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Impossible that it’s ten o’clock.  April is poetry month, so I’m told.  Happily I already celebrated unknowingly by spending time with some friends passing Longfellow back and forth.  Our favorite was either “Maidenhood” or “The Village Blacksmith.”  When I was in school my mom/teacher made me write poems.  On demand.  Come on!  Inspiration does not come at my beckoning.  And how often do I feel inspired without any words to express the perfectly poetic sentiment of my day?  I think that’s what I mean by “romanticism.”  Anyway, I did so want to write a poem for my sentiments, and it is poetry month, so I gave myself the assignment and resorted to the means I used to complete my high school English assignments: list what strikes you as poetic about your thoughts today, and form them into some sort of verse.  Except they used to rhyme.  So ignore my ridiculous form.  And forgive the fact that the strongest point of my poetry is using words with precision, but not so much creativity or parallel. 
 
Friday afternoon, mind swimming with Synonyms
For diligence and self control, perseverance and temperance
I’d rather think of poetry, of rain and wind and crashing seas
Scottish shores and Celtic tunes, flutes and violins wailing. 
 
Sitting to think and compose and to focus,
I lie back against the pillow on my bed,
Fully awake, I let my eyes close
Mysteriously, just being, with a hand above my head. 
 
Missing my friends, strange loneliness dull
As the soft throb of my heart behind
High, keen thrills of longing and wishing
Ready for a change and afraid of what it might be
 
Needing one to excite me, to share
The passion of a poem, a truth, or a care
Tears are more fitting for the sorrow of life
And days still come with love and laughter
 
Sisters eating cookies together, not looking at each other
Barely talking, but just being
Existing, Individuals not stories
Being personal and together
 
Books are exciting, words speak for themselves
Metaphors alternately dry or compelling
History the truest voice into my need
Casually combines love, war, and theology. 
 
 
That’s it.  Are you a real poet?  What do you have to share? 
 
Oh, by the way – I found this real sonnet by an authentic poet, and I bookmarked it on del.icio.us today.  
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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So the Saturday before Easter, the Sabbath between Jesus’ death and resurrection, is one of the most fascinating periods in the Bible to me.  I wonder each year what Jesus’ disciples experienced.  Scattered, afraid, sad.  Peter denied him.  Judas committed suicide.  John was no doubt taking care of Mary.  But there were others: the rest of the twelve, the band of companions who had seen to the physical needs of the group, including women who saw Jesus crucified and made plans to go to His tomb on Sunday.  What did they all thing?  How did they cope?  Did they just sleep?  Were they self-centered, worried Judas would betray them next?  Did they think?  Did they think they’d been wrong, that Jesus wasn’t Messiah after all?  Did they remember what He said about dying and rising again?  Did they believe still that Jesus was the Messiah, but had been defeated? 

The last question is part of the subject of a little story I wrote several years ago, and which I published on When the Pen Flows in July: Nathanael’s Dark Night

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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The book I just finished, A Walk with Jane Austen, is about a regular Christian girl who wouldn’t want me to call her that any more than I would want to be called ordinary. But she is a Christian, single, no one born important. She loves Jane Austen, knows a lot about her books and life, wanted to go to England, and so she did. This authoress has her ups and downs, struggles wandering about England looking for sites associated with her heroine. There is romance and analysis of romance and longing for the love that lasts beyond the wondering.

Lori Smith, the Austen fan, writes, “I long for someone to care about the quotidian things, to know about the daily turmoil and disruptions.” Whereas in context she was speaking of marriage, I can relate to her as a writer. We’re obsessed. I’m not writing these things because I think they’re important, but because I think them in sentence form.

For example, I want to tell you that I didn’t feel like being in a hurry this morning, so I ran conditioner through my hair and styled it like an elf (inspired by Deborah Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond last night, and my dad noting that her ears stuck out of her hairstyle), straightened up a bit, and rather than making a lunch (realizing at the last minute that I have zero cash in my purse after Village Inn Tuesday night and not yet cashing my paycheck), I loaded my backpack with juice and water bottles.

On Saturday I think I might try to be silent all day, but now I’m conflicted, because I want to go to the abortion clinic and pray, and while I can do that without talking aloud, I can’t figure out what to tell my friends who also gather there and who already think I don’t know how to talk while they themselves are not known for their timidity.

When I was in third grade, my teacher praised a four-line long sentence, and so I began for spelling assignments to attempt one ultra-long sentence each week. I got some a page long, but they were horrible sentences, filled with commas that should have been periods, delighting in the recent discovery of semi-colons, and profusely employing conjunctions. I think they call them run-on’s. But the practice, of trying to fill a page with one connected thought without stopping for a period, has contributed to the writer I am today (see above paragraph). Perhaps it is what wants me to see the unbroken theme of a passage of Scripture, too.

