Saturday, November 22, 2014

Kids these days: Parsing that interview with Jaden and Willow Smith [sharing at Think Christian today]

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Just playing devil’s advocate here: maybe Will and Jada Smith are just like any other good parents who believe their children possess a particular brand of genius. Let’s be honest, if the New York Times style magazine wanted to feature our kids’ accomplishments and precocious personalities in an interview, we’d let them. Otherwise why are we all filling the Internet up with the videos, photos and daily commentary of our children? Let’s not even get started on the number of times we ask our friends to applaud our kids’ talent. 
So what if we looked at the interview, which appeared Monday and has been dissected throughout the week, in this way instead? Jaden and Willow Smith are two teenagers speaking the native language of most teenagers: an angsty mix of idealism and legalism. Yes, they’re privileged and that adds a somewhat unpalatable flavor to many of their responses. Yes, their family values include some unorthodox views about basic assumptions of reality. Still, I would prefer to read a kid who can throw in a few multi-syllabic concepts to spice up the typical 140-character fare (although my daughter assures me that Willow and Jaden are also quite fluent in tweet speak). I see the irony in their angsty criticism of angst, but if my high school self got the attention of major media, I’d be hunting down and burning those transcripts. 
And really, the Smith kids echo (what I assume to be) the beliefs of their parents in a way that struck me as quite familiar to the methods my church friends and I used growing up.

    Bonus feature
    One of my childhood journal pages I let the blogging world see:  Speeches I Would Make If I Ever Got the Chance -- Woman Politicians (1980/9 years old)

    Saturday, November 15, 2014

    7 quick takes from a cozy week in Austin (!) + other good things I found online

    --- 1 --- 
    We had the house to ourselves this weekend, but Brian had a paper to write. I tried to work on a writing assignment. Also we were really, really tired.  Season Two of The Newsroom is available now to stream.  We watched quite a lot of it, snuggled up on the couch.  It's amazing how comfy this activity can be when you used to have a lot of kids taking up couch space and now you don't.  We laughed at ourselves because The Newsroom is classic Aaron Sorkin-formula -- sometimes almost word for word.  But we love Aaron Sorkin formula and really wouldn't have it any other way.

    --- 2 --- 
    After some interesting conversations in the office about the problems of Nationalism and what wars are just wars and what is our military responsibility around the world and here at home, I found instruction and encouragement in Sunday's collect:  
    O Judge of the nations, we remember before You with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN
    Also, today, I re-posted from 2009 the story of my friend Margaret saying good-bye to her mother.  I never want to forget watching my friend and her father care for her mother during the last days of fighting off cancer.  And I never want to forget the clarity of relationship -- friendship -- that comes in those moments:  Paying Attention (21) - remembering Margaret's mom 

    --- 3 --- 
    Spent most of my lunch breaks this week finding a quiet place to read this book.  I borrowed it from the library because, you know, that's free.  And it's like a week overdue because I want to read every paragraph twice.  Sorry to any of you who might be on the wait list.  Clearly, I need to go ahead and own this book.

    --- 4 --- 
    Today my daughter sent me this.  She kindly added a note that "almost always" when this happens it's a "good thing".  

    --- 5 --- 
    More lunch break, more book reading shots.

    It's entirely possible I'll be transcribing whole pages of this book into blog posts because I'm that struck by Christian Wiman's writing.  Consider yourselves warned...

    --- 6 --- 
    This was one of those mornings when I just didn't wanna.  You know what I mean?  And the day ended up being as hard as I imagined.  Just normal hard stuff and then learning about friends and co-workers facing harder than normal stuff and it all kind of piled up into a big wad of sadness that came out as tears down my face.  For quite a long time I sat at my desk, working away, tears just streaming down my face because of the sad things.  I guess that's OK.  I'm also glad none of my co-workers noticed.  Crying helped.  Kind words from kind people helped.  And Thursday night small group (women's night) helped. 

