I have been doing quite a bit of reading lately. Some fiction (Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane–Oh my goodness. Such beauty). Some Bible. Some more fiction (currently Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende and Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman). I have grown very picky about fiction. It has to be more than a story. It needs to vibrate with beauty even in the violence. Cormac McCarthy does this well. I was tutoring a girl last week and we were reading a John Updike poem, “Ex-Basketball Player.” At the end of the second or third stanza there was a simple simile that stayed with me because of its beauty: “His hands were like wild birds.” I had to read it over and over again and just let it seep in like poetry does sometimes. Of course, my student thought I was nuts, but she agreed it was lovely.
A Non Sequitur (I tend to digress…)
I feel a bit guilty for not updating Goodreads. Does anyone else feel badly about not updating their “progress” on Goodreads? I neglect to enter the books I pick up and put down and pick up again later. Like Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. I am pretty sure this is the book that will help me move from short stories to novels. Right now, I am a short story writer. One major conflict. A few characters. Lovely details. Climax and a quick resolution. Done. Freytag’s Pyramid at work. I’m studying the short stories of the magnificent Barbara Kingsolver. She drives me nuts. Just one sentence from Homeland’s story, “Blueprints,” and I am dashed and tortured by insecurity. “As she pads around the cabin in wool socks and skirt and down vest, Lydia develops a bizarre fantasy that they are part of some severe religious order gone into mourning, observing the silence of monks.” One sentence.
–excuse me–need to switch laundry to dryer. Life. And more life. I had to make the bed. The bathroom and shower needed attention. Which begs the question: how does something you jump in to get clean, get so dirty? If I were a gardener or a farmer or painter, I could see how there might be some significant dirt in the shower. But I am not. I am a tutor. A former public high school English teacher. But I think I would like to be a farmer except for the non-stop work. Sometimes the dream is infinitely more appealing than the reality. My father grew up on a farm. I have heard stories all my life. It is a really hard, dirty, hot job. So maybe raising alpacas in the foothills of the Rockies? How come the Pioneer Woman ( http://thepioneerwoman.com) makes it look so easy? Drat her and her French Silk Pie.
I digress again…the dryer is dinging so time to unload…
I had to speak to the dryer. When it starts dinging to tell me the clothes are dry and ready to be retrieved and folded, I tell it that “I am coming…I hear you…” as if to placate the machine so it won’t spew lint everywhere if I don’t respond to the dinging! My dryer is a dictator. Or Dr. Pavlov and I am the drooling, salivating beast.
Meditation Notes: now to the eternal stuff
I choose mornings for Bible reading since I do not have to be at the tutoring center until 9. I can start at 6-ish with my coffee and relax a bit. On my door desk (see previous blogs) I have a journal, my NIV Bible, the Phillip’s translation of the New Testament, the ESV Bible, my very worn copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers translated into modern language by James Reimann. (This devotional guide is marked-up from years of revelations. Again and again, it pushes me to scripture.) I treat my journal like it is a conversation with God and I begin with prayer requests. I get pretty intense and focused on these. That’s all I’ll say. My Abba knows.
I move on to Chambers and see what he says for the day. Today’s devotional was based on Luke 9:57. The cost of following Jesus. No excuses. My notes say “I must be solely guided by my relationship with Christ.” And “My first loyalty is to Jesus.”
Then on to Matthew. I’ve been reading through Matthew as a study, looking at his voice as a writer, what he did differently than Mark, Luke and John. How the Holy Spirit used Matthew’s perspective as a former tax collector to present the life and words and works of his Rabbi and savior. I have also been examining just the words of Jesus–not out of context–but what he is saying in his parables. It has taken me months and months to reach Matthew 21, but it has changed me. Don’t get me wrong here…I’m still the flawed, hyper-sensitive, somewhat agoraphobic, introspective, sometimes gloomy 55-year-old woman I’ve always been, but I’ve learned some things. I’m still learning. I figure it will take a lifetime to learn His Word.
I type little “meditation notes” from my readings pretty often–specially if something hits me right in the gut and I want to ignore it and run away to my safe and selfish little cave. They help me remember what God taught me. Here’s one from this week. It started with a verse study that led to commentary on another verse in the ESV Bible. Clear as mud, right?
“From Matthew 20:16 commentary from ESV Bible”
A disciple of Jesus should not measure her worth by comparing it with the accomplishments of others, but should focus on serving from a heart of gratitude in response to God’s grace. (I added “her” because I get tired of “him”)
Really spoke to me and continues to. If you have a meditation note you’d like to share, please do. Now it’s time for my mid-morning snack. I can have raw nuts. I’d rather have ginger snaps. Life is hard; God is good (and so are ginger snaps!)
John Updike, “Ex-Basketball Player” from Collected Poems 1953-1993. Copyright © 1993 by John Updike. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Source: Collected Poems 1953-1993 (Alfred A. Knopf, 1993)