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Archive for January, 2012

I feel kind of goofy going here after the deep discussions of yesterday and the talk of God and Church and whatnot.

But the rain is coming down and the pain is rising. I wasn’t going to write at all today but then there was a tornado warning which meant I had to take the kids (they’re dogs but they’re my kids) to the office (it’s a basement, but it’s my office.). And since I was down here I figured I’d write something.

The first thing I had to do was comment over at Tiny Cat Pants. Because if there is ever a discussion about the hotness of Abraham Lincoln*, my input is required. Then I took some pictures of the storm literally blowing over. The sky starts out a deep slate gray and then, seconds later, moves to a blue-streaked whiteish pearl.

Much to the dogs’ chagrin, we are still down here because I’m insisting on finishing a blog post, regardless of how vacuous a post it is. We aren’t talking about much of significance today because I already said my piece on Facebook earlier.

For those of you who don’t read Facebook or who want me to say something more than “and then I went here…”, the point I made was that

Fear is not a motivator for my vote. I do not owe my vote to a political party. No, the important thing to me is not “to beat Obama” and therefore toss my vote behind whichever candidate has the most likely chance of doing so. For too long Americans have been hornswaggled into voting this way. I believe firmly that’s part of why fewer and fewer vote each time out. A person’s vote is their voice. Every one has the right to say with her voice that “this is what I want leadership to look like. These ideas most closely resemble my ideas and that is why I chose this man or woman.” You’ll not get me to band together, squirming and bullied into acquiescing to the “most appealing” candidate of the larger party. In this particular case, Mitt Romney is far too close to Obama policy-wise anyway. So “beating Obama” with Romney is like trading Liver and Onions for Haggis. It’s all gross.

Anyway….it’s the kind of day during which one wants to build a fire in the fire place. But I used my last Duraflame** a week ago and don’t have the wherewithal to bring in an armload of felled wood. We do have one of those switches in the floor that turns on a gas line in our fireplace and I could light that but my spouse doesn’t like the idea of maybe there being a clog in the line and everything blowing up. Also, that’s less “sitting around a fire reading” and more “pretending we’re sitting around a fire but it’s really just a big ol’ gas burner.”

And I know it’s natural gas, not propane. But I went for the funny instead of the accurate.

*If you’re new here you probably don’t know that I have a lifelong crush on our deceased 16th president. I even married a man who liked like him. On purpose. That is I married him on purpose. His resemblance to Lincoln is quite coincidental on his part. Except for that time he grew a beard.

**without conking any noggins, Jess. :)

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I’ve seen a lot of my friends post links to the YouTube video of the guy bustin rhymes about how he Loves Jesus but hates Religion.

My very first thought on seeing the video’s title the first time was “that’s like loving money but hating work.” I mean, come on! “Jesus” is the cool and cozy and lovable, likeable rebel for reform. Loving Jesus isn’t (for many people) a huge stretch. If you entertain thoughts of Christianity, Jesus is generally the big draw.

But Religion? When people hear “religion” nowadays they muddle it up in their head with thoughts of the Inquisition, The Crusades, bombs in the U.K. They confuse Religion with Dogma and Legalism and politicized moral issues. I daresay that these are things that by turns embarrass, shame, anger, frustrate and confuse most people–Christian or not.

Religion in its most basic form, however, is to Jesus exactly what work is to money. Religion is how you Get Jesus. It is the set of processes one goes through to become more Christlike.

Religion is
–prayer
–Bible study
–Fellowship with believers
–Worship
–Acts of Devotion

If you want to grow closer to what God has asked of you in exchange for Grace, these are the steps you take.

Now I know that one of the reasons this video is so popular is because there is a growing discontent with the function of Sundaychurch in America. People no longer find the traditional churches satisfactory because of sociological, political or cultural difference with what Sundaychurch has become. Dogmatic wrangling overshadows the benefits and more and more people are choosing to go without.

Is this a good thing? I’m really not quite sure. I know without a doubt that one can find all five necessary facets for the practice of Religion outside of a church setting. I know many who do, seeking fellowship in small accountability groups and performing Acts of Devotion in the larger community.

But my concern is that there is an insidiousness to saying we Love Jesus but Hate Religion. By throwing the wheat out with the chaff we may just starve our souls.
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I wrote this post on the iPhone and didn’t have a handy way to get to the video and the other links I think are great to look at alongside it.

The Original Video
Kevin DeYoung’s excellent rebuttal
Kevin DeYoung’s follow-up exchange with the guy in the video after DeYoung’s rebuttal went wide.

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When people find out that I do not have a job and can spend many hours a day writing they’re usually envious. It sounds like a dream; I suppose that’s one of the reasons I’m more candid about my health than is probably advisable. I like for people to realise that before they start envying me they realise that my “dream” setup has more than a few nightmare side-effects.

Over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of writers via the internet, workshops and other venues where we normally introspective folk like to go to avoid sitting down and getting something written. In those years I’ve met many people who envision Being A Writer as really more of being A Person Who Can Work From Home and Has No Stress At All. After all, who wouldn’t adore being able to while away in the Land of Make Believe at her own pace and then sit back and watch checks roll in? It sounds absolutely luscious.

