Saturday, December 25, 2021

Writing the Narrative

Inexpensive,fun pen.
 A 1984, Christmas song written by Mark Lowry is entitled, "Mary Did You Know?" The theme centers on whether Mary had any idea of what her baby would become as an adult. I appreciate the lyrics, as well as the images which are raised. Is this only a Christmas song? Does Mary have different thoughts about her child at different times during his life?

Over the decades, the nineteenth verse of the second chapter of Luke continually captures my attention.  After the shepherds have made their uninvited presence known in the birthplace of Jesus, it reads, "Mary continued to think about these things, trying to understand them." (Easy-to-Read Version)

From my late teens into mid-twenties many experiments and explorations of life occurred. Post-secondary education years were filled with diverse choices in order to try on various self-concepts. While familiar writing instruments were always available I began to explore fountain pens. Messy, finicky, and exotic are apt descriptors both of the pens and myself. I later discovered my father-in-law possessed a couple classic fountain pens. No wonder we got along! I am still hooked on these tools. 

Nourishment for writing.

When thoughts can be expressed and placed on something permanent and portable the author controls the narrative. I sense this is why we never discover more about Mary. Sure, Jesus may be the focus, but he did not live disconnected from his parents. Those who controlled the narrative were able to decide the content and context of what has been codified as "the truth." There are other writings from the time of Jesus, but later a committee composed of religious officials decided what got included in the New Testament. Over time this has limited the dimensions of not only the people, but I believe the perspectives of the sacred stories.

Writing is a gift!

I enjoy reading the letters that accompany some of the photo collage cards received during the Holidays. Most relate basic data, describe stable relationships, and provide glowing reviews of educational, vocational, and recreational endeavors. As I read these notes it is important to know the author and the context. If I composed our Holiday Letter, it would convey life differently than my wife's recent writing. It depends on who controls the narrative. This does not mean one is true and the other false. It means you get a person's perspective in a specific context.  There are no doubt more aspects which allow for greater understanding of the situation. 

Back to the book of Luke and the person of Mary. It appears Mary had no control of her narrative. The majority of Christian Scripture is a narrative of male perspective. Even if oral accounts were passed on they were placed in written form by people distant from the context. Thus the pondering of Mary, her relationship with her son, her husband, and her community over decades is left to conjecture. Centuries later (431CE), the Council of Ephesus declared Mary as the "Mother of God." She did not get to place her voice or perspective in that narrative, either!

If you know me you knew 
this was coming!
I enjoy fountain pens. They not only symbolize, but become an instrument for expressing the narrative on my life. Numerous changes in dimensions of my life have occurred and continue to unfold. This blog is also a tool for relating my perspectives. Read it for what it is. Hold it as my current perspective. It is a perspective that has been informed and honed by decades of life and relationships. I encourage you to look at your life. Who sets the parameters of your story? I believe the strength to live, as well as the ability to claim personal relationship and freedom comes as we write our own narratives.

I am taking a brief respite from these bi-weekly postings. Not only do I have personal obligations that require attention, but I desire additional time to regenerate. I intend to post again on January 23, 2022. Until then, Happy New Year and thank you for reading!

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Choose Purpose Over Perfect


The streak is 53 weeks! I have used some aspect of the Peloton fitness system weekly for over a year. The bike was a gift covering multitudes of holiday and birthday remembrances from last year to eternity. Along with cycling, Peloton offers yoga, strength training, running, meditation, power walking, etc.  The variety of opportunities have not only expanded my workouts, but have had a positive influence on my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. A recent meditation mantra provided by instructor Kristin McGee was, "Choose purpose over perfection." This stuck in my mind like velcro to wool.

As of late the media has been flooded with broadcasts, stories, and images providing tips and tricks on how to have the "perfect" holiday whether that be decorations, foods, gifts, or gatherings. These reports are juxtaposed with media news on how damaging social media images are to a person's self-esteem. Images that have been modified to show perfection not only in body shape and size, but cooking, clothing, skin condition, etc. are prolific. How does a person even consider purpose (the what and why) when perfection is the marketing tool of choice?  Mix this into the context of high fuel prices, climate change, inflation at a 39 year high, another Covid-19 variant, out of stock items and chaos swirls like a kite in a cyclone.  No wonder perfection sells. It is nonexistent yet marketed as possible.

My favorite grocery store is indicated by the image. It is small. It has good fruits and vegetables.The selection of what I need is adequate. I can get in and out quickly. And my overall diet has not suffered due to lack of selection. Yes, food is enjoyable as a creative art. Yet, its purpose is to provide nutrients and energy to keep me functioning. Thus I do not need multiple varieties of Mt Dew, a 100 foot aisle of snack foods, or more pasta sauce than I care to consider to make me feel complete and satisfied.

Ponder for a moment the Hebrew creation story. Humankind was in Paradise. In other words, everything was perfect. No body image issues. No food issues. No ego concerns. No mention of decorations for their home. All this external perfection, yet they desired something more. Were they looking for purpose and meaning as they chomped into the fruit? It seems following this action humankind has been in search of perfection oftentimes neglecting their purpose.

As it is the season for the Christian birth narrative I cannot find mention of perfection. The cast of characters from Zechariah+Elizabeth to shepherds and Magi all have a purpose, but are devoid of perfection. The purpose is to show us that God desires to remain involved in our human theater, even when lines are forgotten, cues are neglected, and we go totally off script. To me the image of "perfection" during Christmas is a romanticized addition to sell an image and feeling, not to embrace reality. Such imagery is like having a Peloton and using it for photo opportunities to post on social media. 

We have numerous choices every day. I will continue to allow that mantra to stick like velcro in my mind, "Choose purpose over perfect."