krikketgirl: (Hello?)
At school, we're watching a biographical film about Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. We talk about how impossible communication would seem for Helen Keller, and then how her world changed when she could communicate. She was so angry before, and violent, because she had no way to present her ideas and feelings and desires.

I was thinking about this as I sat in our recliner this morning. Our living room is smallish. No matter the furniture we've had, there has always had to be a chair in this particular corner; so while the styles and pieces have changed, I have been sitting in that corner, facing the same direction, for many years (not all at one go, you know). I've sat there with a sick child. I've sat there as I was counting contractions. I've sat and listened, sat and talked, sat and eaten cheesecake, sat and played board games, sat and nursed a cold, sat and studied.

Same place, facing the same direction. For years. No matter what I was doing at the time.

And this made me think about how people have, pretty much, one way of facing the world. One way of approaching whatever life throws at them. Though there is incredible diversity in human thought, emotion, personality, and temperament, each person has basically one specific way in which they handle life.

Some handle it with dignity. They are always dignified and look at things from a dignified viewpoint. Some laugh at matter what, the humor (dark or light) bubbles up. Some grasp at life as if to choke it, aggressive and combative. Some let life run them over and are consistently downtrodden.

Sometimes, when we deal with difficult people, we think of them as though they are choosing to be the way they are. And I'm sure there is some choice involved, sometimes. But then I think about Helen Keller...when she was angry, was she choosing anger? Or was she communicating using the only expression she had? I think about painting: there are so many colors to choose from, but if the only color you know and have had supplied is red, you will only use red. You wouldn't even know to look for blue or green or violet or white. You would use the red and use it with abandon, without thinking.

I think it's helpful to remember that there are a lot of people who have only been given green. Or red. Or yellow. Or bronze. That's all they know about, the only color they've ever used. Sometimes, it's astonishing to them to realize that there might be a rainbow around the corner...but the only way to ever hope to show them that rainbow is to ourselves be aware of what colors we're using, what approach we are taking...and temper it to be able to show love and mercy to those whose palettes are not as advanced in some areas as ours are.
krikketgirl: (Stars)
When I still had a household cat, there were certain negotiations that had to be entered into whenever we were planning to travel for an extended period. An obliging next-door neighbor was an integral part of this plan: we would leave our key with him and ask him to pick up the mail and to feed our cat.

Now, when we asked him to feed the cat, we were actually asking him to do a great deal more than just unlock the door, dump some food in the bowl, and beat a hasty retreat. We were asking him to take care of her--to keep her fed and watered, surely, but also to talk to her, to pet her, to ensure that she was well and happy and healthy in our absence. In a larger sense, he was to keep an eye on the house, too, and be sure that it wasn't destroyed or broken into while we were gone.

I was thinking of this today when I thought of Christ telling Simon Peter to feed His sheep. In John 21, we read:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

He is told to feed them, to take care of them. I take this as something that can be applied to all who are in Christ--if we love Him, we ought to feed His sheep, His people. And here again, I think that there is much more intended than simply feeding people (though that is good) or simply preaching (though that, too, is good). I think that in considering this, we ought to consider it a command to nourish, to build up, to cherish His people. When we look to Christ's ministry, we see teaching and also miracles involving food; but more than that, we see compassion and care and concern.

Where are we in this "If/Then" statement? If Christ is saying, "If you love Me, feed My sheep," are we doing so? Are we practicing outgoing care and concern? Are we looking for ways to care for His people? Are we doing more than just the minimum? Or are we the neighbor that has grown tired of caring for His beloved and looking after the house? Are we starting to slip in doing what we agreed to do?

If...then. If we love Christ, we love our brother. If we love our brother, we feed him, clothe him, and build him up. How are we doing?


Feb. 4th, 2010 07:07 am
krikketgirl: (Default)
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.

I'm not a fan of doing things over and over. I'm impatient and long to be done, already! But so much of life is repetition. I get up and get dressed, every day. I make dinner. I wash the dishes. I write papers. I read textbooks. I sweep floors. I practice piano. I do the shopping. I put away books.

Little of it has real lasting value, and all of it will have to be done over again. Sometimes it seems so pointless. None of it is as annoying as the "people work" we have to do every day, though. I watch what I say. I catch myself thinking something unpleasant and have to choose not to think it. I apologize. I put on kindness when I don't feel like it. I choose not to pass on the gossip. I choose to forgive.

Again, all things that have to be done over and over. By themselves, they can be irritating and even depressing. Why do I have to keep doing this? Why do I have to be the nice person?

Oh, right, because of who I am. If I claim to be Christian, then I ought to live like one. And living like one means forgiving. And being kind. And loving others as I would love myself.

Here's the thing, though: I don't think it's just repetition that makes us excellent, any more than it is just desire to be excellent. They have to work together. Just wanting to play the piano doesn't make me any better at it. On the other hand, just sitting there and pushing the keys for ten minutes a day doesn't make me better, either. I have to have a goal, a desire, and repetition, all three.

I love getting the books put away at work, so I work at it. I have a desire: to get them put away correctly and quickly. I have to repeatedly, then, work at putting them away and work at doing it more quickly, more accurately, every time. The process of putting the books away in the right place trains my mind and my eye only if I encourage it to do so by giving it my attention.

