The Day the Cat Went to the Vet


“West Central Veterinary Clinic, how may I help you?” said a nice voice.

“Hi, um…my cat appears to be in a lot of pain, can’t seem to use his litter box, and hasn’t eaten in two days. I’m wanting to know if you have any suggestions?” Thus began the little saga of my Saturday. The nice voice said it sounded not-so-great and they would squeeze me in before they closed that day. So I put a very sick tom cat in a box and drove to Rockville.

This is, I need to interject, unprecedented. We don’t typically take our cats to the vet. They don’t get shots or dental appointments or are neutered. They are au natural. But this cat is kind of special, and well, he was awfully uncomfortable. I’ve held a lot of dying kittens in my arms and I just wasn’t ready to do that again. So off we went.

The nurse giggled when she registered his name. “Sassy Pants?”

“Yes,” I said. “And boy, is he.” (His official name is Shy, which he isn’t, so we don’t often call him that.)

I shared the waiting room with a man and his hyper little golden dog and a tiny girl and her grandfather. Sassy yowled from his box. “Kitty!” the little girl said. A short while later, she and her grandfather passed me to go to one of the examination rooms; their critter had just been brought in from his pen outdoors—a lamb. He baaa’d at us and she waved.

Upon entering the examination room the vet expressed surprise at finding “Sassy Pants” to be a tom. A BIG tom. Sassy didn’t care what anyone thought. He wasn’t interested in his surroundings; he didn’t care about being weighed or inspected. He was not himself at all; he seemed more comfortable when I was holding him—another sign of serious problems. He is not, shall we say, a snuggler.

When the vet was done listening and feeling, he gave a sigh. “Well, Mom,” and he launched into it. I had been hoping for something simple like a little medicine, a shot.

No such bananas.

The vet was quite nice about it, but he made it clear. Either I took my cat home and he died a miserable death in day or so, or he had surgery immediately.

SURGERY?? On my cat?

About half an hour after I got home, I got a call. “Sassy Pants is out of surgery and waking up right now. He’s doing just fine, Mom.”

Two days later, he was still in the cat hospital under observation. I stopped by to see him and pay his bill. (He’s an expensive cat.) The nurses giggled again when I asked to see him.

In examination room three, Shy, alias Sassy Pants, was so delighted to see me he deposited a pound of fur on my jacket. His throaty rumble filled the room. He was all over me, the examination table and the room in general. He was clearly feeling better. It made me grin.

It is both the first and the last time I will probably pay for a cat to have surgery. (No, I am not his “mom.” Good heavens.) It’s also probably the first and last time I could actually pay for something like that. But I’m not at all sorry that I did. Like I said—he’s kind of a special cat.

Long may he live to terrorize the local rodents, rub fur on our pants, and lick toes.


Unwrap-able Christmas Gifts


Twenty-one people were crammed into Grandpa and Grandma’s house for Christmas. (We could have had thirty-two people this year, if all the married grandkids had made it.) If that sounds nuts, it isn’t, really. We LIKE each other; that’s kind of the point. Two bathrooms might make it a bit silly, but we manage. About every twenty minutes or so, there is a race for the shower with lots of laughter and shoving and yelling involved. Meals are insane, but we like it that way. The closer we get to actually eating, the more people show up in the kitchen. It’s a miracle no one is burned. Card games are hilarious. And when we get snowed-in, we get snowed-in together. We get up when we feel like it, and sleep when we can’t keep our eyes open anymore. We figured that we went through at least four pots of coffee a day—probably more. A few poor souls would find the empty coffee pot, make more, and then come back moments later to an empty pot again.

On Christmas Eve Sunday, we all got to church early to practice. The family choir was a little smaller than years past, but we were full-voiced and full of heart. We sang as a family in between the congregational carols and read the scripture verses we were handed. We come equipped with our own pianist and choir conductor, so it only makes sense that we make music together.

We went out to eat together and the whole family adopted our waitress. It was her birthday and she was working on Christmas Eve at lunch time. She told us she didn’t like her birthday anyway—so she was just hoping the day would be over soon. So we did our best to make her day special; I love watching my family do that. We did everything else too—spilled water, earned our very own coffee pot, stayed after the place closed (we didn’t know) and in general, laughed a lot. I think we all tipped our waitress. I hope it made her birthday and Christmas special; I hope she read the tract we left behind with it.

