas – realizing the possible consequences – just like Peter, James, John, Paul, and others did. Just like those guys, we don’t have the luxury of having our position accepted and validated “just because.” If our faith, our ideas, our paradigms won’t stand up to a little give-and-take, maybe they aren’t adequate for eternity, either.

We can enjoy our celebration. And we can offer the watching world a positive witness to our Lord.

Tuesday Morning in Late October…

autumn arrived

Bastian via Compfight

I like baseball, but the World Series should be over before Halloween. “The Boys of November” just doesn’t have the same ring as “The Boys of October.” Likewise, college football, as great as it is, should be done on New Year’s Day. And while we’re at it, why do basketball and hockey seem to last ten months or more?

Grateful this morning for…

  • Apple products.
  • Hamstrings and knees that seem to be getting better.
  • Financial resources to meet our needs.
  • Writing rhythm.
  • Beautiful books.
  • That one true sentence.
  • Encouraging friends, online and in real life. (And who said online friends aren’t real life friends?)
  • Coconut oil (don’t ask).
  • Evernote.
  • Unexpected connections.
  • TV weather people.
  • Christmas music after Labor Day.
  • Fiery red-gold crepe myrtle leaves.
  • The Present.
  • Words.
  • The texture – visual and tactile – of autumn leaves on the ground and the pavement.
  • Autumn in general.

The Present…

The Present. Now.

We look toward the future, plan for it, prepare for it, try to predict it, think of a preferred one, and we neglect this moment, the one in which we have the privilege to live now.

Annie Dillard said of The Present,

These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present.

The Psalmist prayed:

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

The Apostle cautioned:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

Random Thoughts on Reading and Writing for the Fun of It…

soul music to go

John Greene via Compfight

I started thinking about reading just for the sheer enjoyment of it, about how we – especially we who seek to teach, motivate, or encourage – are very utilitarian in our reading.

Every book, every article, every word has to mean something. There has to be some great principle, some earth-shattering truth which we can impart to our hearers/followers. We read with highlighter in hand, and we look for the snippet, the literary equivalent of a news soundbite, that we can incorporate into our teaching or writing or preaching or other pontificating.

Whatever happened to reading for the sheer pleasure of it? Where did we lose the childlike experience of being so engaged in a book that we lost all track of time, save as it functioned to measure our adventure?

And when did we stop trusting writers – I mean, real writers – to lead us on that kind of adventure? When did we start expecting them to drop those nuggets of factual truth that lend themselves to pontification? Why did we start evaluating writers on their ability to enunciate mere facts without enchanting our imagination along the way?

I’m reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creekand it is a beautiful book. Yet, for all its beauty, it reads like a diversion, a distraction, a long journey with a very observant friend. Yes, there are truths to be gleaned. There are quotes to be used in sermons and social media feeds. Yet, there is a whole lot of sheer joy and enchantment.

I’m not sure I have gained any practical benefit from reading it. But I sure have learned to look around me, to see my surroundings, and to express wonder and delight at the extraordinary ordinary goings-on of life.

I say all that to say I started to write this piece as a post on my mostly-dormant, mostly-ignored blog. While the thoughts were running through my head, I opened the “new post” screen and instead of writing words much like these in this space, I searched for the “perfect” image to go along with the words. As I scrolled through the images in Flickr via the Compfight extension, I became focused on the images and lost the train of thought of the words. That quickly. Just that fast. Once again, I had lost sight of the main thing because I was chasing something secondary.

You see, the “experts” tell us that choosing and using the right image can go a long way toward attracting attention and building our platform. Whatever that means. But I’m more convinced than ever that if we neglect – if I neglect – the act of writing the words, of following my instincts, of listening to my heart, it really won’t matter about the picture. People can find the pictures on their own. I need to be clear on the task at hand: creating the compelling picture with my words.

If I want to write, says I, I need to write. A lot. On a regular basis. The pictures will come in time. The format will take care of itself.

The words. That’s what I want to create. For the sheer joy of it. For the enchantment. For the magic it does for my soul. Then I can invite others to come along for the adventure, and they will share the glory of a dreary Monday evenign as we infuse magic and meaning into our surroundings and into our lives.