Middling

The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Monthly Archives: July 2012

Graduation: A Study in Cliché

Originally, this long overdue message was intended to be given as a charge to my classmates at graduation, before I realized that it was far too long and that a slightly different message was more appropriate for that occasion. Now, I present it here to you in unabridged glory (and as is to be expected, it is now about three times longer than when I first started writing it).

If you are also a recent graduate, I especially dedicate this message to you — though frankly, these ideas are applicable to just about anyone. As always, I apologize for the excessive length, and also for the fact that it reads more like a speech (that should have been given during the graduation season) than a blog post. Enjoy!

The Problem with Our Graduation Clichés

PART I: THE COMPROMISE

“As we go forth…” “Looking forward, let us also look back…” “Life/success/education is not a destination, but a journey…”

More than any other time of year, graduation seems to be a special season for clichés; a time for them to grow hard and ripe that we may gather, bring in a full harvest, and bounteously distribute the spoils to all our friends, our families, and especially our graduates.

Every year, in commencement speech after commencement speech, we as graduating seniors are spoon-fed an endless plethora of quotes and platitudes (most of which have been canned for decades) from the podium. We’re congratulated for “all the hard work we’ve put in to get to this point” and for having “made it!” We’re asked “hasn’t time just flown by,” because “why it seems like just yesterday…” but “look at where we are now.” We’re told that “this is the time of our lives” and that we’ll “look back on these days as among the best of our lives” (giving us much to look forward to), but we’re also reminded that “it’s not the end, it’s only the beginning,” that “this is the first day of the rest of your life,” because after all, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and “as one door closes, another opens”; “We’ve only just begun!”

If you’ve attended multiple graduation ceremonies already or will be in the coming weeks and that was painful to you, I apologize. Isn’t it interesting though, how much we resort to these same sayings and proverbs year after copycat year? It’s certainly something I didn’t fully realize until I had to write a graduation speech of my own. Why we play this game of perpetual recycling is something worth discussing later, but first, it leaves those of us who must write graduation speeches with an interesting dilemma: Do we buy into the it’s-not-graduation-without-graduation-clichés trend, follow the unnamed tradition and freely sow our speech with platitude? Or, do we mercilessly purge our work of these writing impurities, as Strunk, White, and Zinsser might have us do, and be as absolutely original as possible in everything we say?

Obviously, that’s a false either-or situation. At any rate, I’ve already saturated my opening with cliché galore, and I doubt my originality would take me quite so far as to never quote another one. But to blindly and thoughtlessly litter a speech with overworn, overrated, and overused phrases and sayings would result in a monster not worthy of daylight.

So I struck a compromise: I would incorporate as many graduation clichés into my speech as possible, but only as an opportunity to explain what I dislike about each one of them. I’ve already used quite a few as examples, but rest assured that there remains a well plenty deep enough for our supply.

Let’s begin:

PART II: THE CLICHÉS

Cliché: We are, “the brave, the bold, the beautiful,” each with “incredible talents” and “a capacity to greatness.”

For the most part, perfectly good sayings that have simply been parroted far too often, so much so that they’ve lost their color. Now they sound pretty trite.

This past year (and in years previously), I have walked among my fellow seniors in all sorts of situations; and yes, I have seen bravery, boldness, and especially beauty, in ways I never expected to. “Incredible” really doesn’t go far enough to describe the breathtaking, God-given abilities and time-honed skills I’ve caught glimpses of over the years.

As for “capacity to greatness,” to my ears that ignores two things: 1) Though still imperfect and growing, we can and perhaps already have achieved greatness, and 2) The root of that present greatness and the greatness to come.

We are not great because of what we have made ourselves to be; we are great only because of who we are as God’s new creations in Christ. In fact, it is only by His grace that we can learn from the essence of Bravery, Boldness, and Beauty, what those things really are. It is only by His mercy that we can learn to apply those incredible talents He has given us to proper use. It is only by His will that we have our “capacity to greatness” in the first place. And it is only by His power that our “capacity” can be, is, and shall be made a reality.

