cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Is Our Vision Dimming?


I find, in my (ahem) young-ish age, that certain things are best viewed over the top of my glasses. Things like needle and thread, words...faces. Basically anything within sixteen inches of my peepers. And also, what's with those tiny pictures on my phone??? I think I'm ready to sit on my front porch and yell at kids to slow down as they careen along the road. 

Pass the Ensure and prune juice.

I may be SLOWLY approaching the need for reading glasses, but something was brought into sharp focus today. In case you aren't stalking the newsstand, World Vision has loosened their employment requirements. They will now be accepting applications from the gay community (provided they still adhere to World Vision's statement of faith and are in a legally recognized marriage-no cohabitating allowed.). 

And starving children in Africa withdrew their applications for sponsorship. "We'll take our chances, thankyouverymuch."* Oh wait. Maybe it was the other way around. Yes. Yes, I think it was. The sponsors are withdrawing their sponsorship. Way to stick it to World Vision.

On the one hand I get it. It's a slippery slope (which W.V. denies). However, I have searched all over their website and, cannot for the life of me, find anything in their mission that says "Our goal is to combat poverty and starvation, insofar as our hiring does not cause conflict with our denomination affiliates and our child sponsors." Yeah, I just don't see it. Their mission is crystal clear:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.
Perhaps my eyes are playing tricks on me, but to withdraw financial support for the "widow and orphan" in order to teach W.V. a lesson looks a little white-wash tomb-y and plank-in-the-eye-ish. I've already disclosed the level of performance of my eyeballs, so I'll let you be the judge. 

I leave you with one last thought:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.
Matthew 23:23
Now, that supplies me with 20/20 vision.


Washing Smudges Off My Lenses,

Cynthia


*Or at least I think that was the translation.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Mundane Grew Claws



When we shrug indifferently at the mundane, the result may be shocking.

I've previously shared how altogether bland my word for 2014 seemed at first glance. You can't convince me that you were jealous of me for plucking Relationships out of the Divine Word Of The Year hat.* I mean really, God. I think I'm ready for something more out there. Something with pizzazz. Something astonishing. Something that says (and this is just a suggestion) "Here is a woman who knows her stuff, has her act together, writes remarkably insightful blog posts, which leave me running to Jesus. And to top it all off, she is supremely humble."

Again, just a suggestion for the Holy Triune Word Review Board.

And then, if you will recall, I shared how God basically said, "Shu-up, and watch me work, dimwit." (my paraphrase).**

And work He did.

And something that, two months ago, seemed benign and dispassionate has now displayed its true colors as an untamed creature loosed in my life. This morphed from an indifferent housecat licking its butt to something absolutely otherworldly with razor-sharp claws, which slice easily and swiftly. This creature called Relationships is undernourished, that much is evident. There are obvious signs of neglect. I've barely begun to brush the mats out of its fur. I've tried to harness the thing, to no avail. This is clearly going to be a process

In January, I distinctly knew this was a year to press in with relationships. I shrugged at the mundane. This past week I have been reminded in no uncertain terms that relationships sometimes pack an unpleasant punch; A message, which essentially said, "I'm moving on. It's not me-it's you. You're part of the problem. And, also, I'm jealous of your hair."*** Slice. Okie dokie. I'll stop shrugging now.

It is part of human nature to desire to have the last word. Now, add ten degrees to that desire, and you'll understand how important it is to firstborns to have the last word. Got that answer in your head? Next step: Add another...ohhhh, pffff...ten...bazillion degrees to that number, and you have arrived where the only-borns hang out. We're all just running around, wild-eyed, shouting the last word to anyone who will listen. Onlies are convinced that the last word is almost as necessary as oxygen (of which we consume at an alarming rate due to our last word shouting).

Two times in the past week, I have not had an opportunity to squeeze in a satisfying last word; No opportunity to defend myself was presented. And I survived. Did you hear that, Onlies? I survived! Another snarl is brushed out of the fur. In one case, a simple message of "I love you" was passed on to a third party, and I have no idea if said message will arrive to the intended ears (much less be warmly accepted). But if that is my only defense and my only last words, are they not the greatest? What more could possibly be said?