    So did a cozy fire and a room full of women talking about both good, hard and funny things.  

    Also, today I posted writing inspiration I've been trying lately to paste in my mind: 5 of my favorite quotations on writing: Kenyon, L'Engle, King, O'Connor, Berry

    --- 7 --- 
    It's hard to believe that 2 weeks ago today I was in PA trick-or-treating with my niece and nephews.  And 2 weeks from now we'll be hanging out playing games and making left-over turkey sandwiches.  

    Here's a slideshow of my PA/NY trip.  You would rightly gather from this presentation that my trip home was to see nieces & nephews, apples/cider, doughnuts and the rest of my family -- in that order. I've added sappy music because I can't help myself.

    Fall trip to Pennsylvania & New York by Slidely Slideshow

    --- Other good words online this week ---

    Merry Little Christmas Project: 3 Ways to Save Time This Christmas - My sister's got this beautiful plan to make November her season to prepare for Christmas so that the first weeks of December can be set aside for savoring instead of stressing.  This post is one one several great tips she's sharing this month.  Join her Merry Little Christmas Project and make sure you sign up for her Christmas newsletter!  ("one email a day for all the best deals")

    Giving each other the space to be authentic by Katie Fox at The Art of Simple:  Wise insight by my friend Katie.  "When I start out a conversation by assuming that someone is “so excited” or “so happy” or so anything at all, I’ve already created a barrier that might prevent him or her from feeling like they can actually be honest with me."

    Where Are All the Good Stories About Marriage? by David Taylor at CT:  I had the privilege to read Dr. Taylor's earlier drafts of this piece and was even more impressed with the final draft published at CT this week.  "If a Christian community were willing to invest in those who are called to produce such television and movies, then I believe we might be looking not at the failure of the Christian imagination in the public square, but at the gift of a vision of marital love, in all its complexities and pleasures. God willing, viewers may yearn for much more of where that came from." May it be so.

    Sesame Street Week at The A.V. Club - Everyone's favorite children's television show turned 45 this week.  I've had fun reminiscing with the daily columnists at The A.V. Club.  What clips and songs do you remember?

    For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

    Thursday, November 13, 2014

    5 of my favorite quotations on writing: Kenyon, L'Engle, King, O'Connor, Berry

    5 faves: quotations on writing

    For a long while I've dreamed about going back to school. It's not the right time (as I like to say "Not all 6 of us can be in school at once!" -- which is probably a cop-out) In the meantime, I'm excited to pursue another goal. I saved up my pennies and signed up for the Glen Online Creative Non-fiction Writing Course.

    I'm really excited to learn and thankful for Glen Online and Image Journal's hospitality and encouragement. So to celebrate (and to rouse to the task at hand) here's some writing pep talks from five of my favorite authors.


    Jane Kenyon, at a 1991 literary conference in Enfield, New Hampshire, from A Hundred White Daffodils:
    "Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off  the hook. Work regular hours."


    "As soon as Bion, our baby, was in nursery school, I dropped out of the group of mothers who occasionally gathered together to drink coffee and gossip. This was writing time. Nobody else needed writing time. And I felt that I was looked at askance because I spent so much time at the typewriter and yet couldn't sell what I wrote. I certainly wasn't pulling my weight financially. In my journal I wrote: 'There is a gap in understanding between me and our friends and acquaintances. I can't quite understand a life without books and study and music and pictures and a driving passion. And they, on the other hand can't understand why I have to write, why I am a writer. When, for instance, I say to someone that I have to get home to work, the assumption is that I mean housecleaning or ironing, not writing a book. I'm very kindly permitted to be a writer but not to take time in pursuing my trade. Nor can they understand the importance of music or why an hour with a Mozart sonata at the piano is not wasted time but time spent on a real value. Or really listening, without talking, to music. Or going for a walk simply to see the beauty around one, or the real importance of a view from a window." 