Our greatness is both a finished reality sealed by Christ’s work on the cross, and a coming reality that will be completed in full when we are with Him in glory. It is the righteousness we can live now by faith (Gal 3:11/Hab 2:4), and the coming righteousness for which we eagerly wait, also by faith (Gal 5:5). And our faith is properly placed not in ourselves and our wonderful talents, our bravery-boldness-beauty, and our awesome capacities, but in our Maker alone; the One who gave us these things.

Cliché: “As you go out into the world,” strive to “make a difference,” to “make the world a better place,” to “turn the world upside-down.”

Whenever politicians state that they will bring about change if elected into office, I know what they mean; but I can’t help wishing that they would be more specific. Because simply put, not all change is good (more corruption, for example, is a change that we could all do without). The same goes for the “difference ” we make in this world. Of course we’re all going to have some effect, however small; there’s no guarantee, however, that it will be a positive one.

Making the world “a better place” isn’t much of an improvement because the meaning of “better” is rarely defined. What do you mean by “better”? Contributing to world peace? World happiness? World equality? (Which would inevitably make some people very unhappy, and probably require disturbing the peace of many others.)

To my fellow, graduating seniors: As you go out into the world, please don’t try to turn it upside-down; it’s lost enough. Our job as believers, as ambassadors for Christ, isn’t to just shake up the world more by flipping it upside down, but to turn it right side up again. By pointing it, in all of its darkness and unbelief, to our God.

That is the way to change the world for the better. That is what will make not just any old difference, however positive; it will make an eternal one.

Cliché: “Follow your dreams. Pursue your passions. Be true to yourself. Trust your instincts.”

Use the force, Luke. Let your intuition guide you. Or as the song by 98 Degrees says, “True to your heart, you must be true to your heart.”

Have you ever noticed how self-centered that sounds? Your dreams, your passion, your instincts, your heart. Where is the focus of these sayings? On the creature or the Creator?

But don’t get me wrong. These things — dreams, passions, heart’s desires, intuition and so on — are not evils in and of themselves. God gave them to us for a reason, and He made us individuals for a purpose. I just referenced how uniquely gifted I’ve seen my fellow seniors to be. Well, they are no less unique in their personalities, interests, abilities, flaws, what makes them laugh, how they relate to others, how they respond to certain situations, and what their passions and dreams are.

God hand-crafted each one of us to be weird; to be different from the other faces in a crowd of millions and billions of others. Heaven knows we each have gifts and dreams and strengths and weaknesses that are very similar to someone we might know (especially relatives…), or someone a friend of a friend knows, and to possibly thousands others across the planet. He didn’t make us that unique; otherwise, we might never have anything in common (and we might never experience, as Dr. Seuss called it, that “mutual weirdness” we call love). And yet, God did make us unique; certainly by the way He formed us but also by the way He placed each of us in our own spot in history and the world; so much so, that I can state with no hesitation whatsoever, that you are different, you are set apart from every other person who has ever walked on this earth… or ever will.

Perhaps I’m dipping a bit into the cliché well myself, but your dreams, passions, gifts, and so on are part of what makes you unique. They are a part of the purpose for which you were created. So by all means, follow your dreams, pursue your passions; but only as a means of following, pursuing, and glorifying the One who put them in you. Be true to yourself; but don’t be true to the old self that was crucified with Christ, that used to lie dead in transgression. Be true to the self that was raised with Him in new life, dedicated to His Kingdom and His righteousness.

