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Words Matter to Me

Words Matter to Me

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Words Matter to Me

I am working on another book these days (don’t tell my editor) so I am more aware than usual of just how much words matter to me. I sense in this book I will concentrate as much on how I say what I say, as on what I say.

I love books, the arrangement of words in a unique order and sequence selected by a sentient being of good and noble intent. Yet bookshelves are full of worthless books, outpourings of self-validating egoists ~ words, words and more words, flowing like brackish water from roof, to gutter to ground.

Why do certain phrases resonate more deeply with me than others?

Howard Zieff was a photographer/advertiser who decided to use real people instead of models in his ads (remember the spicy meatball Alka Seltzer commercial?) When asked why he said, For the Levy’s ad I shot many photos that failed. They weren’t the kinds of faces that gathered you up when you went on the subway. That’s what I wanted, faces that gathered you up.”

A face that “gathers you up” communicates something about his aim, but it also validates my fear about plastic surgery and today’s worried quest for the “one beautiful look.” I am connecting to an idea triggered by his phrase.

I wonder, if in eradicating our imperfections we are eliminating the very faces that “gather you up?”

Roy Blount Jr. is the new president of the Author’s Guild and is trying to get Amazon to pay fees for computer generated audio readings of Kindle books, But the introduction to his article is what caught my eye.

“Being president of too many well-meaning organizations put my father in an early grave. The lesson is not lost on me.” As a 60-year old idealist who has invested heavily in well-meaning movements and organizations, this gives me pause for thought.” I want more time with my wife. I feel ready to start taking vacations. I’m typing these words 30,000 feet in the air where I am en route to NYC to interview Nick Wolterstorff at the IAM Conference. This trip will be followed by two more weeks of nonstop tilting at windmills types of activities.

So the phrases that grab me are the ones that I connect to personally ~ they speak to something in my own life. Words are a way of understanding my own life, of trying to make sense of it, and to seek advice from others on that kinds of changes I might make when my life doesn’t make sense to me.

But to grab me it needs more than that. I connect to the rich aesthetic and flavor of certain phrases. Magic words seem to effortlessly roll off the tongue of someone like Leonard Cohen.

In describing his financial woes he explains they are the result of a “long ongoing problem of a disastrous and relentless indifference to my financial situation ~ I didn’t even know where the bank was.”

Or when describing the loss of copyright on some of his classic songs he quips, “My sense of ownership with these things is very weak. It’s not the result of spiritual discipline (Cohen took a break for five years in a Zen Buddhist Monastery); it’s always been that way. My sense of proprietorship has been so weak that actually I didn’t pay attention and I lost the copyrights on a lot of the songs.”

Here I love the words and whimsy, but I also connect to the spiritual dimension of the man.

Indeed, singer/songwriter Jennifer Warnes says of Cohen, “If he has one great love, it is his search for God.”

By far the deepest resonance comes when I connect to the truth. This week I came across this by Tolstoy, “One great thought lodged in the soul of a man can change his whole life.”

The truth of this simple phrase took my breath away. It made me wonder, “what is the one great thought in my soul that has changed my whole life?”

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in February 26, 2009 by | No Comments »

    The Fellowship of the God Smitten

    The Fellowship of the God Smitten

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    The Fellowship of the God Smitten

    I always liked the hymn “Near to the Heart of God” ~ “There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God;”

    My readings today all swirled around this theme of entering the presence of God and finding all we need. As St Ignatius said, : The human being was created for this end: to praise, reverence and serve the Lord… I come from God. I belong to God. I am destined for God.”

    Does it not make sense to begin now to enjoy the presence of God from whom we come and to which we will go? We would do well to withdraw each day from the cacophony of today’s busy world and church to enter the presence of the one from whom all blessings flow.

    Here are a few of today’s readings that reminded me of the simple truth of our need for nearness to God.

    From C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity:

    “”The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.”

    From Angelus Silesius “The Cherubinic Wanderer”

    “Who wants to savor God and will in Him inhere, Should, like the morning star, to its own sun draw near.”

