Bird Food

In my very first blog post, I talked about how thoughts remind me of birds–some fly through, others stay around for a while. Some persistent, annoying little ones stay around for no apparently good reason. However, for the most part, the ones that stay are the ones that are fed.

If I feed the stupid birds–like the Windex commercial birds that are always flying into windows–those are the ones that will stick around. I think I’d rather not. I think I’d like a mind that hosts beautiful birds–ones that are colorful rather than dull, ones that sing sweet songs rather than squawking, ones that don’t drop you-know-what all over windshields. I want to entertain the birds that make my brain a place of beauty, wonder, and richness.

So what shall I feed them? What do they crave? I’ve pondered this, and I have some bait I’m going to throw out this summer. We’ll see what it attracts, but I have high hopes that my mind will look less like a vulture-infested dessert, and more like a botanical garden–a haven of beauty and purity.

All that is an introduction to this: My summer reading list (created with the help of canva–the website most likely to distract me from reading this summer). Take a peek. Tell me what you think–too adventurous, too mild, too lopsided? What’s on your summer list?

Home

Homing pigeons, home for the holidays, home sweet home, Home Depot, nursing home, homestead, mobile home, homeless, homeslice, homework, home run, homing device. [bonus points if you think of any good ones I missed.]

Home [hōm]: The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

“A place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.”

(Oxford Dictionary)

I’m loving being home–the first kind, where most of my family lives.  It was a long (but good) semester, and it’s going to be a long (but good) summer traveling on a singing team with my college.  I have three weeks to be at my first home.  Two of them are over–a week from right now, I’ll be gone again.  I’m so grateful for these days–time with precious siblings, talks with Mom and Dad, being at my home church again, baking and washing dishes and ironing and doing homey things.  Being at this home is restorative, relaxing, and enjoyable.  These are the people I belong to and with.

However, even in this time I’ve been home, I’ve been discovering the second kind of home more and more.  The place I flourish.  It, too, is a place of belonging.  A place of restoration.  It involves being with the people–rather, person–whom I belong to.  Same quality time, same deep conversations.  But it’s my portable home.  He’s my portable home.

Home is where I truly belong–my real home, my lasting home, is heaven.  But home is also whom I truly belong with.  Every day I am more and more aware of how much I belong to and with Jesus.  His presence completes my need for belonging; conversation with him restores me.  I love him.

It’s simple logic, really:

Jesus is the one I really belong with.

Where the one I belong with is is home to me.

Jesus is everywhere–he never leaves me.

I have home everywhere. 

So yeah, I’m traveling this summer.  Every night I’ll have a new home.  The bus will be home on the road.  I’ll be away from home–but not really.  The peace and restoration that comes from being home can be mine every day, because Jesus is mine every day.  I can’t wait until he takes me to my true home.  And until then, I’ll love every day of being home with him–wherever that may be.

Things I Don’t Understand about Bible College

 

I have some thoughts about college.  Bible college.  My Bible college.  If you’re on of my fellow classmates, hey!  How’s break?  Evidently pretty lame since you’re reading my blog.  Do you like how I just insulted you AND me there?  Clever, aye?  Well, that will be pretty much the rest of this post–stamping on my own feet, and, if you’re anywhere close to me, you might be stamped upon as well.

These are three things I hate about what I’ve seen of college and why.

1. Students who are at college solely for the degree 

We all know this guy.  He wouldn’t say that he’s just in it for the degree (actually, maybe he would…), but it’s pretty clear if you really look at his actions.  He doesn’t study all semester, then crams to get good grades on the exam.  He fluffs up all of his papers to meet the page limit.  He works on other assignments in class instead of listening to the instructor.  WAIT WAIT WAIT.  That’s me.  But that’s not me at all.  Yeah, I do a little fluffing/cramming, but that doesn’t mean I’m just here for the certificate.  I just… don’t always care about learning.  Which is exactly the same thing.

This would be a heinous enough crime if I were at a secular school.  But at a Bible college?  Training for ministry?  If I’m not learning, what am I paying for?  A piece of paper to go on my wall that says I’m qualified to help you with your spiritual problems/teach your children/preach the Word of God to you/praise God through music/spread the Gospel throughout the world.  This is a little more weighty than fudging my way through a business degree.  Don’t fluff papers.  The teachers assigned them so that you could learn more about ministry.  Unless your teachers are…

2.   Teachers who don’t even know what they want their students to learn

Seriously.  Why?  Why be a teacher if you don’t have a passion for your subject, a passion for passing it on to the next generation, a passion for them to really learn and live?  And if you have that passion, why not express it in your lesson plans and assignments?  I value so much teachers who are so burdened for their students to understand how the Bible affects their lives that they assign hard projects, not just for the sake of hardness, but to cause them to grapple with the deep questions.  They expect students to learn and remember information for tests, because they know what they want students to learn and they expend their teaching energies on those important things.  These are the super teachers, who live and breath history, theology, communication, whatever their field of study; who have expectations and communicate them.  Unfortunately, when they expect hard, important things, the students give way to…

3.  Constant complaining about homework

I pay a lot of money to go to school.  My parents pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  The government pays a lot of money for me to go to school.  Anonymous donors pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  Extended family members pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  My school pays a lot of money for me to go to school.

