Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Like Candy from a Stranger!

Soul Asylum in the 90s

Last night on Facebook when I mentioned that I was having trouble putting together a coherent blog post, a friend commented that coherence is subjective and overrated. With that in mind, here goes... 

If I counted all the song references in this blog - all 125 entries - I would feel comfortable betting that the artist / group I refer to most is .... drum roll.... Soul Asylum. I don’t really know all that much about this band that came out of Minneapolis in the 80s/90s... But I do know a good song when I hear it, and they have plenty.

I never got to see Soul Asylum in the 90s, when they were huge - riding the wave of their hit Runaway Train, dating Winona Ryder, cameo-ing in Gen Y movie Reality Bites... but later, I got to see them at one of those outdoor downtown concerts in Raleigh, where everyone is drinking plastic cups of beer and wearing khaki shorts and Tommy Bahama shirts. And they acted kind of obnoxious, really. I think they had been told to watch their language, but... being a rock-and-roll band, you know they did just the opposite... 

A more recent snap
But the songs... oh the songs... They were inspired and inspiring, great melodies, soaring guitars, punkish drum... They have lyrics that make your mind soar, over anthemic-ish, hard driving music that made me dance with my arms in the air, embarrassing my husband no small amount.

I don’t think he loved it like I did. He said, I wonder how those guys feel having to play crummy shows like this, but my thought was something like: well, if I had written songs like they’ve written, I would be riding THAT, not the size and kind of shows I played. Of course, this is easy for me to say, as they probably have families to support.

I also recollect having seen Bob Dylan play at Kings Dominion once and thought the very same thing... it looked like the fall of the once-mighty – but, again, if I had written a song like Blowin’ in the Wind, why would I care?

It’s a little like the Christian life... As Soul Asylum says, “It ain’t on what you can depend, it’s who you can depend on!” You don’t have to BE SOMEBODY because you HAVE Somebody. Or, because you have Jesus, you ARE somebody - HIS! And as Soul Asylum says, “When you watch over me I am blessed.” See I could go on quoting this stuff all day... Of course they also say things like, “Sent on a mission to see just how much sh*t one man can take!” (same link as above!) On the other hand, barring the rude word, couldn’t Job say the same thing? Doesn’t everybody feel this way from time to time?

I guess I have to qualify, too, that I am not intensely familiar with ALL of Soul Asylum’s albums. The two that I have worn out are Grave Dancer’s Union and Candy from a Stranger. I highly recommend these if you like thoughtful lyrics paired with powerful, well-arranged grunge/rock/pop music. I can’t really speak for the other albums, as I haven’t memorized them as I have these two.

Primarily written by lead vocalist Dave Pirner, their songs speak closely to my personal take on the Christian life. And not just in the easy way of interpreting love songs to be about God’s love. No, they’ve got songs about more complex concepts, like – among other things – repentance, humility, heaven, stepping out in faith, the dark night of the soul, shedding the constraints of our fallen humanity, and spiritual formation. 

I wish Dave could know how
he writes my heart...
I have not found any evidence in their publicity or online bios to show that they have any particular religious affiliation, so if they are Christians, they’re pretty secretive about it... I mean, they could be, but there’s no CLEAR evidence of it (such as, wearing WWJD bracelets, leading worship in their local church or doing any of the things on the Stuff Christians Like blog)... But it’s just so obvious to me that I have to wonder what they’re talking about, if they’re not talking about ... the Christian life. Would Dave Pirner be surprised to know that his lyrics reek of Christianity? Does he do it on purpose? Or is it just that when people write about hope and love and humanity, are they bound to stumble over Christian themes if they’re not careful....?

It makes me wonder if he’s not so Close that he just needs Somebody to Shove him... Does he know it? Is that why he sings on his solo album, “And peace will be with me. Yes, I’ll have my day.” That would be cool, wouldn’t it?!

Of course, when I listen to their music, it doesn’t matter to me what their religious affiliation is, because I can interpret the songs however I want to, right? In fact, maybe I’m just reading the Jesus into it because that’s how my brain works. That doesn’t matter to me either. I mean, if it reminds me of the grace I need so badly then I’ll take it! Especially if it rocks like Soul Asylum...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pop Quiz: What do Mick Jagger and St. Augustine have in common?

