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A friend was telling me about a book the other day.  She said that in the first page not only had the author stated his thesis; he had also persuaded her of its truth.  The following hundred fifty pages were spent reiterating the point and adding evidence with which to convict the audience of the need for the final third of his book, advice for applying the concept.  My friend has always been more interested in writing that was more practical than philosophical, and essentially agreed with the premise of this book before she began to read it.  So she sloughed through the repetitive, unnecessary chapters getting quite bored and wondering if the book was worth her time. 

And today, while I pondered her conversational book review, I realized something.  When I read, I cannot wait to share what I have learned with someone else.  I want to discuss the statements, to criticize them or exult in them, to take every piece of information from the book and draw conclusions from it.  I am rather bored by a book that is a list of how-to steps, because inevitably my situation is omitted, and I chafe under the restrictions of specifics.  As a little girl playing with legos, I always altered the instructions that came with the little car kits.  During a lecture, I much prefer taking my own notes to filling in blanks.  When I read, I am not merely receiving what the author intended; I am springboarding from there to further conclusions, adding the information to everything else I know and experience, in order to richly apply the new ideas. 

Not only am I blending each new piece of media with the others of my experience; I am contributing to the community knowledge and awareness.  Were I to read the book my friend was describing, I would not only be gaining information useful for my life, but also things that I could transfer to my friends, some of whom might benefit from all those tedious persuasion points.  I could write about the subject here (except I already have, when I read reviews of the same book by other bloggers – sharing their knowledge with their community).  Think about reviews and quotes, the work of one man in reading an entire volume in order to bring you a concise summary and sample. 

Have you an idea of the impact on your world when you read a book or watch a movie or listen to a song – or even have an experience?  We are, when living in community, all something like the feared and almost unstoppable Borg of Star Trek invention.  Our understanding is assimilated into a collective.  Except in our case, instead of our brains being hacked and joined to an impersonal super-computer, we are a collective by reason of our relationships: our compassion for others, and wisdom in choosing when to share and what.  Communication is key. 

Imagine a person who was reading, thinking, watching, and living – but who never communicated any of what he learned.  Though his experiences would shape him and his decisions and so impact the people around him, how much more could they all benefit if he was using his time not selfishly, but for what it could offer neighbors, family, and friends?  What I do not have time to read, watch, or do might be in the realm of the experiences of my acquaintance, who could give me the relevant parts or the most interesting parts. 

Worse than someone who will not communicate is a passive member of the community.  All he does is absorb media, blinking at a screen, fiddling with a video game, settling for mediocrity in all of his pursuits, never aspiring to innovation or improvement.  Such a person is not contributing to the community, is wasting his potential, while benefiting like a parasite from the efforts of others.  Even if he is a hermit, excluding himself from the community, by residing in the vicinity of communities (even in a macro situation like the large geography of a state or country) he will be the recipient of at least a few good things brought about by the selfless enterprise of others.  A country is strong when the people are united.  It will be profitable, creative, defensive, and resilient. 

So, too, is a church that is united.  God did not place His children as individual hermits to meditate on Him and reach full potential of godliness, testimony, or understanding.  He placed us as a people, in an organism called the church, made up of many members that the world may see our love in community, proclaiming not that God is near them, nor that God is in them, but that God is truly among them.  It is almost redundant to say that church is community.  But it is counterintuitive to today’s citizen.  He is taught to think of church as an institution, a collection of programs and “services,” which the religious attend and in which they ritually participate. 

The Bible teaches that the people redeemed by Christ’s grace are to walk in the Spirit, to live by faith, praying without ceasing.  We are saved individually, each bearing God’s image, each a man for whom Jesus gave His Life.  But that salvation and faith and Spirit pours into the collective when the “members” gather.  Then that which a person has read, learned, or experienced should be brought forward and discussed: questioned, projected, contrasted, added to the knowledge and circumstances of others, and then applied.  What esteem we should have for those with whom we fellowship, embracing their words whether encouraging or correcting, for we are all benefiting from the voice of God on many ears! 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Well. I thought of this quote, which I read in my book today, and wondered what it means. Is it platitude, something to make us stop whining or questioning or worrying just like when moms say, “Because I said so”? Or is it a theological promise, diffused into the comforting, homey language of a soothing grandma? If it is theological, shouldn’t it say “All shall be good,” or “All shall be glorious,” or “One day every knee shall bow”? Because in the end, all things are so much better than well. They are delightful, the work of God, who created all good things and is the giver of every good gift. If the promise is more immediate, I think it must be untrue, because there is no guarantee, even at the end of one’s long life, that all things shall be well.

But what wonderful, deep, stable, pleasant a word is “well.” It is like the assured love of a couple married for decades, not fighting, sitting together, commenting when one thinks of something to say. But that is not dispassionate. And things being well, that is something dear and treasureable, beautiful, and simple. A recurring theme in obscure quotes and literature I’ve met is simplicity. Some people just dream of a simple life, where they have bread every day, a simple love, a good family, and a quiet death. I can’t understand that. I don’t want that. Even if my life looks like that, I want those who are not interviewed for biographies to know that my life meant something more, that it was valiant and visionary, touching lives and changing them and the whole world. I want to be well, but I would rather be good. I want to be simple, but would rather follow the swirling road of faith, blown about by the Spirit. If big things are happening, if dire things, I would rather suffer in them than ignore them, apart, all things being well – but only for me.

Imagine my granddaughter finding one of my journals, reading of my pathetic longing for Chicago, and sharing that. Suppose I never live there, but it’s the family universal castle in the clouds, visited occasionally and left only reluctantly, but always held as this ideal, secret like a password or family recipe. Just an example. Now, wouldn’t it be exciting to find one of my great-grandmother’s or great-great-grandmother’s journals that raved about Chicago?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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