Sunday, September 30, 2007

First fall photos

Fall just officially started. Honestly, it doesn't look much like fall yet, but hubby did snap some neat photos in the last few days with his camera. Enjoy :))

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Updaterlyness: or 'Excuse Me? Your Witness is Showing...'

So whats up with us? Not much at the moment, we're all dealing with colds, except dear hubby who had it first and has mostly recovered. He is over helping some handicapped neighbors with their yard. Thankfully there are enough powered tools around that he doesn't need to strain himself to make a difference.

Our young kitties continue to grow. They are brothers from the same litter, and even marked similarly, but what a difference in personalities! The grey & white patched tabby kitty is a chowhound and hunter. He's an independent-minded who lets you know when he wants petted by leaping on you, or will avoid a pet by leaping away. Our orange & white patched kitty is a snugglebunny who loves pets and being near one of us when not playing with his brother. He's a total sweetheart and the cutest kitten we've ever had. Keep trying to get pictures of his most adorable moments, like when he's peeking over the edge of the boxes, but he moves rather quickly and seems camera-shy.

On the health front, things haven't moved all that much. The surgery for those serious hernias is still in the offing. As a matter of fact, hubby has an appointment for the next set of bloodwork for it next week (the old bloodwork info is no longer valid.). Afterward they should be setting a date - again. Hopefully they really will now that the conditions he's developed are stable & treated. Too many major medical procedures in only a few years turns out to have its own cost! Not that anyone had any choice. At least he's all back together again and able to move almost normally. He is losing weight now that his thyroid level is good again too, which pleases him. Old clothes are starting to fit, but he won't be able to wear his old jeans and slacks until they are very loose because of the hernias.

Have had some odd moments in the last week or so. Anyone who has known me any length of time has heard me growl about the awful neighbors - well, they may be thinking about coming around and acting decent or something. Its been more than 15 years since I left the church near our house, and last week one of them finally asked why I wasn't coming. I prayed before speaking, and the answer I got seemed to be to calmly point out the obvious. Pointed out that our whole family had been gossiped evilly about by senior members there, that every time I had gone to their church when we first came back to the area they kept sending back cutesy-pie 'messages' through me that sounded innocent until explained, and which seemed designed to irritate my husband and his family. I reminded her that our sweet, eager-to-please daughter had actually been threatened and assaulted by kids in the area school (as well as one rotten teacher) in first & second grade and that those kids referenced their neighborhood gossip when confronted on it.

They'd have done the same to us if they dared. They almost worked themselves up to it on several occasions. I know perfectly well their little hate-speech clubs have had a lot to do with the harassment in the woods, the repeated efforts to find something 'wrong' code-wise, the people (including 2 deacons at their church) who would swerve AT our car on the backroads near here, the continual suggestion to local law enforcement (until the officers finally got tired of it) that whatever was going down we must somehow be involved. Actually my husband has a very high security clearance & has held a concealment permit for ten years. You can only do that with a spotless record, which is exactly what he has. So yes, the lies have been THAT bad, that evil, that stupid. Sadly, they have found plenty of idiots to take them at face value. One person even went so far as to look up my name online and feed a few idiots there. I knew this was done exactly because I have given them very few openings to pick on me or mine in person. They don't know me at all. Did I mention already they have some really malicious gits in that group, making up the kind of place C.S. Lewis called a 'bad pocket?'

And she wants to know why I don't want to take up her offer now of coming to their Bible study?????

Now the woman speaking is actually very good friends with one of the worst gossips of all - one of the ones whose name has come up again and again when people defended saying or doing something stupid to one of us, or even to my husband's parents. Tom doesn't have fond memories of her as a kid. Seems she once declared him and a bunch of other neighborhood kids hooligans who were having fun tossing mud balls at each other (exempting her own sons, of course). This was mostly because a visiting child in a neat, frilly, little dress got some mud on her from someone's missed shot. He's been persona non grata with her ever since. If you think such normal kid-play was a crazy reason to judge someone harshly for decades, I have heard many similar stories. Here's another one. One guy - now deceased, but a leader in that same church for decades- stole a nice, old brass lamp from an abandoned house on the base where he worked as a private contractor. Fixed it up on the job, using the tools there and made it into an electric lamp. He was very proud of it. One day my hubby's parents were over playing cards when he realized it had been badly damaged and decided to blame their son (my hubby), who was a young teen at the time. It was ridiculous charge. Everyone was close together, so if any huge noises had happened it would have been heard. For once, even his parents knew there was nothing to it. Nevertheless, this deacon also nominated Tom as chief troublemaker and held this lamp against him forever, giving it as proof to everyone how 'disturbed' he was. (Tom later learned the damage was the result of the jealousy one of the deacon's own sons - but even that son went along with the blame game.) He made a point of lighting that lamp in the window every evening, especially if he could see Tom anywhere. Now you add this into several actual errors in judgment that his parents made him apologize and set straight right away (because they ARE decent) and you have a situation in which an ethical, patriotic, military family raised good kids - and got no credit for it at all. Absolutely every error, every lie like that lamp, every angry response they made, and a lot of unsolved local mischief got repeated over and over again as 'proof' of how awful they all were- and especially my poor hubby. After years of this abuse, it was an easy move for those 'elders' to blame him when a young man went missing in the area, but who actually happened to be a friend of his. Tom tried to help the police solve the case -you know, like in all those old tv shows?- but that only made things worse. Good thing by then he'd met me. I am an honest witness and a faithful friend. That proved to be important just then. God protected him from their worst efforts, because after all those years these nuts wanted to see something happen to him, to justify all their rumormongering.

You must be getting the impression that they just didn't like him here from the outset, and you would be right. Tom was targeted because he was different. He spent his early years in Japan, which gave him different sensibilities than what they were used to seeing around here - different even from his siblings who spent some of their early years near Morocco. He was and is ADHD - he was bit of a Calvin & Hobbes type. Basically they targeted him because he was the least favorite, too smart child of a family they already didn't like. They didn't like his parents previous Mormonism or his father's unwillingness to 'play ball' with their various schemes at his work. They picked on Tom's siblings too, but those kids were older, had friends on base, and were trained in martial arts. Those efforts tended to backfire. After awhile they focused on Tom as the safest target. His family often failed to come to his defense back then - and though they regret that now - it is hard to reverse what has become a habit with these people. We would have moved years ago if it had been at all possible. Now we're kinda enjoying the fact that they have been unable to destroy us. Praise God for His faithfulness!