    Stephen King in On Writing:

    “Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

    Wendell Berry on 

    How To Be a Poet

     (to remind myself)
    Make a place to sit down.   
    Sit down. Be quiet.   
    You must depend upon   
    affection, reading, knowledge,   
    skill—more of each   
    than you have—inspiration,   
    work, growing older, patience,   
    for patience joins time   
    to eternity. Any readers   
    who like your poems,   
    doubt their judgment.   

    Breathe with unconditional breath   
    the unconditioned air.   
    Shun electric wire.   
    Communicate slowly. Live   
    a three-dimensioned life;   
    stay away from screens.   
    Stay away from anything   
    that obscures the place it is in.   
    There are no unsacred places;   
    there are only sacred places   
    and desecrated places.   

    Accept what comes from silence.   
    Make the best you can of it.   
    Of the little words that come   
    out of the silence, like prayers   
    prayed back to the one who prays,   
    make a poem that does not disturb   
    the silence from which it came.
    Source: Poetry (January 2001).

    Flannery O'Connor

    Any favorite quotations like to share?  
    Do tell!

    *Linking up with Jenna today

    Sunday, November 09, 2014

    Paying Attention (21): remembering Margaret's mom

    In this season that my time is called for in places other than writing new posts, I've been following an idea my good Father gave me to  ponder and notice again the words I've already written once.  I've discovered this practice allows me to keep praying the beads of memory in this sacramental life.
    In the past few years, the first week of November has become a memorial week, appropriately ushered in by All Saints Day.  One year ago during this week we said good-bye to our dear friend Trey.  Five years ago this week I watched my friend Margaret say good-bye to her mother.  I am grateful for the lessons I've learned watching dear ones grieve.  Today's post is what I learned watching Margaret and her father say good-bye to Peggy.
    on grieving again (originally posted November 14, 2009)

    I'm thinking about grief again.  In fact, the subject keeps coming up everywhere I turn. Several of my friends are mourning the loss of a loved one, some are mourning the loss of relationship and a few are mourning the loss of certain childhood privileges - for example unconditional love from a parent or ever hearing the words I love you from any trusted adult in their growing up years.

    Our nation grieved the loss of thirteen soldiers last week.  We lose soldiers all the time, but we sit up and take notice when they are lost on our own soil at the hands of one of our own countrymen.  This waste of life haunts us and we try to figure out how to lament nobly and adequately without upsetting our entire emotional landscape.

    My friend Margaret lost her mom this week.  For over six years since her mom's diagnosis of ovarian cancer she has tried to imagine what these days would be like -- when would they happen, how would she respond, what would moving forward without her mom cost her family?  I wonder if she'll really ever be able to answer those questions?

    A week ago -- on a Friday morning -- we visited Margaret's parents Toby and Peggy.  We arrived at their home and tried to enter the reality of their long good-bye.  We walked around their house and behaved as if we'd been invited over for a spaghetti supper -- noticing pictures on the wall, wandering around the space making small talk.  To me the whole house seemed lopsided, almost dizzying it its architectural imbalance.  None of the weight of lovely furniture, books, china, or beloved piano could balance the floors that seemed to literally slope down the hall toward Peggy's bedroom.  For many long months the entire center of their universe was located in that bedroom, their energies absorbed in the tasks of comfort and homely care, love and unexercised grief.  It's as if the gravity of their weighty love drew us in.  We walked the long hallway into Peggy's room and encircled her with hymn-singing, small talk, Scripture-reading, prayer, laughter. 

    We are rusty in our hymns, the four of us friends.  But we worked through The Church's One FoundationGreat Is Thy Faithfulness, and others, trying to read the old black notes moving up and down between sharps, flats and naturals on the page.  We laughed to ourselves that we'd be in a position to sing these great old songs to the man and wife who'd mastered them their whole lives.  Peggy was certainly humble to receive our gift with no look of horror at our missed notes in her lovely, large blue eyes.  I noticed her eyes most when they were fixed on Toby while he spoon-fed her ice chips.  I'm not sure I've ever seen such naked trust in an adult face before. 

