And That’s It For Me, Folks

We’ve made the move from countryside to somewhat less country-ish, and life is starting over all fresh and new. It’s nice. I want to go live it, whatever it is.

It isn’t what it has been for the length of our journey together here, my friends. In the main, social media has made personal blogging much less of an enclave, much less private. I’m no longer really comfortable writing a personal blog for all the world.

Along with that, there are just some things about WordPress.com’s newer social features and its online identity system that aren’t optimal. For me, they’re demotivating for writing.

Commenting here gets messed up on a regular basis for non-registered users, and comments are my bloggy lifeblood.

Changes in the subscription system mean I have no idea if eleven people are reading this, or a couple thousand. Stats were the other main thing I relied upon to figure out my blogging direction.

I do know that last I checked, 1/3 to 1/2 the follower count is spam and suspended accounts. Can’t find the real folk no more, and that number is no longer any kind of indicator how many might actually be interested in reading stuff if I write it.

In the years since establishing my editorial business, the blog on that site has mostly sat neglected. So, for the meantime, if anything I’ll be compiling more writing and storytelling info over at Scienda Editorial.

My only for-certain item here at this blog will be to (eventually) release the book that came of the essays posted here.

If you’d like to keep in touch, I’ll be MailChimping a semi-regular newsish thingy. Like, who knows, maybe three or four times a year. You can sign up for that email here.

Good night, Scienda. The world turns onward.

A Little Romantic Advice for Men (And Security For All)

Don’t go around harassing random women on the internet.

Seriously?? Either that right there is the worst phishing scheme ever conceived, or someone is deluded as to the magnetic attractiveness of their typing.

Ladies — and gents — as hard as it may be to resist (even for a laugh), we at Scienda do not recommend calling random strangers from the internet and allowing them access to your phone number via call display. It’s a foothold into your personal identity information.

Today your phone number. Tomorrow a half-decent password cracking algorithm, your Facebook profile, and a whole lot more personal data.

Play safe online, kids, and have a great week.

~Scienda

The First Day of the Week


Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

John 20


He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face,
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

Isaiah 53


Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they were going to the tomb… and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.

Simon Peter therefore also came, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.

For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

So the disciples went away to their own homes.

Jn. 20


His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

Isa. 53


But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping… she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Jn. 20


Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

Isa. 53


Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

She turned and said to him, “Rabboni!”

Jn. 20


I delivered to you as of first importance that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins, according to the [Old Testament] Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

And that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

And last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

The Apostle Paul, First Letter to the Corinthian Church


But now suddenly the full chorus was poured from every branch; cocks were crowing, there was music of hounds, and horns; above all this ten thousand tongues of men and woodland angels and the wood itself sang. “It comes, it comes!” they sang. “Sleepers awake! It comes, it comes, it comes.”

One dreadful glance over my shoulder I essayed — not long enough to see (or did I see?) the rim of the sunrise that shoots Time dead with golden arrows and puts to flight all phantasmal shapes. Screaming, I buried my face in the fold of my teacher’s robe.

“The morning! The morning!” I cried, “I am caught by the morning and I am a ghost.”

C.S. Lewis


The Greening


There is no heaven with a little of hell in it.

-George MacDonald


grey day

 

What is this grey? My morning’s window is a minor river, and the sun and sky are blanketed by a never-ending fleece. Late into the season, the trees still stand naked. Their fight to burst forth leaves has been in vain against the cold. A hundred-year chill.

Still they’ve stood trembling in the winds, budding defiantly. I think if they are forced to wait any longer, a mutiny will occur.

The rain comes down, and in the hour I’ve sat by the window, the world has changed. White poplar trunks are no longer quite so pale. Instead of the sallowness of winter dormancy, a faint hint of pale green tints them.

The grasses are dark gold, rich with autumn’s leftover colour and devoid of its lively variety. Grey road, dun world.

I wait a little longer.

first rain

Over in the corner of the yard, the tangle of chokecherry and willow is no longer a black scribble on a monochrome world. Red stems reach high like arms stretching to be lifted out of an underground prison.

All across the woods, leaf buds swell, bronzing the treetops. It’s that weekend. The one of resurrection.

What is this grey? Why is the sky weeping?