But I’ll come clean about something, and this is a thing you probably don’t want to hear.

Work is essential. Tasks and routine are the calisthenics that keep your life in shape. Process is the Pilates that tones your mental muscle and unwelcome meetings and duties are the free weights that train your self-discipline. If you are like the many people right now who are done out of a paying job, do yourself a favour and create a job-like environment for yourself. Set aside an area of your home to treat as an office if you are homebound as I am. If you are mobile, consider setting up shop at the local branch of your public library.

Real writing is a job just like any other, with tasks and routine and process and unwelcome duties. So don’t get stuck on a fairy tale version of the world where Becoming A Writer is like winning a ticket to some sort of leisurely life.

And here’s the other secret: Your job makes you a better writer, so if you are a writer who writes full-time you BEST find something else to enrich you or your books will start to suck. Don’t believe me? Pick up the latest Patricia Cornwell. Go read Olivia Goldsmith’s third through last books.

I’ve read a lot of books by a lot of writers and it usually goes like this. The first book is rough around the edges but okay. The second or third book really gets things humming and takes off, making the writer a Full Time Writer. Books four and sometimes five are still pretty good, but somewhere around book six they stop writing relatable stuff. If they’re a chick-lit type of writer (like Olivia Goldsmith) they’ll write a book set in the world of publishing, because that’s all they know now. Then they veer off into a papery unrelatableness.

If you are truly a writer you do this work because you are compelled to and you love it the way some people love their children, their pets, their classic cars. You do it no matter what else is going on in your life. If you are just looking for an excuse to hide from the world there are easier, more lucrative paths to take and I suggest you look into one of those.

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I was just reading an article by an atheist. He said, among other things, that he believes all religions are equally ridiculous. Then he further went on to say that he didn’t care what (if any) religion we practice “as long as you are kind.”

The atheist in question: Ricky Gervais.
The article in question: A lengthy two-page defense of his Golden Globes jokes from last year wherein he parsed the funny out of each and every one. After turning each “Oh no he di-int!” into a snore he then went on to recast himself as a martyr for the cause of truth in humour. And then he made a couple really prejudiced remarks about obesity.

…As long as you are kind.

Huh. I guess what I think “kindness” is and what Gervais believes it to be are not necessarily the same thing. I don’t think it’s kind to mock fat people. (“It’s not big bones. It’s big bones covered in meat and gravy.”) I don’t think it’s kind to taunt someone about their past stumbles with drugs and alcohol or about their sexuality.

My policy over the years has been to ignore Ricky Gervais. He was funny for five minutes in The Office but then went on to play that jerk repeatedly. There are only so many times I can squirm while watching someone act inappropriately, and since that’s the foundation of what Gervais calls humour I figured that I’d do better to not give him the attention he so desperately craves.

So why now? Why am I picking on Ricky at this juncture? Well, because there’s been a whole lot of attention paid to the harm caused by bullying lately. Most of my friends have shared their tales of being bullied–sad things that range from being mocked for appearance to actually being set on fire. Celebrities are doing public service announcements to buoy the spirits of kids on the brink of self-harm because of what bullies have done to him.

Ricky Gervais is a bully. You can call it what you want and dress it up in free speech and honesty in humour. Nevertheless it’s bullying pure and simple. I have bullies in my life and if there’s one thing they excel at, it’s being able to sense a person’s weakness. If the bully is stupid they just mock. If they’re clever they are funny about their mocking. And then people write it off saying “Oh, that’s just Bobby’s sense of humour! You have to take it with a grain of salt.”

I’m done with pretending that it’s okay to be cruel as long as you bring cleverness to your cruelty.

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So why did I bring up Gervais’ atheism? I should clear that up, even though the entry isn’t about that. Atheism is a valid choice (whether or not I say it is, really.) But in this case you have a person who is staunchly atheist because they believe the religions of the world to be the primary source of hate–something Gervais has said often in interviews. Then you have this same person making a nice fat living off hating albeit hating funny-style. So I’d like to point out once again that this bolsters my belief that the fault lies not within religion itself but within mankind. I also needed for my own sanity to point out the sheer irony of this man demanding kindness from everyone else.

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I didn’t shoot much yesterday; had a lot of other things in my head space. But there was this one picture I like to call

Comfort Vs. The Challenge of Desire

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I was stirring sugar into my yogurt and while I watched the crystals of sweet start to break down the fermented milk into a softer, warmer shade of white it reminded me of something.

For years and years we tried to have a baby. I went through a lot of painful procedures, both physically and emotionally, as the doctors tried to narrow down the reasons why it just wasn’t happening. I spent a lot of time feeling cheated and left out as I watched every other woman I knew fall pregnant. At least three times I witnessed single friends of mine meet someone new, court that person, marry and get pregnant. All while I was still stuck on the pregnant part, to no avail. I ran an online Bible study for infertility that was attended by as many as 30 women at a time. To the best of my knowledge I’m the only one out of that group who never did end up acquiring a child through one set of means or another.

