"You may not live what you profess, but you will live what you believe." ~William Brown
Entries in life (6)
Seeking a reader who
--IS WILLING TO READ
--CAN MAKE CORRECTIONS, SUGGESTIONS, CUTS, HEALING STAINS ON A PERSON'S OVER-DEVELOPED EGO
If you only have the samina for a paragraph or two, I understand. But don't bother to inquire.
Oh, but feel free to use my ability and willingness all up. Don't return any favors. Just bleed me dry and walk away from my tired soul.
Thank you for your consideration. (Yes, I'm using the term loosely for I realize that consideration is anything but what most people can or will even offer).
Whew. That sounded bitter. I didn't really know this was in me, but it is (apparently) because it came out quickly and with little effort or thought. I don't really feel bitter about this... just frustrated.
This writing business is lonely work. William Zinsser (the On Writing Well guy) was right. I need some readers of some manuscripts. You know how hard it is to find a reader that is willing, able, and has the time? It's hard. Take my word for it. (It's even harder if you never ask for help... which I have, but probably not often enough.)
I've discovered that life is like this too, at least from where I'm sitting with my personality. See, the reader bit may be a problem because I'm not asking around enough for help. I do the same in life; I don't ask for help very often--for nearly anything. When I do ask, I feel like I'm being such a burden on people.
How's that working out for you? you may ask.
So here it is: I confess that I'm lousy at asking for help--in life and with my writing. I need to get over myself (I confess this too). So, if you or someone you know/love/are related to struggles with the "I can't ask for help" syndrome, be aware. They may need you. Soon. They probably already do.
(I don't know what you can actually do about it, but being aware may help. And did you notice that I didn't actually ask for help in this post? The wanted sign is blank. Hmm.)
As you know (if you've been reading any of my recent posts), I've been talking about a course I just went through with three students from Brook Hill called Living a Better Story. I tried to make the class a unique story, one the students could look back on as they work at making meaning of their lives.
Because, as most anyone knows, our day-to-day lives are dull. Hum-drum. This is not to say that what we do on a daily basis isn't important or significant. It might be. What I mean is, the daily grind isn't really the stuff of story.
However, it is the stuff of a life that is telling a good story. Not every bit of every day will be a thrilling adventure, a unique experience, a memorable moment. Life just isn't like that. Even so, how we live the daily bit is training ground, preparation time, the carpenter table for the highlights of our stories. How we handle the highlights is, after all, often determined by how we handle the mundane. (Remember that sometimes the so-called "highlights" are times of great struggle, suffering, and pain. Those things are handled based on how we've been shaped and prepared in terms of emotional, psychological, physical sculpting.)
So here's to the daily. I'm re-entering it today. I plan on living it well, honorably and with dignity toward the fellow humans in my path (which in my case is a wife, children, colleagues, students... and probably not a few frustrated souls traveling withing their daily life-doses today).
Yeah, I'll likely fail along the way. But sculpting and transformation and preparation for the big parts of the story takes time. This is it.
You ready for it?
[I retrieved the picture above from drawingboardcomics.com. Apparently, many, many people have used the image because I found it on a sesquilian blog posts. Oh, well. Maybe I'm cliche. Still, it fits. Kind of.]
This snazzy drawing is a halted attempt at depicting the relationship between the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. Here's a brief explanation.
God interacts with mankind in terms of covenants. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, there are two covenants, the Covenant of Works (sometimes called the Covenant of Life or the Covenant of Creation) and the Covenant of Grace.
On the surface, it sounds like these covenants might be at odds with one another. "Covenant of Works" sounds like it implies that if Adam (and us by extension) obeys God, then we have fellowship with him. Verses like Leviticus 18:5 seem to confirm this: "You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD."
The problem many of have is that we, like the Pharisees before us, think that this means if we obey, then we get fellowship. This isn't the case. Rather, it means something more akin to "If we obey, then we stay in fellowship." The Covenant of Works wasn't ever meant to be a way of gaining access to God. It is a way of communing with God once access was granted. Obviously Adam had access before the fall. Thus, he was given the Covenant of Works as instruction on how to remain in fellowship with God, how to remain in union.
But God can't abide sin; he judges it. If we sin, we are judged. If we are judged, we, like Adam, are cast out of fellowship with God. And how do we get back into fellowship with God? By obeying?