It’s just what happens at this time of year. Always has been and ever will be. Against this backdrop, the Paschal lamb and a dark night’s flight from slavery to promise. Against this New World thaw, the Roman occupation of the world that was, and the type of military efficiency that could invent a way to torture transgressors for days without requiring its soldiers to engage actively in the extended cruelty.

Crucifixion: An early example of automation, if you will.

Here stand the trees on the other side of the earth, raising fingers toward a sky that’s weeping. This week, of all weeks, spring finally shows herself.

She arrives at a rock wall with a hole hewn into it, expecting to find a decayed corpse well-flayed and left to rot. Death has happened and it’s done. Leaves have fallen. Cold has settled in. Limbs are icy. And it seems that it will stay this way forever and forever, all rumours to the contrary.

Instead, something has happened in the night. A sun’s ray of a soldier has removed the seal of death. Deep in the heart of the earth, a sudden breath is taken. The flaying and the icy cold are irradiated as the world tilts on its axis toward its source of light.

He has no remarkable appearance. Just a man. In the darkness, he unwraps the cloth from around his head, shakes it off, and leaves behind the bindings, neatly folded.

The seal is broken open.

She arrives, prepared to grieve what was and isn’t anymore. A promising and remarkable life, over. A disappointment to outlast all other heartbreaks.

Instead, she finds the Gardener.

Who else would be about so early in the morning dew? Just a man whose daily job is nurturing creation. Through tears she looks at him and past him, still looking for scars and wounds and the first signs of decay. He stands there, upright and with his dignity evident and unassailable, while she’s still expecting defiled nakedness.

She comes looking for an ending. And it is.

Winter always ends.

Deep in the woods on the other side of the world, the snow still lies thick and sodden. Last year’s foliage is crumpled on the ground like discarded newspaper. It has seemed that the resurrection forgot us this year.

The life I lived for the last decade and a half is over — in a way. Re-beginning, in another. It’s just so late. And I wonder if those years were wasted. Sometimes it feels like the biggest mistake I could have made.

But whether they were wasted or not, things are starting over. Always something new to try, something else to learn, some other wonder to see.

Even death won’t change that. This world struggles against itself, tearing down edifices and doing battle over great achievements. What about that other world, when this one’s strife and disappointment melt away?

A greening that will be.

queen butterfly-oak creek AZ

~Scienda

In Which A Troll Moves On

Winter’s end is a carcass lying in the ditch, a yellowed sagging thing. The blackened bones of the earth jut through its sloughing skin. Dead grass litters the roadside like tangled hair. She was an ugly one.

And I am ugly too, today, rife with headache and a lesser bridge-troll’s interpersonal sensibilities. I have had simply enough. The world is disorderly, in constant need of wrangling and permanently on the edge of fatal error. I don’t feel that I have a kindred soul alongside for this. “Oh, well, we’ll get it when it matters, it’ll all be fine” doesn’t keep things running smoothly.

It’s the troll under the bridge does that. Looks for the cracks before they’re visible on the surface. Watches the floodwater levels. Fights off the dark haunts of the night in order to do it all again tomorrow.

Winter’s end is her own kind of haint. Her carcass self brings the burning of bridges.

In winter’s end, I go away from all I once loved and wanted. Though it’s been darkness to me the last few years, it’s been my darkness. I’ve gotten comfortable under its lid, lying unnoticed and watching for the roof to crack. Patching it all back together over and over again, not sure why. Dreaming of anyplace else.

Dreams are dangerous. Anyplace else has come to find me, and it has taken me prisoner.

My strength is gone after ten years of patching things back together. My back’s weak and untrustworthy. My knees give out when I climb the ladder for the harrumphteenth time. My hands are crippled twins, shot with pain from wielding trowels of various kinds. I have built my home at great cost.

But this world is a crumbling thing. The wind wears away at the lonely shores, and the stars fall down through the northern night. The home I have made goes too, out to sea.

My ocean is prairie, cold and tossed with frozen swells. It is both beachhead and rolling wave, poised in icy sculpted form over roadsides and fence lines. Winter is leaving late and reluctant this year, dragging spring down under the ice in hopes of killing her by hypothermia.

My bridge is falling down.