Satisfaction was not forthcoming
to Mick Jagger...
I heard on the radio today – and here it is in the Huffington Post – that God’s current approval rating is... 52%! That’s higher than Obama and John Boehner and many other public figures, but ... geez... you’d think the Creator, Almighty God would be pleasing more than roughly half of us! I mean, what the...???

Although... If I’m completely honest, I can dig where they’re coming from. Because I can’t say that I am always 100% pleased with how things are going. And some times in my life are worse than others. Right now, I’ve got it pretty easy, relatively speaking. I couldn’t say the same for other eras - like when I had anorexia, or when my business wasn’t doing too well. But I have noticed that even when things are going fairly well, my mind will find something to unsettle it, sad to say. 

Most of the time I’ve presence of mind enough to realize that my misfortunes are often my own fault or are part of the fallen world we live in. If you buy into the Christian world view, you believe that the world was created perfect, but when Adam and Eve ate the apple in the garden of Eden, everything went to hell. Figuratively, speaking... and literally, too, pretty much. 

...or St. Augustine.
Now, Jesus came to redeem our fallen souls, but we’re still stuck here in this place where there’s natural disasters, people get sick, make bad choices, and sabotage themselves and others. 

I said “most of the time,” because, well... not always. There are times that I feel like God might not be holding up His end of the bargain. If I stand back and ask myself, “what bargain are you referring to?” then I have to admit that maybe it’s me that isn’t up to snuff.

And knowing the cause of some hard time I am having – fallen world, own stupidity - doesn’t make it easier. I may not be blaming God, but I still sometimes wonder why He doesn’t HELP me more, or SHOW me more clearly what He would have me do. I have found myself asking Him the question, “What purpose is this trial serving?” Of course, He has His reasons, but what I am saying, if I’m honest, is “Stop it because there’s no reason for it.” Like I would know.

I guess it all comes back to Job. If anyone had the right to complain, to give God a low approval rating, it would be him... his family was killed, he was covered with boils, he lost everything he had. But when he said, “What the hell...?” God said, “I made everything and keep everything running – who are you to question me?” To which Job said, “I’m shutting up now.” 

On the other hand, the Psalms show that struggling with God is perfectly normal and acceptable. The Psalmist has a lot on his mind, and he doesn’t mind letting it all hang out. Sometimes he’s completely in love with God, but sometimes he’s all, “What’s going on here? Give a guy a break!” King David himself – a man after God’s own heart – penned lots of these “songs,” in which he wrestles with God in a very real way. I think it’s pretty important to talk to God and be honest with Him. He knows anyway, right? Yes, Job and the Psalms are very helpful books in the Bible for sufferers... We learn that we are not alone. That God has His reasons.

The Replacements dared us to tell
 them they were satisfied.
I’m pretty sure that being discontented is part of the human condition... I think that God can help us rise above it (Paul said: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”) But... in general, it is more like us to be disgruntled. Look at the world we live in. While it has a lot to recommend it – nature and art and love and friends and family... it is also a drag. Why do you think Mick Jagger can’t get no... sa-tis-fac-tion... or why the Replacements sang, “Look me in the eye and tell me I’m satisfied”? And even though Paul apparently reached a supernatural state of contentment, it is my view that we won’t see honest-to-goodness rest from our struggles on this side of heaven. 

And Soul Asylum recognized
it as homesickness.
Yes, I think we are homesick for heaven... like Soul Asylum says in Homesick, “And we are not of this world / And there’s a place for us / Stuck inside this fleeting moment / Tucked away where no one owns it / Wrapped up in a haste, / And by mistake got thrown away / And oh, I am so homesick / But it ain’t that bad / Cause I’m homesick for the home I’ve never had.” 

And that, in my opinion, is why 48% of us are not too thrilled with how God is running things. As St. Augustine said, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Treading the Thin Line

That’s right, I’m an Associate Producer... and I've got the t-shirt to prove it! I wish it meant more, but all it really means is that I gave a (minimal) amount towards the financing of a moving picture show! I don’t know what they used my dough for – supposedly to fine-tune things, as they were almost done when I contributed.

