Thursday, July 28, 2016

an evening ritual

The unbearable, energy-draining heat

The non-stop political banter and back-biting

The rapid pace of online debates

The reality of my girl leaving home in less than four weeks

Unexpected family health issues

The combination of them can be exhausting. Despite my fatigue, my brain sometimes insists on performing mental gymnastics at bedtime. In these instances sleep evades me or, if it comes, is fitful. The next day I am on edge, more weary and more sensitive than the day before.

I have finally put the merry-go-round behind me with the comfort of an evening ritual. I wrap the last 30 minutes of each day in beauty and truth.

I set my Pandora station to Yo-Yo Ma Radio, pick up my stack of books and crawl into bed.

First, I read soothing prose. This is not the time for an exciting, keep-me-on-the-edge-of-my-seat read. I deliberately seek a calming, rhythmic pace.  Wendell Berry is a favorite choice.

Afterwards, I spend a few moments with the wisdom of Elisabeth Elliot's Keep a Quiet Heart. Her straight-forward, unwavering faith in God sharpens me and shifts my focus from the things of this world.

Finally, I read a Psalm. Other Scripture may challenge me, give me much to ponder, or encourage me, but the Psalms quiet me. I find my brain filled with praise as I drift off to sleep.

It's still unbelievably hot. Politicians still anger me. Online debates still sadden me. My girl is still leaving and someone I love is still hurting. The circumstances of my life haven't changed, but my ability to face them has. And that has made all the difference.

whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
~Philippians 4:-8

Monday, July 11, 2016


Tears pooled in my eyes as I listened. I didn't know the man at the podium, but I was utterly surprised when he shared his testimony of God's faithfulness. I never would have suspected that he would choose to work with teenagers. He didn't look the part.

But once he started speaking, his passion for older children and teens became evident. His love for the Gospel and sharing it with others was tangible.

His words took me back to the time in my life when loving others and sharing the Gospel was part of me.  When serving was important. Has it really been seven years?

Not your typical North American soup kitchen
Seven years since my eyes were opened...

to the poverty that cripples much of our world

to the depths of pain unknown in my comfortable life

to the despair of those without the hope of the Gospel

to the fact that there are families who feel blessed to live in ramshackle accommodations roughly equivalent to the size of my bedroom

to the smiling faces of children who thought a piece of penny candy was worth a pound of gold

I thought I would be changed forever. That I wouldn't be able to return to the ignorance and apathy that marked my typical American life.

Slowly, I found my way back. I don't even know when. I only know I have been firmly and happily ensconsed here for quite a while, content to read my Bible and commentaries. Quick to listen, slow to action.

And so I find myself  examining, wrestling, praying...and hoping that soon I will find myself doing.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
- James 1:22-25 (ESV)