What’s an aging woman to do? I’ll be forty in a few years, and the toll I’ve paid in health may not be recoverable by then. I must let anyplace else come for me, and perhaps I’ll have the chance to live again. Perhaps I’ll find health and peace in the sunlight I’ve forgotten.

Free of cracks and patches and holding my roof together in this place I built with my hands.

It’s sturdy enough, now, and it’ll do fine for whatever takes up residence next. There’s good cement, fine tilework, even wood and walls and washed glass windows.

May it do well for the next one. My chains are on me. Paper chains like a child’s festive garland, made with her own hands’ work. Decorated with numbers, signatures and contract terms.

I am already sold to anyplace else. When the frozen waves melt into larksong, I am gone.

~Scienda

How This Story Ends


The desk by the south-facing window
Manitoba, Canada
July 20, 2009

My dear American varmint,

The beginning of this story is right in the middle of things. Through the wardrobe, into the magical frozen wasteland. Welcome to Canada, to a small town of three streets by four surrounded by hidden creeks and a montage of hills and plains. Green in spring, golden in fall, fallow black-and-white in winter’s stark exposure.

There’s so little time on this earth; so much to say. I’ll see little of you in this life, so these letters will have to do.

There’s a mystery here amid the change and silence. So, let me finish the picture I began to sketch.


Many of the essays I write here are in fact letters to faraway friends, most often my Texan varmint of a writing partner. They’re illustrations of the life that exists here on the Canadian prairies — an older way of life, a beautiful and largely forgotten place that predates the cultural and economic shifts of urbanization and industrial farming. Here, we are still family, with our feet and history planted in the ploughed earth.

In 2010, I was approached by a small publishing startup about doing a creative nonfiction book. I collected, rewrote, expanded upon, and thought long and hard about how to make these various seasonal ramblings into a bigger picture. They begin here in my prairie. But where should they conclude? Like the ocean, the prairie goes on forever.

As it turned out, it didn’t matter right then. The small press owner had no stable direction, and shortly after I signed, the internal dynamics became toxic. I cancelled my contract as circumspectly as possible. The owner cancelled the rest of the relationship when I found her bullying other writers and (rather firmly) suggested she stick to standard critique etiquette. Her departure was both hilariously melodramatic and quite a pleasant change.

And I thought that was how the story ended. Life went on the same as it has, and the manuscript sat quietly in my files. Creative nonfiction, after all, isn’t fiction. It draws on actual life events. How can one write an ending that hasn’t happened?

But now it has.


For he says, “At the acceptable time…”

2 Cor. 6:2


We’re moving away.

We never planned to. When we got here, Dave said it was the last time and we were staying here forever. But for some very strong reasons, eventually he changed his mind. And after a year of stalling and digging my heels in, I changed mine with him.

So we go. Out of the prairie and into a more suburban setting. Out of the solitude (also known, on bad days, as isolation) and into a different kind of closeness, one I’m not sure I’ll be comfortable with.

There, it’s the closeness of unknown neighbours who may have opinions about our rather creative lifestyle. It’s the invisible cords of greater regulation and restriction.

Here, it’s the closeness of family, with all its headaches and treasures. The cords are blood ties and heartstrings.

I have lain down and cried several times. My youngest child was born in this house. We’ve put so much of our time together into it, made it over in ways that speak silently of our relationships and the gifts of others.

The antique floor-to-ceiling newel posts given me by my mother-in-law.

The ceramic tile I laid with my daughters and son, a skill taught me by my father and passed on to my children.

The windows my husband bought me because I find them beautiful.

The church full of people I’ve known literally all my life, many of whom I’m obscurely related to going back five generations. Our ancestors settled here together, broke sod together, broke bread together. The weave is invisible and immeasurable.

I don’t know how to write this ending, except in the belief that it isn’t one. It’s another beginning.

When I left here, it was with no wish to return or ever to claim my heritage. Growing up here was difficult and traumatic. It left me bitter. But like other things that I never thought would heal, that too is healed over now by the surgically precise guidance of an unseen hand.

I trust that hand. It writes a bigger story than I can.


You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?

Psalm 56:8


Yesterday, we told our church. I cried. My lifelong neighbours cried. I was embraced and prayed for. There was grief and shock and maybe a bit of denial on all sides. I write this down because I want to remember, in time to come, how different it was from the last church we left. A church full of empty politics and knives designed to sever one’s backbone.

