Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day 3: The Gratefulness Project

So it turns out that the church I've been going to since I moved home is really into the rodeo. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo started last weekend, so this Sunday was deemed "Rodeo Sunday." There was a petting zoo set up, roping demonstrations, cowboys and their horses--all sorts of rodeo themed fun. Oh, and all the music was country. The church has a very good worship band, but I looked upon this morning's prepared set with a dubious stare. However, I was proved wrong. It was so much fun! I mean, I wouldn't like for every song on every Sunday to be all twangy and two-steppy, but it was a good time for one day. It is undeniable that good country and bluegrass music has a certain joy and unimpaired spirit to it that can be infectious.

Therefore, I am grateful for the gift of music. I know that God can reach us in countless ways, and he certainly doesn't need music, but I think he realizes that some of us do need it. There are times that music can take me to a place that words cannot.

I am reminded that I could not enjoy the gift of music without my sense of hearing, so I am all the more grateful that I have ears that work. Without them, I could not hear the violin swell or the banjo wail. I could not hear the sound of my mom's voice or falling rain. It is a true gift to be able to hear.

On a completely separate note, the pastor said something at church today that stuck out to me: "When we're praying for something that will take God's place, his answer will always be no." Wow. Harsh. But true. I think... but then, I'm reminded of Israel crying out for a king, and God's (slow and begrudging) concession. What does that mean? I haven't thought out all of the implications of that statement, whether it is true when weighed against the Bible, and so on, but I found it to be very much worth taking note of.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Day 2: The Gratefulness Project

I am so thankful for Saturdays. And sunshine. And temperatures in the high 60s. What a beautiful day it was today! Now that I am subbing a lot more often and no longer work at American Eagle, I have Saturdays off and I don't have to feel bad about it. In fact, it feels great to have a Saturday off when I don't feel 1.) guilty that I'm not working or 2.) obligated to do some form of homework. I just slept in a bit, spent some time outside, enjoyed cooking dinner, and watched The Godfather: Part 2 with my dad. And it was a beautiful day. Thank you, God, for Saturdays.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 1: The Gratefulness Project

I am grateful for the ability to read. I spent a lot of time reading Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw today, and it has been opening my eyes (and my heart) to many things about Jesus and the Gospel. It occurred to me that I would not be able to realize such things--at least not without God intervening in some other way, but that's for a different discussion--without the ability to read. Then I thought about the myriad of opportunities that I would not have if were not able to read. Wow. The implications are sobering.

Therefore, I am also grateful for teachers and my parents. Without them, I would not have the education I've had, and I would not have the same opportunities.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

21 Days of Gratitude: The Gratefulness Project

It happens so quickly. One little thing doesn't go "my way," and I forget that I have so much to be grateful for. To cut myself some slack, there are times that the thing isn't quite so little, but that still does not change the fact that I have much more to be grateful for than I do to be bitter about.

We talked about this a bit in my small group tonight. I tend to expect God to give me good things when I've been "good"; I feel that I deserve them. However, when I've been "bad," I don't ask for God to give me bad things, even though I deserve them. Instead, God has provided an alternative known as grace. He extends grace and mercy whether I'm "good" or "bad," never giving me what I deserve, only his unconditional love. That is so much better than always getting what I deserve (or think I deserve).

Lately, I've been thinking that I deserve a lot of things. And when I don't get them, I am bitter about it. One thing leads to another, and before I know it, I'm not grateful for anything anymore. ICK!!

So I'm going to keep a gratitude journal, and I'm going to keep it here on my blog for you to read. This is partially to keep me accountable. They say it takes at least 21 consistent days to change a habit, so for at least 21 consistent days, I'm going to make a very conscious effort to be grateful. The hope is that this will lead to a way of grateful thinking and behaving that is second nature.

With that, I invite you to read for the next 3 weeks about the things that I am grateful for!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finding the Center

I've been trying to find an open studio where I can keep up my practice in pottery, and I've been ruminating over the whole process of "throwing" quite a bit lately, and over all of the similarities the it bears to my walk with God. By the way, I'm well aware of how often this comparison is made--I mean, we find it in the Bible itself! But oh well, I wanted to share my experience with the metaphor.

Last year I took a ceramics class at ACU. I should have taken it pass/fail--my mistake--but still, it was one of the classes that I most enjoyed adding to my transcript, despite the "B." We started out with handbuilding, rolling slabs, coiling little pots. That was all nice and very quaint, but I was anxious to graduate to the potter's wheel.