Praise God also that Tom had a chance to live elsewhere for a bit and find out he could be appreciated and well-liked by an entire community, and not just a few down-and-outers. He has his faults, but he also has a great sense of humor, an insightful mind, and a desire to help other folks. Pity they never gave themselves the chance to really know him, isn't it?

Now with a background like that, its unlikely that this woman hadn't heard the outrageous rumors or ever stood against it. Indeed, her next act was to act 'afraid' when my hubby was leaving a couple of days later (probably trying to snow the new pastor into being stupid), though she was bold enough in front of me and even demanded a hug- and got one. I told her I didn't know for certain she was one of them when she finally fessed up her name- which was glossing things over somewhat - but I was surprised she had actually listened when I told her just how bad that congregation has long looked to us all, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Hey, she might never have thought out what was going on. I met the new pastor when he came up while talking to her, and was very favorably impressed. Seemed like a gentle, scholarly fellow. I will be praying for him. May Christ protect his servant from what I know is in that church! I don't think he'll be the only Christian there, but the prevailing influences on them can't be good from what we've seen.

Then - a day or so later after the first conversation with the lady from church- one of the worst remaining MALE gossips in the county decided to talk to Tom face to face at one of the area supermarkets, even offered his business card. Tom took the moment to remind him that the last crew that had been hired to do a job and walked off it unfinished had referenced his name right before leaving (not the guys who just worked on the yard. a previous crew). Actually he could have said a lot more, as plenty of people have referenced him as a 'source' of ugly rumors about Tom (as well as other people) but that answer seemed to be sufficient. He acted embarrassed in the store, but then tried to tailgate Tom when he went home. Obviously he wasn't that repentant.

Then - a day or two after that- one of the other neighbors ended up introducing themselves who had made such a point of being ugly without ever meeting us before (yes, that's right - we've been experiencing enmity from people that we have never spoken to and couldn't even identify without doing a bit of detective work. All that on the excuse of a few well-connected slanderers whose plans may have been thwarted by the honesty of Tom's parents!) Now this one had a clear motive. He hoped that Tom would put in a good word for him with the handicapped neighbors Tom is trying to help clear their yard. They have had a spell of bad health anyway, but when it was compounded by the last tropical damage, it went beyond our friends' ability to manage alone. Tom wasn't able to assist much until now. Anyway, this guy happens to be a neighbor of theirs and wants to let his horses graze on it afterward. Probably won't happen, as while the horses could be helpful in keeping down the overgrowth, that family has been ugly to our friends there too, and they know it. Still it felt weird that the good Lord arranged that this fella, who doesn't know us but has actually flipped us off before, among other things, ended up not recognizing Tom and hearing out a little bit of our side of things. He let them fill his head full of garbage without even meeting us. Now, maybe, he has a few new thoughts to consider.

Just to give you an idea how reflexively slanderous these local idjits are - a small group of them were working on a church repair a couple of weeks ago, and a branch fell down on the line at the end of the lane, knocking out our power and the church's power for a bit. The older men IMMEDIATELY started pointing down at my husband in the backyard, obviously blaming him for the outage to the other guys. Tom went to the end of the road, found & pointed out the branch to them, made a few sardonic comments and then called the power company so it could be repaired.

Another time, near one Christmas, a paper flew off a car window, and Tom picked it up because he doesn't like litter. It turned out to be an ugly note chewing out the owner of the car for using the church's parking lot after hours to go shopping - and it was signed with TOM"S WHOLE LEGAL NAME. One of them had attacked another of them, and libeled him while doing it. Gotta wonder how often that has happened! We reported that one everywhere, including to the pastor they had then, but got no answers, no apologies.

Another time, a now deceased deacon took my husband to task for tires spinning out in their churchyard, fairly obviously sports tires too (we don't even own a sports car), and whispered other things to a new gal in the neighborhood (we were never introduced). Now my husband and I had actually seen the car doing it, and saw what he was pointing it out to her and then pointing at us, so we came up to tell them it was a little red sports car driven by one of their little buddies. He denied loudly this could be so, and called the woman in question who swore she'd been sick in bed all week and was still there. Called us liars to our faces. Insisted to the new gal that we had probably vandalized the churchyard too.

15 minutes later we were still talking to the deacon when Madame 'sick-all-week' came zooming by, probably intending to to be stupid on the driveways there as 'punishment' for having pointed her out. [How do you like her logic? She's embarrassed to be caught so she plans to do the same thing again, and maybe worse. That is also typical of an advanced sin nature - what the Bible calls a 'seared conscience.' All people like that have left is a sense of social embarrassment and fear of consequences. Some of these people wouldn't know remorse or repentance if it bit them in the butt.] She saw the the deacon and speeded up from an estimated 70 mph to what Tom was sure was over 90, as she took off flying, trying, futilely, to avoid being recognized. The deacon just stood there with his mouth open and said "She LIED to me. She lied to ME!" over and over- while my husband and I busted out laughing. It was all ssooo typical of them...

And the reason I know they will use contacts and play on people's gullibilities has to do with the main Protestant churches we attended in county. We'd show up a few Sundays, people would be glad to see us. We'd enjoy the worship and the conversation. Everything would end on a happy note. It'd be like that for a few weeks, then one week you'd turn up and people are giving you the nervous look...oh, no, there's no problem..of course not. Well- actually - we had heard a few things - from who? Some would tell you, some wouldn't... Those who did would either mention them directly or mention a friend of theirs that was also buddies with one these influential clowns. It always - ALWAYS- came back to that mouthy, judgmental, unloving little group of 'church leaders' in our neighborhood.

Now about the churchyard accusation:: There have been plenty of incidents near those graves. We have seen vehicles parked in it empty at all hours. People have come from the churchyard to pick on us with calls (until they found the police WOULD follow up on that) then just obviously faked hoots and hunting calls at the wood edge (and sometimes howls when they encountered a skunk. LOL), running dogs over adjoining properties at all hours (not just ours), and even the occasional pot shots. Yes, really. One friend's wife had a bullet just miss her head while visiting with us out in our backyard near dusk over 10 years ago. That one got called into the cops & was not repeated. The person responsible was charged for reckless endangerment & had the weapon seized but nothing worse. They claimed they were target practicing & just didn't aim low enough to keep it in the trees. There are gun holes in the well house & garages too, but not the house. The plan was intimidation, not murder. They wanted to drive us out. We have heard repeatedly they attached some special value to the land itself. (Investigated that and didn't find much aside from a possible 'southern knights jousting competition' that may have been held nearby. Gotta say, after seeing the photos, that SCA has really improved over the years. Their costumes weren't very good back then - all one color and stuff. ;-)

We, on the other hand, were faithful to report prowlers in their churchyard after hours for years. The police hardly ever came in good time & we think we know why now. You see, another incident took place not long ago when we caught two of them in the act of releasing hunting dogs in the churchyard at midnight, we got their plate, and called the cops on their ignorant butts. One of the better guys in the area had told Tom that his horses were being harassed by dogs and asked to be called if we caught any of them, so Tom called and found out that one of the two bozos we'd just caught had already been turned in as a prowler on an adjacent property. The wife saw him skulking about her outbuildings one afternoon. Claimed to be chasing a dog then too. He has been keeping his hunting dogs with him when doing these stunts. Turns out current rules just about do excuse such criminal trespass when there is a hunting dog around - even out of season! When confronted, the one guy swore he had buddies in the police department and no one would touch him. So far they haven't either. But incidents like this one may yet get dog-hunting rules changed or revoked in Virginia. (Keep going, bud! Those laws need to be changed!)

