Words Which Benefit

I already felt frumpy, slightly pudgy, and entirely lacking in fashion.

“Your hair is just going to be like this. I mean, you should consider coloring the grey because it is just not attractive. And it doesn’t matter how I cut it, it is just going to stick out and be like this. I mean, I can try, but there is just so much I can do with it.”

 

Awesome.

 

I probably should have just said thanks and left at that point, however I had two kids getting haircuts at the same moment. And having a much better time of it, I might add.  So, I let her continue and give me a pretty awful haircut. I’m still waiting for it to grow out so I can go somewhere else…to someone who might have a bit more compassionate view of this mop. I walked out feeling more frumpy, more inadequate.

 

The flippant words of this young hair stylist ruined my mood for the day. They weren’t necessarily meant to, and that actually amplifies their weight. There was no awareness that words so demeaning might impact me.

 

We have grown flippant with words which have great impact. A casual word which can change another’s mood for the whole day.

 

Sometimes, we are intentional with words, desiring to create chaos and pain. Reading through the comments section on so many news articles and FaceBook threads brings this to harsh light.

 

There is much to bring fear in these moments of life. There are many who feed on that fear and rejoice in spreading news with headlines inspired to capitalize on our emotions. Every election season seems to be marked by these dividing lines and comments slung back and forth between the factions. Those words are not flippant…they are carefully chosen for full impact.

 

Flippant or intentional, we contribute to the chaos, or we bring peace.

 

Our words have impact. They matter.

 

My flippant words about people I think less of, people I easily categorize and dismiss. I toss my words about, creating an image for my kids, creating a narrative. These people are beneath us. These people are not worth respecting.

 

The person who irritates me on the road: “Idiot.”  The person who does not live up to my ‘standards’: “Can you believe they did that?”  The person who sets their hopes on someone I disagree with: “How can anyone vote for that person?” “How can anyone think that way?” “Only an idiot would buy into that argument.”

 

The fear is speaking. Label the news, label the other people, label…whatever…and it makes it less fear-filled. Label something and we can toss it aside, we can disagree with it, we can disregard.

 

We are called to more, though.

 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:29-32

 

Only speak that which is helpful for building others up. Only speak that which may benefit those who listen.
Ouch.

 

Be kind and compassionate.

 

We sure could use some compassion and kindness in our communication.

 

What if we were not flippant, but we were intentional to bring kindness to our conversation. What if we truly strove to speak in a way that benefited those who were listening. Even those who were simply over-hearing. Like the kids in the house as they hear my ongoing commentary on life.

 

What if we spoke to bring beauty and peace, and if we could not bring that…we remained silent.

 

We can still challenge, we can still confront. Remember that other verse from Ephesians 4?

 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. – Ephesians 4;15

 

Speaking the truth….in love.

 

Maybe some of that is simply recognizing that much of the hateful speech and much of the intent to hurt springs from fear. Maybe we are so wrapped up in the stories that legitimately rock our world, that we don’t know how else to respond but to shout and hit back with words. We end up striking one another, instead of striking the fear or the cause of fear. We end up isolating ourselves more and stirring the fear within us.

 

What if…we pause and try to find hope, try to find some wonder around us, and speak of that? What if we continue to speak truth, but we speak it in a way that spreads calm, spreads peace?
What if instead of igniting the fear, we remind ourselves and others that we belong to a deeper reality? What if we remind ourselves and others that we believe there is a God who is in the midst and is working. What if we give testimony of the moments we have seen His hand in the midst of the chaos, instead of continually repeating the hate and the chaos?

 

What if we realized those shouting the loudest speak from a place of pain and of fear, and we might have the answer for them? We might have the words that tell them of healing and of hope? I know it is easy to be caught up in the arguments and to dismiss those on the other side of the divide. It is far easier to not love…to simply remain aloof.

 

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”  – Bonhoeffer

 

Because to love means we will be impacted, and it will hurt.

 

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

 

Still, life is so much fuller when we love. When we love instead of label, there is a grace released.

 

We are in the midst of this broken world together, and yet we are able to bring a different perspective. To open other’s eyes to the wonder around us, and to bring an awareness of the deeper reality of God’s presence in our midst. We are able to bring hope.

 

We do not ignore the suffering, or the fear, or the chaos…we jump into the midst of it and watch as God moves in the midst.