There’s been an old wind-up record player sitting in the corner of the living room in that house for my whole life. I had never heard it played. So this year…we played it. It was scratchy and squeaking and you could adjust the speed with one little lever. It was kind of awesome.

And then on Christmas Eve, it SNOWED. Is there anything quite so magical? I might not care to play in it like I used to, but that doesn’t keep me from pressing my nose to the glass or dashing out to take a few pictures.


We got out Grandma’s wedding china for Christmas dinner this year and made one long table of it. Presents always come later. Presents were preceded by carols in the living room. We did pretty well until we got to “Good King Wenceslas.”

We prayed together; we sang together. We encouraged each other with the promises of Jesus when we found moments tucked away on couches and chairs to talk. And I was aware all over again just how rare that is. We thanked God together for the past, the beautiful present and the yet-unseen future—whatever it is, we know He’s in it.

So we are grateful. I know I am.


Festival Philosophies


Once upon a time, two bloggers wrote a joint post. They liked it. So they decided to do it again. This it. The link to E’s blog to be posted here later…

~The Rewriter



We meet on a sunny Saturday the last weekend of Bridge Festival. The last time we went adventuring—over a year ago–we went to Spring Fest. Since then, I have finished my third degree and started a new school year. She has traveled around the world. Literally. (Check out her travel blog: But since she has so recently returned home, she wants to play tourist one more time, looking with new eyes at home: so we go to the Fall Bridge Festival.

Once upon a time in high school, she was a covered bridge tour guide. I am jealous; I’ve always wanted to do that. Parke County’s claim to international fame is that we have the most covered bridges of any county anywhere. That gives us an excuse to festivalize; it’s fun. Crafts and antiques and festival food pop up in little towns all over the county. We wander to a few of the booths at our starting location of Rockville. But our main goal is to find a map of historic, old, covered bridges and just enjoy them and Fall and catch up.

We stop at our first bridge and start by taking a picture. We document ourselves there, too. She is a photographer and a writer; I can depend on her for great pictures. I’m just a writer. Capturing the moment visually is seldom something I think of.  It’s a lovely little bridge, happily spanning a trickling creek. It should be more than a trickle, but the water table is rather low this season. Off to the north, a herd of Angus chews its mid-morning cud in the sunshine. While E. takes pictures of the interior, I step around the edge to a little narrow wall overlooking the water so that I’m out of the way. I can feel a migraine coming on—a more regular occurrence than not, these days, so I have my sunglasses on. She finishes and comes back, and I turn around to step back across onto the bridge…and stop.

I have forever been and likely always will be rather leery of anything that looks…snake-like. The squiggly-looking thing in front of me MIGHT be a worm, but it’s squiggles are a little too…vertebrae-ish. I take a closer look… Oh, my heavens, there’s a head on the end of that. “E,” I say, “What you see right now is me not panicking about the fact that there is a snake between me and the car. If you could just give me your hand and give me a yank…” She gives me her hand and pulls me over the gap.

If you are not now applauding me for not panicking, then you should be. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that said snake was only three inches long.


As we drive from bridge to bridge, we note builder’s names written on the end. We note the differently shaped openings and windows. I can ask questions of my personal tour guide; she has all kinds of bridge facts neatly tucked away for easy access. There is no pressure; there is no rush. Just Saturday, sunshine, good company and good conversation. She tells me that the bridges were covered because they were built of wood, and that was the only way they could protect it from the elements. This is likely also why I can still drive my car across half of these. The paved road has been diverted around others, so we park and walk into them. Most are painted bright red, perched over creeks and surrounded by changing leaves. It’s really no wonder someone decided to have an annual festival.

Our midday stop is Bridgeton; a covered bridged used to be the entrance to the town. Now, it’s off to the side with a concrete bridge doing all the hard work. An old mill, still operational, is in full swing. Hundreds of booths and tents are set up down main street and down alleys. Private residences have turned their front yards into festival grounds. We’ve decided to hunt down lunch, here. Once upon a time, I had a Polish sausage with my mother at the Bridge Festival. I’ve always wanted one since. I finally find a place that sells them, but am rather disappointed by my purchase. A Polish sausage should be drippy, messy, and slathered in peppers and onions. Mine has about half of a bun, a beautifully cooked sausage with a skin so think you can’t even bite it, and about three slivers of onion. I will just have to wait a bit longer to relive that happy memory.

