Monday, January 22, 2007

Small Things

Silver Creamer

I thought this was an interesting convergence. Jesus and Flannery O' Connor. He said, she said.

He said, "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much." Luke 16:10

She said, regarding writing, "If you can't make something out of a little experience, you probably won't be able to make [something] out of a lot."

Perhaps they both mean, for better or worse, that people have an inner consistency that transcends context. If this is true, what does this mean for us on a practical level— as friends, spouses, parents, or writers?

(Hope you enjoy today's photo; I think Sonia made much of a "small" subject.)

Photo by Sonia.

NEW LINKS to this post:
Life is Just Life
Change & God's Words

23 Comments:

Blogger Irish Church Lady :) said...

Yes it's a beautiful photo and an interesting post.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Oh wow, that gives me hope!

I often sit down to write about something and a voice in my head tells me I don't know anything about what I'm venturing and ought to just sit quietly and listen to all the wise and learned philosophers.
We live in such a "professional" and "expert" revering culture that the rest of us are cowering in the shadows thinking that we're idiots because we don't have the degrees or the years of study we're lead to believe is required to speak with authority on a given subject.
(Which is why I usually write about myself and my kids- no one can argue with me.)

So now, my question is... can this be a learned behavior? Or are the unfaithful doomed to be unfaithful for the rest of their days, no matter how hard they try?

I've always liked Ms. O'Connor.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

No doubt, Flannery was a master. Some of my favorite lessons were her short stories. I always read the end of "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" out loud. Chilling.

Almost as chilling is your statement that "for better or worse, people have an inner consistency that transcends context." You know, I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight.

Because the only thing I'm consistent about is being inconsistent.

What does this mean for me on a practical level? I need to take sin much more seriously than I do now.

Sigh. God help me.

10:59 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

L.L.,
I love the Flannery O'Connor quote.

Your words:
"Perhaps they both mean, for better or worse, that people have an inner consistency that transcends context. If this is true, what does this mean for us on a practical level— as friends, spouses, parents, or writers?"

I'm struggling to understand this idea of an inner consistency that transcends context. I guess she means that there is something in us that keeps us constant in the midst of the changes of life all around us.

This reminds me of the Proverb:
Above all else, guard your heart,for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4)

We need the constancy that only the Lord can give us, through his Word and by the Spirit, in his grace.

And we need to see "little things" as important/big, not unlike the smallness James talks about (3) that can make all the difference.

Very nice photo!

5:08 AM  
Blogger bluemountainmama said...

hmm.... food for thought. love the photo! linked here from andrea's....

10:47 AM  
Blogger Craver VII said...

I like that picture!

“…for better or worse, that people have an inner consistency that transcends context.” (Ruminating) I’ll carry the quote with me for a while.

As to your question, practically speaking, here’s what I think. It would serve us well to invest some time in reflection so that we may take inventory of all the “small things” that come to mind. Hopefully, we can discern a general movement toward faithfulness. Don’t be intimidated if you are unhappy with the big picture; pick a small thing that can be improved, and begin.

Personally, I’m feel the need to do that very thing. Hopefully soon. Yes, God help me, too.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Great reminder.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Good comments here. They're helping me think this through.

We just went through this with my children. We tested them to see if they could be faitful with caring for something simple- Sea Monkeys. Observing their faithfulness, or lack thereof, with these small creatures was a determining factor in trusting them with something bigger. A rabbit, a dog, a horse...

No rabbits yet. :)

But I DO think in this context faithfulness can be learned. None of us are faithful compared to God, but through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we can develop a propensity toward faithfulness. As a parent, teaching my children faithfulness is part of my role.

1:47 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Irish... thanks.

Erin x 2... see, writing doesn't take expertise so much as it takes expert observation. Not that writers don't have to have passions or knowledge on certain subjects. So, here's the question, how do we teach ourselves faithfulness? Or do we?

Mark... I bet you are consistent about some things you'd be surprised and pleased about.

Ted... yes, and I do wonder how we guard our hearts. I like the image from Isaiah, about God being a watchtower and a fence (unfortunately, in that passage he tells Israel he will knock these over, because they didn't want protection).

blue... welcome. we have a lot of fun over here, and thoughts... yeah, lots of thoughts.

Craver... yes, at one point, I picked trying to tell the truth to telemarketers. I felt if I could just stand up for myself and honestly say, "I don't want this call. Take me off your list," I'd be on my way to deeper honesty in other areas.

Heather... I find that much of my life is spent in getting reminders.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Charity Singleton said...

I used to think Jesus wanted me to "practice" being faithful with the things that don't matter, so I won't mess up the truly important things. You know, sort of biding my time until my "big break." But I don't believe this anymore.

Now, I think maybe Jesus is saying something about the value I place on little things. If I don't see everything I have as a gift, a resource to be used for His glory, I'm bound to mess up anyway.

This is more true about writing, for me, than any other area, I suspect.

P.S. That Sonia knows how to use a camera!

