Clarity of Rules

I once said that we often read articles or follow certain people, not because we want to learn new things, but to reaffirm what we already believe.

There are other times, however, we stumble across something we knew almost instinctively, but couldn’t articulate. There’s a sense of elation and even relief. Like we returned home after a long and arduous trek through a mountainous desert.

I see a lot of “questions” that present only two possible responses. For instance, I engaged in a discussion on Twitter about the “morality” of eating meat. Here’s part of the discussion:

Me: In short, I don’t think anyone should feel guilty ‘cuz they eat meat, anymore than a vegan should be made to feel guilty for not eating it.

B: Those are two very different consumer realities. One choice requires the funding of mass slaughter, the other does not.

Me: A bit tongue in cheek: Both require slaughter, because we also kill plants when we eat them.

B: Plants are not sentient. If you had to choose between eating your dog or eating a piece of corn, what would you pick? Prolly the corn, right?

Knowing this was an entrapment question, I nonetheless thought about it and responded:

Me: I’d use my dog to help me hunt for rabbit, duck, goose, and/or pheasant, and make a meal with that and the corn to share with my dog.

A lot of the arguments presented to Christians to either defend or condemn contain the same type of either/or options. They’re not designed to start a discussion, but to entrap. Memes like this one is an example:

Christians are supposed to study Jesus’ life so we know how to best live our own. That includes debating with Christians and non-Christians alike.

The Pharisees tried to entrap Jesus with their questions time and again, and he always found a “third way” that included scripture to show them their flawed thinking. He didn’t argue using their rules, and it is one reason they conspired to kill him.

The article that brought all this to clarity for me can be read here:

Statement on Critical Theory and Unity in the Church

If we Christians want to win people over, and avoid people entrapping us with our own arguments, we need to quit playing by mercurial societal rules, and instead play by God’s rules.

Limiting Idiocy

My son started the 4th grade, and soon he will have the opportunity to try out extra-curricular activities such as sports, music, band, drama, etc. I want him to try them all. Not because I want to live vicariously through him since I took advantage of none of them growing up, however. Grade school is the best opportunity for children to discover what they’re good at, what they’re not good at, and what they will enjoy enough to work hard and excel at.

For instance, in school I learned how good I am at English and math. Life sciences such as biology, and organic chemistry, not so much. Without taking advantage of all those classes available to me, I never would have discovered any of it, and I wouldn’t have the focus I do now on continuing to improve my writing, and having a career where I get to work with numbers every day.

I want my son to live a life as joyful and fulfilling as I do. One way he can discover his gifts and limitations early on is to try as much as he can while those opportunities are readily available to him.

“Half of being smart is knowing what you’re dumb at.” — David Gerrold

Finger Painting with Words

When I first started to write, I approached it much like a child with eight different colors of finger paint, and an unending supply of paper (and a patient parent standing by to clean up the inevitable mess).

Only words were my colors. I didn’t write stories at first, but poems. Most of them were free-form, because I knew nothing about poetic meter and rhyming. I loved to experiment with words, to see how they fit together to make unique, and often odd and discordant, pictures.

One of my other blogs is called “My Writing Sandbox”. Although I don’t write poetry much anymore, I still see letters and words as my toys, my building blocks if you will, and my blogs are my sandbox where I get to create. Sometimes I write for the fun of it, and often to keep me sane, but always to better understand people, the world, and myself.

I took a writing class in high school where we studied all forms of poetry including iambic pentameter (http://iambicpentameter.net). The poem I wrote for the class (well over 30 years ago) I still remember:

Yellow, yellow through the rainbow.

Color, color in a tight row.

Blue and red and orange yellow.

Makes this rainbow not too mellow.

Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment. — Carl Sandburg

Making Excuses

“Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.” — Jules Renard

I’ve already described — for some of you, incessantly — how much writing is an outlet that keeps me sane.

As the quote above also notes, writing gives me an opportunity to hash out my strange and almost incomprehensible thoughts to make them less strange and more comprehensible, with plenty of time to figure it out before I decide to share it.

As I started this entry, my first thought was how this would end up a repeat of other entries, and I don’t like to repeat myself.

So how do I look at the quote a little differently?

Human beings, for the most part, like comfort, and the familiar. We seek them out, sometimes at great expense, whether it be spending less time with family, or risking our physical and mental health. Seems kind of silly when looking at it that way. Isn’t comfort supposed to allow us to relax, to not have to worry about things? Yet we worry and fret over not being comfortable enough.

I’m not a risk-taker. Like I wrote in my previous entry, it’s due to learning early on in life to weigh all potential consequences of my actions before I make them. I suppose in some ways, I’ve stifled myself from experiencing more.

Then a question popped in my head: Do I use my natural inability to express myself except through writing as an excuse not work harder to express myself in other ways? Am I, figuratively-speaking, hiding in a closet out of fear of making a fool out of myself, or hurting someone with my spoken words?

Aside: My husband and I decided to change our diet: Less processed foods and more meat, fruits and vegetables. Without all that refined sugar and bread, my body is screaming at me for torturing it so. So it turns around and tortures me with cravings for the very things my body doesn’t need. Supper, when will you be ready?

