The Simple Pencil

It’s been said that back in the 1960s during the space race, NASA spent a whack load of government money on designing a pen that would write in zero gravity. After all, how will ink run down a page if there is no gravity to pull it that way? How would the astronauts make notes on all the scientific stuff they had to do up there? A new and improved writing instrument must be designed! The Russian astronauts took a simpler approach: they used a pencil.

Photo: Yoann Siloine

All joking aside, I was musing this week about the simple pencil. I’m not sure why… it just happened to come to my brain. So, I looked it up. Faber-Castell, the who’s who of pencils, has been producing top-quality pencils for over 257 years. The leads (both coloured and the typical grey) are made with a clay-graphite mixture that is mixed, dried and basically glued between a sandwich of wood. The wood has to be strong enough to not snap under the weight of the writer’s hand, yet flexible enough to bend slightly for the stroke of the letter. That wood can be shaped in the round, hexagonal or square shape that we all know and love. Not to mention, sharpened to the perfect “tip”. Final exam writers, rejoice!

I love a sharp pencil. It just evokes great memories of the start of something new. A blank canvas if you will. Plus, it makes for remarkable colouring and shading. (re mark able — see what I did there?) Anyway… Have you ever thought about a simple pencil and the possibilities it holds? A funny little muse, isn’t it? Did all sumptuous writers think about the ink or the pen or the pencil they used? Plain paper or ruled? A notebook? Does everyone use a keyboard now? Have we lost touch with the true art of letter writing and letter making? They don’t even teach penmanship in schools anymore (and believe me, it shows!)

The ancient scriptures are one of the most unique collections of writing on the planet! I have no idea how the writers penned the scrolls… ink? chalk? Graphite pencil? Whatever method they used, we can be assured that the words bring promise and hope from an eternal God who cares for His people. And the simple words are our guides for both now and for all future generations! It always amazes me that the Bible is timeless. People have been reading it for hundreds of years… and the words still ring true. It’s because there is something supernatural immersed in those written words. Psalm 119 tells us it is a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path… our truth and our hope”.

Nothing like a sharp pencil — and the words it can make!

I’m guilty of not diving into the Word enough. There is such richness in the written word, and I don’t take full advantage of it as I should. Perhaps I should write out passages. Does anyone do this? I hear it is a great discipline to adhere to, especially in these days of digital screens. Graphite pencils and loss of handwriting skills be banished! Please share in the comments if you’ve tried this. I’d love to hear how it impacted you! Perhaps you’ve journalled with coloured pencils and brought scriptures to life. Share!

And so, my faith journey continues as I think about simple things and how they influence the complex. Oh, and that thing about the space pen? Apparently, some guy named Paul C. Fisher did spend millions in developing what later became known as “the space pen”… which uses a pressurized cartridge to make the ink flow. Even the Russians began using them. Who knew? We earthlings can purchase one for about $50. Maybe I should get one for jotting down sermon notes. Nah, I’ll stick with the simple pencil.

WONDER

Sitting alone in the dark solitude of our empty living room,
  sipping my morning coffee and looking out our front picture window
 into the distant panorama of a residential street that had yet to awaken,
  I listened to the empty silence of a cold winter's morning.
 The frozen landscape crackled with the winter's bitter wind... 
 a fridgid contrast to my warm blanket and hot drink.
 I couldn't help looking at everything and saying as God did, "It is good." 
Only my voice had a touch of wonder in it, 
 while His had only satisfaction. 
So many days are spent chasing obligations and deadlines and paycheques
 and nothing special seems to stand out worth remembering.
 But lockdowns and quarantines and five such minutes in my living room alone
 simply me and God, just being still and truly seeing, truly appreciating,
 are worth a lifetime of chasing.

It was written by me, but inspired by a devotional I recently read by Susan Lenzkes. It was a real experience but captured again as I read her words and tried to apply them to myself. As most of you know, my #wordoftheyear for 2022 is “magic”, so I have begun to actively seek out the moments of wonder and awe. To appreciate the little things. Facebook memories of my kids a hundred years ago. So cute all decked out for a Sunday morning service. Knowing we are safe and financially secure for the start of another year. Hating lockdowns and school online, but thankful that technology allows us education and the ability to connect with others. Full bellies. Warm houses and clean water.

