Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Special Effect

My daughter Sonia was playing with a friend. Who knows exactly what the "game" was? But I heard her shout to the boy...

"You're not a real person! You're just a special effect!"

There's some kind of wonderful lesson in that, but I am too tired to pull it out. So I will just let it stand... as something that came out of the mouths of babes. And I will try to remember to be real.

Photo by Sonia.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Spaghetti Pie's Community


Aegialia's Only Human

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

That Creativity Thing

I told Charity that chapter four in The Suburban Christian could supply a month of posts. Which is to say, "Material World: the Challenges of Consumer Culture" gives us a lot to consider.

Hsu asserts, "While the single-family home is symbolic of American individualism and frontier independence, ironically, its very location in an atomized suburban context makes us ever more dependent on commodities and consumption." (p.75)

In other words, suburbanites don't do much for themselves, except slide the credit card.

When this is our approach to life, we are engaged in "financial transactions rather than exchanges of mutual relationships." (p.77) Hsu discusses the consequent adverse effects, including a system which can more easily abuse workers across the globe. But it struck me that we also suffer in this setup.

We suffer a loss of connection, to people and the meaning of work. We suffer with a diminished sense of our own purpose. (Thus being highly attracted to books that offer a purpose-driven life.) We suffer from lack of volition and creativity.

That's why I was especially glad to see that one of Hsu's solutions was a return to creativity— make instead of buy, be relational. I picture this as the difference between going to a movie and making one's own. (I've even provided an example below. This is a "slide show" movie that my kids made to entertain themselves yesterday. I think it beats Barney any day. Of course, I'm biased.)

In the past few years, I've begun to reclaim my creativity in myriad ways. Sure, I don't get as much exercise by sliding my credit card, but that's a challenge I'll accept any day.

THE PLAN, by Sara and Sonia. (I had nothing to do with this.)

The Plan 1

The Plan 2

The Plan 4

The Plan 5

The Plan 6

The Plan 7

The Plan 8

The Plan 9

The Plan 10

The Plan 11

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Miriam's daughter's Script Submission

Al's Consumer Culture vs. Christian Creativity

Charity's Created to Consume?

Mary's The Post that Stirred Me

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Monday, May 21, 2007

It's About...

stones with wildflowers

Commenting on the last post, Heather asked what Stone Crossings is about. I found myself saying...

It's memoir tied with biblical reflection, on the topic of our faith journey. So it starts with my difficult childhood and "coming to faith" issues and moves to my redeemed adulthood and "maturing into faith" issues. No surprise, the book is held together at the image level by "stones." It's amazing how many experiences one has to draw on, from personal life and the bible, that include these humble objects.

Somehow, in giving this answer, I felt like I was trying to describe the fragrance of a lily, or the taste of chocolate, or the sound of a classical guitar. So I decided, instead, to give a peek into Stone Crossings. Here's one of the first statements in the book...

I came to God through a want ad. "Piano for sale," it said.

And here are the first six chapter titles...

Stepping Stones - conversion
Christmas Coal - shame
Tossed Treasure - messiness
Heron Road - suffering
Sword in the Stone - resistance
Howe's Cave - baptism

Of course, there are memories, like this one in "Christmas Coal"...

By Christmas time, the creek we love to play in has long been frozen. The softness of moss-covered rocks, the solace of sun-baked stones, lies submerged in green-blue ice. No longer can we walk through the fragrance of pine, for the forest floor is buried in drifts that rise up to our middles. We move indoors. Here, the scent of spruce rises from our gilded tree; it pushes against the stale odor of cigarette and drifts through voices that speak to each other in dirty syllables...words I hide from with all my strength...."

Confessions are always good. Here's one...

I got baptized as a teenager. Again. This, of course, marks me as a double dipper.

And let's not forget some biblical reflection, as in this excerpt from a chapter on inclusion...

Now that I know more about the tabernacle, though, I like to think of it as God's heart— pulsing crimson, blue, and purple, just beneath its covering of skin. This skin is usually designated in our bibles as goatskin, but nobody really knows what it was. Just as well. Otherwise I'd have to consider why God's heart-skin is manatee, or porpoise or goat. But as it is, I can simply focus on the status of his heart.