I feel like Audrey II from the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” when it yells, “Feed me!” In song form. Except I’m not singing . . .

Okay, back on track. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Hiding in figurative closets.

I need to start exercising my voice, so I can create neural pathways between my mouth and brain. Like building any muscle, that can only be accomplished through practice. Lots of it.

If I am to see my books published, and sold successfully, I need to go out in the world to market them. That will inevitably require rubbing elbows with people face-to-face such as at book signings. It’s a scary prospect, but a necessary one.

Who knows, by practicing now when it won’t cost me anything I may become — if not expert — certainly competent with talking out loud without fear of stumbling all over myself and being misunderstood.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” — 2 Timothy 1:7

Define Freedom

Today’s writing devotional asks what freedom means to me.

I didn’t want to tackle this question. Still don’t really, but to write is to explore. That includes exploring the darker, scarier places, whether they be in the mind or our surroundings, and to explore what makes us uncomfortable.

I don’t want to discuss what freedom means to me, and to me alone, because then it’s a matter of opinion only. I prefer facts to opinion, unless that opinion is informed with facts. That includes my own.

Yet I don’t want to cut and paste the Webster’s definition of freedom and call it a day. Your time is worth more than that.

I look to every controversy and question today’s society asks through two specific lenses: The importance of the individual and my Christian faith.

To define freedom I look to those two perspectives.

I didn’t get into trouble (much) growing up. I did far less than what my mom expected of both my sister and me. My mom said it was due to both of us having a strong sense of self-interest. Not selfishness, but in taking care that whatever we did wouldn’t have an adverse affect on our health and safety. We made mistakes, certainly, but nothing serious or permanent.

I boiled it down to something my mom told me when I was an early teen: “You can do whatever you want, but you will accept the consequences for them.”

Because my mom gave me the freedom to choose my actions, it put the fear of God into me (to use a phrase both literally and figuratively). Her words made me stop to consider what possible consequences I could face before, and not after I acted. It also meant my parents would not protect me from those consequences. They were my sole responsibility.

That’s what freedom truly is — not only the ability to decide our actions, but the necessity of accepting the consequences and responsibility for those actions.

My faith works the same way. God will not always stop me from making both good and bad choices, but he does expect me to take responsibility for them. He saved my soul, certainly, but he won’t always save me from the workings of this world. My actions are still my own, the consequences mine to accept, and I am to blame no one for them except me.

“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” — Galatians 6:4-5

Search Words

When I first created my website, I made sure to include keywords for search engines so people looking for content like mine will find me easier.

I understood that, and I included the most relevant ones. Still, I didn’t expect a lot of traffic. I read somewhere there are over 125 million blogs available for people to read. Who am I in that sea of writers?

In 2005 I signed up to writing.com, a website dedicated to writers to encourage them to write, but also to read, to review and be reviewed. In fact, as of a week ago, I celebrated my 12th year. While it took me over six months to post my first item for people to read/review, I now have over 100.

About a year later, my church asked me to write what the youth pastor titled, “Bible Monologues,” for the Easter service. He and I both wrote short monologues from the perspective of little-known people of the Bible during the time of Jesus.

Three I wrote for the Easter service, but since I liked the premise so much I wrote two others.

About six months later, a church representative found one of them to use for one of their own programs. I was surprised and even honored that one of my little stories that took so little time and effort on my part made such an impression.

Fast forward eleven years.

I received this email today:

I am contacting you in inquiry of a monologue you’ve written. I would love to use it for my class, and a student to perform during our fundraiser. I was wondering, if we credited correctly, if it would be possible to use “My forever stained hands” for our class? If you could email me back as soon as possible, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

Of course I let her use it, and even sent her the link to the all the ones I wrote.

I asked how she even found my monologues, because as vast as the Internet is, for her to find one of my little stories seems near impossible, especially since it was something she was hoping to find. She said she had gone to writing.com and searched “Biblical monologues.” Because I used both of those words as keywords for my stories, they popped up.

I need to go through all my other items, and my website in general (perhaps even this blog), and see what keywords I need to adjust and/or add. Who knows how much interest I will gain. It certainly couldn’t hurt, because there’s a lot of competition out there vying for people’s attention.

Solar Eclipse 2017

This year we were in the 90% zone for the Total Eclipse, and I was quite happy with that. I’ve enjoyed two other partial solar eclipses and four total lunar eclipses within the last 10 years. Since I enjoy photography almost as much as writing, I was excited for the opportunity to take pictures of this one. Especially since it was closer to a total than I have yet experienced.

Until friends of ours who live in Nebraska invited us down to view it from their house. They live in Scottsbluff which was in the totality zone. You can imagine my excitement, I’m sure.

And here’s the result (eleven photos total):

https://500px.com/amarq013/galleries/solar-eclipse-2017

If you’ve never seen a total solar eclipse, I recommend that no matter how far you have to travel to see it, do it. There’s no other experience like it, and you certainly won’t regret it. It’s awesome and eerie at the same time. It’ll make you feel small yet privileged that you could experience such an amazing cosmic event.

If you want to know when and where the next ones will be, check out timeanddate.com. And no, they didn’t pay me to advertise their site.