My doctor is on break, and no doubt listening to the fluttering clack of keys as I type out thoughts as fast as I possibly can, interrupted by the discordant beat of the backspace key when I get ahead of myself. I wonder what she thinks. Once I told her I was writing a book, which was true, but I’m not sure I’ll publish it. A published author wrote the advice to aspiring authors that they should write a book, and then write another one, then another one. Forget about publishing the first one you finish, was basically their point. At the time I read it, I couldn’t imagine abandoning the first full-length, actually ended novel I wrote, but now I’m quite unimpressed by it (though I do love parts of it), that I may take the advice and write something else. I am so not-diligent.

The use of the word “so” just there reminded me. Last week a friend went to a Bible study expositing John 3:16. I know, we think there can’t be much there if everyone knows it and it hasn’t taken over the world yet. One of the things he said was that “God so loved the world” was not a statement of how much God loved the world, but how God loved the world. It refers us to the context, drawing a comparison (usually we would use like or as). Though this John 3:16 usage is older and more correct, I can see how it developed into its present form, and if one insisted interpreting a word literally, my sentence would still make sense.

Patients come in and, noting how quiet and secluded is my office, inquire what I do all day. If only they knew that I sit at my computer and type out my thoughts, goaded by the wise words of books and Bible, by recollections of conversations. Here, in fact, is where I wrote most of my book that may or may never be published. I might as well write in silence, and publish it on my blog. There’s little difference in the result, and I’m more satisfied to have my thoughts offered to the world even if few people take them.

I just stopped, stretched, and looked at the clock, wondering whether I have time to read Ephesians and get some semblance of an idea of what we’ll talk about at church on Sunday. And the clock reminded me of one of my favorite Mark Schultz songs, about life in corporate America. I sing it twice a week after church (Mondays and Wednesdays), when I’m almost the last to leave the empty parking lot, and I see how close I can get to 80 mph. Most of the time I get within 50 mph of the song’s 80, before I have to slow down for the corner and re-admittance into society’s roads and regulations. But in the song, he sings about an afternoon smattering of looking at the clock, spinning in the chair, and solitaire. Any minute now I’ll be busy with real work again, and I’ll probably stop writing and get back to Ephesians.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Mugs and Cocoa

To think this pile of brown dust turns into a delicious, warm, indulgent chocolate drink is wonderful. And if I pour the steaming water from several inches above the brim, the cocoa will be frothy. After a few minutes, casually stirring and waiting for the cup to cool, the bubbles are still there, but smaller, a foamy chocolate layer on top featuring swirls and spots of darker chocolate, not totally blended yet. Marshmallows keep hot chocolate warm longer, by insulating the cup from the top, like the ice on top of a lake that allows fish and life to continue beneath. One small sip, breathed rather than drunk, promises a mug full of pleasure, a sweet and filling substitute for a healthier lunch.

I love my mugs. The one at work, whence I type this, is cobalt blue with white etching of Colorado evergreens. I can slip most of my fingers through the handle to warm my hand without doing anything useful. It’s a thinking position, the cozy act of a multi-tasker not really thinking about her work. The brim of the mug has no lip, is simply straight, allowing the breathe-sipping and preventing strange sticky mustaches from forming on my lip.

At home there is a large, paler blue glass mug that promises abundance, luxury, a long afternoon to enjoy its contents. There is a rounded goblet-like mug that looks like a candle-lamp, with a small, finger-sized ring for a handle near the bulbous bottom. It looks more like dessert and beauty than comfort and ease. And I have my Chicago cup, short and wide, purple and unappealing except for the complete redemption of having Chicago written on the outside, reminding me constantly of my favorite city.

Ok, so I have several more mugs, and sometimes I even feign British propriety and use a teacup and saucer (which is almost always profaning the use, as I drink cocoa much more readily than tea). Each of my mugs is a privilege to use, and makes me wish that I stayed home more, reading a good book, instead of shopping or skipping about to work and libraries (the last thing I need is to read books I do not own instead of the stacks of those unread editions that I do).

The very fact that I’m writing about cups and cocoa proves that I am absolutely given over to a writing craze. I’ve been reading a lot, and every thought forms itself into a communicative sentence that insists on being written and remembered. I will try to be an Elinor, of Sense and Sensibility, to push aside my instincts and follow my sacrificial duty. Perhaps my sense of story will infiltrate my responsibility and make it poetic. Wish me luck.