And be careful about following those instincts willy-nilly. God gave us an intuition, but He never said it would tell us no lies. I like how the movie Fireproof put it: “Don’t follow your heart, because your heart can be deceived. You have to lead your heart.” Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, so be careful what you make your treasure. Don’t ever make the mistake of making your imperfect, broken self the treasure, instead of Christ. In fact, perhaps the easiest way to make this clear is to take yourself out of the picture entirely and put the proper owner in His place:

Follow His dreams. Pursue His passions. Be true to your Lord, and trust in Him with all of your heart, leaning on His understanding over your own instincts and wisdom. Acknowledge and glorify Him in all you do, and He will take care of the rest.

Focus not on your dreams, passions, wisdom, and so on, but His. After all, if you’re walking in Him, they should be pretty similar anyway.

Cliché: “You are the future. The future is in your hands.” (So is the national debt…)

The problem I see with this one is the same as with the whole “capacity to greatness” thing. It makes it sound as if us young fry will one day mature, join the ranks and then, we can go out and “make our mark upon the world” (another well-worn cliché).

Are we the future only? Are we not also a part of the present? Can we not begin to live lives worthy of remembrance and honor right now? As is often quoted from Paul (or in this case, grossly paraphrased by me), don’t let anyone despise you because you haven’t hit your growth spurt yet. Because you’re still in school. Because you still can’t legally drive a car, own a home or buy alcohol (why that’s a standard of adulthood in our society I’ll never know… but that’s a whole other issue).

Instead, you set the example. You show people who think they’re mature and wise just because they’ve lived longer (which is to be hoped, but certainly not assumed) what it means to live a life of integrity, in how and what you speak, in how you go about your daily life, in the way that you love your Lord and your neighbor, in what you put your faith in and how that faith lives through your deeds, and in the way you keep yourself undefiled by this world, pure in the sight of God. I guarantee, no matter the age of whoever happens to be watching, that will get people’s attention in today’s culture and society. That will lead people to the questions that can eventually lead them to the Lord. That will do something real for the present; and by extension, for the future.

Cliché: “Today is a bright day, full of hope and promise…”

Or how about this one? I actually saw this at the graduation ceremony of a friend I attended last year. The girl giving the charge is talking, almost finishes her sentence, pulls out a pair of shades, puts them on and declares, “Our future is oh so bright!”

As I’ve already made pretty clear, I do have hopes for the members of my graduating class, and they are high ones. Yes, we certainly have potential, both for the present and the future, and there’s nothing wrong with being excited and optimistic about what is to come. But calling the future a bright one so confidently seems a bit presumptuous to me. Because as we’re reminded in the book of James, none of us knows what’s coming. None of us knows what the next year, the next day, the next hour will bring. We don’t know, and frankly, there isn’t much we could do about it even if we did. Captains of our souls though we may be, we are far from the masters of our fate. We can adjust our sails all we want, but we can’t control the seas, we can’t redirect the wind; we can’t keep the storms from coming. And let’s face the truth for what it is: many a better captain than you and I has been sunk before by the tempest. I hate to put a raincloud over the celebration and festivities that always surrounds the graduation season, but let’s be honest: this very moment, we may be headed towards the darkest days of our lives.

Thank the Lord we do not sail alone. We might be poor, lost, inexperienced, battered captains, but we have a light to sail by even in the darkest of nights, the fiercest of gales; and if we but learn to sail by that Light, we will come to harbor. Our Master has the power to command the winds and waves — “Peace, be still” — and they obey. And when, for reasons beyond our knowing, He allows the tempest to rage on, He has promised to be our refuge and our guiding light still if we but turn to Him. Sometimes He calms the storm, and other times, He calms His child. He is good, and it is He who shepherds us. He is all we need.

Our hope is not founded in how bright the future may look for us, but in our King and the promises He has made. So whether the days ahead are as lit as the brightness of God’s own countenance, or as dark as the Valley of the Shadow, my charge to and my prayer for each of you is that you would not forget the promises of God. That you would remember His faithfulness and run to Him, regardless of where you are walking; through mountaintops of abundance, through valleys of suffering, even through plateaus of mediocrity.