 

We try, right? Today. In the comments on FaceBook and in what we share. In our words around the kitchen with the kids listening. In our conversations…we try. Try to speak words which benefit, words which heal, words which bring calm.

 

We might need to seek the wonder some before we engage the conversations. We might need to pause first before we jump online, remind ourselves that we are image bearers of a compassionate and loving God, a God who seeks to save.

 

We might need to take a breath before we speak and remember that we are all in the midst of this fragile life, and we are all impacted by the grief of children dying in war, of innocent people dying in moments of terror. We are all carrying the weight of the brokenness of this world, and we need to give one another grace in how that impacts us.

 

There is still wonder, though. Find some beauty today. Speak some peace. Pray for those who shout against you. Take a breath and turn off o the flow of news when it overwhelms you.  Read something that brings you hope and fills you, so that you can speak that hope to others.

 

Maybe just telling someone they are beautiful, they are valuable…when they are feeling frumpy and inadequate…it could change everything for that person for that moment.

 

“My lovely shining fragile broken house is filled with flowers and founded on a rock.” – Madeleine Le’Engle

 

 

Red-Eye Reflections

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I honestly don’t know if I have ever flown all the way across the country on a red-eye.

Seattle to Philadelphia. It is almost 10:30pm and the lights of Seattle are just fading behind us. Almost five hours ahead. This is a slow process…I know, much quicker than the road trip we just completely…still, a slow process without  the interruption of changing flights and rushing through the airport. 

I like it, I like the hours to process the week that just completed. I am thankful for some uninterrupted time to read a little and to reflect.

I have a tendency to rush. I have a tendency want to move on to the next responsibility or appointment or adventure before the last has had time to settle. Seasons of quiet are always a challenge for me.

I learned something at the end of the week at Regent College that surprised me, something I wasn’t  expecting:

 I learned that poetry makes us slow down. 



The last evening in Vancouver I was able to attend a poetry reading by Luci Shaw and Malcom Guite. I already shared the other day insights I gleaned from Malcolm’s lecture, but this was different.

This was two friends sharing their stories and their hearts through these words they are able to weave with lyrical ingenuity, capturing our attention and our imaginations. Both Luci and Malcolm took us into the woods, took us into doctor’s examination  rooms, took us into their love of poetry itself, and took us into the presence of God.

  

Luci mentioned that poets are God’s gift to the world, and although she said it with a smirk and twinkle in her eye, she spoke the truth.

The poet and the artist are God’s gift to us. They force us to look differently at the mundane and ordinary around us. They force us to listen, through changing the rhythm of our words and drawing out the lyrical rhyme, they catch our ear and slow us down. They open our eyes to look in a new way, using light and color and shadows. They catch our attention, and they make us pause.

I know that I need this. I know that I get caught up in finding the solution, in analyzing and critiquing. The week was spent thinking seriously about Colossians, and that was good. My brain was enlivened and my thinking sparked….but I needed to finish on this note of pause. 

Friday night Luci and Malcolm, and a group of listeners in Vancouver, slowed and listened. The poets interrupted the normal rhythm of a busy week with words gathered to inspire, to enlarge and in the same moment to connect us with one another. 

Suddenly we saw pebbles on the beach and weeds beside the road as holy things. We were witness to their friendship as they laughed and even more as their countenance shone as they spoke of how and why they write, and of those poets they love. 

  

If you have never read Luci Shaw, well, you need to. This is not poetry that inspires fear as we try to understand. This is poetry that connects and gives words to the feelings we recognize. This is poetry made for enlarging our vision, for opening our eyes. This is poetry that reminds us matter matters; that the ordinary things of the world are holy.
Oh, but you think you don’t like poetry or aren’t able to understand? How about this?

Peeling The Onion



There’s not much I don’t know about you – 

yellow, red, sweet—grubbed up roots and all.

Essential for a vigorous cuisine, alerting

the sense—the crackle of your paper brown outer

skin, your translucent inner sheaths like

vegetable undergarments, your pungent heat

rising from sharp steel and cutting board

to my blurred eyes, your precise circles against

the wood, before the sizzle in the buttered pan.




Reluctant to relinquish our intimacy

your sharp essence clings to my fingers, like

a reputation. Hours later, in the dark, you season

the air around my hands, I’ll stud you with

stars of cloves to bury in the belly of the bird

before roasting. Or nestle your pearls

with a stalk of mint among the green peas.