Something as simple as an excursion to Bridgeton is already wearing me out; I just don’t have the energy to do lots of things anymore. Being tired often results in a migraine; if I push too much, I might actually just sort of collapse in the grass. So, I measure my energy carefully. E is very thoughtful and patient. We take breaks now and then; she a great person to just stop and look at things; she doesn’t mind quietness. I like watching her take pictures; it’s always fun to watch an artist at work. I find that I see lots of lovely things when I’m too tired to actually do them. As we prepare to leave Bridgeton, the last thing E wants to do is try to take pictures of the famous Bridgeton Bridge and mill. The lighting isn’t quite right, but it’s a pretty place, nonetheless.

Somehow or another, E and I always come around to the “Old Soul” conversation. She doesn’t like the phrase; she feels like it’s a sort of backhanded compliment—saying that someone is old and out of date and behind the times. I say it’s a compliment. It means that you have a vision of the world and wisdom unusual for your age. You have the ability to enjoy things much older than you and have an appreciation for the generations and advice that came before you. This describes E; after all, not many people would spend a Saturday afternoon photographing 100-year-old architecture in the middle of nowhere. Somehow, we always get around to that conversation. Maybe someday, we’ll finish it.


I am no photographer, but I like that this captures E at her art. Also, I like the light circles on the floor.


We wind our way through the countryside, driving through towns I’ve heard of but never seen. (There are no more reptiles.) The final bridge is one her great-grandfather built. The lettering is peeling off one end; but the other end is perfect for photography purposes. Our last stop is Tangier, where the Festival Buried Beef is famous. I have come prepared to buy some for supper. E waits for me; she has probably had more buried beef than she can stand already this week. Her family is from Tangier and is involved in the meal preparation. It’s pretty impressive…and the beef is kind of amazing.

Her house is just down the road from there. We end our trip in sunshine and a confused discussion about what the large bumpy fruit is that hangs over the fence in her yard are called. Ugly fruit? Hedge apples? Then she collects Frodo, the stuffed Kiwi, from the dash (he has been perched there the whole trip) and heads into her house. I drive home through the afternoon Fall sunshine.

Parke County is a funny, rural place. Lovely in places; not always lovely in others. While part of the county delightedly celebrates Fall and history and the local economy with the Festival every year, there are always people who don’t. Today, someone saw us admiring the Fall foliage and called at us to “get out of Parke County,” assuming, of course, that locals would never admire the view and that tourists are annoying. Wild, isn’t it? Maybe what they need is a touch of the “Old Soul”; the ability to see the loveliness around them; the appreciation for the past and it’s gift to the present. Maybe what they need is a sunny Saturday, the last weekend of Bridge Festival, to just drive, and chat, and look.



The Theology of Teaching When You Cannot Teach Theology

Hebrews 4:15

He [Jesus] was tempted in all points as we are, yet never sinned.

I have this theory, simple and not too profound, that Jesus got angry with His students—and He didn’t sin. Jesus was the ultimate teacher. Kind, profound, miraculous: these are things He’s known for. But He also got angry—and it made an impact.

Teachers get angry all the time. It’s actually a tool of the trade. I remember a gym teacher, Mr. Lane, who would drop a folding chair on the gym floor from his height of six feet and yell at us. It was terrifying and it made the point.  I remember another teacher, Mrs. Black, who threw books at us. I’ve worked with directors who called their cast and crew stupid when they were trying to make a point. These things are their legacies in my memory. They were effective strategies if the goal is to just get the class quiet.

But then there are the teachers who are quiet and firm. Mrs. Sawyer’s eyes flashed fire the day she caught one of my classmates cheating on a test. Her voice raised only ever so slightly, but we all shrank in our seats. That gentle teacher had been disappointed and Heaven forbid that anger be directed at us; I would have died had she been disappointed in me. It was all the more poignant because we never saw it happen. I remember her today as someone who had an eye for the future. She didn’t just demand a quiet class; she wanted to teach us to be great human beings. She was preparing us for our future, not just her immediate present of a controlled class.

Jesus taught like that. There was a time when He was so angry that He kicked His students out of class, if you will. He visited the temple, saw abhorrent behavior, and overturned tables holding coinage. It was probably a mess. He told all the people there that greedy men had made God’s house a den of thieves; I doubt He did so quietly and gently. And yet, He did it without sin. It would take a special occasion and much grace for me to do both, but He did. He made His point, loud and clear.

