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On Being Curious

I watched as Ben went through his book wagon to find the book that matched the character of his favorite show. I was astounded at the way he pointed to Curious George and looked at me with a smile on his face. I’m so curious to know what is going on in his head as he is interacting in new and different ways every day.

And as I watch him, I’m overwhelmed with the realization that we aren’t curious about each other. We are shocked. We are frustrated. We are dumbfounded. We are disheartened. We are disillusioned, but we are not curious. We don’t want to know how the people on the other side came to the conclusions they did. We do not want to know “their” reasoning or “their” understanding. We want to retreat to the safety of our communities: the ones who believe the same thing we do.

But I’m curious. How could we have been living in such distinctive, distant, disconnected realities and still be neighbors? How could we have been so sure that others saw the world as we did only to find out that we were wrong as our reality shattered to pieces around¬†us?

Real change cannot occur until we recognize the vast privilege that blinds us to reality.

If you are interested in real, systemic change, you have to be curious enough to sit and wonder. You have to be curious enough to cross the street to your neighbor, the one who didn’t vote as you did. You have to be curious enough to understand the disconnect before offering solutions.

Thanks be to God for little reminders from mini humans looking for a good book to read.

Things Could Change, Things Could Be Different

“Things could change, Gabe,” Jonas went on. “Things could be different. I don’t know how, but there must be some way for things to be different. There could be colors.

“And grandparents,” he added, staring through the dimness toward the ceiling of his sleepingroom. “And everybody would have the memories.’

“You know about memories,” he whispered, turning toward the crib.

Gabriel’s breathing was even and dee. Jonas liked having him there, though he felt guilty about the secret. Each night he gave memories to Gabriel: memories of boat rides and picnics in the sun; memories of soft rainfall against windowpanes; memories of dancing barefoot on a damp lawn.

“Gabe?”

The newchild stirred slightly in his sleep. Jonas looked over at him.

“There could be love,” Jonas whispered.¬†

The next morning, for the first time, Jonas did not take his pill. Something within him, something that had grown there through memories, told him to throw the pill away.

-Lois Lowry, The Giver

Sometimes You Forget…

Sometimes you forget that what you’ve experienced and been through is not what everyone else has experienced and been through. Sometimes you forget that sharing your story and experiences might be exactly what someone else needs in that moment. Sometimes you forget that you can offer hope and understanding by just sharing who you are.

I hold a Master’s in Literacy, something I forget about in my day to day being because teaching isn’t my profession. I also hold a Master’s in Divinity, something that is more in the forefront of my mind as I prepare to preach and worship with the amazing community of faith, New Hope Baptist Fellowship.

Sam also has teaching experience and theological education and as we journey together as parents, we are trying very intentionally in what we do and say to raise and foster kids who are compassionate, aware of the needs that surround them, and who understand that they each have something they can offer no matter how old they are to offer love and hope.

One way we do this is by what we read to them and in front of them. Here’s what we’ve been reading lately and why we chose it:

I love this book a teaching friend gave us when Ben was born because it teaches kids that even when you have always seen yourself to be a certain way, there is always a chance that you will encounter someone who will change and transform you.

 

Peter Reynolds is brilliant in how he addressed the magical, mystical element of creation for young readers. This one in particular shows that even when the people around you try to discourage you, you shouldn’t give up what you love to do. Also, being the voice of encouragement to someone can change their whole perspective.

 

Not only does Mo Williems write the Elephant and Piggie series incorporating the 100 site words for first graders, he also hits the nail on the head in topics. This is one of our favorites for teaching that waiting and patience often allow us to experience something miraculous.

 

 

We love this one for the way it plays with rhyme and meter, but also for how it reminds us that there is always need surrounding us. When we barrel over other people, they won’t be quite as willing to help us when we need help.

 

Looking for specific age suggestions for your own children or grandchildren? I’m happy to help! I love talking about children’s literature and the powerful impact it can play in teaching our children.

Finding Home

 

 

I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, which has made me fall in love with her writing and her ability to tell a story all over again. As I talking to Elisabeth this week on our weekly podcast, she told me that Gilbert had done several Ted Talks, which of course I needed to check out.