Try that way. Try to obey your way in. See if it works. It won't because we don't. We're so corrupted by sin that we can't obey our way into fellowship with God. But, see, this was never God's intention. Once we obey, we're out and the only way to get back in is by being redeemed and brought back in.
This is where the Covenant of Grace comes in. Rather, this is where Christ's work in the Covenant of Grace comes in. He obeyed the Covenant of Works, which demonstrates that he has fellowship with the Father. Then he died the punishment due to his people who violated the Covenant of Works. He died in our stead and the Spirit imputes his righteousness to us. Thus, we are back in fellowship with God. Obedience is what that fellowship looks like.
Too simplistic? Maybe. But it's a start to the discussion. Please, let me know your thoughts on this.
[If nothing else, you did, at least, get to see this swell Stick Man depiction of it all.]
Yesterday I spoke with my brother about yesterday's post. He responded with an email that led to a phone call which led to one of the best conversations I've had in long time.
Let me clear something up: his poking fun at me for my beliefs is long passed. No, we don't see eye to eye on several things, but we are cordial and working to get to know each other better. Living in different towns and not speaking often has kept us apart more than either of us knew. In many ways, we don't really know each other because we haven't had many weighty conversations over the years. But that's been changing lately. Like many before us, we're seeing as we get older that family relationships need to be sustained and sustaining takes work.
But this work is good. I've found myself discouraged lately. Frustrated. Angry. Chapped. (Pick your adjective.) I'm tired and feeling worn with where I am and what I'm doing, almost like I've been merely "scratching by" (as one of my peers at Sam's Club used to say). The sad thing is, I've been scratching by at life. Being dragged by, is what it feels like. And that's not a good thing.
But, talking with my brother today was somehow cathartic and invigorating. We had a conversation, a genuine conversation, one that started years ago as we were growing up in Dallas, yet one we have neglected over the years. It continued today and a piece of my life stopped scratching by and started pulsing. I connected with another human, my twin brother no less, and that is a conversation worth continuing in a life worth living.
Who have you been talking to? Are the conversations bringing in life? Can they?
"Wal-Mart's the greatest store in America," a student of mine from my first year of teaching used to say with a knowing look of confidence on his face. This young man, Zach Ramsey, lived his life with the same confidence, despite the fight his life became over the last seven years.
He used to come to my classroom once a week for a month. I gave him guitar lessons. After the month, he gave me a copy of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion-- hardback editions. I came out ahead on that deal, even if the lessons would cost more than these two volumes of classic Christian theology. Why? I got to spend time with Zach.
During the spring of that same school year, Zach, the other seniors, and four chaperones took a ski trip to New Mexico. We stayed at my parent's place and had a great time together. Zach and I snow boarded together for some of the best powder runs I've ever had. He even showed me a thing or two about pulling some board slides, even in front of the lift operators.
Zach wanted to read all the major epic writers (Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton), but he also knew he wouldn't be disciplined enough to read the ones not assigned for school. I told him I'd buy him a hardback copy of John Ciardi's translation of The Divine Comedy if he read it. He did. He was pretty stoked. That was $50 buck well-spent.
I moved to Tyler, TX a year after I taught Zach government and writing. A few days after the move, Zach and another former student made a special trip down here to deliver our grill and our bicycles--the only items we couldn't fit into the U-Haul.
When Zach began his cancer treatments, he discovered that the hospital had these awesome sock-slippers they would give the patients. He told me how he worked those nurses into giving him multiple pairs. He loved those things. I still have the pair he gave me. He thought enough of me--and the socks--to spread the love around.
I've assigned and graded numerous essays over the years. For some reason, whenever I teach Hamlet and assign papers over it, I always think of Zach's essay over that play. I do remember that his reading of the play was good and that he quoted Peter Leithart many times. I've since read Leithart's essay over Hamlet, and I know that most of Zach's understanding of the play comes from Leithart. Still, when I think of Hamlet as being a play that is against the revenge-ethic, I think of Zach and not Leithart.
Early this morning, Zach passed away, as you might have suspected. My friends and former pastors, Ben House and Randy Booth, have done a fine job of celebrating Zach's life (click the links to read their posts). But I honestly can't find the words to celebrate Zach's life--not and do it a fair turn.
Zach, you died young, but you lived well. Although I don't have the words to express what you're life meant to me and so many others, I'm thankful that we do have the memories of you. Maybe they're enough.