Of Anchors and Ships

10 10 2011

Occasionally, we might encounter the avid gossiper, who always seems to have some nasty tidbit of information about someone, and our ears are itching to hear.  Sometimes, that gossiper is clever enough to choose the right people to gossip about, and sometimes that individual is left quite lonely and wondering why no one wants to talk.  For example, a good target is some jerk whom no one likes and always seems to be stepping on other people’s toes.  A bad target is someone who gets a lot of attention, the sort of person whom everyone seems to like and everyone wants to be.  The insecure gossiper usually aims at the second target, if only because of pure envy.  While the aim may be a simple matter of bringing down a person of higher esteem, boosting one’s own rank in the process, the result is usually quite the opposite.  The gossiper is ground under a thousand heels, and the hero, the person of high esteem, is loved all the more as an undeserving victim.  The fact is simply that some people cannot effectively have their characters assassinated by certain other people, no matter how hard those people try.

Therein lies the principle of the ship and the anchor.  Both are enacting an opposite tension to the anchor line.  We might call it a battle, or a tug-of-war.  To some extent, the ship may move the anchor, but for the most part, the anchor has the advantage.  While the anchor is firmly nested into the floor of the bay, the ship is not-too-firmly nested in the water of the bay.  It’s not too hard to see why the anchor holds the greater influence.  Its place is more firmly grounded.  In any given conflict, some people are more like anchors, and some are more like ships.  Take, for instance, a certain co-worker of mine, who happens to be great friends with my boss’ boss.  I hardly ever talk to that boss, but he has been to her house, to parties and a funeral with her.  He’s not just an anchor.  The man is a cleat on the dock.  Let’s just take a hypothetical situation, which, thankfully, has never happened.  Let’s say that boss calls me into her office and asks me what I think of my coworker, who happens, I might add, to be very new to our group.  I’ll admit that I can’t stand the fellow.  He’s an irascible fool.  I’ll admit it, I say, to anyone but her.  She has already made up her mind about him.  Anything I say can and will be used against me.  Anything I say will be used by the listener to shape her opinion of me, and it will have absolutely no effect upon her opinion of my coworker.  The effect is guaranteed.

Now, a wise audience can always discern truth from lies, and a wise audience could take the word of a stranger or even an enemy against that of an ally, if the evidence and reasoning demanded it.  Even a wise audience would still be tempted toward bias, and I’m still unconvinced that I’ve met more than a handful of wise people in my entire life.  No matter how true or virtuous or obvious my campaign, my standing with my audience versus my opponent will, more often than not, determine whether my argument gets my opponent trounced, or whether that argument gets me lynched.

It’s not just a matter of opposing people, either.  Sometimes it’s a matter of opposing ideas.  For example, in this day and age the idea of creationism is weak and Darwinism so widely accepted, that, more often than not, any randomly selected person or group of people will disregard anything further that I have to say if I suggest that the popular one is a fable and the unpopular one is truth.  It’s a nepotism of ideas.  Never mind that Darwinism really is a glorified Aesop’s fable.  If I promote what you’ve already embraced, then you will think highly of me, and if I denounce what you love, then you will disregard anything else I say.  If the roles were reversed, say, and I were the anchor and the ideology the ship, then I could sway your opinion on the ideology.  That would require you to already hold me in high esteem and have a weaker, less firmly formed, opinion on the ideology.  What are the odds of that?  Most people reading this are going to be strangers to me.  The others won’t even realize they know me.  The effect is that anything I say will do more to affect how people who read this think of me than it will affect how people think of the topic at hand.  To remedy this, I could use the bully pulpit to send that point home, maybe speak from the authority of a scientist…and then I could lose my job.

The first rule of speech-making is to always know your audience.  In this case that is impossible.  Recklessly, I throw my thoughts, in all their naked honesty out for the world to see.  I do it because, by chance, some people will discover it with the prompting of God already at work in their lives, and this will be just another of the many ways that God uses to bring that message home.

More often than not, it will earn me a boatload of ridicule.  It is what it is.  Sometimes the anchor gets dragged through the mud.

The weakness of thinking in our culture is this propensity to let the experts do our thinking for us.  The experts will not suffer the consequences of our choosing to follow them.  We will.  For thousands of years, humanity has been led like sheep by the experts.  The experts were pagan priests, mollifying the many polytheistic gods.  Then the experts were Catholic priests, killing Christians for trying to build their own faith directly from the Bible, or, like that one famous Christian named Galileo, threatened with death for claiming that the Earth was round.  The experts love their power, and they fight like mad dogs to hold on to it.  Today’s experts are the Darwinists.  It’s the same story as always, just a different fable.  They show you a bone and tell you a story and all is well; only now, we are no longer expected to kiss that bone.  Perhaps even that will change.