Back then, the phone never rang once. No regrets were given, not even among those few who stayed semi-casually in touch. “Good riddance,” the rumour mill of that other town echoed back to us. And this gem of a quote: “I don’t care about them, but I miss their children.”

“How do you two manage to keep smiling?” a friend on the sidelines asked us back then.

“Oh… we don’t. We shed our tears at home,” my husband answered.

So we went, broken; we went home.

And here my home was, waiting to heal so many, many aching wounds.

We’ll never quite leave. I’ll always be from here, where my great-great grandfather built a manor house and planted an orchard. Where a creek winds down between pasture hills under oak-scented leaves and sunshine. Where family may hurt each other, but they don’t leave it on those terms. There’s always coming back and making better.

I get it now. I know where I’m from.

I’m from here, and forever, where a good and gracious God will make a final healing and a final homecoming. In this world, all things change and fall to dust. The old schoolhouse my father attended has burned down. The church where my ancestors are buried is abandoned. The people I remember, pass on. There are would-be publishers taking out their personal issues on the business and churches imagining their internal politics are religion. It’s all a big game where the fleeting, poisonous butterfly of ego rules the day.

All is vanity. There’s nothing new under the sun.

But still the grain fields ripple under a vast and perfect sky, like the last unending amen. And always I will walk them; find me there.

~Scienda

6 Heart-Deep Words, or 500 Any Words?

It’s been interesting to see the range of responses to last week’s Freshly Pressed post, A Hundred Thousand Empty Words. (I think one person even called me a liar, squared, for being truthful about how we lie to ourselves and others. Entertaining.)

And, of course, FP’s retitle, “6 Good Words or 500 Empty Ones?” set more of a stage for us to discuss opinions on how to write and what makes it work. Many common internet cliche’s came up, along with some great insights and encouragements.

I’ve been at the gig for over a decade now, a published writer and a professional editor, and always learning. The main thing I’ve learned is that establishing (or re-finding) productivity begins with awareness of one’s heart.

Pat Schneider, whom I mentioned in the discussion, has seen a lot of life and culture. She grew up in an era when ideas of “serious” writing were male-oriented and mediated by academic and media elite.

So, as a woman who longed to write from her youth, yet lived the “non-serious” life of backwoods girl, student, mother, housewife, and finally teacher and creative revolutionary, she taught the dispossessed to find their voices.

Schneider’s advice neither leads one into the realms of wishy-washy-waiting-never-acting, nor confines one to some rigid law of production. Instead, her decades of wisdom clarify the true principles of waiting and forging ahead. As a bonus, she eradicates some pernicious toxins along the way.

Here’s a few snippets of what she says about discipline as a writer.

After almost 50 years of writing and 25 years of helping other people write by leading creative workshops, I am convinced that the problem of discipline is lodged in the emotions, in a pattern of attitudes toward oneself and the idea of being a writer.

The problem is not discipline. It is belief. I truly despise the phrase “not a serious writer.” Often the phrase is used by a critic or teacher referring to a writer whose work they don’t like… What in the world is meant by a “serious” writer? Anyone who cares enough to take a course or a workshop is serious. There is no place for this kind of arrogance. The desire to write is serious.

There are those who advise, “Write at least 30 minutes each day.” There are those who say, “Write for many hours, but come out of it with only one or two pages.” These directions are fine for some writers, but they are absurd when they are given as rules applicable to all writers.

Discipline begins by understanding how you yourself work. Everyone’s patterns are different. You can learn something about how you work by remembering successes of the past. For example, when you accomplished a project — fixing a car, making a gift — how did you go about it? …Look at the way you worked when you did your best work.

It is my deep conviction that true discipline is a matter of love, rather than duty. If you are in love, you make time and space for the beloved… love is the root source of true discipline.

Writing-Alone-and-With-OthersAs one drawn to a lover or called to a religious mission, I go to my work — my writing — because it is essential to my happiness.

– Writing Alone and With Others

A Hundred Thousand Empty Words

write me by mabbink CC-BY

So I’m reading this post about finding lost things and agreeing with it up until the very last few lines. Robin says this:

I bypassed the coat pocket, the kids, even the refrigerator, and came straight to my blog.