Sometimes, teaching demands the kind of honesty that strips away layers of skin before it applies the healing salve. For instance, Jesus once told Peter, “Get out of my sight, Satan. You treasure the things of earth more than those of God.”  That wasn’t just name-calling out frustration. Jesus clearly saw Peter displaying the mind of the devil in his behavior and called him on it. Students seldom enjoy being called out and as a teacher, neither do I enjoy doing it. I’ve had to learn how to speak with that kind of bald honesty over the years. It doesn’t come easily to me. But I think you can say the same words with different purposes. I can either scream at a student, satisfy my desire to “give them what they deserve”, and take care of the present problem, or I can say the same words firmly, calmly, and even loudly with love and an eye for the future. Jesus also praised those who got it right. In front of a whole crowd of faith-taught Jewish listeners, Jesus told a hated Roman centurion that his behavior had proved that he had more faith than anyone in Israel. There is great value in praising those who get it right.

Sometimes the difference between those two is obvious; sometimes, it’s only in the confines of my heart where God alone can see it. Jesus was—and is—the ultimate teacher. He knew best how to communicate and knew His students (or disciples) better than anyone else. He knew them better than they themselves. A teacher frequently CAN see things no one else can see; not in the way Jesus could, certainly. But it is an ability that comes from much observation. But Jesus had to listen to his students arguing about who was going to be greatest in Heaven. Even after LIVING with the perfect teacher, eating with Him, seeing miracles and essentially having private lessons, His students still didn’t understand. They needed time, just like the rest of us. The Bible tells us that Jesus wept over Israel; I suspect He wept over His students, too. They must have known it. Their relationship was too close not to.

Most of my students will never know how much I love them; I may not like them so much some days, but I do love them. I have to be tough; I demand a lot from them. How much joy would there be if we could all agree that I could teach, and they would apply themselves? I suspect that Jesus often reflected on this lost opportunity for joy…yet He did even that without sin. It grieved Him deeply, but never to sinful despair. Of all people, the Son of Man never forgot the end of the story.

This is what I have to remember when the simplest instruction is met with peculiar volatility. Saying “hello” to some of the people I serve is often met with anger, an eye roll, or a snarl. Most days, that doesn’t bother me. But I won’t kid you; sometimes it seems futile. Sometimes…well, sometimes, Titus seems impossible.

To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers,

but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.

And let us also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses,

that they be not unfruitful.

This year in the classroom, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. But this conversation has been in the forefront of my mind. For ten years I’ve been thinking on it. I’ve had conversations with fellow Christian teachers who fall on different sides of the problem. Some wonder, like me, if it wouldn’t be better to hang it all up and start screaming. Start being brutally honest without a filter. What are calm and firm achieving anyway? I’ve received advice from veteran teachers, whom I deeply respect, to be sarcastic; be a witch. Goodness, I need barely try. It comes too easily. Perhaps my best reason to go the longer, slower route is because the first just comes too easily. It’s my first nature. But if I rely on the Spirit to guide me, He closes my mouth. He inserts gentleness; sometimes I’ve been amazed. Sometimes, I lie in bed at night and just…read Titus. I have to answer to God for my teaching, someday. Indeed, I have to answer to Him for every word that I say. He said so. So…I seek to raise my voice with gentleness. I seek to mete out discipline with firm love. At least, that’s the goal. It’s pretty high up there.

Teaching comes down to a job between Jesus and me. It always was and it always will be. It’s about demanding high-level behavior and academia from my students. It’s about my conscience before God. It doesn’t actually matter if I like the job or not. It doesn’t matter if my students like it. I can’t teach them about my Jesus; I teach the subject at hand. But I can do so, with God’s help, in a manner which exemplifies the Greatest Teacher the world has ever seen.

Titus 2:8

In all things showing a pattern of good works…sound speech,

that cannot be condemned;

that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed,

having no evil thing to say of you.

GWA: the Badlands

Badlands Us

Some little girls dream of growing up and becoming ballerinas or cowgirls. We did, too, on occasion, but mainly we were true to our one dream: we wanted to be Zorro. I don’t know about Ems, but I still do. But that’s another story. This one is about how we planned way back fifth and sixth grade that we would go to college together so that we could see each other more than once a year. Christmas just wasn’t enough. And wanting to be Zorro led to other things…and we started planning a Great Western Adventure.

College came; and we went to the same one (of course); I would have died if she hadn’t joined me there. We ate breakfast together, were society officers together, suffered through dating outings together, cried together and prayed together…it was pretty much the best. But every summer, one of us was working, or on a ministry team or SOMETHING. We kept talking about the GWA, but it might have just been one of those things you talk about and never do. Until this summer. For the first time in ten years, one of us wasn’t in college or in a foreign country. If we didn’t do it this summer, we might never.