Finally, the day came, and it was spoiled almost immediately. I was terrible at it! The first step in the process is to literally throw your ball of clay onto the wheel, aiming for the center, hoping it will find its way there and stick itself good. I found myself blindly wielding my clay, afraid to watch lest my hand-eye coordination be proven any worse than it already was. After getting my first decently-centered-and-stuck piece of clay, I proceeded to center the clay. This is the part where the potter actually begins to spin the wheel and work with the clay, trying to form a nice dome of perfectly centered clay that is ready to move on to the next stage.

Centering is considered the most important step in this process, as well as the most difficult by many. It requires (especially for the beginner) a good deal of patience and strength. You will often discover if you stuck your clay well enough upon the first rotation of the wheel. If it has not adhered to the wheel adequately, it will be spun right off. This not-so-phenomal phenomena elicited many a "Son of a . . . !!" from me over the course of that semester. But once it has proven itself stuck, the potter begins by pressing in on the clay from opposite directions. I usually began with the heels of my palms, and as the clay began to soften and press itself inward, I would allow more of my hands to wrap around it. The potter then applies enough pressure to both sides to force the clay upwards, allowing it form a conical structure. Next, the potter uses the bottom of a fist to apply pressure on the top of the cone, while the other hand applies some pressure to the side of the cone, pushing the clay back down, allowing the hands to once again encircle it in order to form a dome.

The point of this step is the get the clay ready to be stretched and to find the perfect rotational center from which to form the vessel. During this step, the potter's hands are constantly on the clay, hardly leaving but to retrieve some moisture, some nourishment, if you will, to keep it from becoming too dry. Its hard on the clay, and often times, frustrating. When watching a demonstration, it is the most boring part to watch, and when it is performed by a very experienced potter, it can go by pretty quickly. But that does not make it unimportant. Without a well-centered piece of clay, the vessel will not succeed. The rotational pull will be too much for the clay to sustain as the potter tries to stretch it and mold it into the shape he has planned for it. Finding the center makes all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A general wondering

I was just fixing to go to bed, thinking, "What will I do tomorrow?" Unless I get called in to substitute, which seems to be highly unlikely, I won't have any pressing plans. I started thinking about the different activities I could fill my day with, and it surprised me how few of them are things that bring me true joy. So I was wondering, why is it so easy to fall into a routine that is not fulfilling and life giving?

Satan is a crafty one.

But the victory belongs to the Lord.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I need a routine. Without regular working and/or school hours to force my life into a routine, I'm floundering around, starting a project here, reading a page or two there, without really getting much of anything done. Pray that I get a job in the teaching field soon. Please. The district that I live in is not hiring teachers or substitutes. Neither is the district next door. How can this be??? I was counting on at least getting on as a substitute in order to make it through until districts start hiring for next school year. I am feeling pretty downtrodden. I applied with the Sylvan Learning centers that are hiring around the Houston area today. We shall see.

I decided to assign myself an essay. I've been thinking about my summer in New York a lot lately, so that is, naturally, what I'm going to right about. It will be nonfiction, clearly, but I think I can say with some degree of certainty that there will be slightly fictitious embellishments. Anyhow, I wrote a couple of "introductory" paragraphs a little while ago, so I'm just going to post them here for you all to read and let me know what you think. Do you like where it seems to be heading? If I were going to expand on anything I've already written, what would it be? What would you change? Etc. The title is a working title, one that I borrowed from a much shorter essay about NYC that I wrote in a nonfiction workshop. But I think I'll keep it.

Southern Fiddle

To begin is the most difficult task. After all, when something (or some place, in my case) means as much to you as the city of New York means to me, where do you begin to tell the story? And how do you even decide what the story is about? It was one summer, and it is the one summer that feels like the only summer there ever was.

I am positive that were I to return today, the lenses would be lifted and none of the buildings, subway cars, or sidewalks would look the same. But still, its just like when people speak of the great loves of their lives—they never recall the bad times, that time you screamed at each other all night over (initially) the credit bill, his jugular throbbing and threatening to explode all over the newly-installed kitchen tile, you making a show of putting together an overnight bag, because you were going to spend the night at your sister’s, goddamn it, if he couldn’t talk about this like a reasonable adult. We never remember stuff like that. This story will not remember stuff like that, because this story, my friend, is a love story.