Observing vs. Doing
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
My daughter Kate and I avoided social media and the news media yesterday. Ron, my husband, tried to…but there’s an app for FIFA. Oops, he couldn’t resist. I set the DVR for 2:30pm. Kate worked late so it was after 7:00pm before the three of us sat down to watch the USA/Ghana game. It was stressful. Well, in the first 32 plus seconds it was exhilarating, exciting, and fun. The next 80ish minutes: those were stressful. Then, around 85 minutes in, it was storybook euphoria. Ron, by the way, didn’t give anything away.
Today, I watched a 6-minute video, the third in a series entitled “Killing Lions” (www.andsonsmagazine/killing-lions). And I was struck how observing the drama of a game and the drama of the journey in “Killing Lions” and all that those experiences represent, (camaraderie, endless hours of preparation, hard-earned skills, national pride, shared life), was still in the end, an act of observing. Yes, Ron, Kate and I experienced the thrill that comes with observing our fellow man accomplishing an admirable achievement. But emotions experienced while observing are not the same as emotions experienced by “doing”.
The series, “Killing Lions”; among other things, has a strong message of the value of “doing”. God has been urging me on to step out and do something different. The thing about God is he doesn’t tend to give the whole game plan in the “doing”. He hasn’t even told me what position I’m to play in this game that is no game.
Since I’m uncomfortable about stepping into a game (with potentially serious consequences) unsure if I’m in the right position and unsure of my ability, I’ve been delaying obeying God. He’s whispered. He’s prodded. He’s filled my heart, consumed my thoughts, and gotten in my face! He’s dropped hints. He’s confirmed. He’s been quiet. He’s been patient. Finally I decided it was time to step out into the unknown and quit my job. And, in the obedience I haven’t had the feared “oops, I made a mistake” or the hoped for “ah, this is what I’m called to “do””. Instead, I’ve had physical pain that has seemingly put me in yet another holding pattern.
Pain played a large part in the USA/Ghana game. Pain has played a large role in the story of “Killing Lions”. Really God? Pain wasn’t on my radar. Victory, purpose, making a difference – those were in my sights. Pain? Pain feels so limiting. Victory, purpose, making a difference – those words represent freedom to me.
Hmmm, I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Even find freedom in pain. I choose to say yes to that.
Sounds of Summer
June 21, 2014
It is not a change in temperature that announces to this southern Californian that summer has arrived. It is the sound of neighbors. In our climate we can have a heat wave in February. But the windows that bring the voices of parents, the cries of children and the yells of teens don’t seem to open their mouths until the arrival of summer. The cheers at games being played at the city parks seem to be traveling more often to our house in recent weeks, as well. And the squeals from our neighbor’s back yard pool splash over into ours now.
This morning I heard a mom calling to her little girl to come and pick up the shovel the girl had used to help her dad. There were no adjectives in the call to her daughter. But my heart heard, darling, proud, thoughtful, loving and responsible. My eyes envisioned the darling daughter, who was so proud to be able to help her thoughtful and loving father. And my eyes envisioned the responsible and loving parents who knew the value of teaching their daughter to be a working and needed part of this family. My ears know this mom gently grinned as she called out to her daughter to be responsible for the task she was invited into, all the way to putting away the little trowel.
There is such beauty in the sounds of summer.
June 23, 2014
She sits in the 3rd row every Sunday, second seat in, although the first chair has been removed now so she has a place to park her walker. She wears a scarf or a cap on her head to keep her warm. But on occasion I find myself looking past her proud, fuzzy head toward our pastor as he preaches. On the rare Sunday she isn’t there we know exhaustion has won out.
I first got to know Debbie when I was the office administrator of our church. She came in to volunteer for any job that met a need. She had already been diagnosed with a rare and particularly determined cancer. But cancer isn’t her story.
Debbie has been a single mom for some time and she has the skills to prove it. I asked her to organize our church library. She did that with an energy and determination that you don’t always find in healthy volunteers. I tried to baby her at first, asking her if she was okay when she climbed up on that counter in front of the bookshelves or suggesting she had been working an awful long time. I learned to shut my mouth. I’ve had a few friends and acquaintances with chronic or terminal illnesses and I know that faces filled with pity or any attempt to limit them are side-effects that they detest as much as the pains and aches of their physical condition.
Organizing the books on our library shelves was only the beginning. She heard the church office toilet running and fixed it. She came to a cleanup and maintenance day scheduled for our church building and fixed drywall that had been stained by a leak in the roof. She quietly and skillfully served her church family.
Debbie came to love Jesus in recent years and as a result, she isn’t encumbered by religion or a cookie-cutter version of what it is to be a Christian. Since being diagnosed she got a tattoo on her arm with an explicative direction to cancer. I personally cringe at the use of the particular cuss word on her arm. But on Debbie, it morphs into something admirable. It suits her personality.
In Ephesians we’re told to not let any unwholesome talk out out of our mouths. In Matthew and Luke we’re told that the things that come out of a person’s mouth reveal our heart. I’ve used those verses to argue against using foul language – words that our culture has deemed as “cuss” words and “cursing”.
In Luke 6:45 we’re told “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” As Christians, followers of Christ, Debbie and I first and foremost are concerned with the heart. We know we can all be posers on the outside and fake our way through any desired image. We also know that death stinks. Jesus came to bring us life. Satan’s out to kill, steal and destroy.
In the light of death versus life and in the light of what Jesus wants to fill our heart with, I think there’s a wholesome argument for Debbie’s tattoo. But, being true to who I am, I’ll stick with using bleeping rather than letters.
