Monday, December 27, 2010

communication these days

Recently I listened to an NPR piece that was talking about communication.  These days there are so many ways to communicate (i.e. e-mail, blogs, social networks, cell phones, snail mail, etc.) that we often don't even realize that we're connecting long distance.  With the ease and access of technology, we can communicate really whenever and wherever we want.  We can carry cell phones anywhere, access our e-mail while walking down the street, or send texts all over the world.

At this point "it's so easy to communicate, there's no reason to communicate anything of interest" (Ted Widmer). I heard this and instantly thought of status updates where people feel the need to let the world know they are brushing their teeth and watching the 567th episode of Grey's Anatomy or whatever it is at the moment.  Widmer even goes on to say that as he sits on the subway he hears people's cell phone conversations that consist of 'Hello. I'm here.  I'll be home at 5:19 instead of 5:18.'  It's the most mundane stuff.  Really.

Back when America was being forged, all people had were letters to communicate over long distance and there was no guarantee your letter would make it.  People took time and made an effort to make sure that what they were communicating was quality.  This really got me thinking and led me to ask myself, am I communicating things of quality and depth?  Am I communicating things that are relevant to others?  Would I want to hear/read what I have to say?

Friday, December 17, 2010

a Christmas prayer

O Lord, may the spirit of Christmas fill our hearts this eve,
And may the prayers of the holy birth fill our prayers tonight.

In the spirit of God, may it all be for something.
In the spirit of the prophets, may our dreams become reality.
In the spirit of the angels, may the whispers of hope fill our songs.
In the spirit of Mary, may our fear turn to faith.
In the spirit of Joseph, may our doubts turn to trust.
In the spirit of the shepherds, may our call to worship come loud and true.
In the spirit of the star, may You ever guide us in our journey.
In the spirit of the magi, may our gifts for You be of value to You.
In the spirit of King Herod, may our greedy desires be fruitless efforts.
In the spirit of Jesus, may Your presence touch the earth and may our hearts be re-born.

In the spirit of that one night when light was born, may our hearts be filled with the peace and stillness of Love.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I believe in stories.  Over the past few months I've read several articles and books on the topic that have gotten me thinking a lot more about the value, meaning, power, and prevalence of stories in our everyday lives.

We are surrounded by stories.  We hear them as loved ones recount their day, a friend tells you about an experience from their past, gossip about your co-worker catches your ear, a child gets a bed time story, through a pastor's sermon, watching movies and TV, reading a book, listening to music, and so on.  Much of daily interactions with people are stories and many of the things we do for leisure involve stories.  We are constantly telling stories and listening to them.

Stories hold great power over us.  As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and the stories we consume define us in a way that sometimes we don't even fully realize.  They affect how we interpret life and give us values.  Stories of men being superior to women, of using violence, having a spiritual message, or that speak to the goodness of humanity all manifest differently within ourselves.  There are good stories, and there are bad stories.  All stories tell us and teach us something, and we need to be mindful of that. 

What kind of stories are you telling, and what kind of stories are you hearing?  Stories are everywhere.  We consume them, we tell them, and we live them. If we're not telling good stories to the people we love and manage the stories we consume, who else will?  For our others' sakes and for own sakes, we should try to tell, live, and listen to good stories. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

the pencil

A boy was watching his grandmother write a letter. At one point he asked:
‘Are you writing a story about what we’ve done? Is it a story about me?’
His grandmother stopped writing her letter and said to her grandson:
I am writing about you, actually, but more important than the words is the pencil I’m using. I hope you will be like this pencil when you grow up.’

Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn’t seem very special.
‘But it’s just like any other pencil I’ve ever seen!’

‘That depends on how you look at things. It has five qualities which, if you manage to hang on them, will make you a person who is always at peace with the world.’

‘First quality: you are capable of great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding your steps. We call that hand God, and He always guides us according to His will.’
‘Second quality: now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpener. That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, he’s much sharper. So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person.
‘Third quality: the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps to keep us on the road to justice.’
‘Fourth quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.’
‘Finally, the pencil’s fifth quality: it always leaves a mark. in just the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in your every action’

source: “Like the Flowing River” by Paulo Coelho

Monday, December 6, 2010


In a previous post, I wrote a little bit about Mary Pipher's book, Writing to Change the World, and her thoughts on wisdom.  Another issue that she writes about that really got me thinking is the de-humanization of others and the separation of ourselves from others.  We see other people as simply a means to an end.  She gives the example of seeing a bank teller as a way to get money, not a human being.  Or we call people "illegal aliens" when no one can really be illegal and no one can really be an alien.  It's easier to treat someone poorly if you think of them as an "illegal alien" rather than another human being.
"Distance negates responsibility." -Guy Davenport
Without thinking we turn other people into objects daily.  We forget to put ourselves in their shoes and take note of the humanity we share.  The world becomes full of objects that affect us in some way as we are the center of the universe.  We have trouble looking beyond ourselves.

How can we keep from doing that all the time?  I think when we take the time to truly sit with ourselves, we discover our own humanity.  By discovering our humanity, we find what links us to everyone else.  But at the same time our culture so systematically de-humanizes people that it can be overwhelming to try to cope.  The least we can do is start with ourselves.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

percolating thoughts (#5)

['Percolating thoughts' is an on-going collection of quotes I have found and gained wisdom from.  These are the ones that I've recently discovered and that I'm currently sitting with and reflecting on...]

"If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher.  I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and will correct them in myself."

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."

"What you believe has more power that what you dream or wish or hope for.  You become what you believe."

"Some people mistakenly believe that their loneliness is a product of another person's absence."

"The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out."
-Proverbs 20:5