Anyhow, that's a taste of my work, unedited. Maybe not as exotic as chocolate, but a flavor nevertheless.

Stones and flowers photo by L.L. Barkat.

AND NOW, A BLOG OF ITS OWN [added to this post on 11-8-07]:

L.L.'s Stone Crossings


InterVarsity Press's Max Lucado and Poetic Titles

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Looking Glass

In New York

Well, it's official. I have a book title...

Stone Crossings: finding grace in hard and hidden places

I feel tentative, the way that little child looks in the pic above. But I also feel ready, to walk through the looking glass.

Thanks to all of you who've been encouraging me.

Mirrors in New York. Photo by L.L. Barkat.


InterVarsity Press's Max Lucado and Poetic Title's

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Commute This

It must be about THREE weeks since Eve tagged me with the Eights. Then Annette came 'round the other side and tagged me too.

So here's what I'm going to do.

Eight is a lovely number, but minus three is five. (I hope this is okay Eve, I've got to ease my life. [nice half rhyme, eh Mark?)

And I'll not speak of things of me, but rather things of Hsu. (For all inquiring souls out there, that name's pronounced like "she.")

Hsu says that we are "spaced out" (by this he means by distance). We drive to work, to church, to shop, and all things that befit us. Commutes have cost. I'll total five (see, Eve, I'm getting to it).

1. we gain more weight, and it's no surprise,
2. we favor independence.
3. To participate in community, we're less likely by the tens-es. (10 minutes behind the wheel; 10 percent less involvement.)
4. We're apt to laud "efficiency,"
5. though not in physical health, you see.
(Suburbanites have more, more, more... of lung disease and migraines, of belly aches, arthritis, and annoying bladder illness. [Mark! Half-rhyme alert on arthritis and illness! Full rhymes may appear based on regional accents.])

In all, my soul most honestly,
admitted to bane of efficiency.
For I rarely walk with family,
hand in hand through God's creation.
And it focuses me, most vigorously,
on "getting there" RIGHT NOW.

The conclusion is this. I must recalculate.
For being "spaced out" causes problems so great.
(And that is the end of my three less than eight.
Breathe deep and forgive, Mark, my poetry mate,
for the poetry blast, which to you gave a migraine,
or a belly-ache, as sure as molasses,
has come to conclusion, thank goodness,
at last-ess.)

[Phew, I'm relieved too. Rhymes have got to be almost as costly as commuting.]

Cars in Guatemala photo, by Dorothy O Miller. Used with permission.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Al's Countering Commuter Culture

Charity's Car Talk

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Light and Labyrinth

Sometimes I feel so distressed by the problems in the world. This past week, for instance, I was speaking to someone who's involved in a difficult situation, where there is deep pain involved, even danger. In a way, we were both wishing for God to bring some kind of fairy-godmother magic wand. A poof. A sprinkle of dust. A miraculous reversal.

But that is not how it's going. There is movement, but it's slow. And it doesn't feel like enough.

How to explain this? Especially to some of the other players involved, who are young and tentative-of-faith, and really wishing for the magic wand?

In the midst of the conversation, I began to try to explain it to myself (not young, supposedly not tentative-of-faith). Suddenly, a small vision emerged. The minotaur's labyrinth. It is long and twisting, deep and dark. A monster within.

I found myself saying, "Sometimes it takes years for us to get into the labyrinth. Why shouldn't it take time to come out? Even if, today, the 'monster' was magically slain and a candle appeared there in the depths, one would still have to do the work of climbing out... back through the darkness, the twisting tunnels."

And though I was not completely comforted by this insight, I felt a measure of understanding. Healing takes time. There is often mystery and an unclear sense of direction.

As if to seal the thought, my church group was discussing the book of Revelation on Sunday. And for the first time I noticed a sense of process and mystery even at the end...

"The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." (Rev 22:2) "They shall beat their swords into plowshares..." (Isaiah 2:4) "You shall be called repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in." (Is 58:12)

Yes, God can make all things new. But we also have some work to do. And the way and the time-frame aren't always clear.

Candle photo by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


23 Degrees' Learning Healing

Aegialia's Climbing to the Light

Steph's What If

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wise at Heart

bleeding heart

A wonderful childhood friend of mine (who apparently lurks here, and wishes I would post more... oh, I'm sincerely sorry I've been slacking, for I've been working so hard on my... uh, book) loves to read.