If I leave you too long in the pantry, your

patience exhausted, attenuated, soft at the center,

you send up green spears through the mesh bag

that call out chop me, make a salad, I am delicious.


How do I interpret my own

layered membranes, like growth rings?

I try to peel away the layers of my

onion heart, never getting all the way in.



Pause.  Listen well and pay attention. Listen for the rhyme and the lyrical reminders to pause. Don’t rush….find some poetry and listen. Even about the most mundane activities of life….peeling an onion. 
Another? How about this from Malcolm:

Holding and Letting Go


We have a call to live, and oh

A common call to die.

I watched you and my father go

To bid a friend goodbye.

I watched you hold my father’s hand,

How could it not be so?

The gentleness of holding on

Helps in letting go.


For when we feel our frailty

How can we not respond?

And each to hold another’s hand

And feel the common bond?

For then we touch the heights above

And every depth below,

We touch the very quick of love;

Holding and letting go.


I’ve made it across the country. Thankful for a quiet, long flight. Thankful for the forced pause. Back to rushing a bit now, catching the final flight home, but doing so with a brighter eye and a heart full of inspiration. 




Go walk in the woods…

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I began to write this post yesterday, before knowing about the tragedy in France.

I had just walked the woods here at the University of British Columbia, and I was filled with nostalgia. Filled with that awareness of how much I lacked in appreciating what I had 20 years ago. 

I wanted to write and tell current students to soak this all in, to not miss the remarkableness of this season of their lives. 

We do that, don’t we? We see someone in a situation we experienced, and we want to stop them and tell them to really look at their life. To inhale and pause long enough to take a lingering look around them. 

Yesterday I walked these trails and thought of our dog we had walked here, thought of all the wonderful classes I had listened to. I had scrambled to take the correct notes, writing furiously and concentrating intently…now I wish I had sat back a little and just listened. 

I wish I hadn’t rushed through that season.

We say the same thing to parents with new babies: “Soak it all in because it will be over before you blink. They will change so quickly.”

Sometimes it is difficult to soak in the goodness and appreciate the wonder when you are trying to get facts all straight for exams. 

Or the baby is crying and you haven’t had a decent night of sleep.

Or, the diagnosis takes your breath away.

Or life has just made you weary.

Or someone carrying terror in their hearts drives through your peaceful evening.

I hesitated to write this this morning, because it felt callous to talk of celebrating your life and appreciating wonder when lives were just so harshly destroyed.

One of my favorite quotations of Frederick Buechner, and one often used here and elsewhere is this:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”


Alongside that, hear this:

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”



Sometimes it is very difficult to not be afraid, sometimes the mystery is overwhelming.

In those moments, following deep tragedies, there is this ache to do something. Find some way of bringing healing. 

In the book of Jeremiah, in a letter to the people being taken into captivity under Nebuchadnezzar, this is the encouragement they are given:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Jeremiah 29:5


In the midst of what must have been a terrifying time: plant gardens. It goes on to tell them to marry and have children, and to pray for peace. 

Translated for me today…go for a walk in the woods. Continue to live. Bring peace in your sphere of influence, bring wonder. Bring healing…but also fill yourself with wonder and healing. 

  

Go for a walk in the woods. Weep for those who are overwhelmed in suffering. Look around Creation and see it is touched as well. See that in its beauty are the marks of pain…of lightning strikes and storms, of decay. 

  

Still, so much wonder. Still, so much beauty, and even more so for the marks of lightning and wind.
   
   

Find that place where you can plant gardens, where you can continue to live and bring hope when everything feels terrifying. Find that place, and feed it. Protect it. Nurture it. 

Pay attention when you are in the season of laughter and of lingering walks in the woods, so that when things are filled with terror you have the strength to continue to pay attention. You have the strength to  look at the terrible things and see God make a way to hope.

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” -Buechner


   

   

If you could just know…

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I am in the midst of an amazing splurge. I am waking each morning this week in Vancouver, British Columbia and marching down the street to attend classes at Regent College.

Fourteen years have passed since I completed one of my Master’s degrees here. All I have left of the second degree is a pesky thesis. Fourteen years is a long time. The awareness of how long it has been settled on me the first day; that sense of familiarity and yet awkwardness of not really belonging here in this season. 