What’s the movie? Blue Like Jazz: The Movie. Now, I don’t know what kind of movie it will turn out to be, but the book it springs from – Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, by Donald Miller – is pretty fantastic. Miller writes in a sort of episodic, self-reflective style, sort of like me – but a million times better and more insightful, of course... He examines from all angles the implications of being a Christian as a young person surrounded by hipsters in Portland, Oregon, and as a person who struggles to be true to himself and to God – two things that are not necessarily mutually exclusive, he discovers.

A bad pic of my
Associate Producer Tee
Despite the fact that it is a movie about faith, made by Christians, the movie's director, Steve Taylor, has expressed the fear that his movie – so lovingly wrought – would get lumped in with all the other movies labeled “Christian.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that... His point was that in the mind of critics and the public this category has come to imply certain things about quality. Specifically (this is a quote from his blog):

- Sentimentality trumps substance
- Good intentions trump artistry
- All conflict must be tidily resolved
- “Safe for the whole family” is a de facto requirement
- Or as writer David McFadzean summarized, Christian movies are like porn – poorly lit, poorly acted and you always know how they’re going to end.

I guess Taylor imagines that once this label is slapped on his (excuse me – OUR) movie, discerning movie goers won’t give it a chance. He actually felt encouraged that the movie had been poopoo-ed by some “establishment” Christian groups for its depictions of campus life at Reed College. I take his point, but I almost wonder if the movie might be perceived as too Christian (see above) by picky movie-goers and too "wild" for Christians. I wondered if he was maybe shooting himself in the foot, but then a friend pointed out that this is not too far from what people said about Jesus back in the day? Here's what Jesus said about it in Matthew 19: "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ (ie. there's no pleasing you people...)

That's why I don't mind being part of this sub-set of people who try to tread this thin line – or maybe it's a sparsely populated wide open space – that overlaps both camps in some places... 

Matthew Sweet
When I gave the money for the movie, my husband said, “What if it’s not any good? Then your name will be in the credits!” But you know, I don’t really mind if a picky viewer like him doesn’t like it. I also don't mind if the Christian "establishment" doesn't like it. And I don’t mind what label gets slapped on it. Critical praise and box office love would be nice, but really, I just care if it tells the truth. And really, if NO ONE EVER gets their knickers in a twist, you might not be telling much truth.  That's how I view my blog – I love it if I get a lot of clicks, or people complimenting me on it, but when it comes down to it, I just want to try to tell the truth – to be true to myself, and to God. Like Donald Miller, in Blue Like Jazz

(PS....Here's a fantastic song for you by Matthew Sweet: The Ugly Truth... and here's the rock version.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

I Remember When Rock Was Young...

The program from the first time 
I saw Elton John in 1976.

The other night I dragged Tom to the outer limit of his patience... I made him go see Elton John. Being an intensely discriminating music critic, Tom shuns most mainstream pop and you can’t get more mainstream or pop that the Queen of England himself! During this trip into my 13-year-old self, my thoughts and feelings were all over the place, so I won’t be churning out any well-crafted essay... you know, a hymnic chord structure, melody, harmonies, four verses, a chorus, and a bridge... Like an Elton John song... No, this is going to be more like a jazzy improv... a list of scattered reflections... 

1. Elton John has been super-famous, larger than life for so long, that people don’t really remember that he was once a little boy with a sad childhood who grew up, paid his dues playing piano covers in pubs, writing songs “Tin Pan Alley” style, and traveling with a blues band called Bluesology. 

One of my favorite EJ albums
2. His fans are old. From our cheap seats, we had a great view of the jewelry rattlers in the floor seats - and it was a sea of grey heads. Sadly, I, also, am old. Yet despite the evidence to the contrary, I will continue to insist that I am young – that when I walk down Franklin Street, I blend right in with the students. Also, old people look funny when they act like young people at a concert. I include myself in this indictment.

3. When we were walking in, I said to Tom, “I hope he plays a lot of obscure songs that only I know.” I was kidding, but he did play a few obscure nuggets like Holiday Inn and Grey Seal. I could have done without I’m Still Standing, however, even though I appreciated the sentiment. A high point of the evening: His feisty rendition of The B*tch Is Back, with a video screen that flashed "B*TCH" every time it occurred in the song, along with other hilarious visuals like lipsticks and the silhouette of a dancing woman... I guess if I were mature, I would have been offended, but it was simply too funny.