All those people–myself included–do not invest all those resources in me so that I could sit at school and complain about how much I hate it.  That’s just plain stupid–you whine about how you don’t like school and you whine about how much it costs.  Newsflash: Choose a different school.  Oh, you do like it?  Then stop whining.  All that money, all this time, is going for you to learn.  What you’re learning depends upon your college and program, but it was evidently something you decided to pursue as a course of study and wanted to learn.  [If you didn’t, maybe you should re-evaluate why you’re there]  Part of learning is homework, because teachers can’t do everything in class.  They try to set you on the right track to learn the rest by yourself.  So do it, and stop whining about how much you hate reading/writing/projects/review.  It’s part of the learning process–learn to love it, force yourself to make it your thing.

 

 

One of my teachers called this The Great Swindle, or some such title: college is the only institution where the supplier and the consumer work together to cheat the consumer.  If such must be true of college as an institution, may it not be said of those seeking to train Christians to enter the ministry.  If it is true that the world genuinely needs what we have to offer–the Bible–then we must earnestly pursue that knowledge of the Bible, of the world, of service.  We must not rejoice over canceled class periods.  We must not thrive on open book tests.  We must not give any less than our greatest efforts in all of our work.  May our desire for knowledge exceed our desire for the easy route.

 

 

Life is weird

[Disclaimer: this is essentially an online journal post.  I hope you find yourself in some of the things I say, but this is really the sort of thing I should confine to an old notebook somewhere and not post on the eternal web.  If you get to the end and say, “Ruth.  That was super boring and I don’t care about your weird feelings,” know that you’ve been warned.]

Life is weird.  You may have already known that.  People are weird, relationships are weird, jobs are weird, college is weird, fun times are weird.  But the weirdest thing of all the weird things is that nothing is weird–I only perceive it as weird.  This is life.  There’s only one of them.  So everything is normal.  Life is normal.  Somehow, even though this is my first, and only, time through life, it still seems weird to me.  Which is weird in itself, because this being my first time through, I shouldn’t really have preconceptions to judge life by–but I do, and when life doesn’t match my preconceptions, I call it weird.  But it’s not.  It’s actually normal.

I said jobs and college and other things are weird.  And I truly think they are.  Pretty much nothing I have encountered in my life so far is like I had played out that it would be in my head.  But the weirdest thing in life to me is me.  I’m kind of complicated.  Maybe you are too.  I’m not really what I expected me to be.  I thought that life should be pretty standard, pretty normal–that I should be standard and normal.  But I’m not, and it’s weird.

It’s weird to me that I often find washing dishes more fun than hanging out with people.  People can talk, crack jokes, do fun things, provide interaction.  Dishes only talk in Beauty and the Beast, and if they crack, it’s not usually a good thing, but for some reason I find their company soothing.  I need people, but I want to do dishes.  I wish that wanted people and needed to do dishes.

It’s weird to me that rather than familiarity breeding contempt, it actually breeds love.  Over and over, with people, tasks, food, colors…  I love to vacuum the entire library where I work.  There isn’t anything much more relaxing and mind-clearing for me than to spend an hour vacuuming.  A year ago, I tolerated it.  Now it’s my down time.  This has happened more times than I can tell. Why can I change what I like and don’t like?  I’m a fluid stream, but I thought I was a rock.  I was wrong.

It’s weird to me that I’m never really ready for anything in life.  Sometimes I think I am, then I jump into something to realize I have no clue what’s going on.  And when I realize I’m not ready is actually when I’m most ready, because somehow acknowledging my unreadiness makes me more ready.  Tenacity, not confidence, is my foundation for the future.  Some foundation.

It’s weird to me that my mind and my heart still can’t get along.  You’d think that after 20 years of living together, they would put up with each other.  Bickering children at least pretend in front of their mom to like each other.  My conflicting parts don’t even make a show of it.  Knowledge and feelings rarely align.

In other words, it’s weird to me that I’m an introvert.  But only sometimes.

