Cacti: December 2003

I sat in the healing service feeling prickly: easily offended, old wounds ready to flare at any minute. Desert imagery came forth. I realized that being a prickly cactus is a good thing if you live in the desert. Then I thought of the Christmas cactus in my bedroom. Most of the time it doesn't look like much. A bunch of straggly green arms. Easily ignored. Then in the late fall, red drops appear at the end each branch. You blink and suddenly BOWANZA: red and white froth shoots forth; flames blossoming at the ends of green waving arms. It is, to be frank, slightly ridiculous. I smile at it in the mornings, my reading glasses slid down my nose so I can go from Bible to riotous cactus keeping both in focus. Somewhere in the midst of the healing service, I realized God smiles on me, too. BOWANZA! A planting of the Lord.

DIG IT AND DUNG IT: You may remember the story of the book that was removed from a chain Christian bookstore because it had the 'D' word in it (gasp). Meditating on D words, I noted that I was looking for a Bible translation that changed Paul's "dung" to the 'SH' word. A Christmas Cactus named Dave wrote me: "The word used as dung in Philippians 3:8 is unique to the NT and the context seems to fit rubbish better than dung (i.e. something discarded as worthless, rather than something stinky flung by monkeys). The NT is pretty reticent to talk about poop, the only mention I know of is Luke 13:8 (fertilizer is derived from copros). Some older versions translate this as "Let me dig around a little and dung it," a delightful turn of phrase, don't you think, particularly since it is applying to us."

UP WITH YOUR HEART: The reason I'm reading Eberhard Arnold's The EARLY CHRISTIANS--A Sourcebook on the Witness of the Early Church, is a Thanksgiving sermon bit using Justin Martyr and Hippolytus's description of communion: "Then the President says, 'Up your hearts.'"
Wonderful! I'd love to be in a service where the Presider bellows, "Up with your hearts." Fortunately the next line is something akin to "We have them with the Lord." Fortunately "The Lord be with you," with the response, "and also with you," comes BEFORE. It wouldn't do at all to have the Presider bellow "Up your hearts," and have the congregation respond with an enthusiastic, "Up yours."

CHRIST ENCOUNTERS: I've just finished WITNESS TO HIS RETURN--Personal Encounters with Christ. It could quite aptly be entitled "Christ Encounters of the Third Kind." Published by the Association of Research and Enlightenment, many of the stories were by people who were not in any church, and were quite surprised to have a visitation by the risen Lord. They consistently saw it as a life changing experience and consistently "knew" it was Jesus. After a chapter or two, I pretty much skipped the commentary between stories and just went from witness to witness. Great reading although I felt a bit sad that many of these were single experiences, instead of the regular stuff of life.
On the other end of the spectrum is Dale Fife's THE SECRET PLACE--Passionately Pursing His Presence. He relates the various journeys he went on with the Lord in his prayer times. In an early chapter, as he was being taken to various spots in the world by angels, I wondered, "Who had the courage to publish this?" Whitaker House, of course.
The fulcrum between these two ends is a small book THEY DARE TO BE DIFFERENT by Anna McPherson. Published by Moody Press, each chapter is a stirring story of someone devoted to Christ. Soon after being converted I looked into going to Moody Bible Institute, but discovered they didn't want anyone speaking in tongues on campus. In the chapter on Moody, he learned about being filled with the Holy Spirit, prayed and had an experience which was so intense that he asked the Lord to "stay his hand." I wonder how Moody Bible Institute got from there to here. Maybe that's what happens when a person becomes an Institute.

THE DANGER OF NOVELS is that if I get hooked, all of life gets put on hold until I finish-the-book. This didn't happen with Carol Shield's THE STONE DIARIES, despite the Pulitzer Prize. It took about a week for me to poke through her slices of life. However, I read Orson Scott Card's THE SONGMASTER in one greedy gulp, going off to bed at 2:00 AM wondering why I do these things. I wrote a story with singing in tongues long before I knew it actually existed...and it looks like Card did the same thing. A powerful book, that is unfortunately out of print. Shannon now has the copy that floated into The Word Shop. The line forms on the left.
Speaking of lines, Joanne decided we need to read THE DA VINCI CODE, so we now have a $3 rental copy making the rounds. It hasn't gotten to me yet. Stay tuned.
An antidote to staying up all night is short stories. I tripped over a complete collection of Dorothy Sayers stories at another used bookstore. How could I resist? Everyone needs a little Wimsey in their life.

At the same used bookstore (I shouldn't go in these places) I bumped into Wallace Stegner's ON TEACHING AND WRITING FICTION, which someone very kindly left out of place, right under my nose. I'm now two chapters into it and if I didn't know the Lord, I'd call it a religious experience. Literature and writing and the heart of the writer all wrapped in wonderful prose. Frustration and hope, grand ideas, desire and the sheer joy of language foment into wordless prayer bubbles that rise from my heart and pop on the sharp realities of things-to-do.
Meanwhile, the First Tuesday Writer's Group is still meeting on (yup!) the first Tuesdays at 7:15. And the short story class has almost come to an end with several great little stories in the can (as the movie makers would say). I'm contemplating the next creative class: Illustrated journals? A morning's work with artists and writers? Twelve weeks with Cameron's WALKING IN THIS WORLD?

Our third Tuesday Author's night is a Christmas Party this month. This week. Tomorrow! 7:00 to 9:00. Hope you can come. We'll raffle off our most stupendous Gift basket and you can choose out a book to take home. Come and schmooze with us.

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. -Garrison Keillor

Up with your hearts!

Alliee +