Still. This place, the grounds and the Chapel and the sounds, they are iconic to me: they help me see God with an awakened mind. I simply think better here because I have been trained to do so. I am ready to hear, ready to listen.

Most of my time this week has been spent listening to Dr. J.I. Packer expound the book of Colossians. Walking us through the insights and truths and wisdom of Paul.
 
The refrain I keep hearing? 

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Walk, without anxiety and fear and uncertainty, but abounding in thanksgiving. Abounding in thanksgiving. 

I don’t abound in thanksgiving very often, and yet on these splurge weeks in a beautiful place pulsing with lively thought, it is much easier. 

These days in general, though, it can be difficult to be filled with thanksgiving… abounding in thanksgiving. Much easier to be overwhelmed with news intended to stir fear and anger and anxiety. But things have shifted when we place ourselves in Christ. Paul tells us in Colossians, “and let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” 

When peace, shalom, rules in our hearts it is much easier to be thankful. In the midst of a world stirred by fear, in the midst of daily lives marked by stress, in the midst of families weighed down by sorrow….allow our peace to bring hope and grace to our world.

Last night the steady analysis of Colossians was interrupted as I attended a lecture by Malcolm Guite. He opened up for us a poem by Seamus Heaney, “The Rainstick.

When Regent Audio has these evening lectures available, please go listen. I am only going to touch on one aspect, and the lecture is immensely worth your time.

From this poem about a Rainstick and the music it makes, Guite encouraged us to think of the upendings God accomplish in our lives, of the music around us and the imagery God has given us eveywhere to expand our thinking of Him.
The refrain I keep hearing this morning?

And now here comes


A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,


Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
Then glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.


Upend the stick again. What happens next


Is undiminished for having happened once.”
I have thought of that all morning as I walked.

  

Another thought, another refrain, was touched on, and this one is becoming like a mantra already. Guite drew our attention to the story of the woman at the well, and this phrase of Jesus:


“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you…”


If you knew.


If you knew, really knew, all that Jesus is offering you…me…oh, would our thanksgiving abound. If it really settled in our souls that nothing is diminished when His grace comes to us again and again, if we could hear the music the Spirit can make by upending our dry and ugly moments…that shalom peace would settle about us.

  

If you just knew..the wonder this Creator God has placed all around you. The images and the sounds, the smells and the tastes, all ready to enliven you. All there to give you language to worship, to express…to know.

  

  
  

If you just knew …the strength you possess in this moment as the Spirit of the Living God waits to quicken you, to fill you, to equip you. 

  
 

If you just knew…the dignity of each person you encounter.  See them not as an enemy, not as an annoyance, not as an inconvenience or a problem, but instead see them clothed in the delight of God with the dignity of an Image Bearer of the Creator.
Sometimes we have to step back. A week in Vancouver is not always, very rarely, a possibility. A walk with our heart attuned to God’s creation is often available. A moment taken to listen afresh, to try to really grasp, to really know the gift God is offering in this moment, and to really grasp who it is that offers this gift. 

 We need to find those iconic places or items which spark our thinking and inspire. Whether it is a graduate school, a park, a chapel, a kitchen sink with a window overlooking a yard full of children. Or an upended Rainstick reminding us of unexpected music and teaching us to abound in thanksgiving. 

1400 Miles. Each Way.

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1400 miles. Every year.

 

We load up the truck, taking care to bring only the bare essentials. We plan the route even though we already know it by heart. We plan whether we will drive without stopping, or if this year we will stop and spend the night somewhere. We plan surprises and pack them in little paper sacks.

 

We plan music and movies and audiobooks.

 

We plan and we anticipate, and wait for that moment when we will pull down the long driveway to one of our favorite places in the world.

 

My folks’ place in Colorado. The place is filled with memories for me and now I watch my kids marching around breathing this air and walking this ground that is so much a part of who I am.

 

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This year I hung my eldest’s hammock under an ancient apple tree and caught a few minutes of reading time. Mostly the hammock was used by the younger kids to swing and giggle. When we were all here, which was for at least three of the days, there were about twenty of us clamoring around the house and the yard.

 

There were lots of giggles. And volleyball matches. And conversations over coffee and meals.

 

 

This house has always had two of the best porches. One porch overlooks a pasture and long view to mountains and amazing sunsets. This is the place to sit for long conversations into the evening, for watching deer or the ducks on the pond.