Another one
4. I did not have sophisticated music tastes as a preteen/teen... Elton John is a great musician... not much of a rocker, though. His music smacks of the English music hall and musical know... POP. This bothers my husband, who is hypersensitive to what is cool, but it doesn’t bother me at all. Elton was what I needed when I needed it.  At a certain point the other night – I think it was during Rocket Man, I re-experienced that old feeling... like I was wrapped in a cocoon of a sweet part of my adolescence. Being a teenager can be agonizing, and I often shut out the pain by hunkering down under my headphones, filling my noggin with Elton John’s perfect melodies and soaring harmonies. Banging out approximations on our piano in the basement was also a lovely escape for me. 

5. Also lovely: my hilarious sister Lea and her husband were at the concert with us. I sort of feel sorry for my younger siblings, as they were forced by their over-enthusiastic older sister to listen to Elton John too... since I always had him playing. But, I guess since she wanted to go to the show, she didn’t hate it! Anyway, it was great to share the experience with Lea. And she never fails to crack me up.

Davey Johnstone still looks
and poses the same!
6. Elton has these great, well-loved songs, but we can’t really know anything about him by listening to them – except maybe what his sense of song is. Because the words were written by someone else – namely, Bernie Taupin. And even then, much of the time, the songs are stories, and not introspective. In his youth, Bernie was a romantic soul, fascinated with, among other things, the American West. The record Tumbleweed Connection is loaded with images of Americana. The stories are evocative, but I always loved when Bernie wrote about their own story: Tiny Dancer was about his then-wife's seamstress who worked on Elton’s costumes. Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was an entire album of songs about their origins as a songwriting duo for Liberty Records. It’s one of my favorite records of his.

8. Sports arenas are for sports, not music, and few musicians can play to them well... U2, Springsteen... the list is relatively short. The acoustics at this show were not ideal. I guess as a way of reaching out / connecting to the humongous audience, Elton would jump up between the songs and address the audience with waves, bows and ... a whole lotta pointing. “No, YOU, Elton...!” 

There was a whole lotta pointing...
9. At Friday’s concert, he had drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone with him. I LOVE these guys! They, along with Dee Murray made up his band when I was a youngster. Davey Johnstone, if I understand correctly, did a lot of musical direction of the earlier albums like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, figuring out those tight harmonies that I know like the back of my hand. At the show he played not only guitar, but mandolin and banjo. A musician extraordinaire, is our Davey. 

10. I do know EJ’s earlier work intimately. I am deeply familiar with every guitar lick, every backing vocal, every bass riff... every word, and intention. They were a big part of my inner world back in the day. Judging by the amount of singing along at the show, I was not the only one.

Elton and Bernie AKA Captain
Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
11. On the way over to the show, we listened to Bruce Springsteen’s keynote speech at this year’s SXSW festival. He brought up a group he admired as a youth - The Animals. “They were considered one of the ugliest groups in rock ‘n’ roll… That was good for me, ’cause I considered myself hideous at the time.“ Anyway, this was one thing I loved about Elton when I was young - he was proof that you didn’t have to be beautiful to be somebody. Really, he was a short, chubby, balding guy with glasses and he was rockin’ (or poppin’, I guess) people’s socks off. As a short, chubby girl with glasses, I found this to be... a relief. Not that I’m poppin’ anybody’s socks off, but ... it was nice to know that beauty was not a requirement for success.

12. Elton John has tiny hands. I could tell from whenever they showed them on the huge screens... but they move effortlessly across the keys. Of course he’s been playing since he was 3 – that’s 62 years... Lore has it that he was a prodigy.

I have no idea how to wrap us the list of random thoughts about Captain Fantastic. I’m no longer twelve, and I know he’s not hip... and but I still do love him!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Erin Go Bragh!

St. Patrick, Bishop 
of Ireland

Yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day, and we sure did celebrate at our house. Now, I don’t know how much Irish blood runs in our veins, but for all intents and purposes for the last couple of days, we bled a vivid green - 100% Irish. In the same way that I am inexplicably fascinated by all things British, Bill has been irresistably drawn to Erin and her people. I think his fascination began when they built leprechaun traps in preschool.