Fighting the experts, today, is the same as always.  They are the anchor and we are the ship.  They carry more weight, and their reputation is more firmly grounded.  All we can do is struggle as we might, perhaps moving that anchor a little.  In the end, those of us left unsullied and unabused are simply not trying hard enough.

Sincerely,

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Repairing to Mr. Coffee

7 07 2011

I tell people that I repaired the church’s coffee maker, and their usual response is a look of confusion and the question, “Why not just buy a new one?”  I find this line of thinking mildly irritating.  Half a century ago, people actually tried to repair things when possible.  But a coffee maker?  The repair is usually so easy and cheap, if not free, that I cannot conceive of dumping Mr. Coffee into the waste bin too readily.  The driving force behind the continual growth of your local landfill rests in the fact that a coffee maker’s replacement is very cheap and easy.  For a few bucks, you can have a new one.  For some labor, you can have a dirty and well-used one.  Which do you choose?  It’s not a hard choice, really.  You toss that cheap foreign-made contraption into the trash receptacle and go for a new one.  When a thing is cheap, you don’t fix it.  Instead, you get rid of it.  When it is easily replaced, you don’t look for reasons to keep it.

Now, I say all of this, because Mr. Coffee could just as easily be a real person, not just an appliance with a personal name.  When relationships are cheap, we don’t invest any effort into getting them on their feet again when things go sour.  If a person is easily replaced, then that’s exactly what we do with them when they offend us.  It just happens that this is exactly where our society is heading.  We have these devices that act like social condoms, in that they allow us to interact with each other without getting anything infectious rubbed off on ourselves.  We know them as Facebook, which protects us from actually having to face people.  We know them as texting, because we can’t bear the pressure of having to talk to each other.  Oh, yes, and there’s the weblog (blog), which, in some cases, is the only way to even get through to some people, such as yourself.  The numbers of ways in which we can communicate with other people has skyrocketed just within the last decade or two.  Most of these ways would seem to bring people together, but they do, in fact, relieve us of the onerous burden of having to look into a person’s face and see a reaction when we speak our minds.  In this age, we are connected with more people than ever before.  In this age, we foster shallower relationships than ever before.  The two go together to some extent.  In truth, anyone who maintains a great number of friendships isn’t going to have the time or emotional energy to have a deep relationship with all of them.  In fact, more relationships usually translates to fewer deep relationships, with those few even being shallower than otherwise.  More than that, though, we’ve added barriers to prevent depth, for the sake of our comfort.

I was cruising at a high point on a Los Angeles freeway today with a coworker whom I believe to be a eugenicist.  I can’t nail him down on the subject, because he also happens to be a postmodernist, which means that he can wriggle out of any tight argument by changing what he claims to be on any given day.  I gestured at the broad urban skyline, with that sprawling metropolis before us, and I told him that, taken as a whole, humanity seems quite expendable.  With billions of people on this globe, each one seems easily replaced.  Taken individually, though, it becomes a very different matter.  Name any person you know, and that person becomes absolutely irreplaceable.  He tried to convince me that people are exactly like ants.  I agreed with him, for the sake of argument, that the society was very much like a colony of ants working together.  However, when you take a single ant and compare it with any single human, there’s really no comparison.  If the entire city of Los Angeles were wiped from the face of the earth, I doubt that many people would mourn greatly for the loss of this place.  What they would regret is the loss of individuals.  A city is nothing.  A person, even, would be nothing, except for the fact that there can never be a replacement for the specific people that you know.

Social proximity makes all of the difference.  If Mr. Coffee is just the stage name of some guy who advertises percolators, then his death might make the news, even make people pause for a couple of seconds, but few people will cry over it.  No one would be devastated by it.  However, if Mr. Coffee happens to be your father, then things are going to get messy really fast.  A new spokesman can easily be found.  A new father can never replace the old one, not by a long shot.  Social proximity determines replaceability, which determines how quick we are to discard a relationship, or even a person’s life, when that relationship or person falls into the category of things we would call broken.  On a lighter level, it means that in this age we do nothing to fix broken relationships.  If a friend doesn’t please us anymore, then we simply “unfriend” that person and move on.  New and exciting relationships are always waiting for us, just a click away.  People are disposable.  Friendships are more unlikely than ever to get fixed, when broken.