    From Janet Rimmer

    In Your presence there is an absence
    Silencing my greatest fear.
    It is with You that I know the essence
    Of what is life, now that You’re near.”

    From A.W Tozer on the “God Smitten” from “The Early Tozer.”

    “There is a fellowship within a fellowship ¢€œ a sort of wheel in the middle of a wheel ¢€œ which gathers to itself all who are of its spirit in every church in every land and every age. Its members are the God-smitten, those who have heard the Voice speaking within them and have caught a glimpse, however fleeting, of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.

    These have a remarkable likeness to each other wherever they are found. Discounting them all we must for their imperfections, admitting their mistakes and weaknesses, they are yet found to be a people apart, separated from the rest of mankind not by legal prohibitions but by a spirit which dwells within them. They who compose this fellowship have never been herded into any one organization; they have no earthly head, pay no dues, hold no conventions, and keep no minutes, yet they recognize each other instantly when they meet by a kind of secret sign which the Spirit has placed in their hearts.

    These have been in the presence and will never be the same again. They know a holy reverence, a wondrous sense of sacredness that rises at times to transports of delight. Their garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia, a gift from their Bridegroom and King who came walking out of the Ivory Palaces, trailing clouds of glory, to win them for Himself.

    These hail each other across the oceans and down the years. Over the barriers set up in ignorance by stubborn men to separate the children of God, they leap to clasp each other’s hands and share together the feast of holy bread and wine.

    Often their narrow theologies divide them from each other; but when they pray and sing their essential unity is revealed. The protestant will sing with joyous tears the songs of Faber and Newman who were Catholics. The Arminian will worship God with the hymns of Newton and Toplady who were Calvinists, and no one feels any inconsistency or embarrassment, for it is the heart that sings, and it is the heart that recognizes the marks of the Cross that makes many one. Could it be that it is here, rather than in some external unity, that the prayer of Jesus finds its fulfillment, THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE?”

    Join the dance in the fellowship of the God Smitten.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

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    ‚©CRS Communications 2009

    Posted in Staublog in February 11, 2009 by | No Comments »

    To order Dick Staub’s Book, Too Christian, Too Pagan, for only $10 (Retail $16.95)

    We still have NEW copies of Dick’s classic book, “Too Christian, Too Pagan.”

    They are available: ($)10 for the book and ($)3 for shipping and handling.

    1) Enclose a check or money order for ($)13 payable to CRS Communications.

    2) ) Include the name and mailing address you wish the book sent to and a daytime phone number in case we have questions regarding your order.

    3) Mail to: CRS Communications, PO Box 77385, Seattle, WA 98177

    4) If you want an autographed copy, indicate the name to whom the book should be signed.

    5) Orders usually take about 14 days to fulfill.

    Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly said about this important book. “Should Christians be engaged in, or disengaged from, their world? This is the prevailing question that Staub, president of the Center for Faith and Culture, asks Christians who are commanded by Jesus Christ to participate fully in the world without falling for its subtle, yet destructive charms. Staub insists that modern-day Christians frequently resist partaking in the culture around them because they are “too Christian” or fear being labeled “too pagan” by other followers of Christ. This attitude, Staub claims, rejects Christ’s edict to go into the world and share the Christian message. Masterfully told, Staub’s 25 readings weave biblical principles of loving others as oneself from within the confines of workplace, school, neighborhood and family. Staub challenges Christians to fearlessly enter their world of influence and meet those of different beliefs at a place of common understanding. Specifically, Staub encourages readers to go to the movies, read current literature, listen to the latest music craze, attend a co-worker’s party, check out a neighbor’s interests and then discerningly look for the theological truth within each form of communication so as to converse intelligently and with caring grace. With deepening intensity, Staub’s storytelling skill builds chapter by chapter until the dubious labels of either “too Christian” or “too pagan” are cast off in favor of a reckless love for a hurting world.”