Truth.

It’s the last place I remembered seeing what I thought I’d lost: my voice.

This is true for me too. I first found it a long time ago, on a private page of an unfinished story, but it was here that your encouragement and engagement helped me really sit down and become at home with who and what I am. How I see the world and how I say things.

The only thing that didn’t resonate for me personally in what Robin said was the “500 words a day” challenge from Jeff Goins. Not that it’s wrong. Writing is learning to do by doing, so there’s some sense in which it can’t be avoided or dismissed.

But my partner has this other view, and it’s also very true: It’s better to write six good words, or zero, than 500 empty ones. He’s not talking about the voice or the style, but the heart. The depth of meaning.

Voice and heart are intimately related, but not quite the same thing. I can voice all day long without really getting into the heart of things. And I’ve seen some people, in trying to be literary and experimental, advocate this. Words for their own sake, without storyline or arc, prose for the love of prose.

I guess as a writer that might be fun, and it’s valid as a personal exercise (name me something that isn’t). But as a reader, I don’t know how I’d keep from dying of boredom. Why should I care how someone strings words together, unless there’s some underlying reason to? The world is full of words.

Granted, nothing gets written without stringing it together word by word. But motion and motivation are inextricably linked. I’ve seen strong essayists fail to create a full work because they’re willing to be carried along by the stream rather than dipping the paddle into it with intention. It’s something I struggle with myself.

Writing words only for the sake of their own sound is, I believe, a bit of a dodge.

My lesson for 2014 is that it’s too easy for me to skate by on pretty words that, in the end, ring false. Because I can write any 500 words, any day, while keeping my heart guarded. It’s something I’ve spent a decade training myself to do: Let the words run, and the heart will open. All deadlines can be met, regardless of how one “feels about writing” right then.

That, too, is true; but intermittent gushes and spurts do not a river make.

In December, I hired a dear writer friend, someone who’s a much more accomplished writer and editor than myself, to teach me the next steps I needed to take in order to get my novelist feet under me at a commercial level. My final application of her advice amounted to this (my words, not hers, which are unfailingly supportive):

The heart is missing. And so the flow goes awry. Things don’t hang together. Scene arcs struggle. The bigger picture is muddy. The line by line progression is compromised.

Is it horrible? No. It’s half-decent enough that no one else has been able to put a finger on the pulse of exactly how to make it resonate. Only that it’s not clicking over.

In my instinctive defense of my own most private fears and feelings, I’ve barricaded my main character behind a wall. There was not a single technical aspect to the editorial evaluation that I haven’t got some knowledge of, that I haven’t taught to others successfully, even to the point of helping them earn quite reputable traditional contracts. Technical knowledge — not the problem.

Well, then.

Would it help me to blog 500 words a day all month?

No.

Sometimes it’s possible to write a hundred thousand empty words in all kinds of beautiful voice.

Maybe I’m a coward. Maybe I’m a poser and I’m fooling myself when I say I want to do this writing thing. Maybe I only want to do it because writing things down is a way of avoiding them instead of standing up and facing them.

Maybe writing isn’t so much my way of sorting out life as trying to bury it. And if I don’t want to give my heart away, then writing isn’t the honest way to live. The honest thing is to say, I don’t want to give my heart away and so I won’t.

I don’t know right now. But it doesn’t work to keep drifting. I’ll have to decide what I want, and — with storytelling or without it — leave the prosaic behind.

~Scienda

Image: “Write Me” by mabbink on Flickr. License: CC-BY 2.0

Pin this post for later here.

Christmas Morning

There’s not much tangible under the tree this year. We’re shifting gears. Teenagers are different, the awe has given way to the comfort of tradition. They’re easier to shop for, in a way. Tickets to a summer music festival, used video games. Nothing from Fisher-Price clatters across my floor anymore.

The coffee-maker chooses this morning to overflow, and we parents mop the countertop. In the living room, a Nerf war breaks out as the older siblings help the youngest test out his new arsenal of toy pistols. Screams and giggles as we wash, wipe, tidy, check for stains.

