Why I Am Weary Of The Cliff Notes & Reader’s Digest Versions


                                                                                             (  Photo Credit- Wikipedia.com)

I was on a web site looking for an online course for a child of mine. And a beautiful question popped up, grabbed my heart, yanked it and got my attention. In a bold and hip font, surrounded by stylized graphics it asked “What’s Your Story?”

And I really wanted to tell them. But who would listen and who would I tell? I had a story. I have a story.

Recently a blogger/writer asked on facebook if we, her readers, would be interested in knowing the backstory to her upcoming book. Well of course, we/I would. Who doesn’t want to hear the story? Who doesn’t long to rest on the words woven around the events, which lead to passion, which feed the dream, which launch a book.

And I  wonder why and how we arrived at a place where everyone is clamoring for the “Reader’s Digest” version of events. And what value or beauty is held in stripping something down to such an elemental level that it is now called “the Cliff Notes Version”.  And who is Cliff anyway.

Bare and barely told, the story stands stripped of its beautiful. Stripped of rich detail.

In “The Three Little Pigs” children’s tale we learn specifics about the pigs’ homes. The author chooses to delve into enough detail to tell us the building materials of their homes. Was it straw, wood and bricks? The story hinges on these details. There is no story here without them.

And Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon” is resplendant in glorious detail. We know so many of the elements and contents of the mesmerizing story that takes place in one single, richly described room.

But even now, many of you reading are skimming and scanning and wondering when I will get to the “punch line” of this prose. And you are looking for a shortcut and a way out. You want to jump ahead or exit out. You want me to “cut to the chase”. But what good is it? Who cares about the chase without first knowing the characters involved in the chase. And where they live, how they’re dressed, what lead up to the chase in the first place.

Is this where poets go? Off to the place of elaborate detail. They will tell you every detail of the spider’s web. And stay there with you for a long while as you linger.

But somewhere along the way we became too busy for the details of  story. We know someone cried, but do we know or better yet, do we care that they cried for three hours, the saline drops ran down the cheek like  raindrops on a foggy window pane. One chasing the other, racing down the face. And that the eyes were swollen shut and a headache had crept in to the crying weary soul. And that she felt so alone.

Somewhere along the way we became too darn busy to crawl into the story and sit with the writer, the poet, the friend. To hear the lines that tell of the rich detail of color, texture, emotion, song, and the surrounding scene. We don’t ask “tell me about” and then wait expectantly, patiently for the rich description of the fabric, the flowers, music and the musicians at the  June wedding. And surely we don’t want to know how the light shone through at a certain slant, pouring through the stained glass windows hovering over the bride and groom like a halo. And the bells tolled exactly at noon.

What beauty we are missing when we run rough-shod over the nuances and the fine points of the unfurling of an event. The birth of a conversation. The heavy breathing of the winded teller. And the way in which she punctuated each paragraph with fear and a trembling spirit.

Do we really know the story if we don’t read the entire story in all its glory? Give it a chance to release slowly, beautifully unfurling detail on detail.

In our deep soul places don’t we care, truly about the red balloon, the picture of the cow jumping over the moon and the green room? Because without them, its just another good night story in black and white. Dull, boring and forgettable. And we were made for lively detail. We were created to savor and delight our senses. God is in the detail and He is a God of detail. In everything. Always.

When we water down, dilute and dilate we minimize the beauty, the richness. There is no musical soundtrack bound to be a best seller on itunes. It is just a short silent film. Grainy and dark.

I know a girl named Lilly and I decided to ask her about her chickens. Because for three weeks I had watched  them from my kitchen window. As they  pecked and scratched. And the rooster crowed, these weeks in the cold of March. While in “the Village” and away from home, I starred at them daily. And I longed to know more. To know the story. Theirs and Lilly’s.

lilly and her chickens

When I asked, Lilly opened up. Out gushed wonderful detail of Lilly and her chickens. I listened as she pointed and told me each of their names. Each one unique. She and I both loved the one with the furry feet. He looked as if he wore shoes on his claws, made of fur. And there was the little one from Australia. And the ones from Tractor Supply. Lilly has one rooster but she had five. All are gone but one. They fought a lot. And I asked her how many eggs they lay a week. And I know now that her favorite candy bar is Snickers. She savored one, bite by bite as she spoke, chocolate in her cheek, chickens staring at her waiting to be fed.

The chickens and the kids

Do you have time for a Lilly in your life? Do you know one chicken is named Chick-Fila and do you know where they go when it gets cold?

Do you have time for poetry? For a rich description of both the spider and his intricate web. To linger on the details. Of this wondrous life.

Would you wait for a story to be told? Would you slow down with me to hear. To listen. And to wallow around the rich moments of this life. I never really found The Reader’s Digest that enthralling. And I always associated it with the doctor’s office.

But the green room and the red balloon. Well I could read it a thousand times and it would never grow old. One room. So much rich detail. So much vivid beauty.

