Thursday, October 28, 2010

3-preachers in on a Monday-afternoon

If you, like me, grew up spending several days a week in church services, you are undoubtedly familiar with a few ways to pass the time when things get...less than...engaging. No, I'm not accusing you of not paying attention, but you know there was a sermon or two that found only fallow imagination instead of fertile ground.  Especially when you're a kid.  I mean, after 3 regular services a week, revival, camp meeting, youth choir trips, etc.  I'm just saying, it happens.  Especially when you're as focus-challenged as I am.

You've got your standard pass-times.  Talking to your friends or passing notes is guaranteed to get you grounded or worse.  Counting ceiling tiles is always an option, but once you passed fourth grade you could just multiply the length by the width and that was a bust.  Plus, if you've counted them once, it's pointless. With the right preacher, you can count verbal fillers ("uh", "uhuh", etc.)  You could count grammatical errors (personal favorites are misuse of "...and I", non-words like "irregardless" and for extra credit you can play bingo), but that tends to make one irritable.  When you're coming off of 2-week revival, and you find yourself in a "fellowship meeting" three preachers in on a Monday (after a marathon Sunday), when your ADHD has reached a fever pitch and every nerve ending in your body screams for tactile response, counting games just aren't going to cut it.  We all know that "fellowship meeting" is code-speak for "preacher preach-off with casseroles afterwards".  You've got to have something to help pull you through without incurring parental wrath.

Now, I'm not claiming divine inspiration.  I'll let you judge for yourself, but I submit for your consideration the homilytype (all rights reserved).  While in grade school, learning the basics of word processing as well as how to type, I arrived at the homilytype--an answer for my need to disengage my restless mind and stimulus-deprived fingers.  The basic idea is simple enough: type everything the preacher says on an imaginary (QWERTY) keyboard. Obviously, it's tough to type that fast; so, there's a built in challenge to the game, but there are also necessarily rules so your OCD doesn't kill you.  I mean, what if you make a typing mistake?  You can't just leave it hanging in mid air; nor can you really mouse or otherwise navigate to the error to correct it.  So, rule 1 is, you can hit (imaginary) delete a discrete number of times (say 4), but you may not skip (no arrow keys). This requires that you mentally keep your place.  Or for really bad errors (say you lost track of whether or not you hit a 'r' or a 't' or how far back the mistake was), you can hold (imaginary) delete down for 2 seconds, and homilytype deletes the entire under-construction sentence (line).  Voila!  Jack up the sentence too bad, and you just hold down (imaginary) delete.  Rule 2 is, you can only correct a single sentence.  (I found it got too hard to keep track of multiple sentences, and if I tried I'd lose synch with the preacher.)  In such a manner you can arrive at a pretty decent imaginary transcript by the end.

I've heard thousands of sermons--many of them good, and I'm thankful for having had the opportunity to learn under some great ministers.  But I must confess that there were more than a few times that I had to resort to the homilytype just to keep from getting grounded for the remainder of puberty.  It served me well over those years.  How did you deal?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

observing beauty

As the bus rounded the interstate off-ramp, my eye caught a glimpse of something glorious.  Waiting for the bus to finish it's last few turns, I stepped onto the sidewalk and turned to see the most gorgeous rainbow I'd seen in years.  It stretched thousands of feet in the air, a perfect semi-circle in which every color from red to violet was visible.  I stood mesmerized. I stood alone. All the other passengers hurried past, never stopping to take in something of true beauty.  As the author of Genesis described it, the very bow of God (Genesis 9:13). Imagine that. My bus co-riders had frazzled through their day at work, and they now frazzled through their evening and past the marvelous.

Why didn't they stop? Among all the ugliness of the world, there are still truly beautiful things to be seen. Or perhaps beautiful truth to be seen. Refreshing and enlivening truth. Millions travel to see the grand canyon without ever stopping to let its beauty touch them. Billions walk through the everyday oblivious to nature, and art, and life that should point us to something bigger than ourselves. We consume it rather than savor it.  If my new-found photography hobby has had no other benefit, my efforts have opened my eyes to the wonder all around. Besides the intentional focus required for photography, the practical difficulties of capturing something's essence--in low light, for example, or maybe as the focal point in the moment, perhaps a beautiful little girl without a goat's rear-end in the frame--cause me to be amazed (Psalm 139:14) by the gift of sight itself. My eyes captures things at sensitivity and focal lengths that shame the most expensive of cameras. And I waste (Psalm 119:37) them.

Maybe it's the frequency with which we get to observe these things that callouses our souls to their impact. The word "natural" becomes synonymous with "common" when everyday nature communicates the infinite and eternal (Romans 1:20). That's a tragic loss for which we are culpable. Maybe it's our idolatry to novelty. That's a lousy trade. Perhaps it's our refusal to see the truth staring us in the face that deadens our hearts. I can imagine God surveying the entirety of creation and exulting "it is good". I can't imagine him seeing the universe he designed to point us to him with indifference as we do.

saving money on junk food

even the title seems contradictory. Why would you try to “save” on something that is in itself “waste”. Maybe it should be “comfort good”. Whatever. The point is that budget junk food is not good. If junk food evolved over time, and the starting point was what the store brands now offer up as cheese nips and fritos, I don’t see how they made it. Nasty. Budget cheerios have improved over the last 20 years; so, maybe there’s hope, but until then, the unsatisfying taste a) makes me more irritated about saving money and b) helps me save money because it just isn’t worth it.