Friends gave us destination suggestions, and family gave us lists and wisdom. We rented a car, bought plane tickets, packed peanut butter and bananas (and a few other things) and left for the west.

Who: Cousins

What: Great Western Adventure

When: Summer 2017

Where: IN, IL, IA, SD

Why: For rare and lovely fellowship, and to see more of this world God has made.

We learned a lot. Like to always pack Purell when camping, and how all South Dakota state parks have the same sign in the bathrooms written with a comma splice. We discovered that there is a limit on the number of bananas a person should eat, and that avocados eaten on the top of a huge rock in the middle of a lake somehow taste better.

Black Hills Sylvan Lk

We learned how to wield an atlatl (it’s really fun), that buffalo take a dust bath before they charge, and that prairie dogs are a chirping nuisance.


It took us six days, but we successfully made coffee over a campfire and made a muffin in a bean can. We got really good at putting up the tent and making grill cheese sandwiches over open flame.


She fell in love with the Black Hills.


I fell for the Badlands.

Badlands Rock

Two nights we camped on the Badlands; we climbed up and through the mountains of the Black Hills. We slept to coyotes singing in SD, bullfrogs in IA, and had trouble discerning a certain type of chirruping cricket from a rattlesnake. She is brave about snakes; I am not. She took care of me, though. She always does. And I do my best to take care of her.


The GWA was everything we thought it would be. But how could it be anything else? We were going for the fellowship; it just happened that we had an astonishing background for it. I’ve come home grateful and in some way comforted at God’s care of us all along the way. He did care for us so very tenderly. He even answered little prayers like giving us a campsite beside a lake.

Black Hils

Now we’re home. Five people I know left this life forever while we were gone. There are people struggling with keeping jobs, with health, with despair and discontent, all right where I left them. But I don’t have a sense of coming back to “real life”. Our western wanderings have somehow made right now a bit more beautiful; a bit clearer. Now, in the back of my mind, I have a glowing image of the Badlands…and I think that if God could care for us there, if God could make something so beautiful out of something so desolate, then surely we little sparrows can rest in Him. And so I share my little images, hoping that perhaps, you can also find rest for your wings.


Psalm 103; an anthem


A grassy hilltop, scattered with sheep. A shepherd, watching quietly and thinking. He has a small instrument in his hands, and in the quietness of the afternoon, he begins to compose.

The song begins softly, with advice to the singer’s self. He is speaking to his own emotions and intellect, as if he is struggling to realign his mind. Rather than raging over his wrestling, he defaults to stillness—and in his meditation, he starts with the highest point of reference he knows: his God. You can see him, perhaps, contemplating his place on terra firma as he watches the eagles soaring above. A whisper:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Then, perhaps, the scene changes. We are centuries later. Someone else is reading the song, adding his heart’s voice to it. He is sitting at an organ in a quiet church. He has come here to clear the noise from his head, and to practice. Discouraged by the lack of love and faith in the people of God, he goes back to the beginning. Back to his understanding of God. He finds courage in the ancient words of an old songwriter. No one is there but himself. He begins to play…the pipe organ adds its harmonies, building in intensity and voice.

The Lord works righteousness

and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
 his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
                        slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
                        nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
                        nor repay us according to our iniquities.

Now it’s later; the choir has practiced. And now what they have rehearsed in quiet can be loosed in open; together they are singing their own experiences of grace:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
  so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

A man, non-descript, hard-working, is sitting in the congregation with his family. He has stress at work, a loved one is very sick, and what is going to fall apart next? But he remembers that he, too, is a child. A child with a Father…and he finds rest in the words as his heart sings along. He takes the words out of the church door with him. He takes them to work. He takes them to the doctor. He takes them to bed and with them running through his head, he can rest.

As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

The shepherd/singer/songwriter is on the hill, singing his song out loud. It’s an old song to him now, and one of his favorites. He likes to sing it to his sheep as he watches them; they seem to enjoy it. Perhaps they are comforted, too?

 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!

 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.

Perhaps this last line is sung with a single note drifting away on the warm breeze, almost a whisper:

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

And the shepherd, just like his sheep, is at rest. 


