Friday, July 31, 2009


All virtues are fragile. The instant virtue is recognized within oneself, it ceases to exist.
This seems paradoxical. So is it necessary for us to attempt to believe ourselves wicked; for kind people to think themselves cruel, for humble people to believe themselves proud, for generous people to think themselves stingy, for honest people to think themselves dishonest, and so on?
No, the aim seems to be not misrepresentation, for that in itself would be an untruth, but in not thinking of oneself as anything, as kind or cruel, humble or proud, generous or stingy. In general, thinking of oneself at all is to be discouraged.
In truth you are a sinner saved by grace, you derive any goodness from God, and therefor have no more right to claim any virtue as your own than a conduit has to claim water as its own produce. So to recognize altruistic virtue in oneself is to be deceived, because such goodness is inherent in one Being and one alone.
I have been a child of God for fourteen years. If only the lapse of time were sufficient excuse to have forgotten the concept of grace.
I am insufferably self-righteous.
For instance, I have it within my own capacity to refrain from being really and truly frustrated with God when circumstances seem at odds with His goodness.
Possessing it within my own power; therein lies the problem.
For it is just as violent to propriety for a vessel to excuse the potter as it is for the vessel to accuse the potter. Both actions belie a presumed claim to self-rights on the part of the vessel, the only difference being that one vessel has asserted his supposed rights while the other has, in his view, chosen to show largess.
I reason that God has no obligation to explain Himself to me; that pain strengthens, and furthermore, to be angry with God is to lose ground gained.
As to my first point, patience is indeed a virtue, but somewhere I have taken to thinking of it as my patience, instead of His.
All the while I am patiently enduring undesirable circumstances, I believe I am unconsciously keeping score.
The point is not that I would ever reach a point when I might believe I would be justified in being angry with the Lord for His protracted ill-treatment (still I might), but that I am viewing my relationship with God in a highly legalistic fashion.
The unrealized assumption I am operating under is that my righteousness, filthy and ragged as it is, is still my righteousness, and, at that, I have cleaned it up nicely and even mended the tears.
Pointing out the sanctimony of the magnanimous vessel certainly does nothing to excuse the impertinence of the accusatory vessel, still I have noticed an encouraging pattern within those who exhibit impetuosity. Although quick to complain, they will just as quickly accept.
The stoic ones just keep their mouths shut and make another mark, revealing no greater understanding than their clamorous brethren, and worse, no willingness to seek it out.
Underneath all flows nebulous concepts of grim determination, stiff upper lips and boot straps.
I am casting away no confidence. I am simply facing another aspect of the human element.
There is a lyric in a song that is heavy with meaning for me.
Take away the part of me that forgets the price (and, I add, power) of grace.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Food Fight

They say opposites attract.
As is the case with so many things they say, the opposite is just as often true.
I suppose it depends on your definition of opposite, or the exact degree of just how opposite the object of your attraction may be.
For example, if you consider girl to be the opposite of boy, I could heartily agree with opposite attraction. In fact, with this broad view, there could hardly be a more enthusiastic proponent of north and south pole magnetization.
But, personally speaking, and speaking of personality, Devan and I could hardly be considered opposites. The degree of compatibility we share is remarkable, if the more entertaining tales of the gender war are to be believed.
However, there are differences.
I reflected upon one such as I sat at the table. She had loaded the toaster and then left the kitchen for some undisclosed activity elsewhere.
I heard the toaster release and I nervously glanced at the slightly tanned whole wheat slice cooling on the countertop. I have learned the hard way that it takes only a few scant seconds of room temperature to steal the toast from the toast. It's said that customers take years to gain, seconds to lose, wars have been lost in minutes, and it is no less true that in the same few seconds, toast can cease to be toast, and more importantly, fail to melt the applied butter.
I could never leave a loaded toaster. I don't exactly watch the toaster, for a watched toaster shares the same exasperating recalcitrance as a watched pot, but I am never far from the scene, often with butter knife in hand. I do not wish to see one pinhead speck of unmelted butter on my toast. In desperate situations, I have been known to toast my fingers warming an erstwhile piece of toast over an empty toaster. I considered buttering the toast myself, but feared my zeal might prove too heavy in application.
The tension continued to mount in her absence. I tried to return to my book, but the distraction was too great. At last she returned, a potential disaster was averted, and I was relieved of my potential culpability of being found in the same kitchen with cold toast.
She doesn't seem to be fully aware of the gravity of eating.
She, in fact, has stated to me upon numerous evening occasions that she has not eaten all day because she "forgot."
I, on the other hand, have never been so glib about sustenance. And well I might not.
My father is a serious breakfast eater. Upon arising in the morning, he places his cereal bowl in the freezer along with the jug of milk. (I regret to inform you that he and my mother have been given over to the reprobate mind and are drinking 2%.)
After the appropriate lapse of time, he removes the bowl and the milk and perhaps the spoon now for all I know, the idiosyncratic progression of age now factored in and pours his cereal, then feverishly, albeit sincerely asks the blessing with jug of milk in hand. The blessing received, he returns the milk to the freezer in the event he wishes a second bowl and hurriedly seats himself to begin eating before the topmost flakes so much as submerge neath the icy milk.
On the other hand, Devan shares her lackadaisical indifference for food with members of her own family. I have often erroneously assumed that her brother's eyes were much, much larger than his stomach. And even though his stomach has grown exponentially over the past year, one might still make the same hasty assumption. Watching him load his dinner plate, you begin to feel sorry for his tapeworm. After some time and effort has been invested in preparing his buffet, he takes fork in hand, sighs, leans back and gazes blankly out the window. Upon my first observation of this phenomenon, I might've been forgiven for assuming that the preparation had in fact, done him in, and it was all for naught. However, after he has rested from this for some minutes, he begins with a mouthful. Following a subsequent rest, he has another bite, and so on, until before you know it, the sun is rising and sometime during the night, either he or the ravages of time has cleared his plate. I've certainly never known him to suffer indigestion.
I have another brother-in-law whose nondiscrimination for what he ingests is truly remarkable and second only to that of a select few billy goats. He has upon occasion, attempted to involve me with his carelessness, ( a California sushi roll comes to mind) but I have resisted.
My mother is perhaps the food martyr among us. No crumb in the bottom of the tortilla chip bag is too small for her. "What's wrong with eating chips with a spoon?" you may ask.
Nada. And if you are eating them with dip, all the more convenient.
No chip, in fact, is too stale. She's too young too have lived through the Great Depression, so we can only assume she is at heart, a miser.
My maternal grandfather is frightfully habitual. I have never known his lunch to consist of anything other than half of a bologna sandwich, sans condiments, nor his dessert to consist of anything other than prunes. And no, he's not a monk, and has never taken the vow of poverty, to my knowledge.
I have an aunt who eats ketchup on tomatoes, and tragically, the trend has gone to the extreme with her second oldest son, who serves up a bowl of Hunts ketchup topped with a little Hienz ketchup.
And then, there is this cousin I have. He has the disturbing tendency, catalogued among profiles of Ted Bundy and OBL, of mixing his food.
Now, we have all doubtless been guilty of this redneck guilty pleasure before, rolls and gravy, corn and mashed potatoes, and so on, but his concoctions are truly disturbing.
I understand they have banned him from Cracker Barrel upon observing one too many times his grisly habit of mixing gravy, fried eggs and sausage and last but not least, grits. (I know, why?! right! And he claims to be a Yankee!)
So, I concluded, upon resuming my book, that it really does take all kinds.
At least, that is what we must assume. We'll never know otherwise, will we?