Guest Post: Art and Perfection

Anyone who’s failed to read the comments my good friend and former English student, Tom Donaghy, leaves on the various of my posts has missed some thought-provoking responses. He had this to say about my recent post, “Frustrated Perfectionist.” (I omitted his compliment. *G*). Take it away, Tom…

As for me, art and perfection are galaxies away from each other. Art is an objective pursuit, Art defies being classified as perfect or imperfect. Art: music, literature, painting, sculpting and other expressions of our soul are not easily fitted into a box to be given an exact score or number. Children’s art is an example. As crude as it may seem to adults, it is certainly beautiful and satisfying to the children who did it and the parents of those kids.

I find it hard to revisit a work after I have finished it. The moment something comes to me, with all its grammatical errors, obscurities and conundrums of thought, I rush to push it out. I work with it and wiggle the words around, the thoughts, and when it seems finished – that is it. I go back to stuff I’ve written years ago and try to twiddle with it and it is basically a complete rewrite, a completely different work. Best left alone.

I don’t get down on myself if the thing I wrote doesn’t seem to measure up to my opinion of good. There are great moments and others not so outstanding. Some of the things I have felt most strongly about others have sniffed at. I think this is because beauty is in the eye of the decider. This is why art is objective. I really do not think the Mona Lisa is the greatest painting of all time. Lots of other people more educated than I think it is.

In the past, I was very jealous of my work and guarded my writings from most eyes for fear of being misunderstood. It hurt to hear someone say in a blasé tone that a poem I felt strongly about was ”ok”. If I had to explain it then it felt even worse.

Art is such a personal endeavor. There are folks who have the right touch and make a gazillion dollars from their work. Others struggle mightily and get nowhere. It’s a tough nut. Best do art for the pleasure of creating rather than try to make a living at it.

~*~

Thank you, Tom. Comments, anyone?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

I Value Life

The older I get, the more I marvel at life. And the more I value it.

Maybe that’s because I’m looking back at the nearly seventy years of my life that have already passed. No matter what, they are my personal history—events that cannot be changed, erased, or ignored. They are facts, not opinions—whether I remember them correctly or not—and they include the good, the bad, and the meaningless. Oh, and let’s not forget about the ridiculous.

That time-span is very, very finite even as it continues to expand one minute at a time. In the blink of an eye, “right now” becomes “just then.”

But I also value life because I’m looking forward to the remainder of my days, a portrait that’s still being painted, a book that’s still being written. The time I have left—maybe only hours or minutes—and the quality of that time are beyond my ability to predict. Or even to guess at.

What I can accomplish during my remaining time on earth is equally unknown. No matter how I hope and pray to be mentally alert to the very end and die peacefully in my sleep, the “information’s not available to the mortal man,” as Paul Simon once wrote and sang.

Life. Yes, I marvel at it. And I value it.

I used to think PETA, the animal rights group, was completely whacko. And I still do regarding most of their ideas. I’m not going to give up eating meat or start thinking that animals should have the same rights as people. That’s unbiblical.

God created the animals and placed them under man’s control. Even though Adam and Eve were apparently vegans until the first sin led to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, they and their descendants didn’t remain vegans for long.

Although God specified the kinds of meat that shouldn’t be eaten, He didn’t forbid eating meat completely. And who but their Creator has the right to set the example of treating animals as animals? God clothed Adam and Eve in animal skins after they sinned and realized they were naked.

Still, PETA has a point about the importance of creature lives.

I’ve recently had a problem with ants crawling up through the drain in the bathroom sink and walking around as if they owed the place. At one time I would’ve simply flushed them down the sink without a second thought.

I still rinse them away—who can stand having ants where they don’t belong?—but I no longer do it without thinking. Those tiny creatures are just as alive as I am, and death for them is just as real. How did God create such different creatures as humans and insects and give both of us life? For me, that’s just as much a mind blower as pondering the fact that plants and animals are both alive, but in such completely different ways.

I also used to feel neutral about abortion. So did a lot of other people who’ve come to recognize that life actually does begin at conception.

