The Geography of Memory (A Review)

I've been more intentional with my reading this year (speaking of which, have you sent me your book recommendations yet?), and this month, I've devoured two books. The first of those books was Jeanne Murray Walker's offering, The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage through Alzheimer’s.  The book chronicles Walker's struggle in caring for her mother, who suffered in her last years from Alzheimer's. The book was honest and engaging. It led to me to consider my grandfather, who waged his own battle with dementia in his last days.

I penned these thoughts for The High Calling this week. I hope you enjoy them.

*****

My grandfather was a tall-tale of a man, one whose great appetites were matched only by his passion and wit. He was a successful businessman, a gentleman to all the ladies, a conservationist of conservationists, and a man of faith who rooted his family into a pragmatic Episcopalian practice. He was an accomplished man, a man whom success, it seemed, had deemed fit to call “friend.”

He was larger than life, my grandfather. I remember still the magnitude of his personality, the thundering voice that matched it. As a boy, I’d make the six hour trip to Monroe, Louisiana, and he’d greet me in the front drive, would thunder his standard salutation—“Hey goat head!” Even in my twenties, I remember how the greeting seemed to rattle my bones. Once, I swore I saw the Cyprus knees on the banks of Bayou Desiard rattle, too.

Continue reading at The High Calling.

Dan King--The Unlikely Missionary, Shalom Bearer, and All-Around Good Dude

Dan King just before giving a #doublefistbump

"I wanted to fix everyone's problems, but these problems are so big.  One man on one trip couldn't possibly make that much of an impact.  I tried to remember that this trip was about planting seeds..." ~Dan King, the Unlikely Missionary

There are a few people you implicitly trust.

I met Dan King in a house full of world changers, a gathering of Shalom People.  It was the night before an orphan care conference and the speakers, contributors, and spouses mingled over dinner.

Gary was there, and he told me about the orphans in Zambia.

Aschalew was there, and we spoke of the political climate in Ethiopia.

John was there, and he told me about the time he met Will Ferrell, how the metaphor of a wandering Elf holds for our generation.

They were grand people, each of them in their own right.  But as I worked my way around the room, there was one dude I was particularly interested in meeting.

“Dan?” I asked as I extended my hand.  “You can call me BibleDude,” he said with a grin.

And then he hugged me.

We sat in some overstuffed chairs in the corner of the living room and he asked me my story, the one involving a trip to Mozambique.  He listened patiently, then told me his Africa story.  Dan spent time in Uganda and Kenya and assisted Five Talents, a micro-lending organization, in teaching grass roots financial planning.  He spoke of the beauty of the local people, how they drew him in.  Dan confessed in humility that he was nothing special, just a normal dude who had been blessed with an extraordinary opportunity.  He was an unlikely missionary, he said.

Dan and I spent nearly an hour huddled in that corner.  As I listened to his story I heard that still small voice whisper, “Dan is an uncommon man, a humble dude who follows well. Listen and learn.”

Dan shares that same story in his new book, The Ulikely Missionary: From Pew Warmer to Poverty Fighter.  He tells the tale of an ordinary working stiff who was transformed by the renewing of his mind.  The insights he shares are priceless, and he does it in uncommonly fluid and conversational dialogue.  You'll feel like you're sitting in one of those overstuffed living room chairs with us.

I’ve followed Dan more closely over these last few months.  He’s the real deal.  Won’t you take the time to GET TO KNOW HIM?

 

__________________________

**Dan's book is available in print, Kindle, Nook, and .pdf formats.  There's a format for everyone, so you HAVE NO EXCUSE! Consider this your peer pressure moment.

All is Grace - Another Sort of Review

"I am inclined to believe that God's chief purpose in giving us memory is to enable us to go back in time so that if we didn't play those roles right the first time round, we can still have another go at it now...." 

~Frederick Buechner (as quoted in All is Grace)

When I was sixteen, I floated in a haze of denominational insularity. There were some of us, a group of burgeoning faith bearers. We were impregnated by the expectations of God-fearing adults.

Before coffee had become socially acceptable, the good kids sat at cafeteria tables over biscuits and Mountain Dew, bibles spread wide. We were sharing prayer requests on a particular Monday morning when I heard that Alice was pregnant. Our framework of grace and mercy was not yet well established, so Alice’s news came as a shock, like an ice-water bath. The girls asked, “how could that happen?” “Sex,” I explained. “Ewwww,” they responded.

Yeah, right.

I have never admitted this to anyone, but there was a sort of exhibitionism about our early faith, a constant redrawing of the lines of demarcation to the exclusion of others.  And in this holy gerrymandering, we might have believed that we were protecting God from sin, that we were being holy as He was holy.  But at the end of the day, when our good deeds were accomplished, some of us would have admitted that all this line-drawing seemed to box God out. We were just like Alice and the rest of them, floundering in a different kind of teenage awkwardness.

We were all alone together, none of us admitting that we had little more than a store-bought belief. That’s the kind of angst that is unrivaled by anything that "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  It was uncomfortable, and sometimes I wanted the other kids, the kids outside the lines, to know that I didn’t really have everything figured out. Sometimes I wanted them to know that I doubted, that I lacked confidence, that I was playing a role.

But this was weakness, or so I thought.

This is not to say that I didn't have a real faith, an active one.  But it is to say that I did not appreciate the complexities of that faith.  So I white-washed the tomb, maintained an "attractive front door," and carried the weight of works-based religion.

It is not easy to be the good kid, to carry the weight of an adult religion in your backpack.  I wish the other kids could have known. I wish they could have heard the truth, that I was just as crippled as they were.  I wish they could have known that, when all was said and done, we were all choking on different kinds of smoke.

We were kindred, each of us broken. If only we had taken the time to realize.

***

Being a teenager is hard.  I wish my frame-work would have included grace and mercy way back then.  It would have saved me from a sort of pit later.

These thoughts were spurred by All is Grace, the memoir of Brennan Manning, co-authored by John Blase.