Words in Glass Jars


In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1962, John Steinbeck said that, “Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.” Steinbeck’s approach to literature had always been to expose the unknown truth—the labor camps of the migrant workers during the dust bowl in The Grapes of Wrath, the gritty reality and simple joys of the workers in Cannery Row. He was in a prime position to tell his audience that “The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.”

Perhaps that is why I feel such responsibility for all the stories told in the English language. I feel deeply responsible. It’s not as if I have a name or a place in history; I have been given the gift of anonymity. I am a nobody. I can quietly write, uninhibited and unafraid. I don’t have people hurling opposite opinions at me, telling me stop generating words. But I feel urgently the need to speak to the topics of my faith and of stories and how they converge. And so I feel responsible for the stories other people generate, for the songs other people sing, and for the movies other people make and watch. I feel as though I must “do something”.

I don’t spend much time on social media anymore. Due to the sort of yo-yo style of communication, it is full of half-truths from ALL fronts. It’s unhealthy and unattractive, like second-hand smoke. I sat in an outdoor Starbucks patio with a friend recently; a man at a nearby table decided to smoke his e-cig very unpolitely. It was a windy day and he shared all of his vanilla smoke with us. Social media feels a lot like that; like nobody is thinking. I don’t feel like I’m “doing something” there; I feel as though I am shouting on an empty prairie, no matter how many comments my remarks may generate.

A story factory—or a corporation that makes stories and entertainment for a living—is going to feed on popular conscience. They always have. Steinbeck was speaking of popular conscience; of keeping it alive and of correcting it. We need middle ground between the prairie full of thoughtless conversations and story-factories–which is why we need smaller voices who have no large corporation to lose. We need people telling stories who aren’t going to speak to everyone else’s conscience OR merely rant. Is that also, dangerous? Well, yes. People think that what I believe is dangerous and subversive, backward and strange. I admit it; it is. Which is exactly why I need to speak.

Stories are powerful. They are how we communicate our deepest beliefs and longings. Stories say what we can’t say outright and penetrate more deeply than the essay or the speech. They can reveal deep-seated truths. Stories scare me; yet, here I am. I’m writing them. It is the scariest thing I can do with my day. That is why, even without completely understanding it, we shield children from some kinds of stories. They don’t need some ideas bonking around their heads at young ages. They shouldn’t have to grapple with the cares that adults have foisted on the world. But I don’t let some ideas have too much platform in MY head, either. I know what I can and cannot handle well. At some point, I can start tempting God with what I put inside my mind.

The modern young intellectual feels much like I do, I think: responsible and desirous to DO something. But “doing something” may often not feel like you’re doing anything at all. My version of “doing something” is going to be different from yours. Here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Writing plays that I have to really, really work to get produced.
  2. Talking to believers and unbelievers about Jesus, as little or much as I can.
  3. Going to work every day and doing my best—even if that means I’m not talking about Jesus OR stories OR even doing what I like. 

These things feel woefully unrelated to anything like “doing something”. But I’m not really big enough or smart enough to know what I can really do; but my God is. In His infinite wisdom, He put me where I am, and He gives me these chances to write and speak. I think speaking to people who want to have thoughtful conversations is “doing something”; I also think that refraining from speaking can be “doing something.”

Before we speak, we should collect our thoughts in clean little glass jars so we can look at them awhile, and then share them only where they will be most helpful, meantime asking for wisdom to do so.

John Steinbeck had a lot of good things to say that day, but at the end of his speech, I have to part ways with him. He said, “I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man, has no dedication nor any membership in literature.” He held to the belief that man, if his efforts were noble enough and his will strong enough, could perfect himself. He went on to say, in his closing line of the same speech that “St. John the apostle may well be paraphrased: In the end is the Word, and the Word is Man—and the Word is with Men.” Steinbeck believed that with the atom bomb, man had wrested the power of God away from God. He believed that the written word could save the world.

Me, too. But not my words. I think God’s words are going to do it.

I believe that only God can go about the business of perfecting man, and no amount of word-smithing on our part can do it. But I do not deny that we need the words; that we need the truth, and that we need to keep striving forward toward that same perfection, a shining goal toward which we long, even if we cannot attain it just yet. “Passion” being a word I object to, I nevertheless do agree that we must “passionately believe in the perfectibility of man.” If we don’t, we won’t try. If we don’t, we don’t believe that God will, someday, fix this mess of ours and that we need to be prepared for it.

Until then, I am doing a number of what seem like very small things. But if they are in obedience to my God, then they are very big things indeed.