It’s weird to me that trite sayings don’t govern my personality.

It’s weird to me that I can’t prepare for things that there are no way to prepare for.

It’s weird to me that I’m a complex emotional, physical, spiritual creature.

Pretty much, I’m weird.  It really has nothing to do with life at all.  Life is a complex creation of God; I am a complex creation of God.  Maybe instead of trying so hard to understand, I should step back and allow my breath to be taken away by what he’s making and take comfort in knowing that he understands me when I don’t.

 

 

the wasteland of my mind

Dry. Parched. Empty.

I admit, having a job has sapped me of energy, motivation, creative juices.  Some nights I get home and don’t even feel like thinking.

The strange thing is this–I’m trying.  I’m still reading.  Right now it’s Blame it on the Brain? by Ed Welch and Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels, and last Saturday, for fun, “The Courtship of Miles Standish” by Henry Wadsworth Longellow, my favorite poet.  It’s always the perfect binge read, because it’s a short story, so it only has 8 (or 7?) short staves; it’s non-rhyming poetry, so it’s literately beautiful, but flowy rather than purely rhythmic; and it has the perfect amount of plot, romance, and historic background for my sentimental heart.  Anyhow, I digress.

I’m trying.  I’m studying [although not as much as I should…].  Biology–gotta CLEP this thing!–and New Testament Greek.  I have concepts to digest, information to analyze and synthesize, charts and lists and definitions to review.  It’s not necessarily my first pick; my hopes for study this summer was what I like to call ‘the psychology of music,’ or how body, brain, and spirit are involved in responding to and producing music.  Still, I like science, especially biology.  I like pseudopods and autotrophs and different cardiovascular systems.  I enjoy vocabulary and word morphology and verb conjugations.

I’m trying.  I have the most consistent spiritual discipline I’ve had in a long time, as far as Bible reading and memorization and prayer are concerned, and I feel close to God in those times I share with him.

But I’m pouring a cup of water onto the Sahara.

I’m reading the thoughts of others, but unable to generate my own.

I’m adding the information to my mental stew, but like oil and water, every time I try to ‘stir it in,’ to integrate it with what’s already there, it won’t mix.  It floats back to the surface.

I’m drawing near to God, and I have a greater awareness of his presence in my life (which I wrote about in a previous post).  His presence is there, but the spiritual insight isn’t.  The fresh observations in the Scriptures, new discoveries about God’s character, they’re missing somehow.

What’s the cause?  Maybe it’s the physical tiredness.  Maybe the dreary weather.  Maybe because it’s mid-June already, and I’m a little down that my summer at home’s already almost half over.  And let’s be honest, my frequent bursts of inactivity (there’s a nice contradictory statement for you…) probably don’t help my brain’s state, which is currently the mental equivalent of a sloth.

Whatever it is, I’m tired of it.  I want to have a thought again, one that stays.  My showers for the past week have been peppered with tantalizing little birds that quickly flit away.  Somewhere between shampoo and conditioner they leave me.

Whatever this midsummer’s meh is that’s come over my thinking, I’m not sure where it came from or if it’s leaving any time soon.  I don’t know why the thoughts go in and won’t come out. But I know for certain that the stupor won’t leave by me resigning myself to it and giving up.

All I can do is keep reading.  Keep studying.  Keep seeking.  Keep trying.

Because I believe–“Ask, and it will be given to you.  Seek, and you will find.  Knock, and the door will be opened to you,” (Matthew 7:7).  I definitely believe Jesus’ words are a spiritual promise, but I think they’re also a general principle for all of life. It’s one of God’s spiritual principles that he put into physics, too.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Every thought put in results in a thought put out.  I know this synthesis of Scripture, science, and what I’d like to believe about how my brain operates isn’t perfect–I’m still working on it, but, as I might have mentioned, it’s been pretty dry around here lately.

Maybe you’re in the brain-desert too.  Or maybe you’re in a veritable greenhouse, exotic and lush.  I guess we’ll just keep on.  Keep watering the ground–

eventually something will grow.

The sobriety of death

So much death.  I hope you’ll take the time to watch this video–honestly, what would you be doing with those 18 minutes otherwise?  Scrolling news feed?  Don’t do that.  Watch this.  It’s sobering.  It’s thought-provoking.  And I can’t pin-point exactly all the thoughts it’s stirring up in me yet, but I know one.

Death is reality.  These people really died.  Reality is the sphere in which we live–I am only separated from this horrific condensing of death–so many deaths which should not have happened for 60, 70 years–by time and space, and not terribly much of it.