    Posted in Staublog, Thoughts in December 31, 2007 by | No Comments »

    My Mother’s Smile

    My Mother’s Smile

    A former neighbor of mine wrote a book titled “From My Father’s Singing,” a story of a son whose memories of his father centered on his dad singing while he shaved each day. Ask about my central memory of my mother and it is her smile. (Photo from early college years)

    One of the joys and tearful sorrows of preparing for mom’s memorial service is the preparation of a multimedia retrospective of her life, and sorting through the photos; even a blind man could see that this woman smiled all the time.

    Her smiled carried her through a turbulent childhood, the loss of her father and the Great Depression.

    As WWII ends, there she is at her wedding, beaming radiantly, extending grace towards even those who made her younger years so uncertain.

    Then in 1952 she is grinning while living near poverty with her pastor husband in the small logging town of Bly, Oregon.

    Now look at her continue to radiate joy in 1958 after the birth of her fourth child, Timothy, whose brain damage and subsequent diagnosis with Cerebral Palsy would mean radical life changes for the whole family, and especially for Esther.

    See her smiling through the challenges of her husband’s growing responsibilities, joys and disappointments as a pastor.

    Near the end of life look at her glowing and alive even through the haze of Alzheimers. Look at her eyes light up when husband Dick comes down to E-wing. Look at that weakened smile spread across her face even in her end game in the hospital.

    In eighty-one years this woman radiated joy regardless of what life, circumstances or the dark side threw at her.

    She reflected joy because she was joyful deep to her core. Look at her baby pictures and it is obvious that early on my mother’s cheerfulness was her natural pre-disposition¢â‚¬¦luck of the draw.

    Later though, as life dealt her numerous tough hands, she made a choice to tap into the deep springs of peace, love and joy available through God’s spirit indwelling a follower.

    William Barclay said the Greeks spoke of an island where limitless supplies of fresh spring water originated from an unknown source deep beneath the surface.

    Among the videos we found is one with my mother playing the piano. and I think the hymn she played offers a clue as to the source of her joy.

    Like A River Glorious

    Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
    Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
    Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
    Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

    Refrain:
    Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
    Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

    Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
    Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
    Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
    Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
    Every joy or trial falleth from above,
    Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
    We may trust Him fully all for us to do;
    They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

    God help us tap into your limitless springs of living water and experience joy, as did my mother; a joy that brings a smile and lasts a lifetime, sourced deep within by the living God.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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    PS 3.

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    This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2005

    Posted in Staublog in February 6, 2005 by | 1 Comment »

    Falling Forward

    Publisher
    EMI / Sparrow

    Artist
    Margaret Becker

    Posted in Music, Staublog in April 21, 1998 by | No Comments »

    As Good as It Gets

    Cast
    Melvin Udall: Jack Nicholson
    Carol Connelly: Helen Hunt
    Simon Bishop: Greg Kinnear
    Frank Sachs: Cuba Gooding Jr.

    Directed by James L. Brooks. Written by Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks. Running time: 138 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for strong language, thematic elements, nudity and a beating).

    Central Theme
    Most people live lives of quiet desperation, fearing this could be as good as it gets, but even the most entrapped person can change and experience a richer life.

    Story
    Melvin Udall is a successful romance writer who is anything but romantic. He is an obsessive-compulsive, neurotic, racist, homophobic and generally hateful person, until he finds himself bound up in relationships with two people and a dog he can’t avoid.

    Carol is the waitress where Melvin eats lunch every day and is one of the only people who attempts conversation with Melvin. Her son is a severe asthmatic and her financial situation prohibits her from getting the best medical care. She is gutsy and tough, but also disarmingly vulnerable and kind, even to Melvin. When she decides not to go onto work to care for her son, Melvin selfishly foots the bill for medical treatment just so she’ll come back and serve him. But this act of kindness changes their relationship.