On a darker level, people who do not suit us are also quite replaceable in a physical sense, and that’s where things get really hairy.  We’ve seen it before, in the Nazi holocaust.  The next holocaust is a little bit closer, because society is a little more loosely connected.  The value of a human drops when no one gets close enough to know the individual as a unique and irreplaceable item.  As we more easily drop the inconvenient relationships from our lives, we more easily drop the inconvenient people from life on earth.  The next holocaust will be welcomed by people who don’t care much for the anthill, because, when it really comes down to it, they never really invested the time and trouble to know the ants.  When Mr. Coffee is so easily replaced by another cheap appliance or person (depending on what he is), he is more frequently buried in a landfill/cemetery, rather than spared.

Ah, but that’s the next holocaust.  The holocaust that’s going on today also follows the same principle.  If it’s still unseen in the womb, then killing it is just an abortion.  If it has left the womb and we can see it, then killing the thing is murder, deserving of harsh punishment.  The reason is simply that once we have seen it and done some face time, it ceases to be merely a baby and begins quite swiftly to become a Johnny or a Jennifer.  To see and interact personally is to develop a relationship.  The closer we get, the more human it becomes, until it seems less like the member of a species and becomes, rather, its own species entirely.  A pack of wild dogs is just a menace, but your dog, Rover, is a family member.

The further apart we drift, the closer we get to killing each other.

Every good Christian wants a deep and abiding relationship with God.  Simply put, we want to be something better than just another unit of this anthill.  We want to be something irreplaceable to the one who made us.  The fact is, we always were, and we always will be.  We already have that kind of significance to our omniscient creator.  The only variable is in whether or not we seek to reciprocate that relationship.  The less we know and appreciate God, the quicker we are to kill him.  In this is the key to our own salvation, for we cannot ever really kill God.  The more shallow the relationship, the more likely we are to put him out of our lives when convenience doesn’t suit.  We attempt to kill God by removing him from our world, and those who try generally succeed.  Such is Hell.

So, here I am, waiting for that KSD301 thermostat, so I can finally fix the church’s other coffee maker.  Hopefully, I can resist the urge to make a several-gallon pot of coffee, just for myself, simply because I can.  The next time someone asks me why I bother, I’m going to say that I really love my coffee, but I’m going to explain that I believe in fixing things when reasonably possible, rather than discarding them.  In an age where even people are swiftly becoming disposable, I find myself reacting to this trend by doing little things to repair rather than replace.





Invalid Syllogism; working backward and getting lost

19 04 2010

If you follow the stream downhill from camp, point A,  then you get to the same place we got to, point B. We followed the stream downhill from camp, which is why we are here.

It stood to reason that following the stream assured a predictable path of travel.  If they followed the stream away from camp, then they could follow the stream back to camp.  While it is true that anyone who followed that stream with the current would eventually end up where they were, it was not true that anyone from where they were could follow the stream against its current to arrive back at camp.  Traveling downhill, the tributaries were all convergent.  If the stream split at all, then it always merged again a little further down.  Thus, one could reliably follow that stream and overtake anyone else who also followed that stream.  They would not veer from the path.  However, while the tributaries are convergent on the way down, they are divergent on the way back up.  What this means is that a person not paying close attention to the forks in the stream might not remember which one to follow going back.  In fact,  two members of our camping group did that very thing.  Traveling downstream was deceptively easy, as there were no decisions to make.  There is always only one downstream.  However, traveling upstream has its alternatives.  There are often multiple ways to go upstream.  The result of this was that at the end of the trip, when the pair never returned, Search And Rescue had to be called.  In attempting to work their way back to the beginning, they got hopelessly lost.