    The whole love between this husband and wife -- it's gritty, imperfect reality -- was far better than any movie story of love I've ever seen.  I'm thankful I got to tell Peggy how much I'd learned from her dying.  How much I learned about the value of long years with my husband.  About the charity that suffers through horrors as well as delights.  The charity that causes one spouse to sleep in a recliner chair next to his wife's bedside for night after long night.  I also learned -- again-- the violence of death.  The sturdiness of our insistence on living is one miserable bugger to someone who is suffering and ready to go to her true home.  Everything is ready, everyone is ready but that body that insists on trying to cope with suffering and go on living.  Eventually, death comes and does it grim work tearing families apart.  I learn each time to embrace the glory of Christ's resurrection more. 

    I'm thankful for last Friday morning with Peggy and Toby and Margaret and Lori and Andrea and two-year-old Katie.  Eventually we swum back out of the gravity of that room and walked back up the hall toward the piano.  We sang more.  I'm thankful for my new friend Brian Moss who gave us his sheet music to the Psalms that have been sustaining Margaret all these long days.  We were asked again later that week to sing another Brian Moss song at Peggy's funeral.  Between that and an old Don Wyrtzen anthem that Toby requested, once again, we novices felt humbled to sing for this musical family.  And we slid back and forth between the extraordinary extremes of grieving and giggling at the absurdity of it. 

    Margaret, I'm saving up some funny stories for you.  It's occurred to us that your mom might have been able to laugh along with our fumbling, stumbling attempts to sing for her family this week.  I know the day will come for you to laugh, too. 

    In the meantime, tears.

    Saturday, November 08, 2014

    7 quick takes, one week late

    You know how when you travel, you lose track of your calendar?  Yeah, me too.  So these dates are almost 2 weeks old now, but the days were too full of goodness to skip.

    A few weeks ago I stumbled on the story of Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe and her work in Uganda with young women who had been taken captive by the LRA and then returned to their communities after the war was "over" (since Joseph Kony is still at large there is some controversy about calling this war over).  The young women suffered severe trauma and on top of that were rejected by their communities upon returning home.  Sister Rosemary is a powerhouse of hope and the documentary Sewing Hope tells her story with heart-wrenching beauty.

    I was honored to write on my experience watching the documentary for Think Christian: Sewing Hope with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe

    You can view the documentary here:  Sewing Hope.

    Click here to purchase one of the lovely handmade items that the women of Saint Monica's Tailoring School create as the livelihood for themselves and for their children.

    This guy's got one and one-third semesters left until he completes his seminary degree.  This has been a killer of a semester and it's ramping up big time to the end of semester crunch.  Good thing he doesn't have anything else going on his life.  (Y'all, that was my New York sarcasm showing right there.)

    burning the midnight studying oil

    Also, he's one of the hardest working human beings I've ever met.  

    I've been meaning to share some of our favorite Paleo posts for a while and finally got around to it Wednesday:  Five Favorite Paleo Recipes My Family Loves
    One more thing I could have added is the bone broth we've been making at the beginning of each week.  Sunday or Monday night we roast a chicken and then put the bones in a stock pot with water and any vegetables that we need to use and simmer overnight for broth for the rest of the week.  Talk about using everything!  The broth is a satisfying, comforting lunch for several days.  I totally recommend it.  (also, I'm told, it's full of good nutrition for my poor body)


    So grateful for the opportunity to talk about a Christian response to Ebola.  I added a few humble words to the conversation at Think Christian: Balancing vigilence and providence in the face of Ebola

    Flew to the Northeast for a long weekend to spend time with some of my favorite people on earth.  So grateful.

    On to New York!  There's something about being in my mother's house that brings me instant calm.  This is a gift I do not take for granted.

    Today I saw my grandparents.  This is a gift I do not take for granted.

