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The new New

July 18, 2016

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. -Steve Jobs

It’s a holy moment when you realize that you’re standing in the middle of a group of revolutionaries. I was taken back a bit by the revelation—not because it’s particularly surprising, but because for once I wasn’t really looking for them.

They vibrated with intensity. Holy Spirit obviously liked it, because He met them with His own vibration and the room buzzed with a glorious energy. It was the kind of energy that riles up those who are crazy enough to believe they carry Something that really can change the world. They are rebels, for sure, brilliant star-shaped pegs who refuse to be crammed into the world’s square holes.

 

I felt the question more than I heard it.

Are they so different from you?

No. Not really. I don’t really know them, but I like them.

So do I.

It feels really different. It looks familiar but feels really different.

It is really different. This is something new. It’s even new to them.

 

Something new.  I’ve heard a lot about “new” since late December.  And I’ve seen a lot of new, too. New is now morphing into Newer Still, More Newer Still, and Ultra Mega New With Bonus Features.

You’d think New would come with elbow pads and a crash helmet, just in case. But it appears that it doesn’t, and a helmet would just smash my hair flat anyway.

It would be a pity to show up to change the world with flat hair.

 

 

At my fingertips

July 10, 2016

The pen is mightier than the sword.

It may surprise you to know that I don’t really care for the physical act of writing, of taking pen or pencil and forming sentences on a page. It makes my hand crampy, and I get frustrated because I can’t edit easily if I decide there was a better way to state something I wrote four sentences ago. These two reasons pretty much sum up why I actually have few physical journals around. It’s much easier for me to type.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m an absolutely terrible typist. My keyboarding skills are slow and dreadfully inaccurate, and I spend a lot of time hitting the backspace key so that I can fix whatever horrific typo I barfed into the universe. I know you know what I’m talking about. I am well aware that no matter how many times I proofread, one occasionally slips through the cracks and takes up residence here in Sparky Land.

Sorry ’bout that.

It matters to me because words matter.  Words are powerful.  They express individuality and creativity; they spread ideas and information. Whether we speak them or write them, they are by their very nature locked and loaded. The book of Proverbs puts it this way:

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit. –Proverbs 18:21

The tongue.  That’s anything you say or write or sign or otherwise give voice through words. That’s some serious stuff, you know?

My fingers on this keyboard are my pen, an extension of my voice. On any given day my pen can be

-a surgical blade

-a soft blanket

-a tourniquet

-a machete

-a lasso

-a grenade

-a bandage

-a guide

-an harpoon

-a life-preserver

-a mile marker

-an emetic

-a machete

-a key

-a tornado

-a comedic interlude

-a map

-a dream-inducer

-kerosene

It’s actually a weighty responsibility, wielding the pen well.

Over the years I’ve learned that not everything I think needs to be spoken or written.

Not everything I speak or write needs to be shared.

Not everything I share needs to be broadcast to the public.

It’s not that I don’t believe my pen has power.  It’s because I believe it does.

When my words bring life, I want them to bring life to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith, and self-control.  I want them to heal and bless.  And I want to be sure that when my words destroy, they destroy darkness, lies, and worldly systems that are set up to damage hearts and lives and deface the King and the kingdom dear to my heart.

If you ever wonder why I don’t employ my pen to address certain topics, most of the time this is why. Words are powerful, and I rarely find myself wanting to scream them over panic and chaos like some keyboard warrior needing to have the word du jour to fix the mess du jour. To be effective, words also need appropriate timing.

Your words are just as powerful as mine, you know, be they written or spoken. What you say, how you say it, when you say it, to whom you say it…even why you say it.

I hope you embrace that, because it is true.

 

 

A brush with hope

July 9, 2016

Every morning the canvas is blank, waiting for color, waiting for words, waiting for sound, waiting for something, anything, to give it an identity.

Sometimes I wonder if perhaps all the best stories have already been written. Maybe all the best songs have already been sung, the best paintings painted. Perhaps there are no new dances left to dance, and all the great ideas have already had their time in the limelight.

Maybe King Solomon was right.  Maybe there really isn’t anything new under the sun.

But I can’t really jive with that. Sol wrote some good stuff, but he was definitely not having a good day when he came up with that “nothing new under the sun” gem—which Jesus later corrected, by the way.

The truth is that every day life keeps coming at us. Every day the planet overflows with little lungs taking their first breaths, and worn ones taking their last. Every day humankind navigates relationships, the laws of physics, the mysteries of life, and a host of appetites that remind of us of our kinship with the kingdom of beasts.