Yet it would seem that the abortion providers see their work as simply rinsing worthless ants down the drain. Why can’t they see the value of the lives they’re taking?

Hmm. I wonder how many members of PETA have had abortions. Or are they horrified at what’s being done to those tiny human “animals”?

I don’t know. Perhaps I don’t want to know.

But I’ll continue to be pro-life because I value life.

If you have anything to share about this subject, please leave a comment.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

The Perfect Perfectionist

If you didn’t read my blog post this past Sunday, let me say it was about my being a “frustrated perfectionist” in so many important areas of my life. Even though I do my best, I always feel I should’ve been able to do better.

You know what, though? Whatever talents I have came from God, and when it comes to creativity, He doesn’t make mistakes. He’s the ultimate perfectionist–the Perfect Perfectionist, you might say–and I can never match any of the things He’s made.

I wouldn’t begin to know how to create a universe. Not even to design one.

I used to marvel at what the biblical book of Genesis says about the days of creation and what God did on each of those days. Whether you believe those were twenty-four hour days or longer periods of time, God didn’t simply snap his fingers to make what He made each day.

He planned it out first. Don’t ask me how. I would have to be God to understand how He did it. If he hadn’t needed to plan everything, then He might’ve done everything–or could have, anyhow–in a single day. But not even the Perfect Perfectionist rushed the Creation process. He enjoyed designing and creating everything, just as we do when we do something that makes us feel satisfied.

God’s perfect planning and creativity resulted in the Garden of Eden and the first human beings–along with so much more. And He looked at it day by day and saw that it was good.

He’s so intelligent He knew He couldn’t force humanity to love Him–that wouldn’t be love. So He created free will, and Adam and Eve’s choice to use that freedom in a sinful way resulted in their expulsion from God’s perfect Garden–and in the introduction of sin into the world, not to mention death.

The biblical writer who said, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” had it right. When God created everything that we’re able to detect with one or more of our senses, He established patterns we follow throughout our lives. Not only does “every good and perfect gift come from above,” every good and godly idea does, too.

That’s why I tend to look at my newest novel or my latest song and think, “I didn’t write that. God did. I only succeeded at doing as good a job of putting it into human language as I depended on God’s leadership to do.”

Or as I’ve been known to say at times, “God wrote it. He did it perfectly. All of the mistakes and imperfections are mine.”

What about you? Do you believe mankind’s creativity is actually a reflection, as it were, of God’s creativity? Any other comments about this post?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Frustrated Perfectionist

For many years I’ve thought of myself as a perfectionist. A frustrated one.

But how can a person be a perfectionist without being frustrated? “Frustrated” almost seems to be redundant when used with “perfectionist.”

I’m reminded of that that every time I write a new song, make a new home recording, or write a new novel. God has given me the necessary talents to do those three things, and He’s helped me to grow in my ability to use those skills effectively.

Each of those activities requires constant practice, and I must not only accept the fact that improvement comes slowly, but that I will never be as good at any of those things as I would like to be.

What would it feel like to be the BEST–at anything? If I could just complete one project that didn’t leave me saying, “That’s the best I can do for now. I could keep working at it, but the additional changes and improvements would be minimal. Not worth the effort. Why should I settle for less than perfect, though? Don’t I don’t know how to do it better? How does it honor God to call it complete now?”

Whenever I read one of my old novels–published or unpublished–the imperfections that didn’t matter then wave a red flag in my face. As if saying, “How did you dare to think you were done with that?” When I listen to my home recordings of original songs, I almost invariably regret not having tried one last time to improve one part, usually the vocal.

Interestingly (to me, anyhow), I sometimes make minor changes to one of my songs years after I wrote it. Maybe I realize I changed the chord I used at a particular place. Other times I lower a note here or there because I can no longer hit the original note(s) (assuming I ever could).

And–this is a relatively new development–I’ve actually gone back and added refrains or bridges to several of my older songs.