Now this has all been very negative, so let me tell you the good side of what has happened over time because of these pressures. For one thing I ended up looking up unusual friends, you know, the kind of minorities they don't appreciate in good, white enclaves (this is how they describe themselves). ::grin:: I ended up joining a local acting troupe for awhile until my husband's health made it difficult to manage. I really enjoyed the characters I met there. I am not an actress so I did public relations work, wrote write-ups, that kind of stuff.

And, because we aren't the only family, or even category of people to be targeted, we've become very aware of how real and dangerous bigotry can be:: be it from racism, handicaps, religious preferences or - yes - orientation. There's almost a brotherhood of the downtrodden to be found in our midst. What friends we have are very decent people indeed.

Also, its led me to check out churches in the area that they don't like (and therefore don't have as many contacts in it they can use) - like the Pentecostals, Apostolics, and Catholic RCIA class I am taking right now. I don't know that I will join the Catholic church. I still have a number of doctrinal concerns that I haven't been able to ask about as yet, but I don't know that I would have gone so far in understanding my Catholic brothers and sisters if I had been comfortably ensconced in a Protestant church right along. I have been pressed to 'see the other side' by all this on a number of issues that have divided good people from one another, and I think I am a better person for it.

& This garbage also resulted in my gaining enough support to homeschool first our daughter, and later our son. I always wanted to homeschool, as I experienced tutoring in private schools, cottage homeschooling, as well as different public schools (my folks moved a lot) and found the alternatives to public school to be vastly superior, especially in the early grades. My hubby and in-laws were not convinced it was anything better than an inexpensive way to shield DD from abuse, but I hope by now they see the other benefits.

I am so glad that some Christians here have been able to show my husband's family that there ARE life-changing, positive effects from being in a Christian church, because without those guys , especially the chaplains, priests, and ministers who turn up at hospitals and such, I don't think I alone could have ever have convinced them.

Frankly, if this 'neighborhood church' had been the only witness for Christianity in the area, if he had never met me, I don't believe anyone in his family would have gotten saved.

A couple of years back I was reading the comments of one particular Pagan woman who was denouncing Christianity. I was, naturally, inclined to bristle at her words, until I read a bit further and saw how familiar some of her experiences had been. Then I understood. I don't blame Jesus for what people have done in His name. I know Yeshua. I know how much He loves us all, how much He loves these erring 'church members' and this openly hostile Pagan lady. It grieves me that people like this have turned her away from hearing what would be health and life to her very soul. I can only pray she also sees enough real believers to finally give Him a chance - and in so doing, herself.

I am also still praying fervently for an outpouring of God's Holy Spirit in that 'church' up the road. I truly do not believe many of them are saved, but they think they are, and that's the scariest thing of all. I don't want them to die in that state!

So here I am hoping that this sudden willingness to speak to us directly marks a new and better day. Hoping a truce will be formally established. I know God will make them keep it.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Your cat's a Hugger

That's right, your cat's the type to stay near you 24/7 (or at least know where you are at any given moment). They might even be closer to you than your own shadow! It's not that they're needier than others, it's just that they're driven by so much affection to spread, they can't wait to share it with you — whether you're on the sofa, or making the bed, or running a bath...

What's Your Cat's Type?

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You've got what it takes to be Creative Mom!

Recipe for: The Creative Mom
Quote: "No problem! We'll just..."

A bunch of fresh ideas
A potful of ingenuity
A dash of inspiration
Whatever's in the fridge

You're the type of mom who can make a prize-winning Halloween costume from cardboard boxes and old stuff from the garage, or whip up a tasty after-work meal from whatever's in the fridge and the cupboard. And what about your ability to make an earlier bedtime sound like a great idea to the kids? When there's a problem, you solve it—with wit and inspiration.

You're a figure-outer and it shows in your creativity and innovation. Whether it's taking care of school projects or giving social advice to your kids, when you put that sharp mind to it, you always come up with devastatingly clever solutions.

The Ultimate Mom Test

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Your signature candle is Zanzibar Clove

No one ever accused you of being dull. Wild and unpredictable, you're at your best when you're pushing limits and exploring new territory. From travel to work to fashion, you're the kind of intrepid soul who's always taking chances and eager to learn more.

Like the exotic scent of Zanzibar clove, there's a mysterious side to you that people love trying to figure out. A true chameleon, you might tear up the dance floor at one party and move on to another where you start a heated discussion about foreign policy. You love to keep people guessing. Don't worry, we won't tell!

Which Candle Suits You?

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Your flavor is Crazy Cranberry
We have to hand it to you. With your self-confidence, gumption, and joie de vivre, you're usually two steps ahead of the pack, willing to try anything once (and usually twice). We'd guess that kind of devil-may-care attitude has won you loads of admirers, particularly those wanting in on some of that positive energy (or maybe just wondering what the heck you're going to do next). Regardless, you're always refreshing with a little kick — a combination sure to juice up any crowd.

You're a real self-starter, and tend to be motivated by the unknown. For you, the possibilities are endless. And that kind of adventuresome attitude is contagious. That's probably why people tend to look to you to shake things up — you never know what kind of fabulous cocktail you'll come up with

What Flavor Fits You?

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I had to reduce the links and such before they would show up on my blog. I could always see them in preview mode, so I don't know what the deal was. You may have to remove the link coding on the pictures too if you want to post your results on blogger. It was reduntant anyway, since there's text link to each test below the result. I felt the test were fun enough to be worth the trouble of tweakering, obviously. ;-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Free Museum Day on Sept 29th

Just passing on the reminder! Hopefully you will find an interesting museum near you!