Now, if there was such a thing as a patron fairy of little boys, it would be leprechauns - mischievous, greedy, silly, tricky, irreverent, and ... magical. And though no leprechaun has ever left Bill a stocking full of candy and a heap of Lego sets, he has declared that St. Patrick’s Day is his favorite holiday.

Bill digs the craic at an Irish pub
Typically on March 17th at our house, nothing much happens. Bill builds an elaborate trap to catch a leprechaun, using those chocolate candies wrapped in gold foil that look like coins or Lucky Charms as bait, and after he goes to bed, a six-foot-two “leprechaun” named Tom scatters it around and writes a mocking note in green crayon. This year, though, we branched out. 

Friday I took Bill to lunch at one of those fake Irish pubs they have... and since he had no idea that the U.S. even had those, he was out of his mind with joy. And yesterday, we went to the St. Paddy’s Day parade in Raleigh. I’ve always wanted to go, but never tried hard enough to get there. This year I had an excuse. Surprising Bill brings me such joy - it’s so easy, since at this age, he has fewer preconceived notions than we do. 

At the parade
Well, that’s not exactly true... If we say, “We’re going to such and such a place,” he’s likely to yell out, “NO! I DON’T WANT TO!” But only because he’s having fun where he is, not because he’s already made up his mind he wouldn’t like where we’re going. I guess what I mean is, he doesn’t know many things exist. I mean, he knew there were pubs in Ireland, but he didn’t know there were fake ones here. And he didn’t know that there was a St. Pat’s Day parade in Raleigh, so when we walked into it... imagine his surprise!

Let me tell you, he never disappoints in that area. At the pub he couldn’t stop hugging me – he practically sat in my lap, he was so excited and grateful, and at the parade, he stared with wide eyes and a wide open mouth at the pipers and dancers and ... dogs...? dressed in Lepre-finery.
Men in kilts!

All in all, it was a joyful celebration. I’ve never been to the Emerald Isle, but from photographs and movies, I can tell it’s lovely. And part of it belongs to Great Britain, which, again, I love... the accents are lyrical, the music begat bluegrass, the writers have been prolific and poetic. Even the food is not too bad, as British food goes. And then there’s Guinness.

The Irish are a pretty important ingredient in the melting pot we live in. It’s hard to believe they were ever the object of discrimination. “Now hiring. No Irish need apply.” Say what? I guess they never met Bono... who wouldn’t hire him?

I bet they'd hire Bono...
But I digress... I guess American celebrations of Patrick’s saint day have denigrated from the celebration of a freed slave who shared the gospel with his captors, to a celebration of Irish culture ... into, well... parties. With whiskey, green beer and Kiss Me I’m Irish buttons. If we let them. Yesterday in the morning, we said the St. Patrick prayer that starts with: “I bind unto myself today / The strong Name of the Trinity, / By invocation of the same, / The Three in One and One in Three.” And I’ve already told you what we did after... Yes, I made up my mind to claim the day to dote on my son... to shower him with gifts and sweet surprises. Much like God does for me. Yes, I have written about how God grows me through trials and testing, but it has also been my experience, that He likes to charm us with astonishing, often serendipitous, curveballs. 

Like the time I was embarrassed and feeling awkward in front of a friend, and I unexpectedly saw the actor Robin Williams. Like when I quit my job at a newspaper to move to Asheville, and suddenly the exact same job came open at the Asheville paper. Or like when I asked God to heal me of my crazy thinking about food, and He gave me a husband and child. Yes, God’s surprises are big and small. Lovely and amazing... like grace.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Welcome to my Salon

Jesus washed his friends' feet
The other day I was giving what little attention I have to my Bible reading, I read about how in the Old Testament about how every single time the priests had to go into the Tabernacle to serve, they had to wash their hands and feet. Well, I had just been writing about our church’s Maundy Thursday service - where we remember what they call the Last Supper. Part of John’s description of this event involves Jesus washing his friends’ feet. 

Now, this sweet incident just shows how sweet Jesus was, how much he loved his friends, and, mostly, how His ministry (and theirs) was to be one of service, not power in the traditional sense. But having these things together in my mind led me to wonder whether The “foot-washing” was also a symbolic gesture of preparing his disciples to the ministry that they would go on to do - that is, spreading the good news about Jesus throughout the world. Since I had never thought of it this way, or heard any one say it, I felt the need to consult the wider world... of people who know a lot more than me about the Bible.