Why in the world would I choose to share all of this? I assure you, it's not for your pity. If I have learned anything from these two encounters, it is that there are things so much greater than the enviable last word. There is a space filled with humility and submission. Knowing more could have been said to clarify one's position, but in the end recognizing that if a relationship hinges upon a single conversation, the last word is most likely of little value. Sometimes a silent prayer and a surrendered soul to the Relationship Maker is the best move.

Come to think of it, Relationships is exactly what I needed this year. Which makes it astonishing. Quite astonishing, indeed.


Reading Taming Your Otherworldly Creature for Dummies,
Cynthia




*Where exactly does God hang that hat?
**Which kinda sums up a lot of the Bible. The rest is essentially "Do what I said, dimwit."
***Anyone who has seen my head knows I made that last bit up. God did not grace me with enviable tresses, because He knew it would be an utter waste of luscious hair, as I pathetically possess zero styling skills. Zilch. Someone please come do my "petite" hair every morning, m'kay? I'll pay you handsomely in sarcastic comments.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

From Rings To Fangs

This is the one where Cynthia got all kinds of political.

God help us all. 

Literally.

So, here's the deal: In case you've just arrived back from Outer Mongolia, and are blissfully clueless (welcome back, by the way), there was this lil' thing called Senate Bill 1062. And everyone and their dog was/is up in arms over it. No really. I actually saw two dogs get in a fight through the fence about the whole thing. It was quite the ordeal. Anyhoo...chances are good that most of you have heard something about the bill, but perhaps you haven't read the bill. It's not tough. Even I understood most of the jargon and legalese. Go here, read it, and come back.

I'll wait.

Okie dokie. Now that everyone understands what the bill was saying, let's have a chat, shall we? No? And so it would seem. 

Two short days ago the nation stood united and proud. Americans from sea to shining sea waved a banner of solidarity. We watched the 2014 Winter Olympics' closing ceremonies. Hearts full, eyes perhaps even glistening, we stood a little straighter. We linked arms and looked on as the Olympic flame was extinguished. 

And with it went our decorum.

Just take a gander online to find vitriolic words, ignorant words, whiny words, words that are incoherent, superfluous, and even excessive.* I know I have been offended by many a post on good ol' Facebook, as (undoubtedly) you have as well. It should come as little surprise to a single (regular) reader of my blog that I was in favor of the proposed bill.** 

That, my dears, is the end of my political blog post.

And the beginning of what truly matters. 

This is an emotionally charged topic, and as such, people are, shall we say, a bit tightly wound. Only one of two outcomes for SB 1062 was possible. Either way, we now find ourselves left with what truly matters. I'm all for Christians in the political arena. I'm all for freedom of speech, allowing us an opportunity to disagree in the public square (be it the State Senate floor, Instagram, or the great land of Twitter). I'm all for passionate debate. I'm all for considering both sides. I'm all for being challenged to know my stuff. Beyond that, I am all for grace. I am all for truth. And I am all for love. I have already written on the topic of the Church and the gay community. That post can very well be extended to the entire LGTB sympathetic crowd. Opposing views do not supersede love. Love is not based on something as flimsy as a bill, nor the opinions behind it. Perhaps Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty*** has said it best:
"Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate".
So, as the Eye of Sauron fixates on Arizona, can we all fixate on that which never changes? On the One who is the same, from everlasting to everlasting? For, once we strip away our differences, He is what remains, and His love is what binds us together. Let's link arms yet again.


