Saturday, February 24, 2007


Lately my mind has been filled with tons of thoughts on love, redemption, forgiveness, and transformation. So much so, in fact, that my mind has been swirling, and I’m having trouble settling on one topic to post.

I’m halfway through the final book in Ted Dekker’s Circle trilogy, a mind-boggling, thought-provoking, adrenaline-inducing series of what-ifs. What if this earth isn’t the only reality? What if Jesus is the groom who romances every living soul? What if we are to become like those around us in order to help woo them into this Great Romance? Solid Bible concepts all around, though a little startling, perhaps, if taken out of context.

And here are a few of my own what-ifs, part of my swirling thoughts that somehow have nothing to do with, and everything to do with, the notions highlighted in the Circle trilogy.

What if there are times God intends for us to feel peaceful and tumultuous all at once?
What if the things that seem to discourage us are ultimately meant to give us courage?
What if most of the things we’ve thought made sense actually make no sense at all?
What if the things we think make no sense, make more sense than anything else?
What if Jesus really means we must die to ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him?
What if we are to live that lifestyle out in more literal ways than we’ve ever considered?
What if, above all else, Jesus really meant it when he said that everything we do and believe and teach should be summed up in loving God and loving others?

So there you have it. A few of my thoughts as they’ve been tumbling around in my own brain, swirling down to my heart, toying with my conscience and imagination.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Catching Turtles

Almost two years ago I sat on a deck overlooking the Sabinal River in the Texas Hill Country and watched platter-sized turtles swimming at the surface of the pea green water then diving out of sight. I was contemplative and introspective and for some strange reason I suddenly felt compelled to jump in and catch one.

I didn’t. That would’ve been ridiculous. I was fully dressed. I’d curled my hair. I was forty-two.

And what would I have done with a turtle had I caught it?

Instead, I tried to figure out why doing so seemed an act of faith. I came up with this short list:

Catching a turtle . . .
. . . made no sense in human terms.
. . . was something I was ill-equipped to do on my own.
. . . was like trying to grasp hold of an elusive dream. Or reaching a far-off goal. Or being faithful to a calling that no one else can discern.

Then I remembered that the church youth group would soon be going on a float trip near San Antonio. And they were planning to catch turtles.

So two weeks later I stood chest-high in the Guadalupe River, water dripping down my face, a turtle grasped in my upraised hands. The four men and teenage boys in my raft were almost as surprised as I was that I actually dove in, scrambled among tree roots at the bank of a snake-infested river, and came up with my very own turtle.

That day I learned that catching turtles . . .
. . . takes a willingness to learn from others who’ve gone before you. My buddy Brian gave me the low-down on the strategy he’d perfected. I listened to every word.
. . . requires team work. Someone has to paddle, someone has to stand up at the front of the raft to scout out the hard-to-spot opportunities, and someone has to dive.
. . . demands patience. Our group caught four turtles that day. We gave up on the spot where a later group caught twenty-three.
. . . tests your courage. Remember the part about snake-infested waters?
. . . calls for determination. Turtles do not want to be caught and are more agile under water than you are. They’re also slippery. The only thing you really have going for you is perseverance.
. . . is exhilarating, if for no other reason than because you’ve proven to yourself that somewhere deep inside you, you have what it takes.
. . . forces you to dive into uncertain territory. You have to feel your way along, risking what's safe and sure to gain what you believe is there.
. . . will probably seem silly to everyone else. Except to those who know what it’s like to catch a turtle.
. . . means that once you’ve caught one, you have to be willing to give it up. River turtles aren’t yours to keep. When the trip is over, you release them.

Those lessons have meant a lot to me since then. And I’m not just talking about turtles. However, if you’re ever interested in catching one, I can share the strategies passed on to me by those who've gone before.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Spiritual Metabolism

Okay. So I’ve put on weight in the past few years. Something about turning 37. That was a while back. I did finally put our free membership at the gym to use a year and a half ago and got toned up, but the scales never budged. I watched my diet, but still the scales didn’t budge.

I’m not an idiot, so I figured out that what I need to do is boost my metabolism. It’s gotten slow in its old age. Shortly thereafter I was on the computer and saw an article that caught my eye: “10 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.” I clicked on over.

Turns out, I’m doing almost everything right, except that I don’t drink green tea, and I haven’t cut out the sugar. I contemplated my shortcomings over half a dozen miniature white powdered donuts. Then I went out and bought some green tea. I had one cup and remembered why I’ve never cared for it: it tastes like grass. I’ve kept at the other eight ways to boost my metabolism, but I still can’t drop the pounds. You’d think eight out of ten would suffice. That’s four-fifths. I know this because I tutor elementary school math students, and I have to understand these kinds of complicated calculations.

Honestly, though, I realize that sugar is my downfall. That, and cheese, gravies, and biscuits. Plus, I’m a little sketchy on the exercise. I keep thinking that maybe the extra weight isn’t so bad, but I’m only kidding myself.

Funny, how this subject reminds me of my spiritual life sometimes. I think that being too busy to read my Bible or spend significant time in prayer isn’t so bad. That my “close relationship” with God is enough to get me through the week until things slow down. That I can do four-fifths, and that will suffice.