You should listen to the whole thing:

What struck me about this is her interpretation of home. “Home is the place or the thing that you love more than you love yourself.” For her, it was writing and that drove her through 6 years of frustrating failure.

There are so many of us who live each day off kilter and out of sync because what we are spending our time doing is so not who we are that we exist in a constant state of unhappy stress. Maybe you are living there because you are scared of change or scared of failure or scared of the unknown, but I just keep thinking there are only so many days we have to live. Why not risk living them to find home or if you’ve already found home to go home and enjoy giving up yourself for something more important?

Conferencing

One of my favorite parts of being the Editor-in-Chief at Harrelson Press is conferecing. I know that many authors and have worked with many authors for whom this is not try. They would much rather be huddled at their computer making stories and characters come alive, but for me, the one who gets to edit those stories and transform them into books, the best part of the publishing process is sharing the wonderful stories I receive with other people.

This week I am Dallas and am anxious to share Stacy Sergent’s book Being Called Chaplain with a national audience. She writes about the difficulty of residency and the strains of finding your faith as a chaplain. I think she thought that her audience would be mainly chaplains, but what has been so incredible for me to watch as her publisher is the way her story of trying to find and maintain her faith in the midst of life transcends the walls of the hospital to being relevant to anyone who is trying to find his or her faith in the midst of life.

It’s not easy when we encounter tragedy and pain to believe in God, especially when that tragedy and pain is so close to our own hearts. Stacy’s honest reflection and struggle demonstrate that it’s still possible, and it’s still worth the wrestling.

Read it and believe again. And if you’re going to be in Dallas, come find her at the Chaplain’s breakfast at the CBF General Assembly!

I am the Messenger

I hope for a moment that they both understand what they’re doing and what they’re proving.

I want to tell them, but I realize that all I do is deliver the message. I don’t decipher it or make sense of it for them. They need to do that themselves.

I can only hope they’re capable as I make my way home. . .

My Bebop’s Desk

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When I was in elementary school, I asked for desk for my birthday. It was something my cousin had started and to which my grandfather responded by building on with his hands. I received the same kind of desk for my birthday that my cousin had.

I was thrilled to have my own space and my own place to store my desk supplies (yes I did actually ask only for desk supplies one Christmas and the item I was most excited about was the desk calendar, but that’s for another time) and a place to line up my journals and books so that they were within easy reach.

After graduation, I swung by my parents house and picked up the desk that has been mine for years and years. I looked under the desk where the note from my grandparents was written in permanent marker and I loaded it into the back of my Subaru. Willie and Waylon watched the desk come into the house, get reassembled and find it’s place in MH’s room. I can’t wait for her to see it this weekend, not just because it fits perfectly into the nook in her room, but because it inspired me to write. Maybe those shelves will hold Legos from here on out of maybe they will hold soccer trophies or critter cages and not journals and books like it did when I was young, but I’m just glad she has a space and place of her own now.

It can’t be easy for her as she travels back and forth, so maybe this will give her some grounding. I know my Bebop would love that for her and would love my telling her the story of that desk because he always loved a good story.

Blank Page

When I got to my desk at the office this afternoon, I discovered the note I had written that said:

Jan 2014

There’s one continuous line under those words, but there’s nothing listed under it. It took me a minute, but I remember I made that note during a conversation about a due date, but the impact of that blank page sitting on my desk as I walked in on the 2nd day of the year wasn’t lost.

I’ve read many, many posts about the plans that people have for this year including resolutions and words or phrases to motivate and challenge them, but I am kinda liking my blank page idea.

Do I have plans for Harrelson Press as well as what I will do after I graduate from seminary in May?

Absolutely.

Do I have hope for where I will be and in becoming a wage-earner rather than a debt collector in the coming year?

Of course.

But there’s something powerful about having a blank page perspective that allows the page to be filled by the possibilities and opportunities that arise. If I hadn’t had carried that perspective and outlook in the last 5 months, then I wouldn’t be in Columbia, I wouldn’t be a pastor, and I wouldn’t be a book publisher.

With Epiphany Sunday only days away, maybe hoping for a new revelation every day isn’t as far stretched as we might think. Maybe it has more to do with how we approach that day than what the day’s events are. Maybe it’s about readjusting ourselves instead of trying to change the people and circumstances around us.