 

The front porch is the place to sit to watch all the activity. The kids riding bikes and kicking soccer balls, chasing dogs and each other. Snacks are brought and again, long conversations begin.

 

And I am finding that this is where we learn more of who we are. We find out our differences, and we find that our love is constant in the midst of those differences. We find out our shared stories, and the parts of the stories we had forgotten.

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We remind ourselves of our shared history and we carry the current burdens together a little more lightly in the midst of the joy of fellowship.

 

We take the time to find out who we are once again.

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This year I pushed for a picture I have wanted for a few years: a picture of the Little Miss out in the field by the house with all the men on my side of the family. Her three big brothers, her six male cousins, her four uncles, her Dad and her Grandfather. I am so glad I pushed and they were so patient as we tried to fit it in with everyone’s plans. I love the final picture:

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This is my girl, and this place is part of who she is. It is a mirror of how this place was the foundation for who I am. I stomped these same grounds with strong men standing behind me. I played in the mud here and didn’t want to stop to take a bath at the end of the day either.

 

I didn’t want to leave.

 

She doesn’t either.

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Nor do my boys. Every year. They want to stay. This place is part of who they are, and we never quite sure what the next year will hold. The one who put her mark on all of this place is here and yet not here. She has laughed some this trip and has been present with us, but she has been greatly missed.

 

And yet, her mark is everywhere. Not just in the decorations, but in the strength of the family. In the fact that every year we continue to come back. We continue to want to be together. We continue to load up the truck and drive 1400 miles (one way) to be together.

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We have to take the time, to pause and to know our history. To know more than the cursory glance. When we have the chance, to stomp the ground our parents have walked and to sit on the porch with all our cousins and talk…really talk… and share stories and hear our history, we have to take those moments. They are so much more than just stories.

 

So thankful for this past week, yet again, and for this magical place. Thankful for pictures and for moments. For stories and for history. And for quotes which sum it all up so much better than I can….

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” – Frederick Buechner

Sixty Years

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Sixty years. Today is my parents’ anniversary. Sixty years of marriage.

I love the picture below of them; I love the joy in my mom’s expression. What a lifetime lay before them: five children, countless adventures. Probably a hundred Chesapeake Retriever dogs. Elk hunting trips, parties. Mom as President of the Symphony. Dad establishing a legacy as a builder. Mom leading Bible Study Fellowship as a lecturer.

 

So much laughter, so many tears…so many stories cover those 60 years.

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I wish Mom could remember them all. I wish she knew in this moment what a wonderful life she has led. I wish she knew how loved she has been, and how many care about her.

 

I hope that there is some awareness,  I hope she knows in some way that she is loved. I think there is some awareness of the tenderness around her. Some comfort in being surrounded by laughter still, and by stories.

 

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This is not what my Dad imagined for his future. This is what it is though, and he has continued to love my Mom well. He has continued to give us an example of love that doesn’t stop when things are difficult. He has continued to see God in the midst of this life, and we are the richer for that. There is a bonding that happens in suffering that cannot happen in blessing.

 

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I’m thankful for the memories we hold as a family. Maybe that is why I keep opening this blog and recording these thoughts; holding these memories in place so they are here if I begin to forget.

 

We snap our pictures and have our life lived out on social media, creating a journal of sorts. Registering our thoughts and our events and the things that are important…and yet, there is need for more reflection. For more than the quick thought and the perfect image. We need room for the things that take the rug out from under us. Room for those things to settle and for our hearts and emotions to meet with our mind, for us to find where God is working in the midst of it all. We need to take the time away from the celebratory social media postings to hear and see what God is doing.

 

That gives us the foundation for what might come.

 

I know that life may not play out as I imagine. I know there are things ahead which will be wonderful, and things ahead which will be difficult. There is great comfort in knowing that I walk this life with those who love well. There is great comfort in knowing that I walk this life in the care of a God who is Sovereign. One who sees beyond the moment we are caught in, and knows how it will all fit together.

 

Trust to God to weave  your little thread into the great web, though the pattern shows it not yet.  – George MacDonald

Sixty years. Worth celebrating and worth recognizing. Even when it is difficult and not exactly what was hoped for. Still an amazing life together.