So what?  What sentiments should that thought inspire?  Sobriety [I love this word, by the way.  That’s a post for another day, but I love the picture of thinking in reality and not being ‘drunk’ on alcohol, drugs, fame, delusions…].  It was real, and it was ugly.  Thankfulness.  It could have been me, but it wasn’t.  Sympathy.   There are so many who do undergo the pain, the heartache that I’ve been sheltered from–what’s happening in Congo, the Middle-East, and Syria are the same ugliness, just smaller in scale.  For that matter, what’s happening down the street may be the same ugliness, just smaller yet.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings.  Watch the video.

the funny little bird who is to blame

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Ruth.

Ruth had a brain, as most humans do, and through this little brain passed little birds called ‘thoughts.’  Most of her thoughts were ordinary and boring and quite unoriginal, rather like plain little robins and sparrows: “I should clean my room.”  Others were slightly more colorful–blue jay and cardinal thoughts.  “I could get a cactus and name him Mr. Smith.” Sometimes–and a lot more times than Ruth would care to admit–the thought birds were the very kind of birds that were the origin of the phrase ‘bird brain;’ you know, the kind on the Windex commercial that fly into windows even though they can see someone washing it.  Thoughts like, “Trees.  They’re green.  Sometimes.”  I’m kidding about the last one–she wasn’t quite THAT bad.  But the thoughts were definitely much stupider than they should have been.

Anyhow, some of these birds perched in her brain and became reality.  For example, the cactus thought.  I’m sorry to relate to you that Mr. Smith passed on several years ago due to root rot.  Evidently, the ‘do not over water cactus’ thought didn’t make it to Ruth’s brain.  There were many thoughts like this, like the “I should clean my room” thought, that tried to find a perch, but were crowded out by others.  Who can think of cleaning their room when they’re are trees–GREEN trees–across the road?  Yes, sadly, the dumb, bird-brain thoughts often crowded the perch.

One day, Ruth had a very nice thought which she liked, and decided to feed it and keep it for a while.  It kept trying to fly off, but she liked it so much that she kept on trying to catch it and make it stay–and to her delight,  she finally succeeded.  This was certainly a wonderful realization for her–that she could influence which thoughts stayed and went.  Certainly, she could not always control what thoughts flew by her perch, but once they were there, they were on her perch and she decided which ones she wanted there.

As the years passed, she thought about home, about music, about purpose, about truth, about apathy, about yarn, about books, about flowers, about people–and she thought about writing.  Because Ruth realized that when she wrote the thoughts down, although they had been cluttered and fighting before, they suddenly smoothed their feathers and ordered themselves neatly on the perch.  These little birds that she entertained for hours while she was ironing, or mowing, or in the shower, or not paying attention during class, and which she wrote down and developed and fought over and tried to make sense of, were the very thoughts which shaped who she became, what she did, what her tastes were.

One bird flew through on numerous occasions.  This bird’s name was “why don’t you start a blog to assist you in your attempt to concrete your thoughts and beliefs and to share and discuss the afore-mentioned thoughts with other people who will introduce new thoughts and stimulate the thinking process?”  I bet you’re glad your mom didn’t name you THAT.

Well, this bird was about as obnoxiously persistent as its name [and this post, for that matter] was obnoxiously long, and one day Ruth said–“Uncle!  Enough!  I’m SICK of you dumb bird, leave.”

“If you merely act upon this thought, you know your life will be significantly improved due to the course of refinement of thinking through the exercise of rhetoric as you define and synthesize your thoughts by putting them down upon paper, or, as it were, a screen,” quoth the wordy bird. “Plus,” he added, “blogs are on computers, and computers have spellcheck.  You need spellcheck.”

Ruth sighed.  It was true, and she knew it.  Both that she needed spellcheck [speaking of the blessed creature, spellcheck doesn’t even like its own name–what’s with that?] and that she needed to continually both refine and stimulate her thinking processes.  Thus, she acted upon said thought: she started a blog.  And she didn’t really care if all her friends read it, knowing that everyone and their pet cactus named Mr. Smith has one, and that no one can possibly read all the blogs, but also hoping that a few would, and that in the future days when a thought flew through and she asked it to stay for a while, and when she finally got around to writing it down, that someone would challenge her, or see the thought in a different light, or stimulate a new thought–or perhaps maybe they would have never thought the thought that Ruth thought, and think that thought was a nice thought and think that for a little while they too might think about that thought,the thought that Ruth thought–or at least thought she thought.

That girl named Ruth, she hopes that you who read it entertain many lovely thoughts in the days to come–canaries, parakeets, bluebirds, or robins and sparrows alike, and not too many of the Windex commercial kind.