    Simon Bishop is an artsy, gay and lives in the apartment across the hall from Melvin. Melvin’s cruel attitude towards gays is matched by his mistreatment of Simon’s dog, but when Simon is brutally beaten and robbed, Melvin is called upon to take care of the dog. Melvin and the dog become best friends and when Simon returns home to recuperate, Melvin is forced into a relationship with Simon so he can keep his contact with the dog.

    The story moves towards a humanizing conclusion when Melvin, Simon and Carol take a two-day road trip and we see Melvin earnestly trying to become a better man. The people you can’t live with can become the people you can’t live without.

    Note all the crosses in Carol’s apartment. They are in almost every room and possibly a sublte explanation for her tenacious commitment to doing the right thing and being the right kind of person.

    Beliefs num
    –Anyone can change.
    –Beneath it all most of us want to become better people.
    –We are trapped in our own patterns, mostly selfish.
    –Only by putting others ahead of ourselves will we find release from selfishness.
    –Such an act is counterintuitive, but in losing our life we find it.
    –The people you can’t live with can become the people you can’t live without.

    Questions Worth Discussing num
    –Have you ever become friends with someone who you initially couldn’t stomach?
    –Is there some redeemable good in every person?
    –Can anybody change?
    –What does it take for a person to truly change?

    Provocative Quotes byline
    –This is New York. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
    ==Melvin as he drops the dog down the laundry chute.
    –I work all the time, so don’t ever interrupt me.
    ==Melvin.
    –I’ve got Jews at my table.
    ==Melvin complains at lunch.
    –We’re all gonna die. I will. You will. Sure sounds like your son will.
    ==Melvin’s heartless remarks to Carol about her son.
    –Why are you doing this to me?
    ==Simon to his assailant’s
    –What if this is as good as it gets?
    ==Melvin in lobby to other patients waiting for the shrink.
    –How can you diagnose me as an obsessive-compulsive and then act like I have some choice about =barging in?
    ==Melvin to shrink.
    –He’s a freak show. He’s the worse person I ever met.
    ==Carol explaining Melvin to her son.
    –Do you have any control over how creepy you get?
    ==Carol to Melvin.
    –I think of a man. Take away all reason and accountability.
    ==Melvin on how he writes from a woman’s perspective.
    –Sell crazy somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here!
    ==Melvin to Panamanian housekeeper.
    –It’s high times for you. The gay neighbor is terrified.
    ==Simon to Melvin when he gets home from the hospital, broke and futureless.
    –I’m not going to sleep with you. I will never sleep with you. Ever. Ever.
    ==Carol to Melvin after he shows kindness to her son.
    –Shouldn’t that be a good thing, telling somebody no thanks allowed?
    ==Melvin to Carol.
    –Think white and get serious.
    ==Melvin to Simon’s black agent.
    –What you did changed my life. You are going to be in our prayers, our daily prayers forever.
    ==Carol to Melvin after he gets her son help.
    –It’s not true. Some of us have great stories, pretty stories, that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad–just no one in this car.
    ==Melvin after Carol says everyone is trying to get over his or her terrible story.
    –Look at this place, they make me wear a coat and tie and you wear a housedress.
    ==Simon’s thoughtless comment about Carol’s nicest dress.
    –You make me wan to be a batter man.
    ==Melvin to Carol.
    –That’s maybe the best compliment of my life.
    –What he gave me was better than sex. He held me.
    ==Carol after a night with Simon.
    –I don’t care what you did for me. I don’t think I want to know you. All you do is make me feel bad about myself.
    ==Carol to Melvin at end of road trip.
    –I don’t know whether I’m being sensible or hard on you. What I said in the street was a bad thing to do. You’re not ready and you’re too old to not be ready. But there were extraordinary kindnesses that did take place.
    ==An apologetic Carol to Melvin.
    –OK if I say something? I should have danced with you.
    ==Melvin to Carol.
    –Do you know where you are lucky? You know who you want. Go over there. The best thing you have going for you is your willingness to be humiliated.
    ==Simon to Melvin.

    Posted in Movies, Staublog in December 23, 1997 by | No Comments »