In the apex of that darkness I realised that I couldn’t live with the anguish. In one of my more intense prayer sessions I surrendered my will. The only thing I asked is that if God did not mean for me to have a child that God would at least remove the desire from me.

I cannot tell you how long it took because it was a slow fading into a new reality, like a drop of chocolate unfurling into milk, like the sugar softening my bowl of yogurt. But eventually there I was exactly as it says in Romans 12. I was transformed by the renewing of my mind. After years of flinging open those windows they tell you God opens I came upon another closed door and when I opened it I found my self waiting calmly to be discovered by the anxious and undefined woman who had been looking in all the wrong places. I am happy for those who have children and find their happiness in that. I love the new people I meet and I rejoice at the joy of others’ parenthood and no longer weep tears of loss for my own state.

I am who I was meant to be.

And when that peace happened I am now realising it wasn’t just with that aspect of my life but with the rest of it as well. There was peace about how I look, what education I have and don’t have, how much money we have and don’t have…all of that. The Lord never gave me a human child, but I did get the great fantastic gift of contentment and the better shining gift of joy.

All of this is coming important again as I wait for answers about the things going on in my hollow chambers once meant for those babies. I looked in that yogurt and remembered that the peace had been stirred in to sweeten the bitterness and had already dissolved like sugar.

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My husband and sister are the better photographers in my family, but given recent events I thought having a Year in Pictures would be a fine idea. And yes, there will be an actual blog post later today, barring any unforeseen circumstance.

Project 365 Day 2
The Inevitable Solitude Of Night

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Mike Duran wrote about this today and everyone is talking about it everywhere (i.e. on Facebook) except his own blog post. So I tried to move my discussion there but my comment is not showing up. And since I hate to have my great wisdom lost to the ages, I am copying and pasting it here. I would mostly let it go except that i think it’s an interesting discussion to have AND I really needed to make the point about Jibe Vs. Jive because that’s been a word usage that makes me increasingly desirous of self-flaying.

Okay. I’ll be fair and bring this home where it belongs. Although I DO think it’s cute how many people want to talk about it on FB pages. FB is replacing blogs as the Center for discussion just as blogs replaced UseNet. I think this is a bad move because it means that conversations tend to get held among a more like-minded group. You know, that happens with self-selected pools. Anyway….
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I’ll try to not parse too much of what you say because that’s all picky editor wank, but I do think this statement of yours:
Which is why most authors — even non-religious ones — appeal to a religious / moral worldview to frame their tales.

is a huge mistake.

Because you are really flaunting a bias here. Most authors? Maybe most authors in your experience or most authors you know about or most authors who are successful in North American publishing circa right now. But MOST authors? That’s kind of nervy. Because there is a whole world of fiction, say, Greece that has nuts-all to do with Judeo-Christian beliefs and is chock full o’ good and evil and those paradigm-fillers. And then you have folklore and myth from,well, pretty much 80% of the planet. And then you have Salman Rushdie. (That’s a story for another day. Do we include Islam in the Judeo-Christian umbrella, since that’s where they get most of their value stuff? Technically if Mormons are Christians now then Muslims are too. Different century, different prophet coming up with add-ons…but still the same basic idea.)

And then you have ex-Catholics writing relavistic fiction that is some of the best reading I’ve ever put my hands on. Yes, I’m talking about George R.R. Martin.

I could go on and on.

I think your point stands if you parse it a bit differently; take out the “mosts” and the definitives. Because I happen to think that while moral absolutism makes some tales awesome (Star Wars Eps. IV-VI) and relativism makes some tales bite the wax tadpole I think there just really is a lot of difficulty in making an absolute statement about it.

Oh, and picky editor would like to say that you mean “jibes” where you say “jives”. It’s a common mistake and one I’m out to correct, just like “swatch” vs. “swath”.

http://www.beedictionary.com/common-errors/gibe_vs_jibe_vs_jive

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Oddments

I’m just writing this to have something different on top than my whingy thing and also because the dogs are outside on their ninetyfourth trip of the day and I just want something to do besides looking at free books on ereaderiq.

People are releasing every first-draft piece of cack they have stuck in every desk drawer in the land. I am sad.

The weekend is over and I feel like there wasn’t one at all. It was all morphine-y and cold. But I did get a little spousal time when we walked around the grocery store and had lunch. I’m getting fanatic about walking whenever and wherever I can. I’m increasingly jealous of all my runner friends and their talk of running. I miss it.

Whoops. This was supposed to be non whingey and then Gob started barking and I had to put a stop to that. 12 pound dog is all bladder and bark.

There is a solar-powered Kindle cover coming in March. I desire that.

My husband isn’t going to CES this year, which is good. I still want to go together some time, but this year it’ll be nice to have him here.

I’ve got a good Fantasy series to read so that itchy, pacey crankiness I feel when I’ve not got something to read is staved off for awhile.

I want to do Project 365, where you post a picture a day for a year. All my pictures, though, would be of dogs. They would start calling it Project Ugh.

I’m trying to be more social media active again, but I haven’t decided on a good cover story for why. I think I just miss being around more people.

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After the jump I’m going to be leaving behind an infodump of some incredibly personal information that may make some folks squeamish. So please feel free to not click through.
(more…)

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