    --- Other good words online this week ---

    Salt of the Earth: A Christian Seasons Calendar - Beauty. Art. Liturgical time. Perfect. It's been a couple years since I've owned one of these and I'm definitely putting it on this year's Christmas list.   
    Becoming Kairi on YouTube:  I'm in kindergarten (preschool actually) understanding Comic-anythings, Cosplay-anythings, but I have lots of friends and co-workers who are all over it.
    Pre-order Blood Oranges in the Snow at Over the Rhine:  NEW music from OTR (and Christmas music, even better!)  Listen to the album's premiere streaming at New York Times

    For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

    Wednesday, November 05, 2014

    God and sisters are not to be ignored, wait to be seen

    for my sister Kaley on her birthday

    Seeing You
    for my sister Kaley on her birthday

    I will not
    rationalize --
    Love is truth.
    Indifference blinds
    like a sin. Even
    in our close quarters
    your closet crib,
    I don't remember looking 
    in. Your baby days came and went 
    the usual number of 
    sweet years. The 
    days swaying on
    the tire swing on the tree 
    in the side yard next
    to the white and
    yellow porch.
    Scattered over two acres
    the dandelions
    we picked for 
    Mother's Day, paper
    bags full. Scattered over
    Dad's bent back, we
    three kids on the golden
    yellow carpet.

    None of us is innocent.
    Even a five-year-old bears
    the taint of genes,
    the tendency to ignore
    or neglect. Your cheeks
    and nose and mouth
    (we shared some of these
    in common);
    mine are creased now
    with tears and time
    and sun.

    I study your face now
    in your sons. It is impossible
    to achieve perfect
    recollection; let that
    be my pardon:

    Each photograph, we're wearing
    matching Holly Hobbie
    bathrobes at Christmas, each 
    church duet, cute and
    funny story of our
    sisterly connection,
    puts pieces back in place
    and will now not be forgotten.
    But, when I
    was five and you were none,
    I forget.  When I was teened 
    and peeved, you were 
    lightness and brightness and
    ten and kind.

    I was blind.

    God and sisters
    are not to be ignored, wait 
    to be seen. Now I look
    at you both and remember
    what friendship looks like.

    *adapted from a poem by Luci Shaw, "Permanent I.D."

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

    Balancing vigilance and providence in the face of Ebola [sharing at Think Christian today]


    I work in an office building 204 miles from the Dallas hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan died earlier this month, marking the first Ebola diagnosis and fatality in North America. The conversations among coworkers that day veered far from the normal topics to discussions of life and death ethics.
    Last week, 43 people who had direct contact with Duncanwere released from quarantine in good health. Two nurses who’d been infected with Ebola while caring for Duncan haveboth recovered. Yet this good news does not seem to be settling our national fear. A recent Pew Research pollcomparing our level of concern from the beginning of October to last week found we are becoming more afraid that someone we love will be exposed to Ebola. Is it possible we are not trusting reason at all? What about a providential God?
    Richard Sacra, a missionary doctor, was headed toward the Ebola outbreak in Liberia when his colleague, Kent Brantley, was infected with the disease. Sacra himself became infected and returned to the United States for treatment. He has recovered and told reporters, “I fully intend to be part of its reconstruction as I continue my work at ELWA Hospital, with a focus on training physicians and strengthening Liberia’s health system for the long run.” Is this reckless behavior? What sort of credo informs our response to epidemics? Do we even need one?

    Bonus feature: a couple of good resources to join others in praying daily for those suffering from the Ebola virus

    Ebola prayer–Every morning  
    Psalm 90:12-14 (ESV) 
    So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long?Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 
    Our Father in heaven,
    We thank You for the precious gift of time.  We thank You for the gift of time set apart as sacred, the Sabbath.  Bless the Christians in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Mali, that they may keep the Sabbath holy.
    Return to Your servants in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali, O Lord!  How long?  Have pity, we pray. 
    Your steadfast love never ceases; Your mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 
    “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  We hope in You for Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, and Guinea.  Amen. 
    Lamentations 3:22-24

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