Beatniks at a coffee house
Well, in the old days, I would have brought it to my Bible study group, but being a mom has sucked up any time I would have for those kind of luxuries, so instead, I let it be known on Facebook that I had a Bible question. I received a very nice response from an array of people who were either just curious about my question or eager to help, or both... it was nice to know that people are interested in these kinds of discussions. Because I know I am... when I’m not making ads, making PBJs or getting squirrels out of the attic, that is.

The responses were as mixed as the answerers – some people thought definitely not, while some people thought maybe so... But in the end, having the answer was not as precious to me as the discussion itself. The Bible is a fascinating book, to say the least, and I love chewing over the text with others. I do miss the intense study I used to do when my time was wide open, but I miss more the interaction over it with people. Just like I miss going to clubs and hearing live music, but even more I miss the intense, late night-into morning talks among like-minded music lovers that often followed.

French people at a literary salon
This lovely product of my inquisitive brain – this discussion – reminded me of a crazy dream of mine from my youth. I’ve always wanted to have a place where people could come and hang out – sort of a cross between a house church, a coffeehouse and a salon – not a hair cuttery, but a literary gathering like they used to have in France a while back... A place where authentic life, art and Scripture meet... where for people can talk about whatever is on their minds, even if it’s really weird or embarrassing... without feeling weird or embarrassed. The salon part would be ... well, I’d love to have music, drama, performance art, visual art, films... but mostly, we’d have what the old folks call “fellowship.”

It’s a crazy idea, I know, but ... but not altogether unattractive – am I right? I guess I’ve been making a feeble attempt to “discuss” some of these things through the blog, but it’s really just me telling you stuff. I would love to hear your take on almost anything, and every so often someone will speak up, but not nearly as often as I’d like. The blog forum seriously lacks the fellowship element, for the most part. Maybe I should ask more questions? One blogger I know, occasionally ask questions on Facebook to accompany her posts. It serves to draw people in to the discussion, which is a step in the right direction...

But really, when it comes down to it, I’d much rather be sitting with you on a comfy couch with a couple of cups of coffee between us, some low music in the background and dim lighting... the operative word being “with you.” The other stuff is just for atmosphere. Although... there’s something about being in a relaxing place – out of the house – that calls to me... “Take a load off! Set aside your cares and chores and enjoy some coffee, art and meaningful conversation!” 

At this point in my life, this mythical place is obviously just a lovely dream.... And in the meantime, you have a standing invitation to join me in the coffeehouse in my mind... the salon that is this blog. Get yourself a coffee, pull up a chair and get philosophical with me. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Analyze This

I have glasses like Freud!
What would HE say about this?
For the last couple of days, I’ve been writing what has become what I think is one of my most convoluted and unreadable blog entries yet. So you’re not going to get to read that one. It was sort of a commentary on the sermon our pastor gave on Sunday, based solely on my own observations and supposings about human nature.

What he was talking about was Jephthah, from the book of judges and how his behavior was characterized by his insecurity, as the cast out illegitimate son. The pastor then had occasion to list the signs that a person might be an insecure person, as Jephthah was. I won’t give you the list, but basically, and if you know an a-hole, chances are, they are insecure. 

You see, apparently, if a person is secure, they have nothing to prove (this most obvious example being Jesus Himself), while the opposite is true of a person who is insecure: this person will go around trying to assert their power and opinion everywhere in an effort to say, “I AM HERE! I AM IMPORTANT!” and is unable to see other points of view.

I don’t know if this goes along with current psychological scholarship, but it makes sense to me and fits with what I have observed. Now I will say that there is every chance that I myself suffer from insecurity and am one of these a-holes. After all, I am always giving you my opinion and whatnot... and apparently one of the features of the insecure person is the inability to recognize one’s own jerkishness, so... I’m just putting that out there. Maybe I’m this kind of person. I don’t know – it’s not like someone is going to tell me... is it?

Jephthah - what a jerk!
(It's actually heartening to note
that he's included in a list of
faithful saints in Hebrews 11.)
That said, my question is this: if you know someone like this, and you know you do, how should one deal with him or her? I mean, it’s kind of a relief to know they’re not just a flat-out a-hole... that there’s something behind it... something deep and possibly painful... I guess knowing this could be helpful... but really, I’m not sure it helps me know how to behave toward the person. 

