Truer Than True

 

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I love to read statements made by authors (or their characters) that are even more true today than when they were written. The following examples are some that have jumped out at me in the past couple of years. I have ordered them backwards chronologically.

⇒  “I wouldn’t be surprised if a show about nudists was a hit…_ “ – I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg (2010) 

Now we have Dating Naked, Naked and Afraid, and a host of others

⇒  “Look at television, Father had said- Dad is shown as a dummy who stumbles around and breaks things and gets into trouble, usually to be rescued by a small child or a pet. Children watch hours of this junk every week.” – Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor (1985)

A 2001 study by Erica Scharrer in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media found that the number of times a mother told a joke at the father’s expense increased from 1.80 times per episode in the 1950s to 4.29 times per episode in 1990.

⇒  “We aren’t persecuted very much nowadays, we Christians, at least not overtly. But in point of fact there is a good bit of sub-rosa persecution, ridiculing if not reviling. In children’s books, death and sex used to be taboo, Now death and sex are “in”, and Christianity is the new taboo; other religions are appreciated, Buddhism, Hinduism, the pre-Christian Druidism; Christianity is not tolerated. And not only in children’s literature. It has been made taboo by those who do not understand it … of course we intelligent people don’t need God and we certainly aren’t interested in the cross. Only those poor people who aren’t strong enough on their own go in for the false promises of religion. – The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle (1977)

All I can say is this is even more prevalent today than ever before. I see it not only in children’s literature, but on TV programs, in the news, on social media.

⇒  “We have – particularly in the United States, particularly in the suburbs – allowed ourselves to live in a child-centered world; the children have become more important to the parents than the parents are to each other; and suddenly the children grow up and leave the nest and the parents find themselves alone with each other, and discover with horror that there is nobody there.” – A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle (1972)

Wow! It was surprising to me to hear her talk about a child-centered world in 1972. Today’s world is even more child-centered, from play-dates and birthday party productions to travel sports teams.

⇒  “When a city begins to grow and spread outward from the edges, the center which was once its glory is in a sense abandoned to time. Then the buildings grow dark and a kind of decay sets in; poorer people move in as rents fall, and small fringe businesses take the place of once flowering establishments.” – Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck (1961)

I’ve seen this happen in Jacksonville and have seen the results of it in Birmingham. Both of these towns have and are making efforts to bring people back to the city centers.

⇒  “Today, the language of advertising enjoys an enormous circulation. With its deliberate infraction of grammatical rules and its crossbreeding of the parts of speech, it profoundly influences the tongues and pens of children and adults.” – An E.B. White Reader, from the chapter titled “Prefer the Standard to the Offbeat “ by E.B. White (1959).

Here are some examples of intentional infractions in advertising:

“More power. More style. More technology. Less doors.” – Mercedes breaks the grammar rule that says “less” is used with mass nouns and “fewer” with countable nouns: “Door” is a countable noun; ergo, we’re obliged to say “fewer doors.”

“For hair and/or body, or both.” (Old Spice)

“Got milk?”

 

 

Guilt and Going On

sunset kw

Key West – 2008

…my faith is so frail and flawed that I fall away over and over again from my God. There are times I feel that He has withdrawn from me, and I have often given Him cause…

So I struggle with my theology of failure and the Noes of God.

from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

These words resonate with me. But, I have to think that it isn’t that God has withdrawn from me but that I have withdrawn from Him. That’s not to say He doesn’t have reason to withdraw and leave me in the dust. There is no reason to keep pouring into me. But He does. He gives me more grace. And sometimes I don’t even realize it.

Grace comes to us at different stages in our spiritual pilgrimage, and it accomplishes different effects and evokes different responses. But it is all grace. – Steve Harper

I not only struggle with failure but with guilt and doubt. I long to know confidence. That No from God, His holding back of my confidence, must be for my good. I need to use that No to stay humble, but not to doubt. To draw near and to go on.

Death

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There never seems to be a right time to cry, and then emotion builds up, and suddenly something inappropriate will cause it to overflow, and there I am with tears uncontrollably welling up at the wrong time and in the wrong place. – from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

I am no expert on death. Yet, I have experienced it, as we all have or will. I know those stages of grief are real, yet vary from person to person. L’Engle’s words resonate with me.

When my dad died, I was sad, but assured in the knowledge that he knew the Lord. I was with my mother at his side when he died. Because of financial circumstances in my family, I went to work the following month, while still homeschooling our kids. Our life went full throttle, but about nine months later the sadness hit me. Hard. I struggled with depression, though I’m not sure I put a name on it back then.

About twelve years later, I lost a very dear friend. Debbie and I taught fourth grade together for three years, and remained friends even after I moved away from Winter Haven FL back to my hometown of Jacksonville. When she got cancer, I returned to visit her. Later, I flew to North Carolina to see her, where her parents were taking care of her. I returned there for her funeral. I would sometimes listen to her messages saved on my phone – she would leave me long, drawn out ones that my husband and I would laugh about. I fell apart the day they got erased by the guy at the Verizon store who reset my phone.

