Reflections on Art, Faith, and Life

Month: April, 2018

Trips to Walmart

There are many things one can use as a cultural gauge. Among those are: music, fashion, social media, movies, and language. It has been necessary for me to increase the amount of trips made to Walmart over the past 9 months, and I believe those occurrences have provided the soil for reflection and analysis regarding our current culture. I decided to share some of my “insights” hoping to prompt thought and discussion. OK, here goes!

I am shocked by the number of people that either don’t know the difference between “enter” and “exit,” or don’t care to to contribute to the stated best flow in and out of the store. There are reasons why the entrances and exits are marked as they are, and I wrestle with why so many people would ignore this. I can only come up with the following reasons: illiteracy, not paying attention, or selfishness. I hope it’s not the first one. The second one, well, I wish people would get off their phones more than they do, I think, sadly, it might be the last one. I think people are more and more doing just what they want without as much thought for common courtesy as in times past.

Possibly this would also explain why so many people cannot seem to return their carts to the designated spots. Really people?! I realize they’re doing what is convenient, but that does not make it what is best. Possibly another self decision?

I have heard parents yelling at their kids, and seen them pulling harshly on their arms in public – both seemingly meant to embarrass the children. Might this be another example of selfishness? People just doing what they want when they want – not necessarily what is best?

What about the car ride out and back? There is no way to possibly count all the people who think the speed limit signs are merely a speed suggestion sign. What are we really saying? That it’s only illegal if you get caught?

And how about the parking lot itself. How many people, probably in a hurry they think is justified, ignore the stop signs in the parking lot? My eyes have beheld far too many violations for the safety level of others. Again, what is there inherent in both of these actions? Possibly wrack up another couple for selfishness. People just doing what they want because they want to do so without much thought or apparent care to how those actions impact others. I also wonder what it might be like, instead of racing to grab the prime parking space, what might happen if we saved those for those who can’t get around as easily or quickly anymore, or for parents with children. Wouldn’t that have a different feel to it, might that not be better?

The above mentioned don’t all impact others at the same level, but if one is taking the cultural pulse of a community, I think they are symptomatic of an apparent erosion of common courtesy, manners, and respect. What’s the big deal? For me, the big deal is not only that I think these actions reflect an overall attitude, but also that we are teaching our children and grandchildren what is “normal” or “acceptable.” If we do not carefully analyze our actions, attitudes, and verbiage, we will raise the next generation to be incredible self-oriented.

There is much talk these days about rights and privileges. I understand that much of this is necessary. I, however, am making a plea to have conversations about responsibilities – not rights and privileges. As we strive to live together in community, what are the responsibilities I have to OTHERS, not just to my self. What are the actions and attitudes that teach and lean towards respect for others and what it best for the common good? Are we interested in those, or in just doing what we want when we want? What are we modeling for our children and grandchildren?

The microcosm that Walmart trips show give me cause for concern. It is possible that you’re thinking, “Woah, Clark, don’t be so caustic. People are just in a hurry.” That could be, and that’s definitely fodder for another post, because fast, expedient, convenient, efficient, and practical aren’t always the best way to build character and function among each other as human beings.

I think we need to examine some of our “surface” actions and assess whey they really mean and say. I don’t want kindness, courtesy, manners, and respect to “go the way of the dodo” simply because we’ve modeled doing what’s best for self to the next generation who will carry on after us.

It’s possible you will brush this all off as the ramblings or rantings of an older man. I can’t keep you from doing otherwise. I do, however, know the kind of world I want my precious granddaughter to inherit, and if it takes a village to raise a child, I want that village filled with the right actions and attitudes. I wonder if we need doses of accountability kindly delivered to help remind us of our responsibility to those whose turn will be next in this grand journey called life.

Well, that’s what trips to Walmart have made me think about recently. What do you think?


Review of “Begin Again” by Leeanna Tankersley

I found it appropriate that I finished reading Leeanna Tankersley’s newest book, “Begin Again” a few minutes after midnight as the clock hands advanced into Easter. I found it fitting because Leeanna’s book has a consistent undercurrent of resurrection – the resurrection of the spiritual self on an “as needed” basis as part of one’s spiritual journey.

I thoroughly enjoyed her previous missive, “Brazen,” and it came across to me as a kind of personal manifesto. Leeanna has entered a completely new realm with “Begin Again.” It is about transformation!! She uses the experiences and phases of her life in an incredibly transparent and moving way to offer writing and content of great significance. I believe this is far and away her best writing, her richest content, and her most heart-gripping work.

She peels back the layers of her self and her faith journey, but never in a way to come across as though she has all the answers. She does offer unwavering encouragement and a reminder that nothing we do or don’t do will ever change the way God loves us, believes in us, and is there for us. Her writing constantly points to the One who has graced her – and is waiting to grace us as well.

Her mantra of “Begin Again” is tied directly to monastic thought, and she weaves the potential for how that might look in contemporary life with eloquence and surety. This book makes your heart breath more in rhythm with its Creator.

Leeanna’s filter is predominantly both female and stay-at-home mom, but it would be insulting to insinuate you must be either of those to benefit from what she shares. She passionately provides truths that transcend gender and place. I am a 59 year old male college professor, and found the book both riveting and enlightening.

Even before finishing “Begin Again” I was aware of the following: (1) this is a special book, (2) this book challenged me and changed me, (3) I will buy multiple copies to give to people I thought of as I read, (4) I will buy multiple copies to share with the college students I am blessed to teach, (5) I can truthfully say I consider this a must-read.

If there was any doubt prior to this book, in my mind and heart, Leeanna joins the pantheon of significant Christian writers to have greatly influenced my personal faith journey: Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Addie Zierman, Diana Butler Bass, Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle Melton, Jen Hatmaker, and Shauna Niequist.

If you’re looking for a book that presents real-life pain, suffering, struggles, and failures instead of pithy one-liners and “self-help” language, this is the book for you. I urge you to make a commitment to your heart, your faith, and your life – dive into this book and drink deeply from its well. Your spirit and your soul will find the time well spent, and I believe the partial template she provides to “Begin Again” is essential. The book also has some helpful suggestions from sources other than Leeanna in the Epilogue to consider as you ponder ways to put into practice the message provided.