Friday, May 16, 2014

A Discourse

A Discourse

in which I speak of 
            my late Grandmother
                     cold rainy mornings
                            days long past
                                                      friends and influence

Over spring break my friend Titus and I drove around North Middlefield on a cold rainy morning looking for graves. Let me explain. It’s not something we do just for fun or because we plan to rob them. We both tend toward the macabre, so I think I should admit we enjoyed just a wee bit. But we did have a goal in mind, well mostly in Titus’ mind. Apparently some long lost John Byler was rumored to be buried in the area, and we were on a mission to find his grave so we could correctly fill out the genealogy charts. It occurred to me as I searched that I was becoming more like my father every day. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just inevitable. 
Naturally, when you walk around in a graveyard, you think profound thoughts, so that’s what I did that grey morning. Mr. Byler died in the 1830’s, so we always headed to the old sections of the graveyard when we arrived. After searching at several cemeteries, we finally found his grave—tombstone barely legible—in a forgotten corner of an Amish graveyard. Now the genealogies can go on. 
As we drove away, I questioned what my influence will be after being absent over a century and a half. John Byler was not related to me as far as I know, so naturally I don’t know anything of his story—how he lived, how he worked, who his friends were. But even my own ancestors I scarcely know anything about. What were they, and why? We imagine that nothing they did matters to us. We don’t have to state it, we live it by not thinking about them, because, we protest, we didn’t know them. 
My own Grandmother recently passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I can still remember how she used to be, but that has been years ago now, and the memory fades. I went to her funeral and it was like stepping into a different world, a world very different than the one I live in. 
My Grandmother shaped me, even if I don’t know all the ways, can never know them all. She grew up, never thinking about me. She married, had children, lived and struggled. She poured effort into broken situations and made the best of life. All the while, she had no idea she was shaping my life, well at least not until I was born. But even after that, the first thing on her mind every morning was not grandson number 21, or whichever one I was. And yet, she shaped me. 
Those who went before us left a vast sphere of influence in their wake. Why is it so hard for us to see? The influence of our ancestors permeates our being, our physical, spiritual, and mental composition. The past colors everything I do or am. My ancestors are linked to me, yet I presume to boldly face the world with what I perceive as a blank slate, an unlimited future. I live as though the past has no impact on who I am. 

The things we cannot change are not nearly as frightening as the thing we can still form—the future. We are as gods. The terrible potential of our influence should take our breath away. What will our children be? Will they remember us five generations from now. Will one of my great, great grandsons stumble across this writing, scan over it and say “Hmmm, I wonder what kind of man he was”? 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Christians and Art–Incompatible, Unrelated, or Inseparable?

Christians and Art–Incompatible, Unrelated, or Inseparable? 
I was born Amish. I still consider myself Amish in some ways. Some "art" today certainly does not deserve that label. Consider your own background and future as you read. What defines art?
       Many Anabaptist Christians frown at art. Our solid German heritage generates impatience for those who “sit around all day doing nothing” We are taught that we must be working with our hands the thing which is good in order to earn our daily bread and provide for our family; after all, he who doesn’t provide for his own is worse than an unbeliever, the Bible says clearly. And the Bible doesn’t use the word art so why should we worry about it. Maybe if we’re feeling particularly gracious we’ll allow that a little bit of it probably won’t hurt, although it certainly isn’t necessary/useful on the road to heaven. 
      Recently I’ve been struck by the amount of people who stumble through life and don’t accomplish a thing. I’m scared when I think that this could be me. 
Many of the things we do can be art. Art is anything good that takes effort and thought to create. Some art is definitely superior to other, whether in the eye of the beholder or in actuality could be argued. I don’t really care for (most) poetry, but I still think it is art. Someone else may not care for music but it is still art. It is impossible for someone to understand all art forms, there is no way a person can spend enough time with all of them.
God the creator formed people in his image. If we imagine that we can reflect the image of God by abstaining from evil, we are mistaken. We are created to create; if we fail to create, we fail to live. 
Are the things I do worthy of my time and devotion? Do they display the nature of God? 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

knowing our communications

  Do I mean what I say or what I hope others will perceive? It’s fascinating, the ways we communicate. When we speak, the words we say are automatically interpreted on several levels and may be understood even more fully by those with special insight. Even the way I didn’t capitolize my title says something. As does the fact that I used the wrong capitalize. Or was it what I intended to use? 
  A person says what he means, but there are shadings of tone and inflection that we subconsciously analyze. Sometimes we say the exact opposite of what we really mean, yet everyone understands. Sometimes we say the opposite of what we mean and don’t realize that we did, and neither do others (though a few may). I think that is how I relate to God sometimes-I ask for something when I really don’t want it with all my heart, or want something different. I might pray “your will be done” and mean, “make it look like your will is being done, but just let me _________ and don’t make me stop ______, then everyone can be happy.”  
   I’ve wondered how life would be if there were nothing to be interpreted in our interactions as humans or of man with God. Sometimes, in confused moments, I think it would be nice; but then I realize that it would be boring. We were created to explore that mystery all our lives and never fully understand. If everything were clearly laid out, what would be left? Is it even possible to have a true understanding of something that you haven’t exerted any effort to understand? It has been a long and difficult process to gain insight into some of the things that I now understand best. Drives me crazy sometimes. That’s part of it. I wrestle, I despair, persist, and eventually, I understand. 
  In my Journey to God, this process is harder because I’m logic and tangibles oriented. It is difficult for me to wrap my mind around things that can’t be seen, and sometimes, can’t even be felt. I’ve gained the realization that if the mind is all there is, then I am a desperate and despairing creature. Praise God, there is more. There is faith, the substance of things hoped for, the essence of things not seen, and by it, I can live in hope and love.  Logic tells me logic is not enough.