I mean, how does one reassure them they they are important without reinforcing their sense of “rightness”? My earlier attempt to reason this out was full of amateur psychology, Bible character analysis and just ... ramblings. And in the end I just had to come to the conclusion that I so often reach: I DON'T KNOW. 

I mean, it’s not like you can go up to a person and say, “Look, you’re an a-hole. You must be insecure,” then, “Rest assured that you are important; there’s no need to insist that you are.” 

Well, you can't go wrong loving them, and besides that... I’m guessing that PRAYER is the way to go for all of us. Because, really, in the end, the hope of changing other people is a vain one – it has to be THEIR project. Even the work of changing myself is an uphill climb, and the going is likely to be slow. That’s been my experience with resetting my own behavioral defaults up until now, anyway. In any case, we can't go wrong inviting God to lend an Almighty Hand.
Van Morrison

It's especially helpful if we can grasp – even a little bit – the concept of God as our security. In this case, not only will the Supreme God of the Universe give us a boost, He will HOLD US UP! How secure can you get? What would the world look like if everyone was 100% sure they were held up by God, and had no reason to push or act defensively? I don’t know, but I wouldn't mind seeing it.

(I love this version of Be Thou My Vision by Van Morrison, in which he calls God his "high tower." That's solid.)

Friday, March 9, 2012


Nicholas Cage in Adaptation
I ran across a blog entry by author Neil Gaiman the other day that addressed writer’s block. He reckons it’s a combination of laziness and perfectionism. It does makes sense, but I am not sure it always applies to me. I can be lazy, but I’m sitting here writing, aren’t I? Also, I think we can all agree, that there are no grounds on which to base any kind of assumption that I am perfect or could produce a perfect piece of writing – not even close.

Emma Thompson hired a writing
coach to break her writer's block
Stranger Than Fiction
That’s the fun thing about blogs. They may be up there for you to read at any time, they probably won’t hold your interest for long, and you probably have a bunch of other blogs to read, Angry Birds to play, and real life stuff to do. So while I may sometimes address serious topics like life and love and grace and God, I also mention popular songs, reference obscure movies, and sometimes say bad words. I’m not writing an encyclopedia or philosophical treatise here, people.

No, I don’t think perfectionism is a problem for me. Maybe at one time, but now - not so much. I think that my honest problem is that my mind is totally blank. Blankety-blank-blank. (Yes, I’m aware that “blankety-blank-blank” is also used to connote swearing...) It happens to me enough that this is not my first or even second post about writer’s block. You know what’s a famous movie about writer’s block? Adaptation. It’s about a writer who is supposed to adapt an unadaptable book into a screen play. His brain starts to wander all over the place, hilarious hijinks ensue and in the end the viewer is not quite sure what really happened and what was in the writer’s mind. Call me crazy, but the fact that the actual author of the movie, Charlie Kaufman, named the main character Charlie Kaufman leads me to believe that writer’s block was something Mr. K is intimately acquainted with.

Did James Joyce drink to cure writer's block?
That’s why I’m taking a leaf from his book: when you have writer’s block, write about writer’s block. Another movie about writer’s block: Stranger Than Fiction with Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson. In this story, Thompson plays an author who is seriously blocked until she starts writing a character who she believes to be, well, just a character. BUT he’s actually a person - played by Ferrell, of course – and he can hear her in his head narrating his mundane life! So if I’m to take a lesson from this film, I just need to start writing about something that’s real and the words will flow. Well... since I mainly write from my own point of view... and I am being as real as I know how, I’m not sure that’s relevent.

A Guinness probably wouldn't
help, but it sure would be tasty.
Maybe I just need to work on my reality. But, honestly, that sounds kind of tiring! In that case, maybe all I need is a good night’s sleep! I’ve heard that a lot of famous writers drink (or drank) - like James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway and countless others. Maybe that’s a direction I could go in...?! I kid... but seriously, it IS Friday, and it IS after 5pm... perhaps a Guinness would lubricate my brain... I’ll be right back... On second thought, that’s all you’re getting from me today. Have a nice weekend!