Category Archives: Chasing Bimini

A New Thang

For my faithful readers, let me say “thank you” for following my blog over the past 5+ years. Chasing Bimini was my theme and the point of the over 100 entries was catharsis–meaning they were just so I could vent—an attempt to get something off my chest. So many of you were kind in responding with encouragement and support. Lately, however, that topic hasn’t related to where I am now. (For those who followed, the initial blog was about a frustrating, elusive chase for the ideal life.)

One of the reasons I haven’t added much to that idea in months is because I had come to a crossroads (or dead end) toward that pursuit. It’s not that I found that idyllic life, but I have become content with where I am and what I’m doing. In fact, maybe I’m borderline complacent. In my last post, I mentioned that the newness of my new season had waned. After prayer and some soul searching, I’m realizing that another new pursuit is imminent. Actually, it’s not new. It’s something that has been on my mind for a long time. It has to do with the way we see ourselves in the eyes of world and in the heart of our Creator. This new category is primarily for women because it’s from my point of view; however, I believe that every reader can find something of value in the coming issues.

The name of this new series is called “For All She’s Worth: Helping Women Discover Their Value” and it’s based on my own experiences, interviews with other women and/or their books on the subject of self-worth. Unlike a book, this blog will be ongoing and may take twists and turns along the way that I had not planned.  I did have a book in mind at first, but since my working topic is ever-changing, I thought it best to write this in short installments. (Hey, it worked for Dickens.)

On this same site, but under a different category, you’ll find my posts that I plan to update at least weekly. I hope you enjoy this new series and I would love to have your feedback and your experiences along the way.

 

 

I Got Nothing


desert-wasteland-channel-abadonment-610x412
What do you say when you feel you have nothing to say?

That’s the question I’ve asked myself for the last several months, and why I haven’t posted anything on this blog for so long.

Forgive me.

It’s not that my life has been uneventful. A lot has happened. Within the last few months all adult children and grandchildren have settled within driving distance, a privilege that hasn’t been mine in a decade. What a joy! Also, in January, my beloved father-in-law died just shy of his 98th birthday. What a combination of grief and peace! Last fall I became a full-time professor of English at Truett McConnell University. What a privilege! All of these events have provoked thoughts and prayers, but I didn’t feel compelled to share any of it with my readers. I don’t know why.

In my first blog installment back in 2012, I admitted that this effort, this blog, was primarily for me. My catharsis. My relief. Sounds selfish, I know, but now I realize how essential it is to my emotional and spiritual health. I’m going to use it as an outlet again. Selfish or not, here goes.

I miss the new.

Yeah. After four years of being in a “new” season, the new has started to wear off. I don’t look at my life the same way I did in the beginning. The magnificent view of our surrounding mountain vista doesn’t make my heart skip a beat anymore. In fact, I hardly even see it now. The amazement I once had for the privilege of teaching college students my passion for writing is giving way to the daunting tasks of preparing lectures and grading tests and essays. I used to ride through our beautiful little town and get that warm, homey feeling. Now I take a less scenic back way to school to save a couple of minutes. I don’t appreciate the peaceful hamlet in which I live. The joy I once felt in the writing process is waning—maybe because I’m paying more attention to the writing mechanics I’m teaching my students. You know, sentence fragments—misplaced modifiers—active voice. Before I write anything these days, I have to make sure it’s perfect–grammatical. And when I do that, I’m sometimes tearing the heart out of whatever I have to say. So, I haven’t “said” anything for a long time.

Is that where the wonder went? In everyday tasks and familiarity? Is the adage “Familiarity breeds contempt” actually true?

Though I know that my joy is not defined by feelings, I also know that my lack of sensitivity to God’s fresh revelations can lead me into a desolate wilderness. And I’ve been there before…and I’m headed there again.

One of my favorite singers, Cynthia Clawson, recorded a song written by Gordon Jensen many years ago. I used to try to sing it myself but I never did it justice. However, the lyric has come back to me afresh. It has become my daily prayer. Here are the lyrics, in part…

I can still remember, the wonderful feeling, back when I first got to know You                                                         It seemed the world was mine, I had joy, I had springtime                                                                             But that’s all just a memory anymore

I guess I took my eyes off  You, Lord, but I don’t want this callous feeling anymore
Oh, please bring back the way it was before

Bring back the new again, I want to see You again
Bring back the way it was, when we began
How did I miss the road? When did I lose the glow?
And where did the wonder go? Bring back the new again.

©1980 New Spring   (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

P.S. I just walked through my back door and the sweet “new house” smell hit me for the first time in a while.  That’s a start, right?

 

 

My View From Here

Mountaintop. Most of the time we use this term to describe highpoints of life—the pinnacles of emotion, the successes in life. It is often accompanied by feelings of euphoria.