Monday, September 24, 2007

My library

I got a direct invite to join Shelfari - and went for it, as I had been thinking of joining librarything, which is pretty much the same kind of thing, as near as I can tell, though shelfari may not be as efficient. It takes a long time to add books on Shelfari, so I can only put in a few at a time and, as I have a large library, its far from complete. They don't have all my books listed in their database. Their cover images can take forever to load, or refuse to load at all (you can still get the name of a book by mousing over it though). I'll readily admit Shelfari's best feature is its price - free. gives an idea of my interests.

No these aren't just books I have read. These are books I own, unless a few of them have died in storage since the last time I looked. I don't borrow from the county library. Years ago, they had a couple of ladies there accusing me of losing books I never checked out, not returning books I had long ago returned on time etc. I think it was because I protested their selling for 3-5.oo leatherbound classic editions of the likes of Shakespeare & Walt Whitman when their own paperback editions were literally falling apart on the shelf. Sure enough, after they sold mine, the others died as well. They used the money to buy works from a suggested buy list obviously made by someone friendly to the more radical elements of the Dem. ntnl party, iykwim.

Eventually they admitted their accusations were wrong, especially when I personally came in with my family and demanded to see where I was supposed to have signed for the books I had not checked out. They couldn't do that. (Hurray! that they still used a signature system then. :P)I also found that both books they claimed I hadn't returned were on the shelf - with the correct- on time- check-in date. With the evidence staring them in the face, they apologized. How big of them.

Looking back on it, I think maybe the accusations were the pre-work for discrediting the messenger, in case I took their biased stocking & purchasing behavior before the county board, you know? But after they retracted their foolishness and apologized, I simply left. My decision was to quit supporting them. Every local library I lived near elsewhere had me as a regular patron & supporter. I'd look for good copies of classics that were croaking or make cookies for their bake sales if I could do nothing else.

Of course the local library has puttered along just fine without me (they are publicly funded after all). Whether you'd think they have done a good job or not depends on how much you like old potboilers, pop psychology, biased discussions of historical events for which they usually lack the regular history books, romances, the occult or Maya Angelou. I'm not saying a public library shouldn't include such books, but not at the expense of carrying the classics! Also, if they are going to promote other belief systems, shouldn't the majority faith of this nation be represented, at least?

Meantime our personal collection has expanded to include a number of time-life series like the companion sets on the allies and the axis powers of WWII - & classic literature books they insisted on selling at one of their quarterly book sales. Every time I would check and find they had little to no coverage on topics that they were selling off for a song - no copies of Emily Dickinson in the catalog - yet they were selling a special edition of her collected works. I became more politic about how I brought up these issues, but it never seemed to matter. They didn't I went home with Emily, Eisenhower, & Rommel.

Now all this was years ago but every so often we have gone in to check their book sales & checked them over while there. Took my son in to show him the Dewey decimal system in action & the card catalog, but sadly, the latter had been removed. Its a pity libraries haven't realized those catalogs were an asset that would bring people like us, because they still appear on standardized tests! Even showing the Dewey system wasn't as easy as I'd have anticipated because of the emptiness of the shelves. "Yes, dear, this is where American history should go - over there should be English poets" ::sigh::

In their new building they are able to keep a small bookshop's worth of books rather than just holding sales a few times a year. You can always find a few conservative selections &/or classics over there as well as outdated travel books & newer potboilers. The people at the desk seem to be a lot nicer - but the selection on the shelves has not improved so far as any of us have been able to tell...and this is definitely still a choice on the part of the staff, given what they keep selling off. They buy computers but not C.S. Lewis or L'Engle or Asimov or Bunyan or St Augustine or Pratchett or Plato. The only way to read Voltaire in their library is to download his works from on their internet connection. They might have a copy of one Jules Verne's books - maybe. Mind you, I wouldn't check out a book from them now even if they did have one I liked. I don't think they use physically signed signatures anymore, and I have no idea if the dishonest clerks of yesteryear have access to the digitized accounts, kwim?

So - if my kids were going to become bibliophiles like ma, pa, & grandma, we were going to be regularly going across the river in some direction (there are good libraries in the region, all about an hour or two away) or we were going to be buying our own books. Given the head start we already had, and the numerous secondhand and bargain stores around here, option 2 was easier...except for the fact that I have always needed more shelves. More space for more shelves would be even better ::grin::

Now the local library could benefit from checking out my shelves rather than the reverse.

I figured I might as well share 'my shelf' here since shelfari gives that option. If you see a big blank spot below this text instead of books on a shelf, its just likely to be them as you - don't worry about it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sparrow's quizzes

I took Sparrow's quizzes awhile ago, after Becka checked out her page again (she makes scripture blog images like the one I have on here) but didn't put it up. Apparently the server has changed since then so I had to take them afresh to get the new code. C'est la vie!

I got the same results the second time!

Which Hamtaro
character are you?

Take this quiz at
Sparrow's Song

Which Beatrix Potter
character are you?

Take this quiz at
Sparrow's Song

Which Winnie the Pooh character are you?
Take this quiz at
Sparrow's Song

Narnia Personality Quiz
Take this quiz at
Sparrow's Song

Don't have time to say much today, so these cheery characters will have to hold you for a bit. :) Only reason my blog got changed was an editing accident - I was checking a feature and switched over to the new system when I thought I was only looking! Finishing didn't look like it would take too long so - there you are! I feel the lighthouse is a nice look for my theme, even though its only a standard template. Glad I found a new one in the default choices worth using because serious customizing will still have to wait awhile!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Inner Ring

I consider these thoughts rather related to the last posting. Susan


C.S. Lewis: The Inner Ring ... On Making Good Men Do Bad Things

Culture/Society Miscellaneous Keywords: C.S. C. S. LEWIS INNER RING CIRCLE
Published: 1944 Author: C. S. Lewis
Posted on 11/14/2000 11:21:27 PST by Askel5

(republished in The Weight of Glory)

Oration at University of London, 1944


May I read you a few lines from Tolstoi’s War and Peace?

When Boris entered the room, Prince Andrey was listening to an old general, wearing his decorations, who was reporting something to Prince Andrey, with an expression of soldierly servility on his purple face. "Alright. Please wait!" he said to the general, speaking in Russian with the French accent which he used when he spoke with contempt. The moment he noticed Boris he stopped listening to the general who trotted imploringly after him and begged to be heard, while Prince Andrey turned to Boris with a cheerful smile and a nod of the head. Boris now clearly understood- what he had already guessed- that side by side with the system of discipline and subordination which were laid down in the Army Regulations, there existed a different and more real system- the system which compelled a tightly laced general with a purple face to wait respectfully for his turn while a mere captain like Prince Andrey chatted with a mere second lieutenant like Boris. Boris decided at once that he would be guided not by the official system but by this other unwritten system.