Sometimes she shares titles with me, especially good young adult and children's titles. I am a good listener, when she so speaks.

That's why I'm having my seven-year-old read me The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool.

Here's an excerpt that I thought could give us something to think on, both as writers and as leaders of all kinds.

"At that time all wise men wore long white beards, small round spectacles, and black robes, and they always carried leather satchels filled with important papers. They were easy to spot in a crowd. The other people in the kingdom didn't like wise men because they used ten words where one would do, but weren't of any use in a crisis, so nobody felt sorry when King Irwin made them stay indoors.

There, the wise men moped and sneered just as unpleasantly as they had done outside. It didn't occur to most of them that if they just changed their clothes and cut off their long white beards they would be able to go out in the streets again without being recognized. Or possibly they were so proud of being wise men that they would never have dreamed of giving up the image..."

My daughter read that passage. Then she looked up and said, "They must not really be wise men!" Wise child, to see the heart of things.

Photo of Bleeding Heart, on the way to my Secret Place. L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


From Shannon's no-nonsense blog (I think he shaved off the beard without regret): Visceral

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Four Sythia

spring in the woods

Technically, this is not for Sythia. It's for Christianne, who challenged me to a game of Fours.

Four jobs I've had:

- blog meme analyst
- blog hijacker (see Mark for a reference)
- author of a book that is finally coming out in Spring of 2008 and I am so excited I can hardly play Fours without yipping at the moon like one of our four-footed friends (Sorry. Excuse me, I'm okay now. Really. I won't talk about the book. I promise. Nothing about the book. Um, did I mention it's a spiritual memoir with Christian Living on the side? Craver! Help! Change the subject to homeschooling or International Respect the Chickens Day, could you please?!)
- mental health worker (Okay, so a few patients escaped on my watch. Can I help it if I don't have great attention to detail? Except when I am writing books. You know, like ones that come out in Spring of 2008. What? You mean that counts as a book mention? How did I know?)

Four places I have lived:

- on earth
- in the United States
- near a creek (That's how the book opens, by the way... in the creek bed. Huh? No. I didn't say anything about the book. You imagined it.)
- in New York, four my whole life (Okay, so edit me. It's not like I can't take it. I've been in the editing hotseat for almost a year now. What? Can't I even put in a side comment about the... the thing made of paper?)

Four movies I watch over and over:

I take the fifth. I'm not really a movie watcher. (Is it okay to take the fifth in a game of Fours?)

Four favorite foods:
- vegetables
- fruits
- grains
- get the full scoop at Green Inventions Central (my other blog which occasionally features really delicious, healthy recipes, as well as thoughts on sustainable living, spirituality and creation, etc., but never talks about my book... well, maybe just a little)

Four favorite TV shows:
- Um, could somebody Google "TV" for me? I seem to have lost the definition.

Four places I'd rather be right now:
- gardening with Charity
- at my Secret Place
- on a wild edibles hike
- in a Wendell Berry book (That doesn't count. I'm talking about somebody else's, um, book.)

Four people I tag to complete this survey:

Okay, do you all fourgive me now? I had a hard day doing the almost-final edits on my book.

Forsythia photo of my Secret Place. L.L. Barkat.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Charmed Big

This week, Al Hsu's The Suburban Christian collided with Wendell Berry in my head.

Berry, discussing farming, says, "We need to confront honestly the issue of scale. Bigness has a charm and a drama that are seductive...but bigness promotes greed, indifference, and damage, and often bigness is not necessary."

Hsu feels convicted that most American homes give each occupant 718 square feet of space, while most Canadian homes provide 442 square feet, and Japanese homes offer 170. In other words, he questions the drama of the big house, which often carries with it the drama of a big mortgage payment (and the banks like this kind of theater... why is that?, Hsu questions).

So I wonder... does the big house and the big mortgage do what Berry claims in a different context? Does it promote greed, indifference, and damage? Is the bigness necessary?

Photo by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission. Berry quote is from p.xi The Way of Ignorance. Hsu summary is from Chapter 2 of TSC.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Charity's Me Casa, Me Casa

Maria's Suburbia: A Home of One's Own

Al's Housing Size

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