Each day we are filling a canvas, regardless of whether or not it’s our desire or intention to do so.  We either absorb from the world around us, or we pull from the overflow of what’s within us, and we decorate the canvas. And as the sun goes down we tuck that canvas away. It’s official; another day has come and gone, another canvas has been filled and hung in the gallery. Tomorrow’s canvas may be completely different, but as today slowly becomes a yesterday, it can no longer be changed.

As long as there is laughter, as long as there are tears, as long as people rage and grieve and tremble and wonder and engage in random acts of curiosity, canvases everywhere will be splashed with color and poetry, the ideas of inventors and the footprints of dancers, the brilliant light and soul-shattering shadow of the joys and sorrows of a day of breathing in and out on Planet Earth.

I want my gallery to be a monument to unreasonable hope and outrageous joy.

 

 

 

 

Tyrannosaurus iPhonicus

July 3, 2016

My phone had been warning me for a while now. The battery began dropping its charge by chunks and would randomly shut down my phone, claiming that it was dead. Except…when I’d plug my phone back in and it would restart, my “dead” phone would be at 32%, or  18%, or 54%, or wherever it was when it decided to feign death. I could hear it snickering and singing nanny-nanny-b00-b00 at me.

Mr. Sparky was a trooper, trying to fix it for me. Between the two of us, we tried every “fix” we read about. None of them actually fixed the problem. Meanwhile, my phone was becoming more and more unreliable. It was irritating the ever-lovin’ mess out of me because I never knew when it was going to roll over and play dead—something Jake the Jerk-Faced dog is yet to do, by the way.

The bottom line is that my once top-of-the-line new release iPhone 5 had become a dinosaur. It was still pretty new when the 5c/5s was released. It was getting a little older when the 6 was released. It was becoming downright geriatric when the 6s was released. When the SE was released, Siri started hollering “EH? SPEAK UP!” to me when I’d ask her to do anything, referring to me as “Sonny” in a shaky, crotchety voice.

It was time.

Today I became the grateful owner of a shiny rose gold iPhone 6s. And AT&T was running a special that if you bought any iPhone, you could get a free iPad mini 2, the kind that can do wifi or cellular, if you’d just pay the recurring fee for the extra line. Well…ok!

And then reality set in.

I alway forget just how terrible I am with learning new tech. It comes naturally to everyone in the family but me. Their brains just seem to intuitively understand how tech things work. I eventually learn what I need to learn, but I suspect I barely scratch the surface of the capabilities of the tech devices I own. It’s pretty remarkable what these little hand-held computers can do…if you know to ask them to do it, and how.

I guess days like these are designed to remind me that gratitude and humility go hand-in-hand.

 

Zero points for hoarding

June 27, 2016

According to my Words with Friends stats, the best scoring word I’ve ever played was the word quartz for 141 points.  Somewhere between all the times I’ve played words like cat, toe, and ran I had a shining moment of impressiveness.

It doesn’t tell me when I did that, and I don’t recall. But one thing is clear: I was able to score that well because I had high-point tiles in my rack, a balance of vowels and consonants (which sometimes feels like a miracle), and there was a great position to play them available on the board.

I wish every game was like that, but most of the time I’m sitting there trying to figure out how to get a, i, i, i, i, o, r to make something that will score more than three points. My personal belief is that if I can spell it and use it in a sentence, then it’s a real word.

The Words with Friends rule nazis beg to differ. Pfft.

It occurs to me that I’m telling you this from the comfort of my air-conditioned home, where I’m tapping away on a computer.  I have electricity and wifi here. I had dinner a few hours ago, but if I get a bit peckish I can mosey into my kitchen and open my reasonably well-stocked pantry and get a snack from food I bought at a well-stocked grocery store—no shortages, no lines, no rationing. There’s plenty of clean water; I can drink it straight from the faucet and not worry a bit about getting sick.  There’s a spoiled dog curled up on the chair next to me and he eats twice a day, as do the cats, whether they earned it or not.  The van I drive is in the driveway, and it’s got a nearly full tank of gas.  I am literate.  I not only completed grade school and high school, but I have a bachelor’s degree.  My neighborhood is quiet.  It is not plagued by acts of war or terrorism or even local civil unrest.  I can move about freely in my country, I can worship freely in my country. I own multiple bibles, and don’t often use them these days because it’s quicker to consult an app on my smartphone.

I am a middle class American, although by most of the world’s standards, I am extremely wealthy. My tile rack is loaded with high-point tiles. And the planet is chock-full of great places to play them.

I could have been born anywhere, you know.  You too.  You could have been born in South Sudan where the life expectancy is currently 54 years old. Or in North Korea where an entire country lives under intense political oppression from psychotic leadership. Or in any number of middle eastern countries where there is no religious freedom and women are deeply oppressed. Or in Mozambique, which is currently undergoing a famine due to extreme drought that has led to catastrophic crop failures.

