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Mind Games #6

Who, or what, is the scariest mythical figure of childhood? I’m thinking Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, etc. But you can bring in your own horrors if you want.


Now accepting suggestions…

Anybody have a mind game question they’d like to see? I always intended to open this up for other people to ask, or at least suggest, questions. This is a little earlier than I wanted to start with that, but I’m a little behind and not at all inspired. So?


I just wrote out a new True Story that happened just a few hours ago. A Pound a Week

I have every intention of answering the last Mind Game question too, just as soon as I figure out a name for a place where it seems that one person or another is awake around the clock.


Yes, that is concerning.

Not long ago, I compared a certain author’s work ethic to life. Enough of that pretension, (for now at least). I’m not thinking too deep tonight. Tonight, we look at writing advice without trying to read a life lesson into it. Sorry to exclude any non-writers out there.

Another of my favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with him. He makes me think, and I like the points that he makes, but I usually disagree with his conclusions. For this reason, I admire and despise his work. I think he would appreciate the attention either way. When he was younger, Vonnegut taught a creative writing course. Perhaps for those of us who wonder what kind of things he would have to say, he condensed his course into eight, neat points. You can find them in his collection of short stories titled Bagombo Snuffbox. Or you can just read them below. Either way.

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.


Mind Games #5

What would name your house/apartment/condo/motel room/current place of residence? Explain the significance, if you so desire.


Mind Games #4

Today features two questions, because I couldn’t make up my mind. Since they’re already numbered, we’ll label them A) and B), eh?

A) If all the animals on each continent banded together and went to war against the animals of other continents, which would win? i.e. Asia, Africa, South America, etc.

B) What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen on fire?


Frequently Imagined Questions

People are bizarre and often participate in incredible activities. Occasionally, we are fortunate enough to be a witness. But more frequently, I only discover the aftermath of whatever went on, baffled by evidence of a thought process that must be completely foreign to my own. I’m talking about the sanctuary here. So many times I’ll be picking up after church or a special event, and I’ll find something that just makes me stop and try to make sense of what I see. I often try to recreate the situation in my mind, or try to put myself into the shoes of whoever went before me.

And then, last night, my daughter was watching me pull out our broken dishwasher in the kitchen. She was jabbering away when she suddenly stopped, laughed to herself, and apologized for asking so many questions. I took time to explain to her that asking questions makes you smarter. If you wonder about something, and you never ask, then you will never know the answer. But every time you do ask, you learn, and your knowledge increases. She understood so well, that she responded with the example of someone who thinks that 3 + 3 = 3. If you never asked anyone, you’d never know that 3 + 3 = 6. Side note: My daughter is 4. And yes, I can talk to her with terms like “knowledge increases” and she knows how to add, subtract, and even do basic multiplication. My kids are better than your kids.

I was back in the sanctuary again this morning, wondering over how someone thought it was a good place to floss, and it hit me. They don’t know, because they never asked. I saw then that I had a responsibility to answer the questions that so many people must ask themselves, but never get up the courage to ask. Since I can’t really call these “Frequently Asked Questions,” I have decided to call them “Frequently Imagined Questions.” I imagine people probably ask themselves these questions all the time, but they have never been answered until now.