I hate the dark days, they always drag me down. The light and magic aren’t what they once were, but my mother-in-law assures me it all ramps up again with grandchildren. And she smiles.

I hope for my children’s futures. I wish good things, real love, stable spouses, reliable jobs. We know how hard come by these things are. We’ve earned our stripes carving out this life from nothing but college debt.

I was 18, he was 20.

He made $7.50 an hour when we dropped out of university (who can afford an Arts degree?). We couldn’t make rent that month, and we thought we might end up out on the street. It wouldn’t be the last time. I was just learning how to pray, back then, and how I learned it.

He went for a sales job at an auto parts store, knowing it wasn’t right for him, but willing to try anything. They said he wasn’t suitable. But the boss must have recognized his need, because they hired him as a warehouse stocker.

This is the north. He spent the whole next winter utterly in the darkness. The warehouse had no windows. He went to work half an hour before sunrise, and came home half an hour after the sun sets.

For my part, I walked everywhere with my new baby, bundled against the cold. We couldn’t afford to run the car much. Couldn’t afford a TV, or to rent movies once my grandmother gave us her little old one. The bank account was to the dollar (and any spare cents) every paycheque. My only financial goal was to keep it out of the red, because if we got behind, our bills would snowball and we’d go down.

Savings — what are those? There are no savings, no budgets and tithes, in poverty. There’s only, hope to heaven we can keep it lean enough to get through.

Our kids don’t remember much of those days.

We moved to a first house, then a second. Repair, repair, repair. Fixer-upper was all we could afford, and barely that. The market was way down compared to now. We could barely get the mortgage, could barely get the bank to approve it. Have taken twelve years to pull all the major pieces together, with many smaller ones still to follow.

The kids remember the work, but only the older ones have vague memories of how much work it really was. In between movements played on saw and drill and concrete mixer, there was the Christmas tree in the dining room. Tiny Tiger Lily and Mr. Boo, ages 5 and 3, spontaneously danced a Christmas waltz in the glow of the lights. Not all in the northern winter is darkness.

Eight years later, the Tiger Lily wields a pneumatic nail gun, a levelling mallet, a mortar trowel alongside me. Mr. Boo hands hammers to his father and cuts floor tile with his grandfather’s hand tools. Miss Banana handles the picky work, and our oldest, about to leave home, runs a circular saw, a drill, whatever’s needed on a given day.

We have literally built this life with our own hands. It’s sort of unbelievable.

IMGA0781

In which, my friend told me, I am cute as a button. A button with power tools.

The dining room gets renovated

Some go to mission fields and make their sacrifice there. We have gone to our field and given our lives, paid our dues and honoured our God as we were called to. Because you can lay down your life anywhere. Even right where you are.

And maybe there’ll be other fields for us, but for now, this is the one given by God’s hand: to raise up a family full of love, ex nihilo.

Here in our fields, where wealthy hearts are hard and eyes of needles rare enough, we bend our backs to the task. Let the work of loving and sharing love bow us down before the Lord of harvests. We break again and again upon the rocks of never enough and what more now, salty with sweat and tears.

Patience has come to us. (Never pray for patience, because God will teach it to you, an old dear friend’s voice says.) Patience, new roads, new adventures. Where will our younglings fly when they leave the nest? Where will we ourselves go?

hiking

Oldest at a sailing competition

Recording

Recording their first CD as a bluegrass band together

We don’t know.

But every photograph from every road comes with unseen travail and scars. Every gift is a bounty.

This morning, they’re sitting in the living room we refurbished together, playing some racing game. Laughing wildly. There’s not much tangible this year, except there’s everything.

The carpet we laid in my bedroom and the white walls we painted, curtains we hung together, the living room’s dark wood floors we installed and wallpaper hung as a team. The TV I bought my husband with my earnings last year. The shelves he built and the collection of bargain-bin movies he’s acquired over time. The sectional couch, now worn, that is still the only major new furniture we’ve ever owned. The countertop we washed together earlier today, installed together two months ago.

All these things mean more than themselves. They mean blessing. Tears. Frustrations. Sitting down and crying in each other’s arms (what more now?). Small hands innocently helping as they can, learning Phillips and Robertson, spiral nail and finishing nail and drywall screw. Going off to play while we continue on holding this roof up over their heads.