We say all the time in our graduation speeches, that our parents, teachers, class, cat, whatever, has been such an inspiration to us and that we couldn’t have done it without them; yet another cliché. But without God, we have nothing. By His grace alone do we wake each morning, take each breath, walk each step.

Let our focus then be not on ourselves, but in Him alone.

PART III: THE QUESTION, THE REASON, THE DANGER, & THE CALL

I could go on, but the general point has been made. Clichéd sayings concerning graduation abound. Some are groan-worthy or worn out with use at best, others are misleading or simply untrue at the worst.

So the question remains: Why do we do this? Why do we continue to quote and recite these sayings, regardless of how awful some of them have become, to our graduates year after year? And perhaps more importantly, is it really that much of a bad thing? Should we avoid these overused proverbs and platitudes at all costs? Or is there value in these sayings that can be redeemed?

To answer the question in part:

Several weeks ago, as my class prepared to hand down the senior class journal and Bible to our successors, the Class of 2013, we read through many of the bits of advice given by seniors in years past, and wrote encouragements, notes, and bits of advice ourselves. And do you know what the most overused, oft-repeated, clichéd word used there was?

Cliché.

Everyone had to acknowledge that what they had to say – don’t procrastinate, start early on your thesis, respect your teachers, cherish the memories you have here, and so on – had been said countless times before. And yet, we still shared these worn-out, well-repeated pieces of advice, being as original or personal as possible, and yet still knowing that there was nothing new under the sun in what we had to say.

Being cliché is not necessarily an indicator of poor substance (you may have noticed that I’ve already admitted to being somewhat cliché several times now). Is it cliché to thank teachers and parents at graduation ceremonies? Yes, every school in the country does that. Does that mean we shouldn’t, just to be original? (Please don’t bother answering that question. It’s rhetorical.)

One of the phrases I abhor the most during graduation season refers to “the next phase in your life” or “a new season for you,” or (worse yet) any cutesy reference to “a new chapter in your life” (and about turning the page, writing the next part of your story, etc.). The reason that I didn’t include it in my list was because, besides the fact that I think it’s terribly overused, I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. It’s true. Going from high school to college is leaving something old and entering something new. I may hate hearing those phrases, but believe me, I’ve used them plenty of times myself because I can’t escape it. Call them what you will, they’re still true. Or, as the cliché goes, “that’s why they become cliches.”

In every worldview and (almost) every belief, a grain of truth may be seen. And sometimes, these overrepeated sayings capture that bit of truth so perfectly or so naturally that we simply don’t have the desire or ability to come up with another way to say it.

And yet… there is a very real danger in using these slogans and truisms, simply because we are human. In fact, I see two dangers we face, each of which can be amply illustrated by a quote from author Anais Nin:

1) “What we are familiar with we cease to see. ”
When we resort to phrases that are not newly conceived, but merely recycled from yesterday’s originality, our familiarity grows, and so does our contempt and our apathy. We cease to see these truths for what they are because we have allowed a trite saying to rob it of its meaning and power. Several of the sayings I dealt with had no fault but this.

2) “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
We are fallen. And when, as fallen creatures, we see the world through our imperfect, soiled eyes, we give ourselves the impression that life really is all about us. And too often, our idols appear through our proverbs, and soon they all start pointing inward instead of up. We go from being God-centered to being self-centered. Remember: your dreams, your passion, your heart, your future.

The temptation is always before us to conform to the well-beaten trail, to ride along in the current the way a corpse or a creature too weak to swim would. Ultimately, to the world this means buying into the idea that the self is all that really matters; and to those who wish to think differently, the world cries in a vehement roar, or whispers in a soothing reassurance, “Conform.”