Blessings,
Cynthia

*******It has been brought to my attention that Rick Warren, not Phil Robertson, originally said the above quote. And while Mr. Warren does not have a beard that is theoretically long enough to stick in his own bellybutton, I must give credit where credit is due. So, thank you Pastor Warren for saying smarty-pants stuff despite being so purpose-drivenly clean-shaven, and reality tv-less*******

*See what I did there?
**I happen to believe business owners should have some say in their own business. Crazy. For a cheeky, sarcastic breakdown of the bill (complete with his signature inflammatory title), read Matt Walsh's blog post. Also, he employs the word "gasbag". Am I the only one amused by this? If Mr. Walsh seems like a grumpy-pants, try John Correia's post on the bill. He's devoid of grumpy pants. Bonus: He references Star Wars. 
***I've never viewed the show, and I must know: Is it possible to watch it without being riveted to The Beards?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Jumping In


Carefree days of jumping on the trampoline. Somersaults, bone-jarring games of "crack the egg", challenging yourself to new heights. Plopping down, exhilarated and spent from the effort.

Don't we all just love us some January?

Climbing down the three steps to the ground, bending at the knees, springing up with enthusiasm. Feeling a moment of familiar trajectory, only to meet the ground with a shocking jolt. 

Aaaaand welcome to February.


Resolve weakens, taxes beckon, Christmas decorations positively taunt you.* Not to pick on the runt of the litter, but February is kinda...well, blah. If drippy candles and sappy poems are your thing, then I guess it (and Hallmark) have something to offer. But one day of roses and waxy chocolates hardly make up for the twenty-seven Charlie Brown days that I sense hovering over this month.

We have an innate sense that we have been created for more than we currently are. It's the entire reason resolutions and fresh starts appeal to us. We know there's always room for improvement, and we oftentimes desire to work toward a better self. We gain a confident rhythm in January, and then mean ol' February reminds us that we're finite, and as such, positive changes are not handed to us on a silver platter. We lose our momentum and hit the ground with a most unpleasant jolt.

I don't know what you're struggling uphill to conquer, but I know this: February doesn't call the shots, and the trampoline is still there. Let's climb back on and try a teensy-weensy lil' bunny hop. We'll catch our stride and gain our momentum again-you'll see. You want to run a marathon? One foot in front of the other. You've got your eye on a promotion? Show 'em you've got what it takes. Writing your doctoral thesis? One page at a time. Committing to a cleaner house? Grab the duster. Desire to be saturated in The Word and experience a power-filled prayer life? Get on your knees. Want to stop snapping at your kids? Take a deep breath and count to ten (or, if you've some Irish blood, 100).**

February, you don't own us. We're unlacing our sneakers, and eyeing those springs.


Stocking-footed friends, let's do this. Flex those muscles, try not to clobber fellow jumpers, and remember: Don't lock your knees. 

Get Ready To Soar,

Cynthia



*Alright, maybe not you, but let's just assume some oblivious people (who clearly don't own a calendar) are unaware that they have to haul all that stuff back out in a mere nine months. Somebody remind me what an aneurysm feels like.

**Before all the Irish defenders rise up in mutiny, just RELAX. I'm touting my own Irish veins over here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Oh My Word


I chafe under the yoke of formal New Year's Resolutions. Nevertheless, I am an ardent supporter of focus words. Resolutions never surprise me. They are a complete fabrication of my own vision and goals; Goals which are limited to the scope of my own imagination. Each year, however, these lil' focus words transcend my feeble ambitions, leaving a sense of expectancy and wonder in their wake. Their impression on my soul is profound and extends beyond the boundaries of a single year. Sometimes I anticipate greatness. And sometimes God throws a smokin' curveball.
This year is no exception.

Relationships.


Well, that's bizarre, God. I'm pretty sure I've been at this relationship thing since ohhh...about birth.* Relationships? That's nice. Placid. Unassuming. No one will be wowed or judgmental. It'll be like potted plants at the restaurant or unobtrusive art in the bathroom: Pleasant, but not why you're there.


Thirteen letters penned across the top. One pristine notebook embarking on its maiden voyage. Twelve months of question marks. Ten days in.

And. I. Am. Floored.