A few hours later I have most irresponsibly finished reading a book. My cobalt blue mug contains a half inch of cold, watered-down cocoa, having been refilled with hot water to make the last bit last longer. I cannot get into the story of Ephesians 5 and 6 sufficiently for it to say what I thought it said, so maybe I should start over and let God say what He says. I want connection, though, between what God has been saying and what He will say.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I want to write about things that mean a lot to me: ideas that keep me going or inspire me.  But some things are too close, too dear, for words. 
 
Today I wanted to write stories, but when I tried to form sentences I realized all I want to do is practice.  Don’t write; do.  And I want to do coy debates and romance and being a wife to an incredibly faith-filled man.  As that is clearly not God’s plan for my day, I had to ask what to do with this surge of inspiration.  I’m emotional today, and I need a vent for all this rapture. 
 
So on my way home from work I looked at the sky (stubbornly trying to rationalize how I could be grateful the sun wasn’t down while still hating Daylight Savings Time).  I want to own this day.  A photo wouldn’t capture it, and a painter would have to be a master to get even one glimpse of this day right.  The sun lit the dark blue clouds in the east, intensifying their color and varnishing them with a glorious haze.  Between the clouds and me were trees, still bare from the cold of winter, every twig illuminated separately.  Where the light didn’t reach, the shadow asserted itself with depth and variance and character.  The little whiter clouds nearer the zenith blew in and out of formation, constantly contrasting with the colors and shapes around them.  Praise God who created shape and color! 
 
And it was all a gift to me.  Songs I have not sung in months came to mind, and I sang of my Savior coming for me.  “Hear the roaring at the rim of the world… Behold He’s coming with the clouds.”  The clouds and glimmering landscape captured my eye and imagination, as though cracking the door open on the edge of the world.  I sang of who my Savior is, what He did on earth, and of His passion.  And then I dreamed again of when He will come back.  “I saw the holy city… and now our God will dwell with them.” 
 
And this is all about waiting, and love, and faithfulness, and longing, and worship, and beauty, and glory.  I want to write how I feel at those times, and what I know, and the million connections being made between the things I know about my God… but I can’t.  For now the topics that mean the most, that are most gifts of God, must stay that.  I pray that someday He will call me to share them, and bless me with the words I don’t have today. 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
 
PS: Michael Card’s Unveiled Hope album is a soundtrack to Revelation, and a soaring symphony to the King on His White Horse coming back for me. 

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After this weekend, I’ve been thinking about art, and the levels by which it becomes more difficult.  Here are my rough draft thoughts:

Art is work.  Have you ever thought of that?  One of my favorite words for the product of art is wrought.  Dictionary.com defines it as (among other things):

3. elaborated; embellished.
5. produced or shaped by beating with a hammer, as iron or silver articles.

 Art:

Writing tends to be the most vague.  Composition can be creative, poetic, skilled and beautiful.  But it always relies on the reader’s imagination and experience to get a mental image of the suggested idea. 

 

Painting or drawing is a two-dimensional representation of an idea.  The observer has no freedom to add to what is given, but the artist must put more definite thought into his work.  He must take the risk of his specific expression being rejected. 

 

Sculpture, set design, home decorating, costuming – these are three-dimensional, still manifestations of an idea.  I crave this sometimes.  I will be inspired with an arrangement, or want to imitate a form – a shape that is not quite expressible in a drawing.  A room may be visited.  As a connoisseur of art, I want to tour locations of beauty or meaning, not just read about them or look at postcard-pictures. 

 

These last two art forms get more complicated.  There is more work involved in their creation, and less control.  There is risk not only that the concrete vision may be rejected, but that it may be marred.  On the other hand, our visions can benefit from the dye and sculpting of human interaction. 

 

A moment may be crafted.  The idea that comes to mind is when a man proposes.  Or it could be like a party.  Last night I was at a Christmas party – yes, in January – where the hostess had engaged in three dimensional art (her clothing and hair, and the table setting) which contributed to the moment she created when she made a speech (really a toast without glasses).  She designed a moment to make us feel special.  We lived through gifts, smiles, and words that communicated emotion, atmosphere, ideas. 

 

Life is a work of art.  Fundamentally a life is God’s work.  Paul tells us as much in Ephesians 2:10.  To different extents friends and parents are artists shaping moments for others, which in combination shapes the friends and children.  Those who are molded in this way go on to make a series of decisions, to have a sequence of experiences that come together to make a life.  Here we have relationships, characters, feelings and thoughts, intentions – and failures. 