Yet that is not what we were made for. As esteemed author and poet Dr. Seuss once so aptly stated, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” When you were called to stand out, to live counter-culturally and swim against the pull of the river, lest you be dashed on the rocks like the rest. The words of Paul on this matter may have become cliché themselves within Christian circles, but they are worth repeating; regardless of how dull a heart may become to their potency, their truth will never die: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We know what the will of God is. That we not fall into the self-seeking, self-centered, self-destructive pattern of this world. That we stand firmly in and for the faith, whether we stand in a crowd or on our own. That we use the gifts He has blessed us with, applying them and using our imaginations to help make known the truth, goodness, and beauty of our Maker to a world that has grown too familiar with hearing about it and seeing it daily. That we let go of the fact that we don’t know what the future holds and rest in Him who holds the future. That we take up our cross daily, dying to everything in us that is darkness and striving to live as children of the day. That we walk as our Savior Christ did, following His teaching and living by His example, and making ripples in eternity by being His ambassadors.

To my dearest classmates (and by this, I mean anyone who has graduated alongside me): I will be praying for each of you in the days to come, and I sincerely wish you all the best. No… no that’s not right either. Rather, I hope and pray that you will never forget that you already have the best.

You have Christ.

Now go share Him with the world.

Appreciating Readers (award): Kudos!

No, this post was not planned either, but what’s one more interruption to my precious plans? Once again, I have received an award (from the same esteemed blogger no less, whose blog can be found here), which I shall acknowledge accordingly:

As I said last time, I am aware of two things about these awards: 1) WordPress has formal rules about how these awards should function, and 2) I don’t know what those formal rules are, and I can’t find them to save my life. So, like last time, I’m going to resort to the well-tested method of making it up as I go along. (Once again, a thousand apologies to any bloggers out there who actually understand these awards and are dying inside from my incompetence.)

All I know about this award is that it goes to six people. I already talked about myself in the last award, so I don’t think I have to do that again. One thing that I think I’m supposed to do that I didn’t do last time is list a few other blogs that I enjoy. Since a number of my award recipients are bloggers, I figured I’d hit two birds with one rock and do it all now.

So! Here are, in no particular order, my six nominees:

I’m not sure if the first comment I ever received (chronologically) was from her, but she does have her name on the first comment of my very first post all those eons ago (which should make her happy; she finds satisfaction in being at the head of the line, unless of course we’re talking firing squads or penguins being bumped off icebergs).

If she had a kindred spirit in personality that was male, I think he’d be called Frank. Rachel’s one who’s not afraid to share her mind when need be, and I have found this to be an invaluable trait in her, both as a provider of feedback… and as a friend.

Kudos to Rachel for being first and for having all the Frankness frankness!

One of the first to discover my blog before it was announced to the public. I still smile when I remember her brief indecision between appreciation (for having found it through the help of another) and most justified outrage (for not having been told). She graciously chose appreciation (as it was a much nicer feeling than outrage), but I still felt compelled to provide an explanation for the delay in announcement. I was promptly and wholeheartedly forgiven.

Kudos to Sarah for turning from outrage when requested!

http://seeingbeauty.wordpress.com/

Inspirationally speaking, Noelle is the primary reason I started blogging (and incidentally, the reason Sarah Beth discovered my blog while it was still so fresh).

Noelle began her walk as a blogger a little over two years ago (about one year before I did). Hers was the first blog I began following, and though it has undergone several transformations over the years, appearance-wise and conceptually, it remains the “heart set to words” it has always been; full of simple, powerful prose, expressing the ineffable, the beautiful, and (more recently) the untold. As a blogger, it is unequivocally my first love.

Kudos to Noelle for her beautiful prose, written only to express the workings of a beautiful mind and heart; all to bring glory to an even more Beautiful God.

http://chasingjabberwockies.blogspot.com/

Noelle’s blogroll is quite the intersection. Through it, Sarah Beth came across my blog. And through it, I discovered the blog of a friend, known only to the web as the mysterious spy whisper. *wind blows in the background dramatically*

I’ve only met whisper once or twice in person, but I have never regretted becoming a regular visitor to her most distinguished blog. The miscellaneous postings of this scintillating blogger never fail to give my heart a lift, and I often find her prose too hilarious for words. Always writing with wild abandon and cheer, whisper is a wellspring of whimsy and randomness guaranteed to give you something to grin about.