So then the valley often describes loneliness, despair—the pits!

But I see those terms differently now. For three years, we literally lived on a mountaintop–Leadpole Mountain. IMG_0752The chalet we rented in Cleveland, GA clung to the side of a steep mountainside, which gave us a million-dollar view of the valley below. And to make it even more awe-inspiring, the pristine campus where we teach is nestled in the lap of that valley. No matter the weather or the season, the scene often took our breath away. We often IMG_1258tried to capture sunsets or blankets of fog that allowed the peaks to—peek out—but no picture could do it justice.

 

Last spring we were informed that the owners of the chalet wanted to put it on the IMG_0302market to sell. We could either buy it (which we considered, but eventually denied) or vacate it. We chose to look for a house to buy. It just so happened that some very good friends of ours were building a spec house in a new subdivision—in the valley. The house was perfect, but could we give up our view? It was a tough choice. Mountain property here is plentiful, but rather expensive and sometimes treacherous so we didn’t feel the timing was right to make that investment. We opted for the valley. We OPTED for the valley.

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But the mountaintop of life didn’t disappear with the change of view. In fact, the idea has taken on a new meaning. Metaphorically we’re still very much on the mountain. No matter the scene out my window, (which is beautiful) I am still in awe of what God has done to bring us to this place. Provisions that we could never have imagined were presented to us through a maze of events that we couldn’t have orchestrated if we had wanted to.

Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet (or perhaps the Whining Prophet) writes a litany of complaints in Lamentations 3. But after describing the pain and suffering he has endured, he stops and writes:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

 We recognize these words as the basis of the great hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

It is my song as I take in my view from here – here on the mountaintop.

This Little Light of Mine

Fireworks of various colors bursting against a black backgroundWe couldn’t have found a better light show if we had been in New York City, on the mall in Washington D.C. or on Main Street at DisneyWorld.

On July 4th, we were with our sons and their families in a suburban Nashville subdivision. Just after dark we began feeling the percussive presence of fireworks, so we went out into the street to watch. The subdivisions in this area are back-to-back, side-to-side and end-to-end. In fact, it’s hard to tell where one neighborhood starts and the others begin. (It’s astounding how many single-family homes that developers and builders have packed into a few square miles.)

That night, at the end of Independence Day, every neighborhood had its own fireworks show…and it seemed that each neighborhood was trying to outdo the next. For us, it meant standing in the middle of the street and witnessing a 360-degree display that lasted more than an hour. We got dizzy spinning to see them all.

But it also seemed that night that God was not to be outdone. In fact, He launched His own show in the midst of it with lightning streaking and thunder roaring. It was almost as though the Almighty was answering Man’s display–reminding us that He is Master of all light. It was amazing—truly the best fireworks display I’ve ever witnessed!

Finally we got tired of looking up and decided to call it a night. Then I noticed hovering just above knee level the most awe-inspiring light show of the evening. A single tiny firefly was blinking and weaving around the mailbox. At first I thought that he was confused and disoriented by his competition. Then I wondered if maybe he was trying to outshine the other displays. Or was he just “doing his thing” not caring if anyone noticed him or not?Pyractomena borealis or "lightning bug"

I know how it feels to try and compete in a world of brilliant and talented “lights.” I too-often compare myself to others. Most of the time I pout about my inability to outshine them. Occasionally, I’ll gain the courage to put my light out there and see if I’ll measure up. But I know that what God has called me to do is to be like the firefly and shine as I have been equipped, regardless of the competition.

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

 

 

THE LEAGUE

I teach a class in Creative Writing: Nonfiction at the college. This is the first time it’s ever been taught at the school; it’s the first time I’ve ever taught it, although I did take the class as a part of my master’s degree.

The class is small—only three students—all seniors and all male. Among the three, there’s only one who is an English major, but all of them are scholars and very well read in various genres. They are a joy to teach, even though it is hard to stay ahead of them—literally and literarily.

This week we were studying the “list essay” which is a rare form, but an interesting technique and literary device. As usual, I gave an in-class writing assignment for quick and critical thinking. I asked them to each make a list of 7 SIGNS YOU NEED TO TAKE A BATH. After they had finished their lists, we made a compilation of the best of their best. (By the way, I’ve begun calling this class The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.) Here’s the result of the survey:

 A Compilation of 7 SIGNS YOU NEED TO TAKE A BATH

From The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

AKA EN 354 Creative Writing: Nonfiction

 

  1. When there’s dirt between your toes.
  2. When your friends start to stand five feet away from you at all times.
  3. Even you smell you.
  4. When you’re on a camping trip for a week with a bunch of Boy Scouts and ¾ of the way through the week everyone seems to suddenly smell normal.
  5. When you see a couple popping each other’s zits.
  6. When Bill from accounting gives you an unsolicited shoulder rub.
  7. When your bed sheets are brown, but you didn’t buy them that way.