Oh, you stayed till the end with me. How grateful am I? Well let me see…..how can I describe my gratitude?

Joining Laura, Jennifer and Heather today in their welcoming community of writers.

the chicken at MCVL

Pay Attention On The Road

Instructions for living a life.

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

( Mary Oliver)

The Road

Pay attention to the road.

And the traffic.

The directions too.

You may get lost.

Wander off on a path, into the unknown.

Where Discovery waits.

To greet your heart.

Bust it wide open, into the light. Into the world. Into the bright.

Pay attention to the mom with the pain. The one on black top blank stare, hurting insides.

Pay attention to one on the platform, as the rat runs by.

The one with the words looking for a place to light, to land, to rest.

Pay attention to the the one wearing ink for clothing with sadness oozing out and over and into your arms.

Pay attention to the all, the one, the single soul with a hole to fill to make them whole.

And your words may touch and your presence may help. Might even heal. A bit. A place.

He did it well. He paid attention. To the woman at the well.

To the prostitute. To the leper.

Pay attention to even one, to the least.

Discover the joy.

In discovering the moment.

Connect with the one, the child, the mom, the man on his commute.

Let Mercy pierce your heart.And Love spill from your lips.

And stumble down that path.

The one marked well for you.

The Little Art Bus That Could {Joy Comes To The Subway}

This is a story.

And like any good story you should use your imagination.

All good stories, really good stories, have the same elements.

They have suspense, hope, love, forgiveness, the element of surprise, scarey parts, funny parts, laughter, tears, love, and the good guy always wins.

In this story you will find all these elements of story and more, woven together to form a beautiful story, a tale, a parable, a love story, and the good guy wins in the end because He has already won.

The battle is won. And He is victorious.

But every day we have the privilege of living our individual stories, our own beautiful stories of life and love and giving and partaking and seeing the world and walking out life with others.  Always with others.  Never alone. Always in community. Always as a team.

And what story doesn’t have big bold beautiful pictures that tell along with the words.

Aren’t they often the best part. A word will grab you and show and tell you. I am a lover of words and believer in the power of words. But they work as a team in tandem with the photographs capturing joy and hope and work and play at the perfect time. With precision in love.

We alway want those action verbs, oh use those action verbs those teachers of writers tell the writers.

So this is the part where the good student shows with words and pictures.  The pictures are story in technicolor.

The words will come tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, because the writer is weary and the words, well they need to marinate and process a bit longer in the story. Linger there.  Wait there, for their story to be unveiled and be revealed.

But because you came and because you asked, I will give you some clues to the story, just as the clues were taped to the subway wall, and you can write a story all your very own in your heart and mind.

One about this story, and you will probably be very very close to the Truth.

Here are some clues, and some action verbs to spark your very vivid, creative imaginations.

Daring Dilemna

Patiently Waiting

Curious Onlookers

Joyful Strangers

Hurry Up and Wait

Offering Forgiveness

Accepting Forgiveness

Through the Roof

Begging Forgivenss

Crazy Laughter

Bone Tired

Heart of Gratitude

Off To The Ball Park

Homebody Buddies

Crazy Love Wrapped In Fur

Creator God Speaks To His People Through His People

Community Bonded In Service

Hospitality Speaks A Common Language

Framing A Story

Framing A Picture

Framing a Life’s Dream

Healing With Joy

Reaching Across with Words

Reaching Out With Voices of Hope

Not the End…..

Five Things A Recent Glamping Trip Taught Me About Life

On a recent Glamping trip with The Patient One, the kiddos,  and close friends, I learned a lot about life, the gospel, and of course some truths about Glamping.

1. Glamping requires a return to simplicity.

Our glamping vehicle was lovingly named the tinaminium (spell check does not recognize this as a word). It was a rented camper that provided many creature comforts (therefore the loose refence to the “minium” in the term of endearment, tinaminium. Condo’s bring some form of luxury to mind. I digress. What’s new.

Life lived under the brilliant stars and the ebony black sky is exhilarating. The air feels cleaner, the stars are brighter, and many of life’s accoutrements are left at home. This is by design, in order to do life differently, and due to a lack of space. They are somehow not missed at all. (well accept for the long hot showers and the strong internet signal). We packed high thread count sheets and white linen table cloths and our ipads. That’s why its called Glamping sillies.

2. It is important to love your neighbor as yourself, while at your glampsite. (spell check doesn’t know this word either.)

This means don’t run your generator when others are sleeping because it is loud and bothersome. It is important to be a good neighbor because you are parked very close to your neighbor, therefore any of the fruits of the spirit which you didn’t leave at home should be used in dealing with  communicating with others.