Currently, the Jabberwocky lies sleeping (a most excellent, though unquestionably sad, farewell post explains why), but browsing through various posts from the past is well worth your time if you wish for quality, clean, and (more often than not) random ponderings and such to muse over. Be ready for some book reviews and lots of wombat references.

Kudos and huzzah!

http://drawingthelinesomewhere.com/

Noelle may get most (if not all) of the credit in the department of inspiration for giving my blog wings, but I am certain that it still never would have gotten off the ground if not for Janice (I’ll call her Miss H). She was the teacher/tutor who gave the assignment to create a blog, as part of a discussion on various ways that people express their worldview. And while it’s true that I had been itching to make a blog for some time before that, I have no doubt whatsoever that this blog would still exist only in the nebulous world of Someday if not for the extra push. Thank you, Miss H!

(In case you’re wondering, the assignment did not require the blog to continue existing after being graded, but it was still the perfect excuse for me to finally dig in and get started in this whole blogging business.)

Interestingly enough, giving this assignment was apparently also a push for Miss H to create her own blog (which had also been in the making for some time). Topics range from book reviews, to theology quotes, to reflections on teaching and memories from growing up.

Kudos for giving the push that we both needed.

 

 

If this isn’t cheating, I don’t know what is. But I’ve been humbled on several occasions now by someone mentioning to me (in person usually) that they liked something I recently blogged, or they enjoy reading my blog in general, when I wasn’t even aware that they had ever been on my blog before. So frankly, I’m not sure how many people regularly visit my humble abode here online. It could be way more or way less than I think (and blog stats don’t always tell the truth either; hours spent poring over and reflecting on a single blog post and accidentally clicking the link when it comes up on Google both translate as “one view”).

Simply put, because these people don’t leave behind comments (I wish I knew why; I hope I’ve made it clear how much I enjoy reading them), I have no real record of their having been here. But they were here; they read what I had to say, and for that they have my sincere appreciation and thanks.

So, if you’ve tagged along for any length of time on this little journey with me, I really do hope that what I’ve had to say and the various things I’ve found to share have been encouraging, uplifting, thoughtworthy, and entertaining (when meant to be so), and that you’ll stick around for a while longer despite my many failings, especially my inconsistency in posting and inability to plan properly.

Speaking of which, now that the plans I laid out some time ago have been disfigured beyond recognition, I promise that the post concerning graduation I mentioned way back when is next in line (though how a post about graduation is relevant in the middle of summer is anyone’s guess). Be warned though, that it is currently the second-longest thing I have ever posted. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Until then!

Wishing you a blessed rest of the summer,

~ Timothy

P.S. Whoops, forgot the last one there…

KUDOS!

When profundity fails…

Today marks the beginning of my 18th year to walk this earth. It is also the day on which we celebrate our nation’s independence.

I knew that these occasions required I post something. Sadly, I could not for the life of me come up with anything profound to say, either about our country or my golden childhood years. Frankly, my mind has never been quite so blank.

I’m afraid my only solution is to be random instead:

Wishing you a happy, most random Independence Day!

~ Timothy

Interruption

We interrupt your regularly scheduled life to bring you these recent events and lessons:

As probably most of you are already aware, Friday night brought a sizable storm that traveled across quite a few communities, downing many trees and leaving many homes and establishments without power. My house was one of these places.

One feature of my house worth noting (during a power outage at least) is that the well pump needs electricity to operate, meaning no running water, not to mention no electric lighting or climate control. Staying in our powerless home didn’t strike me as unbearable, but my family decided to accept the gracious invitations of our friends who were still blessed with electricity, so we visited a few homes. We shared a meal or two, slept over once of twice, and just spent some quality time together with them. We were also repeatedly told that we could stay for as long as we needed to (and longer).