 

Seeing life through the eyes of 20-somethings is refreshing and enlightening—even if you’re all looking at imaginary bath water.

The Roar and Silence of a Crowd

Two events were separated by 15 hours and less than two miles, and I attended (and thoroughly enjoyed) them both.

Last Friday night, we went to hear the Atlanta Symphony pay musical tribute to film score composer extraordinaire John Williams. It was an incredible experience!

Then Saturday, we went to Bobby Dodd Stadium to watch the Georgia Bulldogs defeat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. It, too, was exhilarating.

On the way home, I began to contrast and compare the two events. Both involved team efforts—each member on the field or on the stage making his or her unique contribution. Both audiences came to the venues with grand expectations, and both audiences cheered and applauded exuberantly.

The main differences had to do with the audience’s reactions to the introductions of the players. At the football game, the noisy hubbub grew intense when the starting lineup took the field. You might say it was chaotic adulation. At the concert, however, when the maestro took the stage, the hall went completely silent. It was decorous awe. Both were signs of respect and admiration—just expressed in totally different ways.

After I pondered these things, another comparative thought came to mind: We ought to allow ourselves to run the gamut of emotions and expressions in worship, too. Sometimes as a group we need to cheer God and His people like a frenzied football crowd. Other times, we should be speechless as we bask in the presence of His greatness. Neither is incorrect—just a matter of suitability in the moment.

The Bible validates each expression of praise.

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. (Psalm 105:1) This sounds a lot like the football crowd to me.

Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.(Psalm 95:6) Imagine this expression of praise at the sight of the Maestro.

Let us stand in silent wonder or in boisterous celebration! Either way is fine as long as we’re acknowledging that He is worthy.

 

 

 

 

Anyway

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimple. It was one of the words I heard used often during a recent weekend spent with old friends from high school.

“Those were simple times.”

“We had simple goals.”

“I simply loved that moment in my life.”

As my friends and I reminisced about Friday night football games, Sunday morning church, family dinners, and pre-teen campouts, we marveled that we had lived through a golden age—a time when life was good and uncomplicated—and simple.

Lines were clean. Rules were enforced. Neighborhoods were safe. We were blessed.

This experience made me think of a poem that was found written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Calcutta. Though the Sister didn’t write the original poem, it has been closely tied to her for many years. It has borne two different titles: Anyway and A Simple Path. Anyway… here it is:

“People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;

LOVE THEM ANYWAY
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

DO GOOD ANYWAY
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies;

SUCCEED ANYWAY
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow;

DO IT ANYWAY
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable;

BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY
What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight;

BUILD ANYWAY
People really need help but may attack you if you help them;

HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY
Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth;

GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY.”

©1968, 2015 Kent M. Keith

An addition to the poem, presumably added by Mother Teresa says,

“You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them…ANYWAY.”

P.S. Martina McBride sings a great song based on this poem.

P.S.S. The most spoken word by far last weekend was Y’ALL.

Life Is A Mist

IMG_0261Almost every morning I open my bedroom curtains and behold the magnificent layers of mountains, hills, and valleys that seem to go on forever. However, sometimes like this morning, a thick fog is hanging across my backdrop, and I can see nothing but a white mist. Thank goodness most of the time the fog doesn’t last all day. The “sun burns it off” as they say. And it happened today—white mist disappeared as the day went on and revealed my mountains against the bright blue sky. That started me thinking about mist, vapor, and fog and how transient they can be. And, as usual, I had an inspirational thought. I went to scripture and read in James 4:14. One translation says:

“…You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

Another translation reads:

“For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.”

And—

“You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.”

Vapor. Smoke. Fog. Two experiences lately (and the misty morning) made this truth hit home.

When avid Braves fan and season ticket holder, Gregory Murrey, left for Turner Field on Friday, August 28th, he had no idea that he would not return to his family that evening after the game. In the 7th inning, he and the rest of the sell-out crowd stood en masse when Alex Rodriguez came to the plate to pinch-hit for the Yankees. However, during the chaos, Murrey lost his balance and fell from his second row upper deck seat onto the concrete below.

We were in the upper deck, too, that night—one section over and several rows above him. Michelle, our daughter-in-law, saw Murrey fall over the railing. I saw the protective netting held by heavy cables wobble, and I wondered if someone had tried to throw something onto the field. Later I heard that Murrey had attempted to grab the netting as he descended. In a breath, an instant, a millisecond, Murrey was dead.

On this past September 11th, I talked to one of the English composition classes I teach about the horrendous events of 9/11, 2001. (Note: These students were about five years old when it happened, so most of what they know is secondhand.) We reviewed the events together, and I gave them the usual in-class writing prompt—this time a picture of the twin towers in mid-attack. I also told them where I was when I heard the news of the first attack. However, they still had recycled knowledge of an event that shook our nation.