For example, if your neighbor’s campsite is in close proximity to the door of your home-on-wheels and the  smoke is wafting into your tiniminium, causing you to be engulfed
in smoke   slightly inconvenienced, its best to be a good neighbor by moving your vehicle out of the smoke’s way.  It is much simpler and kinder than asking them to a. move their camp fire b. extinguish their campfire c. use different firewood that doesn’t smoke up the entire neighborhood.

3.Glampsites are a breeding ground for good story-telling and honing your listening skills.

Writers love stories, and I love writing, therefore, I love stories.  I love listening to them, digesting them, processing them, and writing them.  That must be why I love glamping so much.  Because they are a breeding ground for story. Wait that may have been a leap, or I may have loosely connected the dots there on point 3.

Time stood still, as Time does when you are engrossed in a good story, so I don’t know how long I listened to a new “friend”, my glampsite neighbor tell me an amazing story of his life.  He is a writer and I am a writer so naturally we talked for a very long time.  And I will be writing more of his story here on these pages after I have asked his permission to re-tell.  It is his story not mine, so I’d like to request permission before pressing publish here on the blog.

What I can tell you, is it was rich and deep and heartbreaking.  I can tell you that his story is filled with redemption, hope, and C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity.” I can tell you that the strength and perserverance that it took to live through his pain, heal from his pain, and ultimately choose to share his story, well they inspire. And they are a beautiful story of forgiveness, healing, and love.

(I did not expect this story to come sit in my lap and pierce my heart while Glamping. Did I mention that I was surprised often while on this Glamping trip.)

And I can tell you if I hadn’t gone Glamping, I wouldn’t have met my new “friend”.  He called out to me and asked me to sit and talk to him while he breaded shrimp for the fryer.  He said  “I am a little OCD about this process.”  That is why we had an inordinate amount of time together, talking and listening over three pounds of shrimp being breaded. It was time very well-spent.

I also sat and chatted with a neighbor from home and learned that she had lost both of her parents this past year.  I have known her for 17 years, we live in the same small town, we have children the same age and I didn’t know that her mother and father had both died this year.

Her story caused me to stare into her eyes and listen with all I have.  There is more to her story than I can share until I ask, but losing parents in one condensed time frame has to be deeply painful.  She and I have made plans to go paddle boarding together.  I have another “new” friend because of glamping.

4. Glamping creates the need to be dependent on one another for “survival.”

We dragged a lot of stuff with us, but we still didn’t prepare well enough.  Our friends, not the ones in the glamper with us but the ones in a tent down the way, prepared better than we did in the food (protein) department.  Because they are kind, generous, and really good cooks, gifted really in the culinary arts, we ate like Kings and Queens.  We “lived” off of their grill and their kindness.  Well, I can’t speak for anyone else.  I did. And food tastes better when its prepared on a new $700 grill which is transported out to a glampsite for the weekend.  And food tastes better when it is eaten out-of- doors in the cool fresh air. In fact, a lot of things are better out-of-doors on a plantation in the middle of nowhere.  We know it was nowhere because the GPS couldn’t find it.

5. Friendship is better in close quarters (and friendships grow deep roots in the dark)

When Glamping, your generator must be turned on in order to have light. Well sometimes its just best to preserve your power and sit in the dark. Especially when it is late at night, and music from the music festival is serenading you on a Saturday night, on a quail hunting plantation, on a cool May night, in your tinaminium with a really close friend. Actually, your super-glue friend, your accountability partner and your sister-in-Christ. The dark can be good for sharing life, your heart, and having good momma time.

The dark of night can breed intimacy in friendship. And living in very close quarters could test the best of friendships. But this one survived and may have been made stronger. Many of our friends have walk in closets bigger than this space the four of us shared for a weekend.

Because we like to laugh, we imagined that Jesus could have written a parable teaching us how to treat others in a glamping campsite. We studied the parables in our Bible Study this fall, so they were still front and center in our frontal lobe parts. We had a stranger come to our door during that dark of night, generator off, talking heart to heart time. He scared us. We think we missed an opportunity to be kinder and gentler to him than we were. Did I mentioned he scared us? He had the wrong door, its like the wrong number when you call someone. He was looking for friends. They were staying in the tinaminium next door. Did I mention he scared us.( Well startled would be more accurate.) We pointed him in the right direction. But we didn’t offer him a meal or a kind word. And we weren’t particularly good neighbors. We felt like those in the parable of the Good Samaraitan who passed by the guy laying in the ditch. You know, the ones who didn’t help. Well we pointed him in the right direction. He just had the wrong camper.

Maybe we’ll get a second chance to “do unto others” on our next Glamping trip. Maybe we’ll get a do-over in the do-unto others department. We can only hope.

And there will be another. Even though the showers are short and sweet, and the creature comforts are few and far between, even with a loud generator.

Who doesn’t love the chance to hear stories under the blue sky days out in the middle of a field. And to live more simply.

There is much to learn out under the stars, and clouds, huddled by your camper with friends and family.

I wish I hadn’t stopped with five things I learned, though you may be.

wishing His grace….