 

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 – “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:  Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In case you’re new, or you’ve forgotten, or you just needed an excuse to visit one more web page, Lisa of Longbourn posts her creative writing snippets at When the Pen Flows – and invites you to share the creativity by submitting your own stories or poems for publication, by commenting, and by telling your friends. Get inspired. Practice your writing skills. Give me an excuse to practice mine.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Do you know how much more I blog when I know I have an audience?  Before I blogged, my friends received long, winding emails quite frequently.  I’d threaten them that if they didn’t respond, I’d keep writing, desperate to have some contact with them.  Then I’d warn them that if they did reply, it would inspire me to write back.  Evidence imposes reality on my realization: I write more when I know you’re reading.  I talk when I know you’re listening.  The substance is better in conversation than in desperate attempts at starting a friendship, or drawing attention: advertising. 

I’ve been looking at my life, and praying about what I see.  Some days I can’t do that; my prayers are focused on survival.  God gives us phases, I think.  Like the moon.  I love the moon: always there, always the same, almost always visible, almost always seen in a new light.  And the light is beautiful. 

Why do I have better conversations, ones that “hit the spot” via blogging, or with an eclectic group of admittedly eccentric protesters outside abortion clinics?  I don’t agree with all the theology, but we can pray together.  When they ask how I am, I can answer that God is teaching me about grace, and share a little.  They share.  I want to know.  Not just their stories, but the stories of my friends, and the people at church and Bible study.  But in the hallways all I hear is “How are you?” and all I can answer is “fine,” unless we were going to cancel nursery service, worship, and lunch.  Then I could talk.  That’s the beauty of blogging and abortion protests.  There’s no schedule, no interruptions that matter.  So I can’t be online at work…  The conversation picks right back up, no awkwardness, more forethought. 

In my prayers I keep telling God I don’t want to play.  I don’t want to play at life.  Gas prices shouldn’t drive me crazy; I don’t want to play.  Hard decisions aren’t on my shoulders; I don’t want to play.  It’s pretending to say I have the wisdom or strength to decide.  And at church, I am so tired of playing.  What I do there is superficial.  I believe in being there, and in making the most of what is there for the sake of bringing the body towards perfection (Ephesians 4).  There is something so wrong about the way we do church.  Why do we bother singing and praying and listening to lessons when we don’t even know each other? 

People move away or change churches, and we never talk to them again.  Why?  When they were at church activities, we admired them.  We enjoyed doing ministry together.  Their comments in Sunday school were challenging, and their smile uplifting.  They’re gone, and we miss them.  But there was never anything more.  We never met for lunch.  I didn’t know what they were thinking, the little things that they might say as commentary on life, but would never think worthy of a special phone call. 

I have a friend at my church, and we’re going to start praying together.  I’m really excited.  She selected an anonymous envelope to “adopt” a teen from our youth group, and I wanted to ask her who she got.  I wanted to enter into even this little facet of her life, and so many more things like that. 

Tonight I babysat for a church plant.  I sat with three little boys while they ate dinner, and the parents and friends talked around the kitchen island.  I care about the adults, but the kids know me, and I love them because I watch them eat.  When one does some weird thing with his spoon, I get to know him.  The middle kid imitates the oldest, and you see how relationships are developing.  I intentionally sit with them when they eat, to build the relationship.  But do I do that with adults?  When is the last time I sat by someone not to start a conversation, but just to be there in case there was commentary? 

Speaking of the church plant, I could hear from my position in the basement of the pastor’s house uproarious laughter, evidence that the group is bonding.  They feel free to be loud, to be humiliated, to laugh, and thus are invested in the details of each others’ lives.  Eventually I think the plan is to have a “normal” church where there is preaching and singing, but I believe they want to keep groups like this one as core to their church.  Once they are loving, unified friends, they can march in sync in their ministry.  In fact, the pastor told me a couple weeks ago that he believes the church’s primary purpose is evangelism, and I’ve been thinking about my disagreement, looking for what the Bible says instead of just what I’ve been taught.  I see the great commission.  And I see Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for what He planned his followers to be.  I read Ephesians, and see that the church is about unity, edification, maturing into the image of Christ.  But that unity of the Spirit is what produces the striving together for the faith of the gospel, the reaching out to the world with the gospel. 

So another thought.  I get challenged like that from this friend, who is a pastor.  His church asks him questions like that more than some, but I think they’re in awe of him, and respectful of him as their leader.  (His wife was originally on my side, properly heeding his perspective and coming early to the conclusion that we’re basically saying the same thing different ways/different emphasis.)  My pastor doesn’t talk to me like that.  I get answers from people who run blogs.  They dare to address my real questions.  But a lot of times their own friends and churches aren’t asking.  What a mess.  Why can’t we be real with the people in our churches? 

