Loving One Another

Posts tagged ‘writing’

From the Pastor’s Study


My former pastor, Brent Mitchell, is a wordsmith. He writes as well as he speaks – and he speaks with eloquence and conviction, love and compassion. You can hear those qualities in his written words. Below is a post of his message to his congregation that was in this month’s church newsletter. I want you, my blog readers (most of whom also are writers) to have the opportunity to read it. I asked him for permission to post it. He agreed. Here it is:

VOLUME 42 NO. 8 2013,  THE BEACON
Third Presbyterian Church, Springfiled, Illinois

From the Pastor’s Study
It seems to me that all writers have a voice. With rare exceptions I have never heard them speak. Many of the authors I read have died before I could get to them, but I know what they sound like. And I would bet you do, too. Of course we don’t hear their vocal timber and tonal qualities, but they each have a voice and the voice we hear as we turn page after silent page is as distinct and unique to each author as are their fingerprints. We hear it in the words they choose to open their books, the way they stack up phrases, the rhythm of their sentences, their stylistic preferences for using words as assault weapons or bandages, as a healing balm or more like razor wire—intent on drawing blood. And my guess is that we know whether we like their voice within the first few paragraphs.

Some authors sound instantly pompous to me. They write as though they don’t care if anybody understands them, because they love the sound of their own voice, and if writing affords them the opportunity to impress themselves, that’s all that really mattered. Some are to saccharine, some are just smart alecks who don’t impress me any more than they did in seventh grade, some are just vulgar as though they have never gotten over the thrill of being naughty or saying bad words. Some are moralizing prigs who were born to correct someone somewhere, and some are just boring because they never learned to distinguish the incidental from the pertinent and write as though there is not a difference. They want to say something in the worst possible way, and they do.

I think the type of authors I most enjoy are the ones I would like to sit down with over a long quiet dinner in a free ranging conversation till the candles burn low. Their voices are tinged with self-effacing humor, a compassion born of suffering, elegant enough to be precise, but wanting more to communicate than to impress. Sobered by their own imperfectionsthey keep their egos in check. They  admire honesty, common people and courage in all its forms. And without exception, they understand grace. They might not use that word in any paragraph, but most of what they write is a confession of their need for it, and a sustained act of advocacy in the slender hope we will receive it for ourselves and extend it to others, and thus find our humanity.

One of the authors whose voice I like is Herman Wouk. Jim Marshall put me on to him years ago. In 1952 Wouk was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his fictional World War II novel, “The Caine Mutiny.” I had seen  and loved the movie (starring a superb Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, and Robert Francis) but the book, as you might guess was even better—as per typical, much more nuanced and textured with material that told an even fuller tale. Toward the start of the book the newly commissioned Ensign Willie Keith (the chief protagonist through whom the story is told) receives a letter—a final letter—from his father who (unbeknownst to Willie) was dying of cancer. The letter is a father’s last-ditch attempt to rescue his son from a life of pampered shallowness. He writes, “Remember this, if you can— there is nothing, nothing more precious than time. You probably feel you have a measureless supply of it, but you haven’t. Wasted hours destroy your life just as surely at the beginning as at the end—only in the end it becomes more obvious. Use your time while you have it, Willie, in making something of yourself…Think of me and what I might have been, Willie, at the times in your life when you come to crossroads. For my sake, for the sake of the father who took the wrong turns, take the right ones, and carry my blessing and my justification with you.”

It is a mark of Wouk’s gift that we can read as the failed father and the shallow son. Perhaps we are both/and. The older we get we rue the wrong turns, the wasted hours. The part of us that senses the
adolescent that still walks inside us, can still catch embarrassed glimpses of our own shallowness and wonder what it will take to sober our senses and save our souls. Listen for the voice before it’s too late. It may be His.