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Fan the Flame

Did you see the finale of Survivor this year? The moment where the two contestants have to perform the fire making challenge. The moment where everything rests on that little spark of flame being nurtured and protected and fanned into a fire burning through a rope.

 

That little spark is everything. Keeping that flame alive. Their place in the game depended on their ability to burn through that rope.

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Life, in this moment, feels a little like that fire making challenge.  The constant demand of the news and culture to pay attention to who is arguing with whom and who is throwing rocks, literally. The demand of simply life with a family full of schedules and laundry and meals and the need to be heard. The demand of my emotions and my body.

 

There needs to be a moment where all the attention is on that little flame that brings life. The spark that can become a flame bringing life and warmth and renewal. It needs attention.

 

I can feel my irritation build through the days, my impatience and my uncertainty. It comes out in snaps to the children….when they have really done nothing wrong. It comes out in that desire to simply stay in bed in the morning. It comes out in the awareness that I need something, Someone, beyond myself in the midst of all of this life. The irritation and the impatience are the fruit of all the chaos around me. I feel out of control and that feeling has to manifest somehow.

 

In those moments, when I realize why I am snapping and being impatient, I have to turn the attention away from what is feeding the chaos.

 

I have to hear whispers of the faith that come in the moments of the day. Reminders of God’s faithfulness. Reminders of His grace. Reminders of His wisdom and His plan. They catch my attention and I find the irritation and the impatience and the uncertainty retreat in the midst of Truth.

 

 

“I got there as the saints were marching in

I sat down on the back row

and heard the story once again.

And the servants of the secret fire

were gathered there

the embers of the ages

like a living prayer

And all at once I saw the shadows flee

Shine Your light on Me

Be a light unto my path

and a lamp unto my feet.”

Andrew Peterson’s “Shine Your Light on Me”. I was driving down the road, windows down and sun shining, when this came up on my playlist. Words that remind me there is a struggle, but there is also One who brings help. And, reminds me that I am not alone. Servants of the secret fire.

I need those reminders, and I need to act on the truths they bring to mind. I approached a few friends about starting a book club, a chance to meet and talk about our faith in a more intentional and intimate way than I have in other situations. We are reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. The information is not new, but the chance to discuss is so refreshing. The awareness that we are not alone, that we can encourage and learn from each other.

I know I am not saying anything new. Yes, we need to think about our faith. Yes, we need to talk to friends about our faith. Yes, songs inspire us, especially well written songs. Yep, got that, thanks for the reminder!

I’m saying a little more, though: I’m saying in the midst of these storms of dialog about gender identity and this crazy election season, and the stresses of so many being overworked, or unemployed…we need even more intention to think about our faith. We need those friends to talk with who remind us of the reality of a Creator God, a God who moves history in a certain direction. A God who brings healing and refreshing, who breathes life into our reality.

We need to intentionally lash ourselves to these friends and to this truth. Have you heard that phrase…”Lash yourselves to (fill in the blank).”? Ulysses used it, when he was sailing his ship past the Sirens and he wanted to hear them, but he knew if the crew of his ship heard the Sirens they would be destroyed. So he put wax in the ears of his crew and had them lash him to the mast of the ship. He could hear the Sirens, but the crew focused on the task. He knew, in the moment before the confusion came, that he needed to protect himself and he needed to make choices that would carry him through the confusion.

Sitting around a table, sipping coffee, laughing and talking about God…I am lashing myself to the mast. I am making a choice in the midst of a moment of calm to do something that will carry me through moments of confusion.

We so need this in our lives. Find someone, find something that speaks life into your reality…and lash yourself to them, to it. In the moments of calm, intentionally turn your direction to learning how to fan that spark into a flame. Then, when the test comes, when everything is on the line, you will be prepared.

When the news unsettles you, when the FaceBook feed infuriates you…go back to the ancient Truths. Again, a little help from Andrew Peterson. Have you heard his music? If you haven’t, click on the video below and be encouraged. Then go listen to a few more of his songs. I quote Frederick Buechner and G.K. Chesterton here quite a lot, now is a chance to introduce you to another favorite. Feeling overwhelmed this morning? Go listen for a bit…

“Go back, go back to the ancient paths
Lash your heart to the ancient mast
And hold on, boy, whatever you do
To the hope that’s taken hold of you
And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way

If love is what you’re looking for
The old roads lead to an open door
And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way
Back home”