Why did I do those things? Was it because my desire to be perfect–or to come closer to being perfect–took over?

I hope not. I hope it’s because my skills in a particular area have grown and I see those as places to apply them.

Will I ever outgrow being a frustrated perfectionist? Will I ever be fully satisfied with a project I call completed because I simply can’t do any better, no matter how much I want to?

I doubt it. But as long as God keeps helping me to sharpen my talents,  I can look forward to each new project and thank Him that it was better than the previous one. Maybe not in every way, but still somehow better.

What about you? Do you find it easy to let go of something you’ve done–maybe even a task at work–and put it behind you? Or do you keep looking for ways to improve it when quite possibly you don’t have the skills or the know-how to do better? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

A Picky Eater

My wife, Kathleen, accuses me of being a picky eater. Other people do, too, and they’re probably right. I’m normally the only person at a picnic who doesn’t eat potato salad or coleslaw.

I get tickled at listening to parents talk about the trouble they have getting their kids to eat certain foods. Or even certain types of foods. Kathleen admits that she avoided veggies (which she now loves) and ate canned soup rather than her mom’s homemade pizza during her childhood and that her two girls went through a phase of eating only hot dogs and cheese.

I didn’t have the option of objecting to what I was served. Or of refusing to eat it. There were no hassles about it. No protests. No bargains or compromises. And with rare exceptions I had to eat all of it. I couldn’t tell you why I was so complacent about my eating except to say I was a complacent child in general.

Oh, the things I had to eat that I detested! Spinach and other leafy green vegetables, yellow squash, butter beans (lima beans were even worse). Even tomatoes. (At least until they started growing almost seedless ones.) And especially stewed tomatoes.

Mother never fixed regular grits, but I’ll never forget the one time she served hominy grits. Eating them made me think I was eating moth balls! I don’t think she cared for them, either, since she never fixed them again.

Some things I enjoyed eating, though.

I was crazy about most meats. We seldom had steak, but we did eat roast beef and veal fairly often. We were more apt to have lamb chops than pork chops. We ate bacon, though, and my mother made the best bacon waffles. I’m not sure how the bacon cooked adequately in the waffle iron, but I believe she laid raw bacon in the batter when it started cooking.

For whatever reason, with rare exceptions (like the bacon waffles) breakfast was always toast, bacon, and scrambled eggs. We didn’t normally eat loaf bread at other meals. On occasion, however, Mother baked homemade cinnamon rolls. I salivate at the memory even now.

My mother baked some really good cakes, and I’ll never forget her homemade gingerbread, topped with a white topping I remember only as “hard sauce.” She also baked caramel cakes, but I didn’t care very much for them. Good thing I wasn’t forced to eat desserts, huh?

I look back at the wonderful foods I enjoy now and marvel that my mother never fixed them. I never had pizza until I was in high school and that was at someone else’s house. I don’t think I had ever ate spaghetti or any other pasta dish (except maybe mac ‘n’ cheese) until I was at college.  Sloppy Joes? College, also.

Once I got out on my own, I rebelled at eating foods I hated. I still detest most vegetables; that’s what vitamin pills take the place of, right? I’m not an adventurous eater, although I successfully tried several Cajun dishes on a job-related visit to New Orleans. Including alligator-on-a-stick.

I honestly don’t know whether parents are doing the right thing in just working hard to get their kids to eat–period. But force-feeding kids foods they don’t like has its drawbacks.

What about you? Did you have to eat what was served or did your parents work with you on the basis of your individual tastes? Are there any particular foods you avoid now because of an unhappy experience with them when you were younger? Or is there anything else you’d like to share about eating as a kid or as an adult? Please leave a comment.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Pressing On

Our church choir recently sang an anthem called “Press On.” It’s based on something the apostle Paul said in the Bible:
“Brothers, I do not consider myself to have embraced it yet. But this one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in the Messiah Jesus. Therefore, those of us who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will show you how to think.” (Philippians 3:13-15)

That Scripture has great relevance to Christians, and so does the anthem. The anthem reminds me of something else, though. As I continue to age, life itself requires me to keep pressing on.