When you invite a middle-aged moralist to address you, I suppose I must conclude, however unlikely the conclusion seems, that you have a taste for middle-aged moralising. I shall do my best to gratify it. I shall in fact, give you advice about the world in which you are going to live. I do not mean by this that I am going to talk on what are called current affairs. You probably know quite as much about them as I do. I am not going to tell you- except in a form so general that you will hardly recognise it- what part you ought to play in post-war reconstruction.

It is not, in fact, very likely that any of you will be able, in the next ten years, to make any direct contribution to the peace or prosperity of Europe. You will be busy finding jobs, getting married, acquiring facts. I am going to do something more old-fashioned than you perhaps expected. I am going to give advice. I am going to issue warnings. Advice and warnings about things which are so perennial that no one calls them "current affairs."

And of course everyone knows what a middle-aged moralist of my type warns his juniors against. He warns them against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. But one of this trio will be enough to deal with today. The Devil, I shall leave strictly alone. The association between him and me in the public mind has already gone quite as deep as I wish: in some quarters it has already reached the level of confusion, if not of identification. I begin to realise the truth of the old proverb that he who sups with that formidable host needs a long spoon. As for the Flesh, you must be very abnormal young people if you do not know quite as much about it as I do. But on the World I think I have something to say.

In the passage I have just read from Tolstoi, the young second lieutenant Boris Dubretskoi discovers that there exist in the army two different systems or hierarchies. The one is printed in some little red book and anyone can easily read it up. It also remains constant. A general is always superior to a colonel, and a colonel to a captain. The other is not printed anywhere. Nor is it even a formally organised secret society with officers and rules which you would be told after you had been admitted. You are never formally and explicitly admitted by anyone. You discover gradually, in almost indefinable ways, that it exists and that you are outside it; and then later, perhaps, that you are inside it.

There are what correspond to passwords, but they are too spontaneous and informal. A particular slang, the use of particular nicknames, an allusive manner of conversation, are the marks. But it is not so constant. It is not easy, even at a given moment, to say who is inside and who is outside. Some people are obviously in and some are obviously out, but there are always several on the borderline. And if you come back to the same Divisional Headquarters, or Brigade Headquarters, or the same regiment or even the same company, after six weeks’ absence, you may find this secondary hierarchy quite altered.

There are no formal admissions or expulsions. People think they are in it after they have in fact been pushed out of it, or before they have been allowed in: this provides great amusement for those who are really inside. It has no fixed name. The only certain rule is that the insiders and outsiders call it by different names. From inside it may be designated, in simple cases, by mere enumeration: it may be called "You and Tony and me." When is very secure and comparatively stable in membership it calls itself ‘we.’ When it has to be expanded to meet a particular emergency it calls itself "all the sensible people at this place." From outside, if you have dispaired of getting into it, you call it "That gang" or "they" or "So-and-so and his set" or "The Caucus" or "The Inner Ring." If you are candidate for admission you probably don’t call it anything. To discuss it with the other outsiders would make you feel outside yourself. And to mention talking to the man who is inside, and who may help you if this present conversation goes well, would be madness.

Badly as I may have described it, I hope you will all have recognised the thing I am describing. Not, of course, that you have been in the Russian Army, or perhaps in any army. But you have met the phenomenon of an Inner Ring. You discovered one in your house at school before the end of the first term. And when you had climbed up to somewhere near it by the end of your second year, perhaps you discovered that within the ring there was a Ring yet more inner, which in its turn was the fringe of the great school Ring to which the house Rings were only satellites. It is even possible that the school ring was almost in touch with a Masters’ Ring. You were beginning, in fact, to pierce through the skins of an onion. And here, too, at your University- shall I be wrong in assuming that at this very moment, invisible to me, there are several rings- independent systems or concentric rings- present in this room? And I can assure you that in whatever hospital, inn of court, diocese, school, business, or college you arrive after going down, you will find the Rings- what Tolstoi calls the second or unwritten systems.

All this is rather obvious. I wonder whether you will say the same of my next step, which is this. I believe that in all men’s’ lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside. This desire, in one of its forms, has indeed had ample justice done to it in literature. I mean, in the form of snobbery. Victorian fiction is full of characters who are hag-ridden by the desire to get inside that particular Rind which is, or was, called Society. But it must be clearly understood that "Society," in that sense of the word, is merely one of a hundred Rings, and snobbery therefore only one form of the longing to be inside.

People who believe themselves to be free, and indeed are free, from snobbery, and who read satires on snobbery with tranquil superiority, may be devoured by the desire in another form. It may be the very intensity of their desire to enter some quite different Ring which renders them immune from all the allurements of high life. An invitation from a duchess would be very cold comfort to a man smarting under the sense of exclusion from some artistic or communistic côterie. Poor man- it is not large, lighted rooms, or champagne, or even scandals about peers and Cabinet Ministers that he wants: it is the sacred little attic or studio, the heads bent together, the fog of tobacco smoke, and the delicious knowledge that we- we four or five all huddled beside this stove- are the people who know.

Often the desire conceals itself so well that we hardly recognize the pleasures of fruition. Men tell not only their wives but themselves that it is a hardship to stay late at the office or the school on some bit of important extra work which they have been let in for because they and So-and-so and the two others are the only people left in the place who really know how things are run. But it is not quite true. It is a terrible bore, of course, when old Fatty Smithson draws you aside and whispers, "Look here, we’ve got to get you in on this examination somehow" or "Charles and I saw at once that you’ve got to be on this committee." A terrible bore… ah, but how much more terrible if you were left out! It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons: but to have them free because you don’t matter, that is much worse.

Freud would say, no doubt, that the whole thing is a subterfuge of the sexual impulse. I wonder whether the shoe is not sometimes on the other foot. I wonder whether, in ages of promiscuity, many a virginity has not been lost less in obedience to Venus than in obedience to the lure of the caucus. For of course, when promiscuity is the fashion, the chaste are outsiders. They are ignorant of something that other people know. They are uninitiated. And as for lighter matters, the number of people who first smoked or first got drunk for a similar reason is probably very large.

