Bear with me, if you will, for a bit of Bible history here, I promise it has a point.

Prior to the King James version of the Bible, and in fact, prior to the founding of the Church of England, the Bible was a mysterious thing to the common believer. It was read in Latin in church by only the priests. Only the scholars really knew what the words of the Bible said, and they read them to the congregations. The believers took the word of the scholars, the words of the priests, at face value, and believed them to be the word of God. Now, I am not saying that the clergy and scholars were misusing that power, but I am saying that put a lot of power into the hands of few. They had the freedom and ability, if they so chose, to say whatever they wanted to say, and the people would believe that it came from the mouth of God.

Enter the era of the King James version, which came about a hundred years after the movable printing press. For the first time in history, the common person had access to an English translation of the Bible. Provided that they could read, they had the freedom and power, for the first time, to read for themselves, to interpret for themselves. They had the knowledge, they could study the words, they could see for themselves if the clergy and scholars were telling them the truth. It gave the common believer control over their own beliefs. It gave them the chance to have a more personal belief system, because they could read for themselves what the Bible taught. Coincidence that this happened during the time of the Reformation? I think not.

Fast forward a few hundred years, to our modern times.

Enter the era of Powerpoint. Yes, I am talking about the computer program here. Modern churches begin to employ modern technology, they begin to use Powerpoint to project the lyrics to hymns, and the text of the scriptures, onto screens in the church, for convenience sake. It makes it so much easier, it saves so much time, after all, if you don’t have to wait for the people in the church to turn the pages of an actual book before you start singing, before you start preaching. Slowly, the beautiful sound of rustling Bible pages begins to fade out of our churches. Sure, at first, people followed along in their Bible. At first, they make a point to keep reading the scripture for themselves. But slowly, over the last… oh, say… 20 years or so, people have quit even bringing a Bible into the church with them. After all, why bother, the words are right there on the screen to read, right?

And I wonder… do we not even see what we are doing to ourselves? Do we not see that we are giving up the rights to our beliefs again? Do we not see how easily we could be led astray, taught to believe whatever someone else wants us to? We have given the control of our beliefs away again.

For convenience, and for no other reason. We have become a lazy and ignorant generation, and we have done so willingly.

So let me ask you, not out of condemnation, but out of curiosity, do you take your Bible with you to church? Does your church use powerpoint? Do you open your Bible and read along?

I have to be honest, and admit, I don’t. But I am here today to say “no more”. To make a commitment here and now to take my Bible with me, to open my Bible, to read the words for myself.

Not because I don’t trust the words of my Pastor, because I do. But because it isn’t his responsibility to feed me the words of scripture. It is my responsibility to read them for myself.

If you are a church-going reader, if you are a believer, will you join me in this challenge? Let’s make a commitment to holding on to our Bibles, to holding on to our faith.

“Courage is not always a loud roar, sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”
-Marc Chareth

Let me tell you about courage. Courage is my husband. My husband is courage.

For two and a half years, Mike dealt with unemployment. Laid off from his last job at a time when the economy was going sour in rapid progression, he faced the overwhelming spectre of trying to find new employment in a job market that was shutting down. There were times when it was an unbearable load, but you know what? He kept carrying it. There were times when he struggled to keep going, to make it to the next day, but you know? He struggled, he went, he made it. I haven’t talked much about the struggles that he has been through because I constantly fear crossing that line between telling you my story, and invading the privacy of those that I love. It was his story, his telling, and his fight.

At the end of each day, he possessed the courage to say “I will try again tomorrow”. And today… well… today, he put on his work clothes and drove into town to start his training for a new job. A job as a pharmacy technician, a job that he went back to school to train for. A job that required him to be tested on a national level, a test that many don’t pass the first time (he passed the first time!). A job that required him to jump through untold number of hoops to be certified, and then registered with the state. A job he fought for, and earned.

I don’t have the right words for how proud I am of this man, my husband. We often classify heroes as those who rush into burning buildings, those who risk their lives to save another, those who defend our country. And they are heroes. But even more heroic, in my eyes, is the steadfast courage that it takes to keep going when it seems that all of life is conspiring against you. The courage it takes to Just. Keep. Going. even when everything around you seems to be telling you to give up.

My husband is courageous.

My husband is my hero.

So the title of the blog was inspired by two different events in my life lately…

The first is that I actually finally read the Wizard of Oz book. Obviously, most of us have seen the movie a million times, we can quote the lines, we love (or hate) the characters. It is a classic. So I thought it was time I read the book.