Last year, when my best friend, Cathy, died. I grieved, but kept pushing ahead. I knew she, too, was a believer. She was finished with the physical battle she’d fought long and hard against cancer. I made it my mission to keep in touch with her son. I cried. But, one night, about six months later, I lost it. I threw things in the kitchen and sobbed until I was spent.

Providentially, I have a husband who understands. He senses my moods (most of the time), he offers comfort, and he sometimes just lets me be. And he knows, when I throw things, I’m not throwing them at him.

Social Media and Letters and Such #1

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We may be a global village, but instant communication often isolates us from each other rather than uniting us.  –  from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

This profound statement was written in 1977! Now, nearly 40 years later, it is even more true. I have read several articles lately about the detriments of social media, and they are many. Thinking about some of what I’ve read, I ‘d like to break down what L’Engle had to say.

She refers to a global village, which is an oxymoron. A village brings to mind a community of people who are physically close as well as socially. People who know the needs of their neighbors and share many common bonds. Global pertains to the whole world, where, though we may know some of the needs and share interests, we can’t fully enter into the daily groove.  

Little did L’Engle know in 1977 how instant communication would become. How often have we (me included) spouted off on facebook, only to have to go back later and delete, though not always before the words have seared the eyes and hearts of a loved one. Or sent an email that couldn’t be deleted? At least when writing a letter, we have a little more time; time to tear it up before we lick that stamp.  

But, one may wonder, how does instant communication isolate us? It is a weapon, I think, driving us apart by comparison. All the happy vacation pictures, relationship updates, and check-ins. It’s just fuel for the fire of  “I want what they have”, and when we don’t have those things we distance ourselves.  At least that’s my take on it.

You can read other posts inspired by Madeleine L’Engle HERE

Biographical Picks

Looking back on 2016, I was surprised at the number of biographical books I’d read. Here is my list with a brief review of each.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Written after his wife died, I would recommend this to anyone grieving. Lewis is brutally honest with his feelings and gives a true window into the soul of someone who loved deeply.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
This is the third out of four of her Crosswick Journals. It takes the reader through the liturgical year, addressing questions of faith and facing old age. Her writing style is lovely. Those of you who read A Wrinkle in Time as a kid must read this series, also.

The Confessions of St. Augustine
Parts were helpful, but some parts were difficult to comprehend. I had to read it very slowly. I enjoyed the biographical parts the best.

More Than Petticoats – Remarkable Georgia Women by Sara Martin
These stories were impressive, and one was of particular interest to me. That was the chapter on Leila Denmark. She is my cousin’s aunt (on her father’s side) and an exceptional woman. She was a pediatrician until the age of 103, and she lived to be 114.

One Writer’s Beginnings – Eudora Welty.
In this autobiography, Mississippi native Welty shares the details of her childhood and influences on her writing.

Dispatches From Pluto : Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant
British-born Grant writes about the south in such a charming way. I really loved his narrative of life in the delta as seen by an outsider.

There is a lot of variety in these selections. Written from 400-2015, there is something here for everyone.

A Lasting Marriage

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A Lasting Marriage

 

Today’s PAD prompt is Last______. I recently saw a “Spine” poem and remembered what fun they are to compose. The technique is to just choose books from your shelf and put the spines together to form a poem. Like this…

A Lasting Marriage

Once upon a time
Silver wedding
Everyone but thee and me
The thread that runs so true
Joy in the morning
Love and laughter
A circle of quiet
Cuttin’ up
A fine balance
We are still married
Smiles to go

Below I’ve listed all the authors in order.

Debbie Macomber
Maeve Binchy
Ogden Nash
Jesse Stuart
Betty Smith
Marjorie Holmes
Madeleine L’Engle
Craig Marberry
Rohinton Mistry
Garrison Keillor
Jerry Spinelli

 

 

Labor to Shine as Lights

 

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In a book by Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, she quotes from Chekov’s letters: “You must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures….It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared …for failures.”

I needed this advice last year when I received a rejection via email. I had submitted three poems to a new literary magazine. I was really hoping that at least ONE might make it. I had two people look over 6-7poems and tell me which ones they thought were best. Evidently the judges weren’t in agreement.

I have since experienced several other “failures”. Is failure to be expected? Yes. Does it hurt? Sure. Is it easy to “…go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly…”? No, unless we stop and realize that this is what we are supposed to do. Life isn’t all about limelights and successes. Contrary to popular belief, spouted by coaches and educators, we can’t all be whatever we want to be. But, we can all labor to shine as lights in the world.

Do all things without complaining and disputing, 1 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Philippians 2:14-16