I must now make a distinction. I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable. There must be confidential discussions: and it is not only a bad thing, it is (in itself) a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together. And it is perhaps impossible that the official hierarchy of any organisation should coincide with its actual workings. If the wisest and most energetic people held the highest spots, it might coincide; since they often do not, there must be people in high positions who are really deadweights and people in lower positions who are more important than their rank and seniority would lead you to suppose. It is necessary: and perhaps it is not a necessary evil. But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter. A thing may be morally neutral and yet the desire for that thing may be dangerous. As Byron has said:

Sweet is a legacy, and passing sweet
The unexpected death of some old lady.

The painless death of a pious relative at an advanced age is not an evil. But an earnest desire for her death on the part of her heirs is not reckoned a proper feeling, and the law frowns on even the gentlest attempts to expedite her departure. Let Inner Rings be unavoidable and even an innocent feature of life, though certainly not a beautiful one: but what of our longing to enter them, our anguish when we are excluded, and the kind of pleasure we feel when we get in?

I have no right to make assumptions about the degree to which any of you may already be compromised. I must not assume that you have ever first neglected, and finally shaken off, friends whom you really loved and who might have lasted you a lifetime, in order to court the friendship of those who appeared to you more important, more esoteric. I must not ask whether you have derived actual pleasure from the loneliness and humiliation of the outsiders after you, yourself were in: whether you have talked to fellow members of the Ring in the presence of outsiders simply in order that the outsiders might envy; whether the means whereby, in your days of probation, you propitiated the Inner Ring, were always wholly admirable.

I will ask only one question- and it is, of course, a rhetorical question which expects no answer. IN the whole of your life as you now remember it, has the desire to be on the right side of that invisible line ever prompted you to any act or word on which, in the cold small hours of a wakeful night, you can look back with satisfaction? If so, your case is more fortunate than most.

My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it- this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care. That will be the natural thing- the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort. If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream, you will in fact be an ‘inner ringer." I don’t say you’ll be a successful one; that’s as may be. But whether by pining and moping outside Rings that you can never enter, or by passing triumphantly further and further in- one way or the other you will be that kind of man.

I have already made it fairly clear that I think it better for you not to be that kind of man. But you may have an open mind on the question. I will therefore suggest two reasons for thinking as I do.

It would be polite and charitable, and in view of your age reasonable too, to suppose that none of you is yet a scoundrel. On the other hand, by the mere law of averages (I am saying nothing against free will) it is almost certain that at least two or three of you before you die will have become something very like scoundrels. There must be in this room the makings of at least that number of unscrupulous, treacherous, ruthless egotists. The choice is still before you: and I hope you will not take my hard words about your possible future characters as a token of disrespect to your present characters.

And the prophecy I make is this. To nine out of ten of you the choice which could lead to scoundrelism will come, when it does come, in no very dramatic colours. Obviously bad men, obviously threatening or bribing, will almost certainly not appear. Over a drink, or a cup of coffee, disguised as triviality and sandwiched between two jokes, from the lips of a man, or woman, whom you have recently been getting to know rather better and whom you hope to know better still- just at the moment when you are most anxious not to appear crude, or naïf or a prig- the hint will come. It will be the hint of something which the public, the ignorant, romantic public, would never understand: something which even the outsiders in your own profession are apt to make a fuss about: but something, says your new friend, which "we"- and at the word "we" you try not to blush for mere pleasure- something "we always do."

And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face- that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face- turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel.

That is my first reason. Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.

My second reason is this. The torture allotted to the Danaids in the classical underworld, that of attempting to fill sieves with water, is the symbol not of one vice, but of all vices. It is the very mark of a perverse desire that it seeks what is not to be had. The desire to be inside the invisible line illustrates this rule. As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want. You are trying to peel an onion: if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain.

This is surely very clear when you come to think of it. If you want to be made free of certain circle for some wholesome reason- if, say, you want to join a musical society because you really like music- then there is a possibility of satisfaction. You may find yourself playing in a quartet and you may enjoy it. But if all you want is to be in the know, your pleasure will be short lived. The circle cannot have from within the charm it had from outside. By the very act of admitting you it has lost its magic.

Once the first novelty is worn off, the members of this circle will be no more interesting than your old friends. Why should they be? You were not looking for virtue or kindness or loyalty or humour or learning or wit or any of the things that can really be enjoyed. You merely wanted to be "in." And that is a pleasure that cannot last. As soon as your new associates have been staled to you by custom, you will be looking for another Ring. The rainbow’s end will still be ahead of you. The old ring will now be only the drab background for your endeavor to enter the new one.

And you will always find them hard to enter, for a reason you very well know. You yourself, once you are in, want to make it hard for the next entrant, just as those who are already in made it hard for you. Naturally. In any wholesome group of people which holds together for a good purpose, the exclusions are in a sense accidental. Three or four people who are together for the sake of some piece of work exclude others because there is work only for so many or because the others can’t in fact do it. Your little musical group limits its numbers because the rooms they meet in are only so big. But your genuine Inner Ring exists for exclusion. There’d be no fun if there were no outsiders. The invisible line would have no meaning unless most people were on the wrong side of it. Exclusion is no accident; it is the essence.

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.

And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.

We are told in Scripture that those who ask get. That is true, in senses I can’t now explore. But in another sense there is much truth in the schoolboy’s principle "them as asks shan’t have." To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of "insides," full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no "inside" that is worth reaching. The true road lies in quite another direction. It is like the house in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

C.S. Lewis 1944

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cultural anthropology & the web

IMHO - the internet is at its coolest when it lets you visit easily with neat people from all over the country, and across the world. It can also be at its worst then. The value of the internet 'hive mind' is inevitably tied to the value of collective humanity everywhere - which can mean 'the mob mind' instead of the 'think tank' effect.

What's more - we all tend to look for the things that interest us and people who will appreciate us to share it with, rather than spending a lot of time seeing what 'the other side' thinks. As long as humans can collect with like-minded folks from elsewhere the internet has personal value, but its ability to 'shape mankind' is then limited to what appeals to that same mankind. You will not make opera lovers out of rock & rollers - Rather, both will find forums that reinforce their own view of the music world. Each group becomes its own village, and like the villagers of old, they reinforce their collective values on one another. If anything, this ability to seek 'your kind' has proved narrowing to some souls who came seeking only to affirm their own values at the expense of respecting that of others - reinforcing their innate tendency toward bigotry. Only those who come with an open-mind can expect to have it broadened further by the people and information available on the 'net.

This is because many people are followers, and most of us are 'herd-minded,' following the authorities/influences we find in our 'home' forums on the net. This natural effect has been made even stronger by the extreme value our culture has put on 'experts' and 'professionally-run' institutions. People in most 1st world countries have been trained to honor doctors, schoolmasters, and 'stars' from their earliest days. (Patrick Henry would be appalled, but then a lot of things in our modern world would appall that free-thinking firebrand.) Some leaders are elected in freely made forums, but most come to power by gaining 'popularity' (which may be honestly merited or gained by manipulation). Other forums are managed by the 'noble & patronage' model - as the sponsor &/or chosen community moderator for a company or group becomes the one the 'vassals' seek to please for goodies & recognition).