In social interaction, this very same kind of mistake is often made regarding the interpretation of other people’s actions.  For example, if I do not like you, then I will be reluctant to spend any time with you.  Let’s say I do not like you.  Therefore it stands to reason that if you invite me to your party that I will do my best to avoid going.  This is a valid line of reasoning, but I am already privy to my own motivation.  I didn’t really need to reason it out to know what I was going to do.  The real deduction comes from the person who is trying to figure out why I did not attend his party.  I was invited, but I said I was busy.  I was invited again, but I was still unable to attend.  Yet again, I was invited, but I still found a reason to decline.  The other person observes that I seem reluctant to attend his parties.  He knows very well that if I dislike him, then I will try to avoid attending his parties.  Therefore, he concludes that I do not like him.  However, working forward was like traveling downstream, and working backward was like traveling upstream.  While one motivation yields a predictable result, the motivation is not necessarily predictable from the result.  I don’t attend his parties, because he serves alcohol, and I am uncomfortable around it.  I don’t attend his parties, because he plays the music too loud.  I don’t attend his parties, because I have really bad flatulence, and I’m afraid of embarrassing myself.  I don’t attend his parties, because I’m infatuated with his sister, but I’m so shy that I’m afraid to be around her.  I don’t attend his parties, because I’m a very busy person with very many obligations, and I really have no time to attend.  Working backward from the response to the motivation, our lines of causation are divergent.  We may never really know why a person seems to avoid us, unless that person tells us, and maybe not even then.

But we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, and we imagine the circumstances that would have gotten us from the motivation to the outcome, and we use that to determine what the motivation was.  Generally, we choose the conclusion that involves the fewest specifics, the details that we could never guess, or else we choose the conclusion with the most egocentric basis, the one that pertains specifically to me.  I don’t know what goes on inside your head, and I don’t know what goes on in your life, so my understanding of you is limited to generalizations that could apply to anybody.  I don’t have any way of knowing that you are overwhelmed with the burden of raising your kids.  I might have guessed it, but if I am not, or have not been, in a similar situation, then I might not understand.  What I can apply to anyone who knows me is that they have an opinion of me.  Add to that the fact that my whole world revolves around myself, I’m far more likely to assume that your behavior has something to do with me.

Tracing back a person’s behavior to that person’s motivation is tricky, so long as that person is not me.  It gets trickier if that person is from a different culture.  In Japan, the open expression of anger is greatly suppressed.  Therefore, it finds its way out in very subtle ways.  This passive-aggressive behavior often tries to say, “I hate you,” through the little things in life, like a drawer left open, or a dish left unwashed, or a task performed slowly.  Understanding the Japanese mindset requires amplifying their actions.  An American missionary to Japan once told me that her roommate confronted her for hating her.  She was shocked that her roommate thought she hated her.  The evidence for this animosity amounted to a number of trivial things that had nothing to do with the American’s feelings for the Japanese friend.

In contrast, the Russians are known for being painfully blunt with their feelings.  If a Russian hates you, then that person will likely tell you.  You simply don’t need to guess.  Consequently, I find that Eastern Europeans are generally easier for me to get along with, as my reticence does not cause them to wonder if I dislike them.

A Japanese man once invited me to dinner for the sole purpose of deliberately making wrong turns on the way there, spending the entire time trying to tell me not to be a racist (I couldn’t convince him that I wasn’t), and making me pay the bill (which I could not afford).  I barely knew the man, but he had decided in the few minutes that I had known him that I simply did not like him.  The dinner was his way of getting back at me.  For the life of me, I cannot fathom what I did wrong.  All I had done was sit in the same room with him for a few minutes without engaging in conversation.  He took that as an expression of dislike, I suppose.

Relating to different cultures is relatively easy, compared to relating to different species.  Sometimes people get bit by their own dogs because they hug the dog around the neck, putting themselves over the dog’s shoulders.  To us, it is an act of affection, but to the dog it is an assertion of dominance.  Some dogs don’t mind.  Some retaliate.  When dogs fight, the winner proclaims its victory by putting its head upon the other’s shoulders or over the other’s neck.  When a dog does it, the motivation is one thing, but when a person does it, the motivation is another.

Relating to other species is easy, compared to relating to something as vastly different as God.  What goes on in the mind of an omniscient God is an endless enigma.  The reasoning behind any action could have such a vast array of possible causes and motivations, that understanding him becomes an almost hopeless Gordian knot.  Most often the best answer to why God did something is, “I don’t know.”  As is generally the case, we tend to overlook the many details that we could never guess, and we opt for the explanation that relates most directly to ourselves.  A bad thing happens to me, and I conclude that God must not like me.  In so doing, I may have followed the stream uphill, and been misdirected to a tributary that went another way.  The fact is that I don’t know why bad things happen to me.  I might never guess the feelings he has for me, unless he tells me.