But I was born here.  For such a time as this, I was born here, and you were born where you were born. I landed on the planet with some high-point tiles, and I’ve been given opportunity to add more over the years.  Perhaps you can say the same.

So here we are with our tile racks loaded.  Exciting, isn’t it?  Except you have to know one thing:

you can’t score any points unless you actually spend the tiles by playing them on the board.

Use it or lose it

June 7, 2016

I used to bake stuff.  I was good at baking stuff.  And stuff you bake yourself is so much tastier than stuff some factory baked and shot full of chemicals so it would look and smell a certain unnatural but oddly appealing way and also so it would last through a nuclear holocaust.

I’m looking at you, Twinkies.

But then I pretty much stopped baking stuff.  It took time and energy I didn’t have.  Suddenly, 20 minutes in the kitchen to throw together some ingredients and dump it into a pan and plop it in the oven seemed like an overstretch of my resources.  I knew it would taste better.  I knew it would be a healthier option, even if it was sugary.  But the idea of it made me tired and whimpery.

Nobody likes tired and whimpery, not even the tired and whimpery person.

It seems my energies are shifting, however.  And for the past two days, a bunch of nasty browning bananas have been staring at me from the end of the counter.  Creepy, I tell ya.  So I began to think thoughts of banana-y baked goods.  And so I went poking about Al Gore’s internets to find a new recipe for…something.

I found a recipe for a banana snack cake that the originator described as “the perfect amount of sweet”.  That sounded good to me, because I didn’t want something very sweet and most banana breads are really sweet, which tastes nice, but sugar isn’t my friend and so I am gradually learning to like things less sweet.  Besides, overripe bananas are inherently quite sweet. So the recipe sounded good.

But the problem with baking is that it’s a skill and one can fall out of practice.  And by that, I mean one can forget how to effectively read and follow directions, because that is really the crux of most home baking.

I tell you, I re-checked the recipe twice and even though it clearly said “baking powder”, I still dumped in baking soda.  I caught it too late to do anything about it, so I went ahead and added the baking powder.  Maybe I’d just get a puffy cake.

I forgot that baking soda is also a browning agent, which means that by the time the cake was done, it was deeply browned.  Not black, but really brown.

It was still warm when I cut into it.  I took the first bite, looking for that “perfect amount of sweet”.

Um, no.  Definitely not the perfect amount of sweet.  I’d probably have to double the 1/4 of brown sugar it called for to get the perfect amount of sweet.  Since my piece was still warm I dropped a few chocolate chips on top and let them melt, and then swirled them around and ate it.

Eh, not exciting.  I won’t be making that recipe again, should I get another wild hare and another bunch of shifty-eyed bananas.

And I don’t even know why I didn’t just sprinkle some chocolate chips on the rest of the cake (and I use the word “cake” very loosely) while it was still warm.  I may need to frost that imperfectly sweet cake to make it palatable.

Or just pitch it and use the rest of the bananas in some real banana bread.

 

Into the new

June 6, 2016

It’s so strange.

Today wasn’t a day off.  Today was the beginning of the new normal.

For the record, I don’t really know what the new normal will be yet. I’m kinda trying out some things and I’m giving myself grace to find a rhythm that works.  I’m also recognizing that I’ve got some stuff to catch up on around here, but I can’t do that in one day, or even one week, so I’m aiming to do that a little bit at a time, even if it feels like scratching away at Mt. Rushmore with a dental tool with the intent to take the whole thing down…eventually…

I took a shower but didn’t bother with makeup and just fluffed at my hair a little bit.  I put on comfy clothes that were totally inappropriate for work, and at 11pm, I’m still in them as opposed to coming home from work and heading straight for my PJs because I can’t bear hanging out in work clothes.  I did a little housework, a little laundry, a little cooking.  I spent some time art-ing.  I’m not sure exactly how to define the current art gig.  It’s not really painting or drawing, although I occasionally use a paint brush.  So for now I’ll just call it art-ing, since messing with alcohol inks doesn’t seem to have an official descriptive title.

I’m realizing now I never left the house today, with the exception of a quick excursion onto the back deck to harvest some basil for making pesto.  I’m ok with that.  It was nice.

There’s quiet.  Quiet to think, quiet to listen.  I’m not in a rush to fill my space with sound or frenetic activity.  I’m over the Western mindset that we have to cram every moment full and schedule ourselves into oblivion.  I don’t function well that way.  I don’t think most people do, but it’s so expected and accepted that everyone thinks it’s normal.  Today I took a deep breath and enjoyed being where I am, in my own space, in my own skin.

I wonder how long until it stops being strange?

 

 

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