This is all part of the 'hive mind' experience - dedicated miniature mobs led by bad people as well as good - and either possibly manipulated by powerful monied &/or political groups. Yes, the free(r) interaction between the best minds in the world has the potential to be of incalculable benefit to mankind, but it would be foolish to forget this 'other' aspect.

I think we don't need to redefine ethics, rhetoric, authorship etc as much as we need to make sure we apply it in our own circles, and hope whatever good influence we can exert will be expanded upon by others - otherwise we will find that virtual mobs, like personal ones, will tend toward the lowest common denominators led by the loudest voices (as opposed to the wisest or kindest)...which in turn brings to mind innumerable Terry Pratchett comments about mobs - so, of course the book I was looking to quote from has gone missing this afternoon. I did find this one online, however:

"The kicking and punching stopped only when it became apparent that all the mob was attacking was itself. And, since the IQ of a mob is the IQ of its most stupid member divided by the number of mobsters, it was never very clear to anyone what had happened." Terry Pratchett Maskerade

IMHO the internet is less a shaper of mankind than a reflection of its perpetual political tendencies...a swiftly changing reflection, but a virtual echo nonetheless.

[OT:: My thanks to the guys who have begun compiling many of Pratchett's best quotes. One day I am sure Terry will be listed right next to Samuel Johnson & Oscar Wilde. Meantime, I am very glad these fans are filling in the gap!]

ed:: Meant to mention that Terry Pratchett has done plenty of thinking about hive minds versus mob minds in his books. He makes a number of interesting observations about it - also using natural imagery - especially in Lords & Ladies where Terry shows the 'queen bee' as an effective force for good when 'led' by Granny Weatherwax.]

Thursday, September 13, 2007

free time?

So..after another unexpected delay blogging, I clamber awkwardly behind the keyboard again. heh

This time I did it to myself. I am always in need of more exercise, but overdid it badly last weekend, passed out, bumped my head and spent much of the week recovering. My husband is understandably exasperated. The best news about it all was discovering after my little episode that my blood sugar, heart sounds, responsiveness etc are all wonderful. No edema, no easily detectable weirdness. Apparently I am in great shape for the shape I am in, but so much for 'pushing the envelope' to get in better health! oh well... Gave me more time to finish Sam & Max (an adventure game), as I still couldn't concentrate on my more serious writing.

I do love to write. I can tell the bug is coming back on me by the way I keep regaling my family with little anecdotes from the past, silly dreams, etc. & also because finding, touching up and printing up my old Myst novel has been on my mind again. I am sure I archived it in its various incarnations, but I am not at all sure I can dredge up sufficient enthusiasm for the task, nor-as far as I know- is anyone still waiting for it with baited breath, so why is the thought of it still unsent bothering me unless its because I regard it (at some level) as an unfinished task. I don't enjoy leaving loose ends.

Not actually doing much writing as yet because every time I think about settling to it, I remember how many other things I could stand to be doing right now. I need to vacuum again. I haven't checked many friends' blogs in a long time now. I need to make sure my son actually does finish his English, Math, history etc today - and really I need to spend more talking & studying with both of my young'uns generally now that their father is doing better again. Understandably both want more dedicated interaction to make sure they are on target with where they should be academically. My son even wants to review his older books again. Its not an unreasonable desire, but everything takes time.

& I still have that one project we were working on this spring just waiting for me to get back to it. (I'd like to finish it before the Christmas season.) Seems like everything I do comes at the expense of something else good I could be doing - like I am always playing 'catch up.'

I really thought by the time I'd been married & homeschooling this long we'd have settled everything into a nice pattern, but here we are still covering skipped areas from before, going over things again to make sure we've covered that topic adequately, etc. We've had a number of little home repairs in the last years too that - until fixed- put life into 'coping' mode for that week or month. I used to tell my kids what it was like to have to share one car, or have bring in all your drinking water, or have to dump all washing water by hand or what washing clothes was like before washing machines. Now- they also know for themselves, and are very grateful when full service returns! They seem to have picked up the biggest lesson from such challenges. They know now how fragile 'modern life' really is - and how important it is to be flexible in your daily expectations. God provides for those who trust in Him, but He doesn't promise a Sears & Roebucks' existence!

Seems like the life I have always had has consisted of quiet spells of recovery in between bouts of largely unexpected excitements. Its not been all bad by any means, but it is rarely in any danger of settling into the sort of 'average' routines many people regard as the normal condition of modern life. I hate making appointments or plans too far down the road. 7 times out of 10, something is just likely to happen that will upset them. Course James 4: 13-15 suggests we shouldn't be so stuck on making plans anyway ~ I take comfort in that. ::grin::

13 Come now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy, and sell, and get gain:
14 Whereas ye know not what will be on the morrow: For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
15 Instead of that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

under construction

Hallo :)

Its been very busy 'round here since I last blogged. We've been to the doctor's office several times as they adjusted his medications to get his blood balanced back like it should be. Seems all those surgeries had been too big a strain. Once one of the readings went way off kilter, other elements faltered as well. Thank God, he was in for treatment before he would have to be hospitalized for it. Its just a matter of taking some new pills and monitering often. Tom has been responding extremely well to this regimen - and the little spots that wouldn't stay healed are subsiding. He still has the last surgery coming up. He's now stabilised nicely, but they want him to stay that way a bit before rescheduling.