"People work" is no different. I need a goal: I want to be like Christ. I need a desire, based on that goal: I desire to be a safe, kind, humble, genuine person. And I need repetition. I need to repeatedly do the things that get me closer, while NOT doing the things that move me further away. Because ultimately, I don't want to have a facade of niceness. I want to be nice, to be genuine, to be good all the way through. To draw the analogy, I don't want my life to be like a library full of books that look nice on the shelf, but are in no order and are falling apart. I want my life to be full of neatly-kept books that are in perfect order.

To do that, I have to do it over and over again...and I have to give it my whole attention.
krikketgirl: (Friends LJ)
It's so easy to draw lines that divide. Even children do it--my sister and I once tried to divide our bedroom in half, based on where our beds were located. This didn't work well, given that the closet was on her side and the door to the hall on my side. After intense negotiations regarding right of way and fair usage, we lapsed back into glaring at one another from the sanctity of our respective beds.

It's easy to see this principle at work in wartime, or even every day in the political cartoons. It's so easy to draw "us" and "them" boxes, and then label the "them" box as ridiculous, laughable, wrong, misguided, even evil. We interpret actions, label the actions, and then presume to know why that person took that action--all within seconds or minutes. We then base our own actions and feelings on the slender reed of our own understanding of that other person--a person we now feel no need to truly understand at all.

I have people like that in my life (I talk big, don't I, for someone who has the same problem?). You do, too, I'm willing to bet. But let me tell you about these misguided, wrong-headed people.

They're worried that they should be eating better, but don't have time to think about it. They wonder, 'Should I be more focused on my weight? Less? How much does it matter?'

They hope their kids are going to cope well with changing schools. They hope their kids will get better grades. They hope tonight's math homework isn't as tricky for a parent with rusty math skills. They hope they have the answers when their kids ask questions about their relationships and their beliefs.

They have a difficult relative. They are loyal to their family and friends. They feel stretched too thin. They wonder if they're in a rut. They wonder whether they've sold out--or what that even means if you're not a musician. What that means if you are a musician. They wonder why the music they listened to as a teenager is now on the oldies station. They wonder whether they've accomplished what they wanted to accomplish.

They'd like to travel more. They'd like their boss to get off their back. They'd like to spend more time on their work and less in meetings. They wonder whether it would make more sense to fix their old car again or whether it would be better to get a new car or even a "new to them" car and whether they can even afford that.

They worry that they'll lose their jobs. They worry that they'll lose their spouse. They worry that their best friend seems distant these days and what that means. They wonder whether they should have said that one thing, should have written that e-mail, should have majored in something else in college.

They're like me. They're like you. Right now, we're not getting along...but in different circumstances, we probably would. Like us, they're likely more to be pitied than censured. How often would we have done something differently had we only known? It is so easy to explain ourselves away, and so hard to explain someone else away.

But when we reduce people to one example of their actions, we remove the dignity of the fact that they are a person, a whole person...a person that has worries and concerns and happinesses that we can only guess at. Forget the stars...our "enemies"? They're just like us.
krikketgirl: (Hello?)
Paul instructed that older women within the church were to instruct younger women. I am thinking about this because in the school district where I work, there is a strong emphasis on student-to-student mentoring. We have 3rd graders who come every morning and listen to struggling first-grade readers read aloud to help them practice. High-schoolers and middle-schoolers come several times a week to help tutor in math and reading. Students are encouraged to help one another.

I love seeing it, because I think it is sometimes so much easier to accept help and advice from somone who is closer to you in age or experience.

And I was thinking about that and Paul's instruction because in my mind, I had always pictured the mentioned "older women" as old women, grandmothers, teaching really young women. But I have come to think of it differently.

I have been so pleased and excited to see many of my friends--online and in real life--set up housekeeping, get married, and have children. I sometimes feel odd, though, because while I am the same age as many of these women, I have had those experiences so long ago now. Many friends have babies and toddlers, while I am entering the years of mothering teenagers. I sometimes feel so out of place!

But then I thought about what I do here, most days. What is it, if not encouraging and instructing? It's not the "okay, now do this, now do that" instruction. Instead, I like to think that on good days, I show life in action by talking about it. I talk about the insecurities I sometimes feel as a mom, as a wife. I talk about housework. I talk about balancing work and life and kids and laundry.

So much of the instruction, I think, is less telling others how to do it and more...telling others it can be done. Being able to say, "I've been right where you are," or "No, it really is normal," or "Oh, did I tell you about the time that my kids [did something even dumber than what your kid just did]? It's okay. Kids do dumb things."

Not that "old women" can't do that just as well...better, in fact. But in my mind's eye, I see an ideal of a network of women (and men) turning to those just behind them in experience and instructing and encouraging...and those in that level turning to those just behind them and doing the same. Result: an unending chain of help, support, and encouragement from those who are close enough in experience to seem very relevant, but far enough removed that they have some authority.

There are lots of experiences I haven't had. I rely on a lot of people to help me negotiate unfamiliar waters. I hope I can be a "wilderness guide" to someone--maybe even one of you--who is embarking on a challenging journey. Let's help one another with our hope and experience!


krikketgirl: (Default)

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