Our church was also out of power, so Sunday morning found us out under the sunlight-lit trees and birdsong of a graciously offered backyard. Our acoustic accompanied worship mingled with the birds’ that morning as we both sang to one Creator. We listened from our lawn chairs to a sermon on a hillside, from a well-known passage of the Sermon on the Mount. “Salt’s value is in its saltiness,” said our guest preacher, with one hand holding open his Bible to the book of Matthew and the other hand holding his notes down from the wind’s pull. “And light’s value is in its being seen.” During the communion that followed, one of our elders talked briefly about how God sometimes likes to allow interruptions to our plans, our schedules, our lives, so that we may dwell all the more on Him, and appreciate Him more.

Later, we had a short congregational meeting followed by a picnic, with many good-natured conversations and much laughter (“So, where do you belong today in the great crowd of have’s and have-not’s?”). Then came clean-up, hauling some chairs, tables, and communion plates back to the church, and a number of us headed out to some of the homes of a few families whose houses had been completely waylaid by fallen branches (and even tree trunks) to help clean-up.

*tangent*

A few days before the storm took away the blessings of Internet and computer, I noticed an issue on my desktop. Whenever I tried to view a video of any kind online — be it a dance video, Skit Guys sketch or random Youtube creation — my computer wouldn’t allow me to watch it, probably due to lack of some new Flash Player thingummy that needed to be installed. Undaunted, I still went to website after website for entertainment that I knew would never happen; and without fail, I would be disappointed.

And yet, I never went to my dad and asked him to help me fix it. Because I knew that videos are the number one reason I waste away my life while on the computer, especially while on the web. Are all videos evil, and a gross waste of time? No. But where these miniature black holes were concerned, I had largely forgotten the virtue of temperance and moderation. And even though my flesh continually and futilely drove me back to those websites, it was ultimately a relief to not have that drive gratified.

Oftentimes, during major trials and even minor inconveniences, we tell ourselves and one another, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away” (or for the more solemn types, “doth taketh away”). Without fail (at least when I’ve heard that quote), the giving refers to blessing and the taking away refers to the taking away of blessings (even though God assuredly can and does take away things like disease, injury, heartache, etc.). And yet I’ve found that God can also most certainly bless us by taking away the very things that we perceive to be, and may well actually be, blessings. Electricity, running water, air-conditioning, Internet and online videos may be blessings in their own way (generally speaking). But taking a break, however involuntary, from these conveniences for the sake of other things, such as the opportunity to spend time with good friends, is also assuredly a blessing to be thankful for.

Another blessing that I often find slipped in is a heightened appreciation of the blessing that was taken away. We never did use any salt to preserve the food in our refrigerator (as they did in the old days, when salt was considered much more valuable than it is now), but we did use quite a few portable lights to compensate for not having our usual lighting when it got dark. You’d be surprised at how much you appreciate having even just a tiny light to guide your way when the space before you is cloaked in blackness. Running water and air-conditioning are definitely also things that you appreciate much more when you don’t have them than when you do.

We saw some crews working on the power lines outside our neighborhood earlier today, and by evening we had electricity and all of its conveniences once more. I’m grateful for the return of these small blessings (especially running water); but at the same time, I feel many times more richly blessed to have gone without these little things for a short, short while, to better enjoy the company of friends.

Wishing you and your family every blessing (be it convenience or interruption),

~ Timothy

P.S. Many, many people are still hard at work because of all the downed trees and power lines. And from what I last heard, 13 people lost their lives during that storm. Their families are in need of prayer, so regardless of how your family is faring right now, please do not forget them.

P.P.S. In case you were wondering: no, this post was not in my neat little planned progression of posts; but some interruptions are worth making.

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“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.
An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”

~ G.K. Chesterton

“A blessing is often only an interruption rightly considered.
An interruption is a blessing wrongly considered.”

~ Me