Meantime we've had the guys finally come back to redo the systems in the yard & work on it some more. After the yard was filled back in and all that- it was decided that a new deeper well & septic system was necessary to replace the old ones. (very old- both were antiques!) So- over the last couple of weeks the crews have been bustling in and out with big pipes and trucks & excavators... They are mostly done now, and hope to finish up right after labor day. The well is competely finished & the water from it is lovely. We will keep up the triple filtering for now, but probably won't have to once it is tested again next month. ^_^

While out and about, we checked some of our favorite stores for goodies in our range & found some lovely ones. I now have my favorite old "Man of LaMancha" production on cd! I also found Offenbach, an original Traveling Wilburies vol 1 cd, & one of my old fav Clannad albums on cd turned up in a secondhand store cheaply too. I am truly amazed at the grace in these inexpensive delights. I was looking forward to ordering them off the net when I was well-off again as these are comparatively rare and hard to order any other way. Now they are mine for like 2.00 each. Wow! Just about takes the sting out of not winning the lottery. :)

It may sound silly, but I had really wanted to win this month because of some neighbors I gotta deal with. Got another situation where a 'respecter of persons' thing seems to me to be a huge issue. If people just have to worship success, or think it puts them at a level where they don't have to treat God's other children with equal respect, I would like God to back up the words He gives me with a position they will recognize, ya know? But, no, God gives me the grace to do as He leads, continues in upholding us miraculously well where we are -even sends lovely treats our way, and asks us to believe Him for tomorrow. I know that's enough. I just would love to abound again and be content. I've been working on being content in this situation for what seems like a long time already. ;-)

I keep getting reminded as I read God's word that many of those God sent to speak to people where not blessed with huge material goods or an official position for a long time. Daniel was recognized and beloved by one king, but pretty much ignored by the next guy until he got that famous hand writing on the wall. Actually that guy's preferments were something Daniel would have been glad to have done without! Even John the Baptist (though a priest's son) was only recognized by the Pharisees because of the crowds that came to be baptized- which was really God's calling them through John. The prophet Jeremiah received hardly any respect at all until after a number of his prophecies had come true - and then it was by those put in charge by the Babylonians. His own relations had tried to betray him. The king had him thrown down a dry well!

I remember Oakleigh's weak point as well. They had done many things well, but most of the elders had been blessed with earthly financial success before or during going into the leadership there. When God sent them special messengers who weren't well-heeled, it was uphill slogging to be recognized at all- and that was WITH the Holy Spirit vouching for His own every step of the way in a church where the Holy Spirit spoke through people quite often! I have yet to see (in person) another church as close to Christ's heart as Oakleigh, so its never been surprising to see this problem not even recognized, let alone dealt with in other circles- but it *is* disheartening.

Eventually God ordained the dissolution of the best church home I would ever know. I was one of those given that word - though I was only a child. We would all be seeds on the wind, and learn to sing to Him in the wilderness before we would be brought home. I knew the why of it as well. The projects the church undertook were always begun with much prayer, but when God sent them people to fulfill them who weren't well-heeled, they would often be bumped for the socially adept and for wealthier believers/ministries who showed an interest. They didn't keep praying about the people they chose to back after seeing that the project itself was to blessed and a blessing.

God sent people from all over to Oakleigh- and I can remember hearing some of them talking to God about it, shocked that the doors they believed they were told about were being closed in their face because they who had left everything to follow Christ had not then arrived well-enough endowed. Now some may have been kidding themselves but at least three definitely were not - they came in the spirit of God, and when they were rejected, God opened other doors for their ministry. It still surprises me that someone who receives their own raising - especially in a difficult industry- correctly, in the spirit, and as a gift of God- will still fall for the 'its just good business' line afterward, will look to lean upon the hand of pharaoh, until their own hand is pierced by that broken reed.

Seems like the only churches immune from this problem are the ones where everybody is broke. As soon as one of them is blessed financially, even they are tempted to presume that one is also more with it spiritually. Not too many St Francis-style ministries recognized by God's people in this day and time...and then it helps to already be a Franciscan. This is an advantage even St Francis lacked at first. He was regarded as a nut for several years, as was St Clare, and the few others who listened to him then.

I remember also the word God gave one of those downtown Christian cafes that the church ran back then. The Holy Spirit told us a person very dear to His heart was coming that afternoon. I watched to greet this person for hours. When the word of the Lord came again, saying 'this is the one' the person's appearance was a shock...because he looked just like all the other hobo types we served all day long - but this elderly, impoverished African-American believer was someone God dearly loved (and still loves). Jesus especially wished us to honor His servant that day. Thinking about it as a grown person, I realized that this was not a word God has given very often - even to many of His best known and most faithful servants. This last was first with Him. Had God given an African-American hobo a prophetic word for you -- would you be inclined to listen?

And yet you would be a fool not to listen.

I have realized lately how many unique experiences have shaped my unusual view of the world and of life. I do not value the unsupported word of 'experts' at least partly because I grew up listening to many senior citizens who told me the truth of the history they remembered, and showed me the holes in the stories I heard. My values have been shaped in a very serious way by experiences like the ones I have shared, and many more. I am serious minded- which is why I value silliness. I can use the break! What some people have chosen to misunderstand as pride is actually strength of will. I know who I am. I know God is and that He loves me. I do not have to wonder about it. Sometimes this bedrock certainty spreads too easily to my other opinions - but its not pride. I am just sure I am right. {grin}

I live by principles and by faith. I admire those who I see also trying for these goals. If you abandon the good fight, and lose your grip on the unshakable truths, talent or success is not an adequate replacement for it in Christ's eyes or mine. Indeed, why should God be impressed by our feeble gifts? He gave us every good thing we have. Christ has ordained ALL our provisioning - including our 'natural' gifts. We are not supposed to bury them (even if the most rare sometimes get mis-identified by fellow believers), but we aren't supposed to think ourselves better than anyone else for having them either.

A great servant of the Lord once told me that every talent- every gift, is a responsibility before God. Those who have few talents also have great freedom! God loves the simple hearts too- and their position is a generous gift. They are free to simply enjoy Him.

It may sound diminishing to regard every talent under our control as also belonging to God - but this awareness is also very freeing. We are not responsible for talents we are not given. God promised me that He had (and would) give me everything I would ever need in this life if I would just continue to walk in Him. I would never discover I needed a particular talent, and find it lacking.

This is true word for everyone.

No one of us is better than another because we are clever or creative or wealthy or cute or have a beautiful voice. Nor are we lacking if we do not possess one of these gifts. God is faithful, and has given to each of us what we really need in this life. Once we truly grasp this truth, we are free to prefer one in love as scripture requires. Once we understand that we owe God even what makes us so special to others, then we are free to use those gifts with a fitting humility that will clothe us far more gloriously than any photo op.

I used to worry about a friend I had when I was very little. He was such a sweetheart! But he was also much simpler in the head than I was, and he was in a situation that all my 'cleverness' would have found very challenging. I prayed for him often, and was surprised when I heard he'd had an accident and gone home to God early - but the crucial thing was that he had gone home in grace, still full of the love and generosity of spirit for which I'd always loved him. God had given him what he'd needed for while he was here - he was to be 'finished' in heaven.

Meantime, I struggle on in this life, stumbling over the roots removed in the garden of my heart, asking the patience of those who see the flaws exposed during the renovation and reconstruction of my life and heart. God's still digging here, but the results will be worth it I am sure.