4:55 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Here's a passage, L.L., I think one can relate to the discipline of guarding our hearts- that I was meditating on today:

"Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever."
(Psalm 73)

Of course it's great to look at the context as you did on the passages you refer to. God being our watchtower and fence are certainly great analogies for us, as well. Unlike Israel we can choose God and his way, as well as trusting in him, and then receive his promises to us, in Christ, including that one, surely! (and thanks for referring to that!)

5:14 PM  
Blogger Martin Stickland said...

Once again, a nice photo and good words LL!

6:51 PM  
Blogger Ex-Shammickite said...

A lovely photo by your talented daughter. And words to make me think.....

10:54 PM  
Blogger Christianne said...

Erin and Charity, both of your comments have made me think! (And God knows what will happen when I do that...!)

I really think it boils down to training character. For instance, for a while last year I started to build up a resistance to being the person God ultimately wants me to be because I was holding out for a "better situation." I just knew that I'd be better off all around -- and able to do even better work in life -- if He finally gave me what I wanted. And you know what? He didn't give me what I wanted. At all. In fact, He made it the exact of what I didn't want. And then He asked me what I was going to do about it.

That's when I ate humble pie and realized if I didn't start attending to my character right where I was, in the day-to-day, I would never be the person able to handle the other things I have in mind for myself.

Huh. How about that. I just pulled an Erin and wrote about myself to explain a point about which I'm coming to have some knowledge. I really like that Erin-girl. :)

11:54 PM  
Blogger San said...

Breathtaking. Love your site!

12:04 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

You guys are gonna DIE!!!

My eight year old was reading these comments over my shoulder and saw what I said about the Sea Monkeys. She got this dreamy gleam in her eyes and asked, "How are the Sea Monkeys doing anyway?" As she glanced over to the kitchen window sill where we'd been keeping them.

"Babe," I said, "they've been gone for FIVE MONTHS!!" I could not stop laughing.

You think we're getting a dog anytime soon?

8:14 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

What a beautiful site...I love your pics.
I am also here from Andrea's.

8:59 AM  
Blogger A Musing Mom said...

Great photo! Your daughter has talent.

As for the accompanying thoughts, you've set my mind spinning. I can get the idea of having to be faithful in the small things. I think it's a good litmus test of our faith. About inner consistency...I'm still musing on that one.
AMM

11:44 AM  
Blogger andre said...

LL

Great photo for a photographer of any age!

I'm always late to the discussion but ... I wonder what you meant by your quote - "people have an inner consistency that transcends context."

I'm taking it to mean that there are character attributes, strengths & flaws that show up whether we're doing something grand or small, whether we're working or taking a vacation.

But my views are less interesting than yours on this matter.

11:49 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Charity... this is a deep way to think about it. Really, what would the "big" things be anyway? Just things that seem big because we look big when we do them? What's the true difference between a big and a small thing? Nothing, in your way of looking at it. Definitely something to consider.

Ted... thanks for that passage. I simply drank it in.

Martin... good to hear from you!

ExS... think. yes, that's something I do a lot of too.

Christianne... I totally appreciate that story. Without story, this is all theory anyway, yes?

San... thank you.

Erin the 3rd... funny. Poor sea monkeys. And I don't blame you for not letting them try the same on a dog or a rabbit!

Anna... welcome!

Amusing... sorry to set your head spinning! What mom needs that?!

Andre... that's my theory. That's why I had to start with the telemarketers (see comment above). Perhaps my theory is wrong, though. Maybe we do act differently based on context. Maybe we are "better" in one place than another. Would love to hear someone take the other side of this!

12:10 PM  
Blogger Linea said...

Sayings like this help keep me mindful that even the little things I do, often thoughtlessly, may be very significant in someone else's life.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Christianne said...

Erin: You're hilarious. I laughed out loud at least twice when reading your last comment.

Laura: You must have been inhabiting my brain this past weekend, for it was rife with conversations it was having with itself about the theory/story dilemma of life. I was at that conference and met a guy who explained what he did for a living as dealing primarily with story. (He helps develop screenwriters.) I admired him for being able to boil his life down to that description. It's an intriguing way to say it, so I give him points for that, plus I just never know how to boil my own life down into a simple statement for poeple when I meet them. Life can be so complicated!

Anyway, on top of that, there was a whole lot of theory going on at the conference. People were talking around modern-day slavery without talking directly about it until Saturday night, so that was somewhat frustrating to me after a while, especially because one of the main reasons I wanted to be there was to learn about the actual issue, not just keep saying that there IS an issue, period. My need to know more finally got satisfied, as I said, on Saturday night, though, so it redeemed itself in that respect.

All that to say that the words "theory" and "story" popped into my head at least 20 times this past weekend, so you must have been along for company. Hmph. I really wish you had been, actually. :)

6:26 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Wow, so many strains of thought here! I am forced to only pick one that I've been thinking about.

You all have mentioned the big and small things in several contexts. What does anyone think about the idea that you were made for a certain calling, "a sweet spot," your "passion"? And, until you find that place to serve, life does not feel satisfying.

Lately, I've started to think it's a bunch of bull...but maybe I just haven't found my calling yet??

12:14 AM  

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