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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

One can read over the brim of one’s cup, just as Treebeard the Ent studied Merry and Pippin in his mountain home over his entdraught in Middle Earth long ago.  Such was I doing when I stopped thinking about the words and became more attentive to the taste in my cup.  I was drinking a vanilla chai tea latte, hot, and slightly watered down due to my lack of tablespoon at work.  The flavor is one of the new things introduced to my life in a year that is rapidly flowing to its end.  I like it. 

 

But I miss hot chocolate.  Not that I never drink chocolate anymore.  That I drink chai tea when I would have been sipping cocoa is undeniable.  Life has changed.  My tastes have dutifully broadened as an expected part of growing up.  If they are broadened, they are also dispersed.  Now the intensity of my appreciation for chocolate is tempered by my acceptance of vanilla chai tea. 

 

Would my life be better if I had refused to taste chai tea?  If through loyalty I remained zealous for chocolate alone, could I still be a grown up and still be happy?  Would I be happier? 

 

Life is a choice whether to try new things.  Once surrendered to a new pet topic, to the diminution of my former sole passion, my experience says there is no possibility of returning to a single-passion life.  A new opportunity arises, and if I am consistent, is tried.  Causes ebb and flow, wax and wane now, each replacing the last for its moment in the spotlight. 

 

I haven’t really written anything in a while.  Inspiration departed.  Whenever that happens I get borderline depressed, because life seems to have lost its flavor, and my passion for each moment has waned.  I don’t like drifting, shallow waves of life lapping around an unresponsive me.  Leaving the metaphor, though, I keep on doing things: going to work, talking to people, checking email.  Even genuine smiles come to my face. 

 

Now, slowly, I think I’m coming out of my doldrums.  A week ago Saturday night, I completely spontaneously saw a movie, August Rush.  There were so few people in the theater, and I was so tired.  Reclined in my seat, I tilted my head against the back of the cushion, and absorbed a beautiful movie.  The soundtrack was uniquely expressive, imposing its presence and importance.  Music spoke in the movie.  It communicated identity, feelings, direction, summons, friendship, longings, and fulfillment. 

 

Afterward I escaped the scent of popcorn into a fresh midnight wind.  The air was too cold to linger, but I breathed it deeply, and memorized its touch on my face.  I felt the cold and the current.  My brother and I talked of how we love things and moments with feeling, and flavor.  They say something, and mean something. 

 

In contrast, the chocolate cake I had just before the movie was bland.  The color boasted bursting flavor, when in actuality the taste was dull and muted.  Not like fudge, or cinnamon, or grape juice.  Those things are so bursting with flavor that they assert their identities. 

 

Then a few days later was a day full of feeling, and a sense of doing things important, though everyday.  I cried near the end, for a few friends came home.  Tears break the walls of the world without passion.  That’s the metaphor of George MacDonald’s Princess Lightness. 

 

Yet when the walls are down, and I care about what happens around me, when I’m advancing my might on causes and people, there’s the probability that I’ll see the world in reality, and see myself as I am.  Couple this to just turning 23, to holidays and old friends, and I am sad now – not depressed, but sad in a sentimental way, in a fightable way. 

 

Sunday I went to Red Robin alone.  They offered me a free burger for my birthday in exchange for receiving their emails, so I went to redeem my coupon.  The staff was nice.  I brought a book about grace.  And in between sips of a chocolate shake and bites of luscious burger, I observed.  The walls caught my attention, bearing an eclectic collection of posters, prints, and photographs.  One fantastic picture showed downtown Chicago along the Chicago River in 1929.  Already the concentration of sky-piercing towers was a marvel.  Chicago is my favorite city.  I can’t lay my finger on the reason, only that when I am there I feel alive.  Every place is a story; every sound has a flavor; and every person has a style. 

