On Giants' Shoulders

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Just Polite Talk

Have you ever encountered people who are effusive with what I like to term "polite talk?" They will tell you how much they would love to get together with you, how much they miss you, how much fun it would be to "do lunch" sometime. However, when you try to get around to the specifics they are always too busy. They urge you to come and visit, but when you've found a space of time when you can, they suddenly find multiple excuses for why it's not going to be convenient, and this is the case each and every time you suggest the possibility. The fact is that while they do experience some warm feelings when they think about you, they don't really want to have a real relationship with you that requires any degree of sacrifice on their part. I have a couple of these friends who've been urging a visit ever since last spring. One of them was invited to my daughter's wedding and RSVP'd with a yes, but never showed up and never called to let us know why. These are not the people to call in the middle of the night when you're in a crisis. One might call them fair weather friends, but the fact is that they are really only casual acquaintances who think of themselves as your very, very dear friends, but who have tons of other very, very dear friends whom are also, at best, casual acquaintances. Some relationships were closer at one point, but have fallen into the former friends category. Time, distance, or circumstances have changed the relationship and there's no longer any effort being put into it to keep it current. However, I know people who will describe those old acquaintances as their very, very dear friends despite the fact that they've had no contact for over a decade. The reality simply doesn't match the talk.

Some of these people are casual acquaintances or "former friends" of Jesus as well. They will proclaim that they love Jesus at Christmas. They'll sing the songs, they'll send the cards, they'll celebrate His birth, they may even show up at church. Then they'll go back to ignoring Him, they'll go back to living a life that has no connection to Him, and they'll reject any and all invitations to get closer. Does it hurt His heart the way that the rejection I experience from those "polite talkers" hurts me? Some people would say no, but I remember Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem and I'm not so sure. All I know is that day after day, week after week, year after year He's still there and if the "polite talk" ever becomes more than just "polite talk" that He will welcome the prodigal with open arms.

Sometimes it's tempting to wish that all of those people who simply engage in polite talk at the holiday time would simply be consistent with the rest of the year and leave Christmas to those who actually believe. Yet, as my friend Karen has pointed out, these are opportunities for grace. At this time of year we can legitimately send greetings with a spiritual message that won't automatically offend. At this time of year, the messages of hymns may actually be able to penetrate into their otherwise secular brains. The message may be presented in a pretty banal fashion in some TV presentation of the nativity or it may be well presented in a homily at church, but it's the one time of the year that the possibility of being open to the message is actually there. It's easy to be skeptical about the possibility of change. After all the message has been presented year after year. They've celebrated Christmas season after season with no lasting result. But we never know when this might be the year that it's different. If God is going to continue to welcome the prodigal, it's probably important that we not get too cynical about the possibility of their conversion.

The Church continues to open her doors to these people with their once a year devotion in hopes that eventually it will be more than that. Mass yesterday was particularly well attended. Can we hope that perhaps it's a sign of things to come, a sign that for some people polite talk was replaced with the beginnings of a new life? Let's pray that's the case.

Friday, December 18, 2009

There Are Days When You're Better Off Just Knitting

Today was clearly one of those days. I actually did spend a good share of the day knitting, but finally braved the cold to drive to the post office, where I knew there'd be packages (one of the consequences of having to shop online for things that aren't available locally!). So I drive down (leaving my cell phone at home because I was only going to be gone a few minutes) and parked in a great spot. Of course my great spot was on the downhill side of the parking lot so I put on my parking brake. I went to the post office, got my packages and got back in the car. When I went to release the parking brake it didn't release. So I tried again, repeatedly. Then I decided to see if moving the car would help. I managed to get the car into the nearby library parking lot, but the brake still wouldn't release. I tried backing up, still no go. So I gave up, went into the library and used their phone to call my husband. No answer at the office other than the machine. Then I called home and told my son what had happened and left a message with him for my husband.

I spent the next hour reading a book about Alzheimer's disease in the library. When David finally arrived he had no better luck with the car then I had, but he did manage to get it moved to a better location (I waited in the warm library while he did this and read part of Sarah Palin's book Going Rogue). Then he thought he'd gotten it to release, but only managed to get it stuck on a patch of ice. So he came back to the library to get me so that I could sit in the car (which was now in the middle of a side street) with the lights on while he went to get sand. Fortunately, he got back before I ran it out of gas (the needs gas light came on at some point in the midst of all of this). A little sand got the car off the ice and into yet another parking spot. Then we came home in the truck.

So the car is now stranded until Monday when our mechanic will actually be on duty. I can't do last minute Christmas shopping this weekend and I've had to cancel my dentist's appointment for Monday. So I guess I'll spend the weekend knitting, re-watching The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency movies, reading Alexander McCall Smith novels, and knitting some more.

This was all on top of the printer running totally out of ink and my credit card number somehow getting stolen (thankfully the company caught it before there was a major problem) and the replacement cell phone freezing up the same way the original one did. It hasn't been a great week for anything but knitting. The bread I made on Tuesday was less than a stellar success for some reason, one present I've been trying to buy is suddenly unavailable everywhere (including online), and my jeans are suddenly too tight (wonder what could have caused that??).

So I definitely, absolutely am better off knitting. On the plus side, I did manage to do all of the ordinary errands (like bill paying ones) before the car problem. Also on the plus side, I bought more yarn yesterday.

Did I mention that I love to knit.....