I feel so blessed that God has given me musical and creative writing skills, and I’m always thankful when I get to use those talents to bless other people. And I admit I’m apt to get frustrated when I don’t have a chance to do that. I don’t believe God gave me those abilities just to amuse myself and my wife.

I’ve heard of too many older people who, upon retiring, basically quit living. They quit living useful and productive lives, anyhow, and that’s the last thing in the world I want to do. I can’t imagine what sitting around all day and doing nothing would be like.

Boring? For sure.

But also how sad. When life no longer has a purpose, what’s the use in living?

I’ve been working hard on my twelfth novel the past six or eight months. I thought I was finished except for some minor revisions, but my agent  pointed out some major problems–major in terms of failing to grab the reader’s attention and make her want to keep reading.

Out of curiosity I asked a good friend who is a much more experienced writer than I am what she thought. She not only agreed with my agent–I’d expected that–she pointed out a problem my agent hadn’t mentioned.

So much for thinking my manuscript was almost complete and ready for my agent to pitch to a publisher.

I believe the purpose of life is to bring God pleasure. Not just in doing my best to live the way He wants me to, but by using the talents He’s blessed me with to the best of my ability. And that means continuing to sharpen my skills.  And not to be satisfied with less than I’m capable of doing on the current project, be it a novel or a new song.

It would have been far easier to ditch that twelfth novel manuscript and start something new than to make the necessary changes. But God didn’t create me to be a quitter. He wants me to press on until I can’t do any better. And thank goodness His Holy Spirit is living inside me, urging and helping me do my best.

That doesn’t mean I’ve finished making those changes yet. But I’m getting there.

It’s no wonder I enjoy life in spite of the fact my body–like everyone else’s–is in the process of deteriorating. My life still has purpose. And it will continue to do so as long as I keep pressing on.

What about you? Are you “pressing on” to reach a difficult goal because you believe it’s the right thing to do? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Twin Birthdays

The Fourth of July is a special day for most Americans. It’s a doubly special day for the members of Winn’s Baptist Church in Glen Allen, Virginia. It’s the church’s birthday.

And Monday wasn’t just any birthday. Like America, Winn just turned 240.

Yes, Winn’s was actually founded the same day the Declaration of Independence was signed. The timing was not intentional, however. Without any of the modes of instantaneous communication available to us today, Winn’s founders had no way of knowing something as significant as the signing was taking place that day in a different state.

Uh, in a different colony.

The founding of Winn’s in 1776 created a problem, however. Since Virginia was an English colony, the Anglican church was not just Virginia’s official church, but the only legal church. Other denominations were not tolerated.

Several of Winn’s first ministers were beaten and/or imprisoned for ignoring “man’s law” and obeying God’s law by preaching the Gospel in a non-Anglican church. One of those men–Winn’s first pastor–was American statesman Henry Clay’s father, John. Like many events from the distant past, that kind of religious persecution is difficult for us to imagine.

Patrick Henry, whose home in Scotchtown is less than twenty-five miles from Winn’s, provided defense for the persecuted ministers.

Many people—too many—fail to see that religious persecution is not just a problem from 240 years ago. And even today it isn’t limited to the Middle East.

American Christians are not yet imprisoned or beaten for their faith, but they are often ridiculed and accused of being hate mongers. Some stores have quit selling the Bible because they believe it is hate literature. Christians are being fined and sometimes driven out of business for applying biblical principles to the way they do business. Christian students are being forced to shut up and not share their faith.

What’s next? It’s hard to say. But churches that don’t turn against biblical teachings and go along with the current liberal trend are almost certain to become the targets of intolerant leftists who accuse Christians of being the intolerant ones.

I thank God daily for lawyers like the members of Liberty Council, a group that has already defended hundreds of persecuted American Christians—and they’ve done it pro bono.

Winn’s Baptist Church has stood the test of time. It has survived its share of challenges. What’s ultimately important, though, is how it will face the future.

How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger