Friday, February 22, 2008

New York City!? (with the southern twang...can you hear it?)

I just finished "Rise and Shine" by Anna Quindlen this morning, and last week I finished (finally!) "A Year of Living Biblically" by A.J. Jacobs. I think I'm about sick of New York City.

I always enjoy reading Anna Quindlen, and I did this time. The edition I bought is a Reader's there are discussion questions in the back, and also an interview of the author. Quindlen said that the theme of this book was "the disconnect in modern American life between appearance and we've all come to believe that what looks good is good." I think she hit it spot on, and introduced me to a family of characters I fell in love with.

How do we find the blurred line between appearance and reality? In this book, a famous morning news show anchor and her sister deal with this question. We know when we're looking at famous people that we don't really know them. We know when we watch politicians that we aren't getting a dose of reality. They're telling us what they think we want to hear, selling what we'll buy. This is not surprising.

But what about the ways we blur the lines ourselves? We all work every day to appear a certain way, to make our homes appear a certain way, to persuade our children to appear a certain way, and on and on. We can get lost in the whole appearance thing without even noticing, we can buy our own sales pitch. And find ourselves one day wondering why we're doing what we're doing. Why we've spent so much of a life on something fake.

Of course, the Bible has something to say about it. First about giving air time to what others think: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2...and for those of us who are believers, Paul has some words about what we do with our lives...."For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames." I Corinthians 3:11-15 It's not like your salvation is at stake here, it's just that you're missing out on what is available.

Is the stuff I'm working on, is the way I spend my days going to burn up? Am I being purposeful and intentional about what I'm doing? Do I know why I'm doing what I'm doing? What is my motivation? These are some nice light thoughts for the weekend.....


Michelle Van Loon said...

"We can get lost in the whole appearance thing without even noticing, we can buy our own sales pitch."

Though I'm not a fan, comedian Chris Rock came up with a perfect line about first dates that applies here. It goes something like this: "When you go out on a first date, you're not dating the're dating their representative."

It is easier to be real with people if we can find one or two with whom we can begin to tell the messy, scary truth about ourselves. Truth like:
I'm scared.
I'm angry.
I've lied.
I battle with forgiveness.

It sure is a lot easier to keep putting on a show, especially since so many others are doing the same thing.

Larry Crabb's books have been especially helpful reading in this area for me.

Alan and Judy said...

I have been thinking about the whole concept of works being burned up if they aren't of value, and it sort of worries me. When a person has a ministry that involves church, or doing "Christian" things like teaching a Bible study or working at a homeless shelter, these "feel" like ministries and it is easy to identify the activity as a ministry, and there may be some visible results. These are things that we would assume would not be burned up.

However, serving your family as a wife and mother, or taking care of an old lady who can no longer take care of herself even if she thinks she can, does not feel like a ministry even though it is. I just heard Josh McDowell say that you should never put your family before your ministry because your family IS your primary ministry.

I think the key is in I Cor. 13. If we are doing these things (investing in people, as my daughter puts it) with love, they will remain and not be burned up. If we do them, and do not have love, then they profit us nothing and they are stubble. This is scary, but fortunately Paul then goes on to define love, and nowhere does he say that we have to feel any certain way. Love is action and words. It never fails. If I remember that I am cutting up fruit, or sewing a pillow case or gently explaining something for the umpteenth time, for God, eventually the feelings will follow. All this work and time is not for nothing.

--julie said...

Hi Michelle!
Thanks for stopping by, fun to learn from reading your posting last week that I became a part of your writing process, tee hee.

Chris Rock has a terrible potty-mouth, but he is really smart. Actually watched an interesting show on PBS about his (and many other African American people's) family history. As a kid, he used to go with his grandfather (or great grandfather?), a preacher, all the time. He knew growing up that he'd be a preacher or a comedian. And, in a very potty-mouth sort of way, he does preach.

It is a challenge to be real, and I think it's one of those things we can't do in our own strength.

And Mom,
Right on!
it's fun to hear what you are thinking about the ramblings in my head....