And I was… disappointed, I guess. It was KIND OF the same story, the basic plot was basically the same. The characters were basically the same, only… not. The ruby slippers… made of silver. The witch that makes up so much of the movie… a small bit part in the book. There was no story before the tornado in the book. No evil neighbor that wanted to get rid of Toto, no Professor Marvel, no farm hands, no set up, just the tornado, and the start of the journey through Oz. So, I don’t know… I think I will just stick with the movie in the future. The book isn’t always better than the movie. I think most of the time, it is the one that you fell in love with first that will always be the better of the two for you. If you grew up with the book, that is usually far better than the movie that they make from it. If you grew up with the movie, the book is often.. flat.
The exception to this rule? Chronicles of Narnia. I grew up with that book, with that series. I loved them, I read them over and over. I cherised the characters, and along the way, in my mind’s eye, I saw the way it should be. The way the characters should look, the way Aslan’s voice should sound, the scenery. I saw the movie that my own mind created. When Hollywood released the movie, I was skeptical of seeing it, at first. I was scared that they would ruin the story I loved so dearly. Instead, as we left the theater after watching it, I turned to Mike and said, “THAT was the movie in my head all along”. It was perfect, spot on, just exactly right. And I am not alone in that opinion either. Most of the people I know that grew up loving those books feel the same about the movie. They got it right, down to the last detail, they got it right.

The title of this post also comes from our evening walks. Due to the heat, we have been taking our daily walks around 8:30 or 9:00 at night, after the sun has set, and the heat has dissipated a bit. Now, we live in the piney woods part of Texas, and the back of our house sits right up to a grove of trees, so we often see various birds and critters as we walk around our neighborhood. Lately, it has been rabbits, bats, and doves. I love seeing the rabbits (the big gray jackrabbit kind) bounding across someone’s yard, or seeing the doves resting on the phone lines. I am not so keen on the bats, since they are erratic and kind of freak me out when they fly around, but still, it is pretty cool to see them nonetheless. I just wish I could take a picture of them, but they move so fast, and it is dark outside by that time anyhow, there is just no chance.

What about you? What is the biggest disappointment you had in the movie vs. book arena? What movie/book combo got it right?

When we finally got a battery for our scale yesterday, and weighed in, we found out that we have met our goals!

That means, that in less than a year, Mike has lost 132 pounds (he is actually 2 pounds under his original goal) and I have lost 45. More than that, we are doing good, still walking every day. Although.. in the Texas summer heat, we have actually started walking around our neighborhood at 9pm, after it is dark out to avoid the heat.

So yay us! I am so proud of us. We have stuck with this for almost a year, and this is not something we are ever going to quit. When we reach our final goals (which are not far off now), we will change the diet up a bit to more of a maintenance rather than a weight loss.

This… this is a really good feeling.

I am so tired of death. It seems to be all around me, it seems to be popping up every time I turn around.

In May, we lost two of Mike’s friends, within a week of each other. 10 months after James passed, and two more are gone. Our friend Sean passed away unexpectedly from a previously unknown heart condition. A longtime friend of Mike’s, Ray, passed away after years of battling heart issues.

Yesterday, our church lost our Music Director, Julia Owens. She was just 50, and had recently had a liver transplant. It didn’t take, the liver failed, and the myriad of other health issues she was suffering were too much for her to make it to another transplant.

Many of the people that we have lost this past year haven’t been unexpected. Many of them have been elderly, or sick for many years, deaths that were expected, but still painful. And it isn’t each individual death that weighs me down so much as it is the collective effect.

I am tired of mourning, so tired of weeping for the passing of people that we care about. I am tired of grief, tired of funerals. I am so tired of thinking “they were so young”. I guess that is what really is getting me. Last year, we had a lot of funerals in our church, but they were mostly all elderly people, those that had lived a full life, those that had their time.

This wave seems to be people that should have had more time. Starting with James, continuing with Sean, and Ray, and Julia… these people should have had more time. They didn’t have enough, they were so young….

Pray, if you are of a praying sort, please. Please pray that the clouds will part, we could use a little sunshine right now.

Look…. I know. I really do know… it has been months (literally) since I last wrote.

And it isn’t that I stopped writing, at least in my head.

It is just that.. life got in the way for a bit, and then, then I had a lot I wanted to talk about, and I wasn’t sure where to start.