~ Pastor Brent

To the Best of My Recollection


If you are reading this, you are likely to be a blogger. But do you also keep a journal? I do. In fact, I keep several simultaneously. One is a “Thankfulness Journal” in which I record daily something (or someone) for which (or for whom) I am most appreciative. Another is a daily scriptural reflection. I am dedicating that one – and directing it – to my oldest grandson, Mike. I find it helps to write my journals TO someone rather than just writing for the sake of getting the ideas down for some anonymous someone in the future. The third of my journals is called, “To the Best of My Recollection.” It is a 365 page spiral bound book with a question at the top of each of its 4″ x 6″ pages. The questions prompt me to recall specific events, people, and places from my childhood (or from my adult past – if a childhood memory doesn’t fit the question). I found the book at a shop close to home – and decided that now, before my memory fades to oblivion, I should take a page a day and do this. Since I didn’t start it January 1st and I’d like to finish it by Christmas, I am trying to average two or more pages per day. That’s quite do-able! I am dedicating the book to my niece. Her mom (my sis) does not fancy herself to be a “writer” and it is unlikely she will take time to record her memories in this fashion. So, I am doing it for her – – –  knowing my niece will find the stories interesting  – someday – when I am long gone and my absence might make my experiences more poignant. The questions, created by Kathleen Lashier and published by Linkages in Des Moines, IA, are serious at times, whimsical sometimes, and always thought-provoking. Starting with my birth and leading on through my youth, this memory journal is causing stories to come out of the cobwebs and be recorded for future generations. Check out some of the various journal options at www.mymemoryjournals.com

To give you a sample, the question and my answer today was: “Did you ever go on a camp out? Tell about it.”

The camp out that comes to mind the most was not in my youth. It was when my children were about three and five years old. We were hiking up from Bridal Veil Campgrounds in Yosemite to Ostrander Lake. It rained its brains out! We had to stay in our tent. But Ty (our 5 year old) talked his dad into going fishing with him. They caught several small brook trout that we fried the next morning. DeAna puked on her dad’s head as we were hiking back out the next day. He was carrying her on his shoulders because she said she didn’t feel very well – and couldn’t walk anymore. Bob just wiped it off with his hand and kept on walking. That may explain why Ty and I were walking a ways back from them! Out from the thick undergrowth and evergreens at the side of the path emerged two nude hikers. They turned and headed toward Ty and me! Keenly aware of my young son behind me, I tried to keep my eyes on the bland, smurky smile of the lead hiker. After they climbed sufficiently up the trail to be out of earshot, Ty mumbled, “Boy! it’s a good thing they had on tennis shoes!”

Ah, memories!

Limited Options


My friend, Jack Murphy, died two days ago. He was a member of the Writers of Madison County in southwest Montana. Suffering heart problems and other ailments, he had been contemplating his own death for several years. He didn’t dwell on the subject often in his writing. Usually he wrote whimsical poetry regarding such subjects as Humpty Dumpty’s tragedy or Little Miss Muffet’s victory over that dreadful spider. Now, after he left us at a much too early age, I am drawn to his shared poems and short stories. His words take on deeper, more profound meanings. I ponder his musings. I want to call him back to us and discuss his premises. He wrote of “Limited Options” and of leaving this earth as “an empty shell, no heart, no soul, no place to dwell,” to “drift away through time and space.” I had no idea in 2009 when he published his poem, Surrender, in the Madison County Writers’ Group Anthology that he really would “go” so soon. I miss him!

Surrender

It’s time to go, I hear the voice.
It’s time to go, I have no choice.

I sense a tug upon my sleeve
telling me it’s time to leave.

I am not sure I want to go.
I thought that at the time I’d know

if I was really tired of life,
the aches and pains and constant strife.

Do I have the strong resolve
or will that needed strength dissolve?

And leave me like an empty shell,
no heart, no soul, no place to dwell.

I don’t yet know if I should fight
to stick around to do what’s right

and let the natural things take place,
then drift away through time and space.

I want to bring Jack back. I want to discuss his eternal options. I can’t. He’s gone from this earth. But, I am praying that he has met his Creator and has learned that he now has the Unlimited Options of Eternity, not the “Limited Options” he anticipated in this poem. This was published in that same 2009 anthology:

I wanted to be the first to go,
make it quick, not too slow.

It does not happen, sad to say,
that life always works out that way.

But, often life does not conform,
it does not follow every norm.

Illness or accident oft is the one,
that gets the unadorned deed done.

The rules are vague, if there are rules at all,
on who will stay and who will fall.

The pain of loss is often deep
and it’s all right for you to weep.

As long as you remember, too,
the joy that they did bring to you.

The fun you had along the way,
and all the crazy games you’d play.

The loves and laughs, and serious times
that make up life and its designs.

If only we could get to choose
who exits first, who has to lose.

But, it is not our choice, you see;
it is not left to you and me.

We’ll love our lives until the end,
then ride the river around the bend.

Thus, when our final days are here
and we slip from life so dear,

We’ll drift toward that distant shore,
the lights gone, sleep now evermore.

Sleep now, dear friend, Jack Murphy. My faith wants to believe you are in the gentle, forgiving, ever-loving hands of our Savior, resting in eternal peace. I do remember “the joy you [did] bring” – and I weep with the pain of our loss. I hope to see you someday again – – – round the river’s band.

See Ya Round the River’s Bend

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