Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Do you know what you were doing on Thursday, January 12, 2012?

Sometimes this journal keeping thing comes in handy.

The mail arrived and I received a copy of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars which I (along with thousands of others) had pre-ordered. Green signed every pre-ordered copy of the book (over 150,000 books). I spent the afternoon reading through the novel at one sitting. Now, I fully understand that John Green's niche market is generally considered to be high school females, but regardless of your age or gender, Green's ability to tell a story is impressive. The Fault in Our Stars relates the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a bookish teenager who is facing Stage 4 thyroid cancer which has spread to her lungs. When Hazel meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group for teenagers, both their lives change forever. The novel is a great story about living life in the face of challenges and the notion that each person's life has at least a momentary impact. The book deals with mature themes and shows people living with illness as human beings. Whether cancer (as in the novel) or with mental illness (in my own life), people who are dealing with the realities of long-term illness want to be seen as whole persons and to not be solely defined by their diagnosis. Gus helps Hazel see the world in a new way and their relationship becomes a genuine expression of friendship as well as romantic love.
The book has been a bestseller for the past two years and was Time's Book of the Year in 2012. Due to its success, the novel has been turned into a major motion picture to be released in June. The trailer is below and also links to purchase the book for Kindle and in print.
Expecting cold and freezing rain? A book might be just the best way to spend the weekend.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

9 drafts...

Hang with me, folks.
My inner critic is alive and well while my inner voice continues to struggle.
I look forward to posting soon.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Coming up...

Thanks for your patience as I get the blog up and running for the year.
I look forward to sharing some more new thoughts with you soon.
Have a great week!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Guilty by Association

This week, professional baseball announced its yearly inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The announcement was special because several deserving players were eligible to be on the ballot for the first time. Among them was Greg Maddux, undoubtedly one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Maddux won 355 career games and four Cy Young Awards, the honor given to the top pitcher in each league. He played 23 seasons and many people believed he might be the first living player to receive 100% of the vote to enter the Hall of Fame. When the Wednesday announcement came, Maddux did not receive the unanimous vote. Six voters of the 200 baseball writers and journalists that are allowed to vote did not vote for Maddux. While the writers in question may have had different reasons for their refusing to vote for Maddux, one of them gave this reason.  He said he refused to vote for Maddux because he would not vote for anyone who played from primarily from 1990-2010 when steroids were prevalent in baseball. This writer wants to make a statement and effectively eliminate a whole generation from the Hall of Fame. The result is that, although Maddux was never suspected of any wrongdoing, he was punished just for playing at the same time as those who may have cheated.

Sometimes in life we are declared “guilty by association.” Because of the people we choose to be around or because of the family into which we are born, people form an impression of us that may be far from the truth. While we should always be careful to not engage in wrongdoing, we must also remember that Jesus was often “guilty by association.” Jesus had relationships with the very people that His society shunned. He went to weddings and feasts with undesirable characters. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes and called working class men to be His disciples. He allowed a sinful woman to embrace Him while He sat eating in the house of a religious leader. His choice of friends didn’t make sense to the religious leaders of His day. Jesus told them (Mark 2:17),

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

 Many of the people in Jesus' day thought they were doing fine. They thought they had no need of a Savior or even a moral Teacher. They saw Jesus as a rebel and an danger to the established order. Many other people, however, knew that they needed to find peace and forgiveness, and Jesus became a symbol of hope to them.  As we look to live for Jesus, let us seek out those people around us who are lost and hurting. Let us not be afraid of criticism when we choose to live among the lowly and the outcasts. Let us be a comfort and a support to them and to one another. When we do this, we are becoming more and more like Jesus.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New year, new word

One Christian author that I greatly respect is Ann Voskamp. Her blog contains powerful writing about the daily struggles about living the life of faith. One spiritual practice that Ann promotes is choosing a word to guide the coming year. In 2013, I tried to focus on the word "quietness." I tried to spend more time alone. I tried to keep my opinions to myself; especially my opinions about things that could distract from my primary purpose of living for Christ. I still wanted to have an impact on others, but I wanted my impact to come more from my example than the words I spoke. I tried to be more open and less dogmatic and attempted to listen to smaller amounts of the shock-style spirituality so present in our culture. I watched less news and I incorporated more spiritual literature into my reading diet. While I don't think I attained "quietness" in 2013, being conscious of a desire for it and spending time in prayer concerning it helped me focus my spiritual energy in 2013. My prayer life was stronger in 2012 - mid-2013 than at any point in the last 10 years. I think the desire to be still and to be more focused on quietness greatly helped in this area. As far as I can remember, I didn't reveal this focus to anyone else until now, but I think the practice was beneficial.

For 2014, I have chosen the word - growth.  2014 promises to be a year of changes in many aspects of my life. New family situations, new living circumstances, entering a new decade of life, entering a second decade in my work at Lebanon - all promise to be big changes for me - a person who is fairly resistant to change. I also am actively seeking out opportunities to try new things and to move beyond my comfort zone. While spiritual growth will be an important part of 2014, I also want to grow socially, emotionally, intellectually, and in wellness in the coming year. I look forward to sharing this year of growth with you here on the blog. One reason I decided to change the format of the blog from the daily quotes to less frequent, more thoughtful posts is that I wanted to encourage myself to stretch and grow as a writer in this space.  I hope you will check back here throughout the course of 2014 and maybe we can grow a little bit together this year.