So much we take for granted. So many wishes for this or that. I am reminded that life is really, really fragile. Tiny humans are born completely dependent. Many return to that state of complete dependence as we age. Time is not our friend. This fallen world and all the “bad” that is in it makes me wonder: “Why on earth?”

For some reason, Psalm 8 has been popping up in my world all this week. If you have time, look it up. David wondered “Why on earth?” too. I love learning about the idiosyncracies of this fabulous planet we live on. And all the creatures that share it with us. How inventive is our God who created every living thing? Yes, even one small virus who has the ability to mutate and change and manipulate an entire population of beings. He is in control, my friends! But it makes me wonder, like the psalmist, if God is in control of the big things like the universe and all the small things like corona viruses, then “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Somehow, He thinks we are worth it.

He looked at us, feeble humans, a little lower than the heavenly beings, and decided these made-from-dust creatures were worth loving and dying for. That you were worth dying for. That I was worth loving. Oh, the weight of those things! Wonder – full.

My wish for you and I this week is that we continue to be blessed in that realization. That we continue to seek for and see the wonder that is before us, behind us, and all around us. Will you join me as I look for it? Until next week, my friends!

#WordoftheYear 2022

Well, we made it to another year… kicking and screaming, maybe, but here we are! It’s been a rollercoaster of ups and downs again in 2021, with the global pandemic hanging over us yet again. Still, time travels on. A constant in this world of upheaval. Time doesn’t seem to stop for anyone… or anything. And so we arrive at 2022.

As many of you will recall, for 2021, I chose a #wordoftheyear. It was my first attempt at such a thing, and I think it went off rather well. (You can read some of those thoughts here) It’s different from a resolution or goal… it can be interpreted differently throughout the year’s circumstances, and may appeal to you in a variety of situations. For 2021, my word was “brave”. I felt it. I failed at it. I focused on it.

This year, * drumroll please * my word is magic. When my eldest son was younger, he loved magic tricks… he learned a few and put on performances where he would “wow” us with his slight of hand. We saw magicians in Vegas and on tv specials and ooohed and ahhhed at the magic and wondered “How’d they do it?” But when I picked this word for 2022… this is not the definition of magic I had in mind. This magic is trickery and illusion. There’s enough of that out there in the world. I certainly don’t need to focus on that kind of magic.

Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash

No, when I chose the word, maybe I was thinking about miracles. Maybe I was thinking about the unexpected. Maybe I was thinking about the astonishing. Perhaps I wanted to focus on the little things in life that are magic… things that used to make me oooh and ahh, but have been pushed aside by my practical side. Things that brought a little joy into people’s lives for no reason other than it was fun… like sparkles and sprinkles. Covid has robbed us of some of that. We have become consumed with sanitizer and sterility. I need some fairy dust in my year. I need some ribbons and confetti and spur-of-the-moment decisions — because I really don’t like those things. I fret at the cost and the environmental impact and the lack of frugality to those things. The people around me do like those things, though, and maybe we both need a little magic to brighten our days up this year.

I’m not so good at making magic. I miss the little ones at school who forced you to see the magic. The wide-eyed attention they gave when they just knew that something cool was about to happen. I want to be the wide-eyed one this year. I want to create those experiences for those around me… through my actions, through my faith in a great big God who still does miracles, and through my attention to the small details that allow me to see the everyday miracles. I want to delight in the smells and sounds and sights of a great big world around me and be astonished at it. I want to say, hey God, “How’d ya do that?” Magic.

I also think about magic in the sense of “ta-da” moments. When the hankies disappear into the hat. When the puff of smoke turns the bird into the beautiful lady. I’m learning how to make things new again — by fixing, painting, fluffing and upcycling. I am learning to love the ta-da moments of my projects when I can say Ha! Look at how that just turned out! Magic. Things transformed from one thing, into another… that’s a magic God loves to see, too. And I hope it will be part of my journey this year, too. I long to share it with you, my friends on this little piece of the internet where we dream big and fail hard. Where we think deeper and muse mightily.

So, my friends, “cheers” to another new year! May our year be filled magic, wonder and a little bit of mystery… and a good dose of musing about it all!