I want everyone to read my blog.  But I’m fair about it.  I would want to read everyone else’s blogs or journals, too.  I don’t want to play at friendship, to pretend to be the Body of Christ, anymore.  I, me, personally, want to be real.  And I want to be a real friend.  May God take me, sold out, take my every hour, to be invested in Him and in building people. 

As a crowning point to how this whole topic is being driven home to me today, in one day-long thought, I was telling all these things to my brother after watching some of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  I have no idea how much we missed, but I wouldn’t dare go back to find out; there’s a reason you can skip tracks on DVDs.  (I’m definitely NOT endorsing the movie, but I’m not all that sorry I watched what I did.  Just read a review, and make an educated, prayerful decision if you ever think about watching it.)  Anyway, the premise is that this guy is getting his memories of his girlfriend erased, so he’s going backwards through the memories.  And timelines are just a bit confusing, but if you watch it twice I suspect everything would make sense.  Watch the hair colors.  It’s a key.  We discussed how our brains have to extend to the furthest reaches to follow the movie, and the implications of the story.  It’s too far out, to complex to put our arms around, to hold.  But you can follow it, if you try.  That’s relevant, but this is commentary, windows into my world that produces these thoughts. 

After I said most of the things above, and actually some are his additions, I was talking about being tired of friendships being fake; I want to hear what is going on with people.  I want to read blogs, and my blog to be read.  In an amazing double-irony, he asked, “Did you read my blog?” 

“No.”  We both laughed and I was crying, too, from the irony.  I knew of course that I was contradicting myself because I hadn’t read it in the past couple days, and that he must have written about basically the same thing, or he wouldn’t have brought it up.  And maybe we’re both thinking about the same thing because we read the same things, and talk, and (sometimes) read each other’s blogs.  So here is his perspective on real listening and real friendship.  You have to promise, if you are reading this post, to read his too, and to read it like he meant… every… word. 

Oh, and less crowning but still continuing, we’ve had an ongoing conversation with some friends of ours about “heads bowed, eyes closed” altar calls, whether it be for salvation or other things God’s doing in your life.  We’re tired of playing, and want to be the Church to those around us, at least.  If we can’t see each other, and we’re silent, not praying together at all, how are we going to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep?  What are we saying about the shameless gospel of our God’s great grace? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

PS: My brother reminds me, and I thought it important enough to make clear: being serious does not exclude joy or smiling or fun.  When I say “I don’t want to play,” I don’t mean I’m opposed to silliness and recreation.  Actually, we should even take our fun seriously; be intense, and sincere when you play. 

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It’s good. 

I appreciate the friends who read my blog and see the life that provides the matrix from which seemingly unrelated posts spring.  They know what I’m saying when I try not to be obvious.  And if I do anything really irresponsible, they can hold me accountable. 

In theory my friends and family can catch up on what I’m thinking.  To some extent that would be encouraging.  Then again, what would we talk about when we’re together?  I like blogging as preparation for that inevitable question, “What’s up with you?” or some similar inquiry; blogging orders my thoughts.  On the other hand, if everyone at church and work and home knew what I was thinking, and what I believe about church, family, politics…  Let’s just say I might be uncomfortable and they might be shocked to find out all at once.  Maybe they are reading.  That’s ok.  I’m working to be more transparent.  Just take a deep breath and reassure yourself that you know me.  I can’t be as weird as all that. 

I love getting comments on my blog.  Making friends, getting encouragement and challenges and insight from people online is profitable.  Comments from friends are exciting, too.  Even if they just say hi. 

When I read blogs written by other people, it brings a smile to my face when their personal friends and family comment.  I know Amy’s (of Humble Musing fame) husband reads her blog.  He even updates it from time to time. 

So here’s the challenge.  If I know you, comment.  If I don’t know you, please comment.  Note the please.  Why are we always kinder to strangers?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Typos

I can tell when I haven’t had enough sleep. 

  • I get grumpy, not necessarily at people, but at life. 
  • I can’t understand intellectual writing or conversations, so I ask fundamental questions. 
  • I confuse homonyms: their/there, are/our, two/to/too. 
  • I make typos. 

For example, I have had my WordPress profile set to tell everyone on whose blogs I comment that my URL is wrong.  If you click on my name it says I haven’t opened the blog yet, I think.  Anyway, it’s all fixed now! 

Now about that sleep…

To God be all glory,

 Lisa of Longbourn

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