So I didn’t.. .start, that is. I have this weird quirk of my personality that the longer I sit silently, the more difficult it is to speak. You know, like when you quietly observe a conversation for hours on end, and then realize you have something to say, but don’t know how to break in. Embarrassed a little that people will look at you in amazement that you spoke again.

But I am here, and I intend to be back in full force, starting now. I will try to get you caught up on the stories over the past few months, the things Mike and I have seen and done, the updates. I will share with you the thoughts that have been cramming themselves into the very corners of my brain, until there is no room left.

Let me assure you first that all is well, with me, with Mike, with our family, our diet, our cat.. we are all doing just fine. My words just somehow slipped away from me, and I am now sinking my hands into them, like a giant piles of jelly beans, and picking out which ones to share with you first.

I have missed you, all of you.

I don’t often share music here on my blog, but there is a song that has been haunting my thoughts for about a month now. There is a lot I want to say about this song, some things I want to ask you, so I ask, please listen to it and then join my discussion…

The entirety of this song speaks to me, but what I want to talk about is that first verse.

I was raised up believin’
I was somehow unique
like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes
unique in each way you can see

And now after some thinkin’
I’d say I’d rather be
a functioning cog in some great machinery
serving something beyond me.

But I don’t I don’t know what that will be.
I’ll get back to you someday
Soon you will see.

There are so many things I want to say, I want to ask, I want to discuss about these lyrics, so I pray that you will forgive me if I wander from topic to topic, and ramble a bit.

First, when I hear this song, I can so relate. I WAS raised to believe that I am unique, that I am one of a kind, that there is nobody else quite like me out there. There is a role in this great play of life that only I can play. There is a hole that only I can fill. As I get older though, I don’t feel that uniqueness the same way I did as a child. I begin to realize that we are all so very much the same, that we all walk this path in this thing called life, and that we all share the same trials, the same struggles, the same emotions, the same thoughts.

I hear the words of this song, and my thoughts are “yes! Yes, that is what I am thinking”.

I also wonder which of these two truths I WANT for my life. Do I want to be unique, or do I want to be a functioning cog? There are advantages and disadvantages to both, I think.

If I am unique, there is a lot of pressure that I put on myself. I am the only one that can fulfill that role, so I have to get it right. I can’t mess up too much, or I let people down. I have to do the job in this life that only I can do, because I am the only one like me. I am the only one that can do it, so I better not mess it up.

There is also the mindset that a lot of people develop that their uniqueness somehow entitles them to special treatment. Sure, every little girl wants to be the princess. Sure, every little boy wants to be the hero. And there is nothing wrong with treating your kids, and yourself, with that importance, as long as we don’t forget the responsibilities that life still hands us. Just because you are a princess doesn’t mean you get out of washing clothes, or going to work, or washing the dog. Just because you are the manly hero doesn’t mean that you get out of mowing the lawn, or washing the car, or paying the bills. I see a lot of this in our world right now, honestly. The sense of “I am special, so treat me better than everyone else”. The sense of entitlement that our society is perpetuating sickens me at times. We are forgetting that our dreams are something that need to be worked for, and not something that is just given to us.

The flip side of this is being a cog in a machine. The advantage to being the same, to being just like the other cogs is the relaxing of pressure. If I fall down on the job, it’s okay because there are others just like me that can fill the gap. If I stumble on a line in my scene, another can be my understudy. The whole world isn’t looking to me to be the “one and only Jennifer!”. I can fade into the background.

But then… why be here? What value do we have as a person if we are just like everyone else? What is the purpose to our existence if anyone else can walk up and fill the role that we leave? Why do I matter?

So I find myself listening to this song, and wondering which of the two choices is reality. And more, which of the two choices do I want to be my reality? Do I want to be unique and take the demands that come with that, or do I want to be just another one in the crowd and take those consequences?

I find myself wondering what other people think about this. Do you think that we are unique, or do you think we are a cog? Which do you think it really is, and which do you want it to be?

After thinking on this song for about a month now, the best answer I can come up with for myself is that I think we are each a unique mixture of very ordinary pieces. I think that I have the same beliefs, same dreams, same wishes, same fears, etc. as millions of others out there, but that in me, in this Jennifer, they are blended in a very unique way. I am a one of a kind cake baked out of common ingredients.

So tell me…
~what did you think of the song?
~do you think you are unique, were you raised to believe you were?
~would you rather be unique, or the same?
~am I crazy, and do I tend to over-think?

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