If the first week and-a-half of January is any indication of what lies ahead, I'm ordering a spare five-point harness, because this is going to be one heck of a ride. Knocking on a neighbor's door because God is pressing in on the heart of our oldest.** Sitting in a faded diner booth, looking into the face of my dearest childhood friend for the first time in 15+ years. Answering a phone call that will most assuredly rearrange our year. Meeting with the intent to be vulnerable.

I really don't care if you have one word for the year, four, or a new word every month. There are 346 days left in 2014. We are neither guaranteed one, nor all of those days, but every single day we draw breath is chock-full of beautiful, heartbreaking, challenging possibilities. What words will empty your timepiece and fill your soul?



Feeling Watchful,

Cynthia



*Granted the younger I was, the less I contributed to the relationship, but STILL.
**Oh, did I mention WE DON'T KNOW THEM AT ALL? Yeah, that.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Resolutions Of Weakness



January seems to bring out the best in us.

Then February pulverizes our good intentions into dust.

With Spring comes the guilt, and by Fall we cancel the gym memberships.

By then we're back to the Season of Perpetual Munching, where we prance around with low-fat pumpkin lattes and roughly 14 million cookies.

We lament another year gone as we step on the scale, peeping through our fingers just like we did when a gun-toting Travis began walking toward Old Yeller.

And we berate ourselves as if nothing changed over the past 365 days. As if we accomplished bupkis. All. Year. Long.

Dear ones, I want to scoop you all into a great, big (and slightly awkward) hug, pat your head and then with love shining in my eyes...

...smack us all upside the head.

Because just SERIOUSLY. We are waaaaay too hung up on ourselves and our accomplishments. We prioritize, memorize, theorize. Then we berate ourselves when we don't live up to our ridiculous expectations. Yes, when. Not if, but most assuredly when. You already know how I feel about resolutions. We have been created with much longer vision than a singular year can afford. We are marathon runners trying our hand at the 100 meter dash, and finding ourselves winded, frustrated, and icing a torn something-or-other. This need not be. Each year is building upon the previous, is building upon the previous, is building...and so on and so forth. 




We are being refined. We are in the process of shedding the old. A new number on the calendar is fairly insignificant when viewed through the lens of a decade, a generation, a lifetime; Even less so in view of eternity. And it turns out, it's really not about us. After all, no one looks to the crafted and marvels at its self-made greatness. We look to the crafter and congratulate them on such impressive skills. Perhaps this is why Paul boasted of his weakness. That's where the real power is. Abiding, holy, undiluted power. That's where refinement takes place.







 And that is rarely packaged so neatly between January 1st and December 31st.





A Work In Progress,

Cynthia


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

An Old Backpack Of Words, And A Shiny New Folder

Anyone remember the end of the school year, when your teacher would hand you the precious folder? There was your name, emblazoned across the top, right-hand corner. The penmanship, with precisely formed curves and points, looked perfect to your young eyes. This long-awaited folder held the culmination of a year's worth of projects and papers. You had slaved over crayon drawings, agonized over book reports, and meticulously glued popcorn kernels to construction paper.* This was, indeed, your magnum opus. 

For the third grade. 

So, here I stand, dented Muppets lunchbox in one hand and treasured folder in the other. My folder is bulging with words. Words I am honored to have shared with you. Your time is precious, and to know you choose this lil' ol' blog to fill moments in your day is humbling. Below is my folder. These are the Cultivated Graftings blog posts YOU made most popular for the year of 2013. 

Thank you.

10. Cornball Quotes

  9. Sanity is for the weak.

  8. My Mama's guest post, because you showed her so much love!

  7. An open letter to families who disrupt an adoption

  6. The one where I subjected you to bathroom mirror selfies and duck lips

  5. Redecorating the closet

  4. Heretical Christianese

  3. Hogwash

  2. The Easter conundrum

  1. Let them give




Sharpening New Pencils For A New Year,

Cynthia




*OR you were that kid who completely filled the paper with black crayon, and emptied an entire bottle of glue onto the paper, effectively drowning all three kernels.