I used to think that the Bible was a form letter.  It seemed like a generic letter of love written to everyone, in general.  Then, it seemed like a store-bought greeting card, written by someone else for no one in particular, given to me by a God who loves me.  People are very egocentric.  If a speaker gets on stage, smiles and says, “I like you people,” they take it personally and impute that the speaker really does like them.  In truth, no such assessment could hold any meaning.  The entire group cannot be evaluated like an individual.  The same seems to hold true for God’s love expressed to us in the Bible.  In this we are at a crossroads.  If we ask, “Does God really love me?” we are left with life’s circumstances, which tell us nothing, and a Bible not written specifically for any particular person.  Tracing God’s actions backward to his motivations is an impossible task.  Without the moving of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, without God simply telling us in his own way, we are at a loss.

Jesus loves me,

This I know,

For the Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me, this I know, because he told me so, himself.  The Bible tells me that he loves the world (John 3:16), and I need his Spirit to make it personal.





Déjà Vu, Idle Chatter and Barking Dogs

16 03 2010

No one gets déjà vu worse than I do.  Well, no one I know does, at least.  The phenomenon is considered to be the feeling that one is experiencing something that has already happened.  What it really amounts to is a vague sense of repetition.  Well, for most it is just a vague sense of repetition, but oftentimes I find that the situation goes well beyond that.  I used to think it a silly social custom for people to have repeat conversations.  When you run out of things to talk about, then you go back over the old subjects and discuss them again as though they had not been discussed before.  A few years ago, though, I noticed some coworkers having a repeat conversation for at least the third time, and they were repeating themselves almost verbatim.  They could have been reading from a script, they were following their previous conversation so closely.  What was more amazing to me was that one conversationalist was reacting to the other’s words with astonishment, the same as before.  Now, generally, when someone tells me something that I find intriguing, I think I’m pretty likely to remember it.  At the very least, it shouldn’t surprise me when I hear it again…I think.

But that’s the real problem.  If other people were repeating their own conversation exactly, then how many times did I hear it before I first recognized that they were repeating themselves?  I might experience this redundancy unawares.  I only know that others experience it one or two more times than I do before coming to the sense that they’ve had this or that conversation before.  They could have repeated it twenty times, with me being aware only of the nineteenth and twentieth times, where they only remember the twentieth.

The next time they had that conversation, and they did, in fact, have that exact same conversation later, I stopped them and finished the conversation for them.  I begged them to please remember doing this before.  They said that they may have sort of remembered it.  At least they didn’t do it again.

That was not an isolated incident, though it may have been the worst.  I told my wife about it, and she thought it was funny.  A few weeks later, I told her about it again, and she reacted exactly the same way.  So long as I followed my part of the script, she followed hers.  I asked her if she realized we were repeating ourselves, and she got mad at me.  She doesn’t like to be tricked.

No need to take it personally, though.  Almost everyone I know seems able to have the same discussion multiple times without being remotely aware of it.  Particularly observant people can discuss a thing twice, where others can have the same chat four or more times.  I prefer to stop counting after four.  Again, though, that is four times more than I repeat myself unawares.  If I do it twice, then the one who seems to repeat himself four times actually does it six times.

The deciding factor seems to lie in the loquaciousness of the individual.  The more chatty a person is, the more prone they are to having the same discussion with the same people over and over again and react exactly the same way each time, as though never having heard it before.  Socially, I am possibly the least chatty person I know.  Hence, each discussion means more to me, and I am more likely to remember it.

I am under the impression that talk is cheap for most people, that the act of having a chat has nothing to do with the exchange of information and ideas.  That is to say that people talk to each other for the purpose of talking.  Previously, I had assumed that people talked for the sake of entertainment, which still may be true, but the act of talking, itself, is both the means and the end in most exchanges.  It’s the reason we say “hello” to people when we see them, even if we had just seen them the previous day.  What does that word even mean?  Most of the way people relate to each other conveys no great meaning, other than to emote.  “Hey, man, how’s it going?” is not a question, when it really comes down to it.  The statement, itself, is just a gesture.

Idle chatter, in many cases, is on par with the barking of dogs.  The point is in the vocalization, not the true meaning of words.  If people don’t take their conversations seriously, then they are not apt to remember them.  All they take away from the event is a sense of their relationship with the other person.

However, the lowest form of conversation, the one that really resembles the barking of dogs in terms of its intelligence, is the use of obscenities.  I don’t mean the use of crass words where more delicate words would suffice.  I mean the use of obscenities in sentences where the literal meaning of the word has no relevance to the subject at hand.  It’s an alternate to the word “duh.”  More often as of late, I find that people are throwing in obscenities in random places in their speech, out of pure habit.  If we replaced those words with the word, “duh,” not a single ounce of meaning would be lost from what they say.  For example, “Hey, duh, where did you get that duh awesome shirt?” to which the other person replies, “I got it from that duh store down on duh D Street…you know…the one with the duh picture of a duh gorgeous babe in the window.”  Generally speaking, in terms of vocalized speech, obscenities tend to be used most by people who have the hardest time thinking of the right words to say.  The bad words have actually come to substitute the nonsense word, duh, in every sense of the way.  But replacing poor language skills with foul language has not only ceased to be counter-culture, but it has actually become fashionable.

The summary meaning of this trend is that communication in our society is becoming dull.  We don’t really mean what we say, and we don’t care enough about what others say to remember it.

The brain acts as an excellent filter of information.  In truth, we would drive ourselves insane if we remembered everything.  Therefore, we have a knack for forgetting trivial stuff, which, in this case, is anything that a friend tells us.  If an event happens once, then the brain determines that it must not be important.  Useful information is always encountered over and over again, like the skill of driving a car, forming words or tying a shoe.  Hence, a conversation might be forgotten until it’s been had a few times.  The catch in all of this is that the brain cannot determine to start remembering these things on the third round if it does not remember that there was a first and second round.  What this means, then, is that people really do remember their conversations, even if they repeat themselves.  What they cannot do is recall those conversations.  It’s in the head, but it’s not coming out.

Two ways exist to promote memory, cognitively.  The first is to think about a thing repeatedly.  The second is to think about it deeply.  In reality, though, because the brain runs in cycles, a deep thought is really just a prolonged one, which is really just a thought that repeats itself over and over for a longer period of time.  Repetition is the primary determinant of whether we will recall the thing later on.  People forget their conversations, because they spend no time pondering them, because they really do not value what was said.

Churches are notorious for having people walk out of the doors and be hopelessly unable to remember anything that was said during the sermon.  Frankly, this is pathetic.  What it means is that they may listen, but they do not ponder.  They hear, but they do not consider.  They believe that they value the theology, but their memories betray them.  We remember the information that we cherish.  Fortunately for the pastor, though, even when the laity cannot recall what was said, the brain does still remember.  With enough sermons and enough reinforcement, a sound theology can be built with time.

Perhaps, if we pay attention, we can remember our lives and relationships, instead of living in a fog and doing everything twice.  Though, I have a feeling that “twice,” is an understatement.





Doomed

2 09 2008

Less than a month old, and already doomed.  I’m not talking about a baby.  I’m talking about this blog.  I’ve been thinking about my abilities to maintain a one-way conversation with anyone.  I just don’t do it.  People…very kind people have tried determinedly to draw me out of myself and failed.  I don’t make eye contact.  I don’t do anything to encourage the continuance of discussion.  I don’t hate these people; in fact, I like them very much, but I have little desire to interact with them.  One might imagine, then, how impossible it would be for me to draw out myself for others to see.  It simply wouldn’t happen.

There was a time in my life when I would habitually spend two hours each night praying to God.  My parents lived on some rural rugged property with a little chapel on a hill.  Each night, I would climb that slope in the dark, chasing away who knows what wildlife that rustled in the blackness, and there, between an old wooden cross and that weathered little building, I would stare up at the sky and beg God to talk to me.  I had recently graduated from high school, and college had proven to be a cold and impersonal place.  I had no one to call a friend.  I knew that God could hear me.  He was someone that I could always talk to.  However, talking to someone who never talked back proved to be an unnatural and difficult task for me.  I told him so, too.  Eventually, I gave up and never returned to routine prayer.  I told God that I would be waiting for him to speak; I figured I had done enough talking and it was his turn.

Last year, in October, the Harris fire raged over that area for miles in every direction.  Several homes were lost around there, and it left my parents’ property a scorched and barren moonscape.  All of their smaller buildings were lost.  All that was left of them were the nails, fallen straight down from where they had been nailed, and the metal framing around the windows ran in rivulets down the hillside.  Three of their buildings survived.  The barn and the house had extensive clearing around them, so it’s easy to imagine how they survived, but no one knows why the little chapel remained, as it had no clearing, and it was as vulnerable to fire as any building could possibly be.  Yet, that patch of grass where I had been on my back every night remained untouched, from the cross to the chapel, though the bush that was growing against the chapel had since burned away.

One might think that I would have turned back to regular prayer.  The fact is, I’m just not a very good conversationalist.  Even more so, if I can not maintain such a relationship with God, then how can I do so with complete strangers?  Therefore, I say that this blog is doomed.

I can only hope that my faith is not.