It’s not that I’m into a works-oriented faith, but I do know there are certain choices I can make to boost my spiritual metabolism, so to speak. Things that can optimize my walk of faith. Build spiritual muscle. Burn off the fat that’s accumulated around my mid-section, clogging my arteries, and slowing down the life-giving blood flow to my heart, mind, and soul.

The past six months or so have been pretty intense for me. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. Spiritually. In fact, my reserves are pretty low. While on the one hand I feel extremely satisfied and content, on the other, I’m worn out. I’m not quite sure how that’s possible, but there you go. Maybe you know what I mean.

I just figure that if physical exercise and discipline can go a long way toward building my physical health—like going to the gym even when I don’t think I have the energy, but feeling much better for having been there—then spiritual exercise and discipline can do the same thing for my soul.

I guess it’s time for a workout. And maybe some green tea.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Point of Clarification

I've had so many comments on the blog and privately about my synesthesia, that I feel compelled to clarify a couple of things.

In my opinion--and there will be many synesthetes (apparently the current lingo) who disagree, probably because we humans tend to need something to "make us special"--I don't think this peculiar little thing makes me more creative than anyone else. I've seen online lists of "famous" synesthetes, and I've never heard of them. How famous can they be? There are many wildly famous artists, writers, composers, etc. who aren't synesthetes. I don't think synesthesia necessarily gives us an edge.

Secondly, novel plots aside, I don't think synesthesia is something someone has to learn to "cope with." It's not a handicap.

In my lifelong experience, this way of looking at the world neither hinders me nor gives me an advantage. And who in the world cares that "hinders" is a black word and "advantage" is blue? I mean, really.

I'm not sorry I brought it up because, frankly, I think the response it illicits is kind of funny. How delightfully creative God is! But try to remember my point is that we ALL see the world differently from each other in one regard or another.

Thank goodness.

Friday, February 02, 2007

My Life as a Synesthetist

I am a synesthetist.

There, I said it. Actually, I’ve been saying it ever since I read an article in Smithsonian Magazine a few years ago and discovered that most people don’t see things the way I do and that there’s a word for the way people like me perceive the world: synesthesia.

It’s very difficult to explain, and if you’re like most folks, you’re going to think I’m nuts, but here goes. Borrowing from a scholarly article, “The word synesthesia, meaning ‘joined sensation,’ shares a root with anaesthesia, meaning ‘no sensation.’ It denotes the rare capacity to hear colours, taste shapes, or experience other equally startling sensory blendings whose quality seems difficult for most of us to imagine. A synesthete might describe the colour, shape, and flavour of someone’s voice, or music whose sound looks like ‘shards of glass,’ a scintillation of jagged, coloured triangles moving in the visual field. Or, seeing the colour red, a synesthete might detect the ‘scent’ of red as well.”

There you have it. My synesthesia is mostly connected to letters and numbers—I see them as certain colors. Time is influenced, too. Time has a particular shape for me, playing out something like an enormous game board that you move through, taking definite twists and turns. Sometimes when I’m trying to remember a date, I just “peek around the corner” of that game board and there it is.

I’m digging myself in deep, aren’t I?

I bring this phenomenon up from time to time because someone will say something that makes me think they just might be a synesthetist, too. In all honesty, I find it hard to comprehend that everyone doesn’t see the world this way.

Until I read that article, I never, ever discussed these things with anyone. Not because I was embarrassed or thought it was weird, but because I assumed everyone experienced things my way. My oldest son is a synesthetist, too. I knew this because a decade before I read that magazine, he once asked me in preface to something he wanted to comment on, “Mom, you know how “a” is red?”

“It’s blue, honey,” I corrected. “But go ahead . . . .”

See, that’s just it. Synesthetism is different for every person.

I have to confess I feel irritated when I hear the song by Christian artist Chris Rice entitled “Smell the Color Nine.” It’s all about the complexities of God, and the chorus goes something like: “But sometimes finding you is just like trying to smell the color nine. But nine's not a color. And even if it were you can't smell a color."

It’s purple. Duh. And I guarantee some people can smell it.

I could go on and on about why I choose certain words to express certain things. Grey with an “e” is that kind of sick tornado sky color, “e” being green. Gray with an “a” is the color of a storm at sea, “a” being blue. Do not ask me to spell it one way consistently. It totally depends on the actual shade I’m writing about. Why is the word “excruciating” the best word in some instances and “agonizing” the best in others? Or how do I choose to use "delighted" over "joyful"? It often depends on what color looks best in the sentence. “U” changes everything, by the way.

Laugh if you will, but I really have a point to all this.

As we journey through life, every person we meet—synesthetist or otherwise—has their own perspective on things. Right or wrong, they see things from a vantage point that feels as real as our own. While I believe that all truth is found in God, much of what we judge each other on or argue with each other about is simply our own perception of what is true or important. Maybe that's why He tells us to show His grace toward one another and let Him do the judging.

And just so you know, “s” is red. At least to me.