 

I love Christmas for the same reason.  Each song is a tale, each note a rush of emotion.  Every light twinkles mystery into my soul.  Altered from its original intent or not, in December the whole country is united in focus.  No one asks why the stores all play music about snow, bells, peace, and Jesus.  It is understood when you wear red that you’re being festive.  Even those who have dropped out of church make it back for the memories of candlelight at Christmas Eve services. 

 

So today, especially at Christmas, I want to challenge you to seize the day.  Breathe the moment.  Live to the hilt.  Pursue life.  Feed on truth.  Praise beauty.  Remember.  Cry.  Hope.  Laugh.  Sing.  Love. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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How can you tell if someone is strong-willed?

He will act and think independently.  Peer pressure will not be a problem, and neither will authority be influential.  Big decisions will be made on personal counsel, or counsel he requests.  Because he will not follow a crowd, and because of his expectations, he may not have many friends.  In a large group of people, he will sit apart.  Though strong-willed people make leaders, they are the lonely-at-the-top kind, not the popular center of a circle.  Those who wish to follow the crowd will feel threatened by the example of someone who doesn’t.  Or they will make a hero out of him, in which case he will be considered sacred and above them.  One way or another, he is lonely. 

 

He will not be shy, though.  Fear is not a problem.  His ideas may be accepted or rejected, and will do him no harm.  If he finds someone who is like-minded or willing to listen, he will share everything.  This can come across as debate or persuasive speech. 

 

If a tendency to independence is seen at very young ages, most likely the allegiance is to self.  I believe oldest children of families are born almost universally with this inherent stubbornness and strength (though those not born the oldest can also have it).  It makes them leaders, or in the very least prevents them from being followers.  A child with this personality may appear stupid if misunderstood, as if he doesn’t understand what is required of him, or cannot connect actions with consequences.  Don’t be deceived; there are some children who do not think ahead, and live on the impulse of the moment.  Strong-willed children are much smarter than that.  They may even be anticipating their parents, or analyzing motives.  When a child is intentionally pushing its parents’ buttons, you may suspect strong will. 

 

Strong-willed people do not always fight with each other.  They do not bicker.  Life and convictions are taken very seriously.  At first encounter, strong-willed people may not like each other.  If they become well acquainted, they will have great respect for each other.  If they are Christians with strong wills, they will be fast friends.  I condition my statement for Christians because a Christian is humbled.  They are united in allegiance, and thus also in standards.  Those who do not agree with them or do agree but are still worshiping self will be respected enemies, the kind worthy of combat. 

 

An independent person must work to be kind.  Those who are more emotional (Jane Austen would call them governed by sensibility) will be viewed as weak, silly, emotional, and incomprehensible.  In clashes there is a lot of frustration, because a strong-willed person will argue the facts, whereas another person will defend their feelings.  I am not saying one is more valid than the other.  Communication between the classifications of people takes time, caution, and deference.  People who rattle off platitudes and act on emotions will annoy the more stable, stubborn person. 

 

Plato said that plot is everything.  Forget motive and character.  Focus on what a person does.  The strong-willed person will deny this.  He lives based on what is.  He connects dots, and anticipates actions based on what he knows to be true about a person and their situation.  A strong-willed person learns definitionally.  He wants to know what something means. 

 

In a seeming contradiction, stories will be popular with him.  If a person can tell stories that are complex and logical, he is probably strong-willed.  The stories he loves will be heavy on character development, though.  He may prefer movies and books with lots of dialogue and description, and less action. 

 

Fictional stories are also popular.  As long as the story has inner consistency, it will be acceptable.  In fact, the more challenging to maintain consistency, the more a strong-willed person will applaud a successful narrative.  Beware, because strong-willed people can be liars, very good ones.  If their conscience does not betray them, nothing will.  (Others can lie, too.  They will lie for different reasons, and often illogically.  The child who spits his food out in front of you and then tells you he swallowed it is not strong-willed.) 

Questions?  Other behaviors you’ve observed?  Disagreements?  Feel free to comment! 

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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