Lessons on Irony
June 28, 2014
Ergonomics, shergomomics! For the past 8 years I have had desk jobs. Two months before quitting my job to come home to write (at a desk) I developed chronic and sometimes severe, neck and back pain. The pain didn’t come out of nowhere. I’ve had periods of pain for years, but it would go away and I’d foolishly go my merry way. This time it isn’t going away and I’m learning in physical therapy that my posture when at a desk or when reading a book or writing at my dining room table has been load bearing on my poor old cervical spine. The keyboards have been too far forward on the desk, my arms haven’t been aligned down from my shoulders, I don’t sit back in the chairs, the chair at our home desk is not a desk chair and has no arm support; and as a result, the neck, head, and shoulder blades have been leaning forward. Not the posture meant for a human. It all seems so obvious now. Darn!
Also obvious to me is the irony in quitting a paying job to come home and pursue my dream of writing, only to find myself unable to sit without pain. There was a lot of angst and effort to hear the Holy Spirit in this decision. Finally I decided to act on what I know to be truth: God doesn’t call us to an expected life and I was going to wither on the vine if I didn’t step out of the expected.
Common sense says the timing of my decision was at best, odd. I have a daughter who has only one year left in college. A private college. Hear the cash register ringing? My husband and I are in our late 50’s. Commonly considered the end of your earning years. The retirement years, God willing, are longer for my generation. And, I stayed home with our daughters until they were in middle school. No two-income sized nest egg at the Hayner household.
I don’t believe God calls us to value “common”. He’s wild. He’s unexpected. He’s dangerous. He’s pretty clear on what he thinks of idols. Having a set, expected, script for life is an idol.
So when we get hit with an ironic situation how do we translate it? I could translate my current situation as proof that I was never meant to write. I have a few other reasons I want to be home: to be available to young mothers and others I know that could use a little relief and encouragement and to spend more time with my parents who are in declining health. Ironically, I haven’t been feeling well enough to do much for others since I quit my job. I could translate this irony as proof I wrote a script for my life that didn’t go with God’s plan.
No. No. I’m translating my situation as Priscilla Shirer teaches in “Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted” – it is a “divine intervention”. God’s calling me to do something beyond anything I can ever ask, think or imagine. I’m translating the ironies in my life through the truth of Ephesians 3:20.
What’s the Big Deal about a Job Title?
July 1, 2014
My brother-in-law is a writer. Stewart has earned the title. He has a masters, has books that have been published and teaches the craft at the college level. He’s quite good. I love to write. I’ve written talks for women’s events at my church. I journal. I write to God. Lately I’ve started this very elementary/basic blog to post some of my essays. I get consumed by thoughts and then sit down to put them into words and I post them in a couple hours time without adequate time spent editing. So, I’d call myself, “someone who loves to write” versus “a writer”. After all, editing is responsible part of a writer’s life.
I’ve been thinking about becoming a writer. When would I call myself a writer? Perhaps, if I took an online class in creative nonfiction. (Take note: the last sentence is not a complete sentence and the comma may be entirely unnecessary). I have a friend who is an English teacher and has earned her masters and she’s working on her second novel. I read her first novel. She’s quite good. Maybe, if I have her edit my work and take the aforementioned class I’ll become worthy of the moniker.
The topic of titles is a touchy one for me. I majored in Mass Communications in college. The real name of the major was “Information and Communication Studies,” but what the heck does that mean? The university I graduated from must have found it confusing too because I looked it up on their website and it doesn’t exist anymore. Thirty plus years ago when I was attending college I believed that a college education was different than being trained for a job title. I had a lofty mindset of education for education’s sake. A bit like the philosophy that God was not utilitarian when he created the beauty of nature, thus beauty is for beauty’s sake. And so I argued there’s value in simply learning how to learn! Funny how glad I am now, that my daughter’s major in Civil Engineering is a major that’ll get her a job.
As I think about it, the reason I majored in Information and Communication Studies was I thought it sounded more promising than my previously declared major of English. I did end up working in broadcasting; selling commercial time; not mass communicating. Ah well.
During the first decade after earning my bachelor’s degree I had titles including Account Executive and Broadcast Traffic Manager. Then I had my first child and joyfully quit working to stay home with her. Sure, I had the title of mom when I came home but so do a lot of doctors, teachers, physical therapist, graphic artists, product managers, software engineers, writers…you get the idea. After the child rearing years I went back to work and I was an Office Administrator and more recently a Customer Service Lead. But those were titles based on jobs I stumbled into rather than passions and goals.
So, how do you earn a title that defines what you’re passionate about or dedicated to? Do you have to make a living at it? No, my artist friend does not make a living at her art but she is most assuredly an artist. Oh, now I’m really confused. Well do you have to have a certain amount of skill or expertise in your pursuit? Just because you sing doesn’t mean you’re a singer. Ah man, I don’t think I’m any closer to being called by a title!
Why do I want a title so badly? Is it just to be able to answer the question, “what do you do”? Maybe that’s the greater question. I’ll think about that tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day. (That last sentence, by the way, was written by Margaret Mitchell. She was a writer).
Sitting in the driver’s seat
The light ahead is red
Passing between the lines
The pace of ages spread.
A boy of 7, perhaps he’s 8
Bounces, dances, now leaps
Not abandoning his world of play
While he joyfully crosses the street.
At the corner of a high school
I’m impatient to turn right
I stare at students who move in slo-mo
Are they oblivious to their slight?
Standing by a crowded city street
For a moment I look around
Determined, driven, swinging arms
Eyes forward or heads down.
Is this how we move through our lives
From awe to blah to blur?
It seems in the pace of childhood
Our souls may find a cure.