Yesterday, we were children ourselves, uncertain and terrified, clinging to each other in the thickets of the world.

Today, we are Atlas, hefting that world on our shoulders. We can carry it all if we do it on our knees, bowed down.

Under the tree this year, there was nothing much that hands could touch; it was togetherness.

~Scienda

The Genocidal God Objection: An Online Reference

My writing partner, Marc Schooley, addressed this objection to Christianity in a blog series four years ago. Some excerpts:

Let’s take a brief look at the genocidal God objection (GGO) in the light of experience, science, and reason.

As far as I know, no one has direct experience of God committing genocide. I’ve never seen Him do it. I think it’s safe to assume no reader or commenter has either. If the objector is willing to grant the accounts of the Old Testament as historical, I say bravo. Let’s admit them as testimonial evidence. But once they’re admitted, let’s not de-admit them once we move on to other topics.

At any rate, this does not represent direct experience and does not provide a rational foundation by means of direct experience for or against GGO under ESR.

-Is God Guilty of Genocide? Part 1

I’m not sure if skeptics understand how much of their professed position they’re giving away by even beginning with this objection. Part 1 overviews some of that.

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Perhaps our humanistic culture has influenced us to think that this life is all there is, and any disruption of unfettered pleasure on this earth is an evil. Or, in the case of Christians, this life is somehow the truer, more important life that must be prolonged at all costs. Perhaps North American and European prosperity has blinded us to the true evils on this planet.

In this, we value this life above all else and, in so doing, deny the very God that created us for an eternity with Him. How sin persuades us to exchange the substitute for the genuine article, the schlock novel for a Crime and Punishment, this fleeting realm of degradation and becoming for the realm of never-ending heavenly lights — and we do so all along cursing a holy God openly for acting justly. It’s as if we’re cursing the rehabilitation doctor that denies us our heroin.

-Is God Guilty of Genocide? Part 2

Part 2 bases its argument on a particular theology of eternity that I don’t necessarily agree with; that is, it fits into the framework Marc posits very nicely, but it arises from slightly different theological premises than I personally hold. Regardless, it takes what the anti-theist must acquiesce to in order to make the GGO complaint, and claims the ground for the theist case.

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…the GGO, as it turns out, is not only not a logical objection, it’s not an objection aimed at the existence of God, the truth of Jesus Christ, or the resurrection. Stunningly, even if correct, the GGO succeeds only in refuting a certain Christian doctrine: the inerrancy of Scripture. If it were true, and in no sense do I grant that it is, the GGO would only demonstrate that Moses — or if the inerrancy of Scripture is false, perhaps several redacted sources — was incorrect in his assessment of the nature of God as it relates to the conquest of Canaan.

That’s it.

Nothing more is demonstrated by the GGO. It does not question the existence of God. It does not provide any rationale for believing the resurrection is not an historical fact. It does not question any major doctrine of Christianity, except biblical inerrancy.

-Is God Guilty of Genocide? Part 3

This, too, follows from how much the skeptic must give up of his own skepticism for the sake of this case. It makes clear why I consider the GGO to be a time-waster as objections go, and also why I consider it valid to pursue the complaint from Christian theist premises rather than naturalistic or secular humanist ones. It’s not truly a non-religious skeptic’s complaint, but a religious skeptic’s.

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So, why does the skeptic resist God’s will in the matter of life to life translation? … Perhaps because for the skeptic death is indeed the end? Because it’s the bane and evil of mankind, his ever-present sorrow in the midst of joy? If this life is all we have, it seems threatening that God might actually take it away before our allotted three score and ten. It’s not fair, they might be heard saying, that I’m not in charge over life and death — that perhaps there is something wiser with the capability of enforcing its will when it deems it necessary.

-Is God Guilty of Genocide? Part 4

In fact, they could be heard saying as much in our comments section not too long ago at all. If the primary complaint against a belief in omniscient, gracious and incorruptible justice is that it’s not fair I’m not its wellspring, I’ve only made a case that I’m definitely not its wellspring. The more vociferous complaints only help to undermine any assertions that humanity is gracious and incorruptible enough to be arbiter of its own destiny.

There are arguments against believing in the Christian God. This is not one of them.

~Scienda