During my next class with this group I invited a guest speaker, a friend and colleague of mine, who was a nurse on duty on September 11 in a hospital two miles away from the Pentagon when American flight 77 plunged into the heart of that five-sided “impenetrable fortress.” She reported that for hours afterward she and many other medical personnel administered critical care to the injured. She showed us pictures of the gaping hole left in the building left by the surgical strike of the suicide attack. She told us that the fully fueled plane erupted into flames within seconds of the impact, which made the fuselage and everything around it literally vaporize.

So, yeah—life is like that—a vapor, a mist, a fog, smoke rising and quickly dissipating. I plan to celebrate today, for I am not promised any tomorrows.

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Taking the Plunge

DiverIt’s been a hot summer here in the North Georgia Mountains. At times during the heat I resurrected and relished memories of the place where, as a child, I learned to swim. It was called Lake Geneva, a public entertainment complex just out of the city limits with a pool that was fed by the third largest artesian well in the world. The cool, fresh water constantly gushed out of the ground, through a manmade aqueduct, and into an enormous pool. The water flowed in, lingered long enough to keep the pool full, and then went through a drain out into a large lake. The constant movement of the water kept the temperature “refreshing” even on the hottest days. It was clean and clear and deep and cold, and the best way to approach it was to climb the ladder to the high dive and just plunge in. It always took my breath away—and I loved it!

Tomorrow I take a new plunge—not into a freshwater pool—but into the middle of a new refreshing adventure. Teaching college students to write and communicate effectively is a new calling on my life, and I plan to enjoy it even if the first plunge may take my breath away. I won’t put on floaties or a life vest. I might hang on to the edge for a little while; however, eventually I’ll have to let go and paddle on my own. Fortunately, there will be competent lifeguards (faculty and staff) to fish me out when I get over my head. So thankful for them!

Through Isaiah, God told His servants “…I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun!” (Isaiah 43:19 NLT). Yes, He has begun something new with me. I can see it. And I feel like the psalmist who wrote: “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” (Psalm 40:3) I have a new song indeed. Think mine should start with “Marco…Polo”?

Bimini Found!

There were two speeds. Slow and comatose. Two temperatures. Hot and hot with a breeze.

In my original post in this blog “Chasing Bimini”, which began February 2012, I introduced the notion that I had been looking for the perfect destination in life for a long time. I imagined that place to be Bimini, which at first I thought was an exotic South Sea island paradise. After finally looking up Bimini on a map, I discovered that it was 45 miles off the coast of Florida and that it was made up mostly of fishing villages. That didn’t stop me from wanting to go there. And I’m really glad I did. It was an awakening I needed.

So yes, we made it to Bimini!

We found it to be as expected—beautiful and unhurried. There were a couple of restaurants, but few shopping venues and attractions. The beaches were pristine and the water was translucent aquamarine and the sunsets …well, stunning. We stayed on the South Island, which boasts quiet and solitude. In a resort that advertised no-frills comfort, it was totally what we anticipated.

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In the four days we spent in Bimini I tried to channel the spirit of Hemingway and see it as he did. From Papa’s point of view it had to be heaven! Fish, boats, water, and no-doubt alcohol would have flowed to his liking, which I’m sure he lapped up vigorously. (Hemingway was a Biminite during Prohibition in the U.S. so he took advantage of the rum running commerce in the islands.)

Me? I wanted to be a sponge, too—absorbing my surroundings so I could figure out why I had been chasing this kind of place for so long. I discovered more about myself than I had imagined—and I allowed myself the freedom to be honest about the pursuit.

One of the things I thought I most cherished in my dreams of Bimini was solitude, and I definitely found that on the island. I experienced the quiet and distance from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But it came with loneliness and isolation. I had longed for inspiration and headspace to write. Instead, my mind became empty—numb—and soon I became bored. I had wished for autonomy. Instead I felt useless.

I remember now the words of 20th century writer Ezra Pound, “Literature does not exist in a vacuum. Writers as such have a definite social function exactly proportional to their ability as writers. This is their main use.” Even Hemingway didn’t stay on the island (or at any place for that matter) very long. He had to interact, to place himself in situations where he could observe and create characters, which sometimes meant war zones of various kinds.

Dorothy had Oz to teach her what I went to Bimini to learn. It wasn’t “there’s no place like home,” but there’s no place free from stress or pain or opposition. It’s the fallen-world syndrome and as soon as I embrace that, I believe I can live a joyful, fulfilling, and creative life pretty much anywhere at any time. Now, when the angst bug bites I won’t swat it or try to chase it. I will stop and let it flitter away on its own because I’m not going anywhere.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation…” Philippians 4: 11-12.