  • Q: I lost my _______. Where is it now?
  • A: There is a lost and found in the front office. Anything I find in the sanctuary goes there, with a few exceptions. Valuables will be locked in a back office until they can be described before they are claimed. Cash will be tithed. Pens will be redistributed to the needy. Coffee cups will be glared at and then redistributed to office staff. Children will be given a fair trial and forced to clean until they are claimed by an adult.
  • Q: When is it appropriate to bring my coffee/tea/mocha/hot chocolate into the sanctuary?
  • A: Never. That’s why you’ll never see your coffee cup again if I find it in the sanctuary.
  • Q: Should I clip my fingernails or toenails in the sanctuary?
  • A: No.
  • Q: Should I floss in the sanctuary?
  • A: No
  • Q: I’m done chewing this gum. What should I do with it?
  • A: The best thing to do with it is fold it into a piece of paper and carry it out to a trash can when you leave. Some people elect to leave their wrapped-up gum behind. That’s alright, I suppose. Others simply open their mouths and let the gum fall out onto the floor. That is not alright.
  • Q: I just blew my nose into a conveniently provided tissue. The janitor is so nice to keep those stocked. How can I show my appreciation through properly disposing of this soiled tissue?
  • A: Don’t stuff it into the tiny pocket of the chair in front of you. It’s not for trash, and the janitor is grossed out when he has to fish it out. Neither should you stuff it between the chairs. Much like the gum, the best thing to do is carry it out to a trash can when you leave. If you’re too grossed out by your own snot to throw it away yourself, the least of the evils you can do with that dirty tissue is just to leave it on the floor under your seat. Please don’t try to hide it somewhere.
  • Q: This little communion cup seems like it would make a great crackling noise if I crush it. Should I?
  • A: No. That noise is audible to every single other person in the sanctuary, and it distracts them when they are trying to focus on God Almighty. God doesn’t like to be interrupted. Additionally, there is a tiny bit of grape juice still at the bottom of the cup which will leak out when you crush your cup, thereby staining a chair or the floor. Just throw it away like a responsible adult.
  • Q: I just drew an awesome picture on my bulletin during church. It’s too cool to throw it away. What should I do with it?
  • A: Leave it for me to find. I love finding drawings.
  • Q: Do people really do all those things?
  • A: Yes.

The right man for the job

But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13

Consider Moses.

There he is, responding to God’s call to go deliver his people from Egypt. His life began some 80 years before, shortly after Pharaoh told the Jews to cast their sons into the Nile. Moses’s mother surrendered him to the river like all the other boys, only she first placed him on a raft. Pharaoh’s daughter pulls him out of the water and adopts him as her own. Nobody knows what his real mother named him, because it is his attempted murder’s daughter who called him Moses. Though he was sheltered from the slavery that his people faced, he was still raised as a Hebrew in the house of the foremost anti-Semite of the land. He witnessed the suffering of his people. He wanted to help them. He tried to deliver them. But he had to flee for his life when his attempt to save his people goes terribly wrong. And then came decade rolling after decade of herding sheep in the desert.

Then, when it really seems like it’s too late, God appeared to Moses as the burning bush. God told Moses that he wanted him to go back to Egypt to deliver his people. Moses, however, didn’t want to go anymore. He didn’t want to help. He made excuses. “They will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ ”  And what does God answer? What proofs does God give to Moses? He has Moses throw down his staff and it turns into a deadly snake. He tells Moses to stick his hand into his shirt, and when he takes it out he is infected with a terrible disease. He has Moses pour out water onto the ground, and it turns into blood. What? Those are plot twists from a horror movie. But I’m not kidding, look at Exodus 4. It’s as if God said to Moses, “Go to my people, Moses! And when they ask you to prove that I sent you, show them danger! Show them disease! Show them death!”

At this point, I think I would have said something along the lines of, “God, your signs are… uh… lame. Can’t we have water from a rock? Or bread from heaven? Maybe a cloud by day, and a fire by night to lead us?” But Moses went to Egypt. He showed Israel the signs that God gave him, and they believed. Of course they did. They were slaves. They were being beaten, forced to work, forced to kill their own children. What else would they have believed? What else would they have understood? It turned out that God was right. He sent Moses with just the right signs to convince the Jews in Egypt. In the coming years, Israel would have a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night to lead them. Bread would fall from heaven. Water would gush from the rock. And they would be riddled with doubt. Danger, disease, death, they understood these things. They could relate with God on that level. It turned out that God was right about Moses as well. A discouraged old man was just the right sort of leader for a downtrodden people.

And so, consider Moses. God made a bitter man to reach a bitter people. What is he making you?


Mind Games #3

Luxury –noun 1. a material object, service, etc., conducive to sumptuous living, usually a delicacy, elegance, or refinement of living rather than a necessity

Taking advantage of the sales this time of year, our family is looking forward to a new dishwasher next week. After going without one for the last year, I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around a device that I can stick my dirty dishes into, push some buttons, and then just walk away. I don’t really even have to do a good job of scraping the food off first? When I open it up later, the dishes will be clean? So, here’s the question:

What is, or would be, a luxury to you?