Tuesday, May 26, 2015

6 Times Repeated: God Keeps You

I'm reading Psalm 121, and I see the same verb six times. It's shamar in Hebrew; this verb means to keep, guard, protect, and watch carefully. 

If you remember this beautiful psalm, it reads like this:

I life up my eyes to the hills. 
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel 
will neither slumber or sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night. 

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forever more. 

I loved reading Charles Spurgeon's commentary on this psalm. In particular, he reminds us that God's help is "never known to be too late." And of this verb, "to keep," Spurgeon writes this:

"Our soul is kept from the dominion of sin, the infection of error, the crush of despondency, the puffing up of pride; kept from the world, the flesh, and the devil; kept for holier and greater things; kept in the love of God; kept until the eternal kingdom and glory. What can harm a soul that is kept of the Lord?"

He concludes by asking, "What anxiety can survive this. . . promise?"

God keeps our life. Everything about this day is in God's keeping, and His help is never late.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Not Imagining They Feel What You Feel

Whenever I'm in social settings with my daughters, I try to connect them with everyone, set up groups, and engage these friends in lively conversation. 

This, of course, would delight and energize me, but it's stressful and overwhelming for my more introverted family. 

So I've learned to remember that they do not experience what I experience socially. What I see as isolation and boredom, they see as precious contemplative time to enjoy observing others and to interact with just one or two interesting people. 

Parents who try to transfer their emotions onto their children might just be completely wrong. This is my best advice for all the summer gatherings ahead: don't imagine we know what people want in social situations. 

I'm learning everyday that what energizes me drains them. 

back off and let them live in ways that nourish them. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

I Forget Until Someone Asks Me

Yesterday, a new friend who teaches high school English asks for my opinion on what I wish incoming college freshmen knew better.

I recently complained--like I do every May--that teaching wears me down, that maybe I'll retire, that I've lost my love of it. And then someone asks me about teaching, and I start clapping and doing little hops. I begin a lecture on what college freshmen need to know.

Yes, I talked all about vivid verbs. I talked about grammar and sentence variation and style. Analysis, I've found, isn't really the problem. Most of my students come to college with great critical thinking skills.

But it's almost as if nobody has ever given them the time to develop any kind of written voice.

My advice? Let them write and write and write. Make them use colons, dashes, and parentheses. Make them use three word sentences. See what happens. Don't let them use the same verb twice; this will infuriate them, and then they will thank you profusely.

Invite them to fall in love with the semicolon. Challenge them to pick three grand ideas they believe are worth fighting for, and then have them write about these things. Make them write, not for just five paragraphs, but for 15, and see if they can keep developing more and more complexity and more and more questions.

This summer, have them write one story, one poem, one song, and one rant.

Here's a prompt for a short story:

You're stuck in traffic behind a car that has a square package visible from the back window. It's elaborately and beautifully wrapped. As the minutes drag on, you begin to obsess over the contents of this package. What is inside of it? Where is it going? What happens if you follow the car to its destination and inquire what's in the package?