and so we rest

Write 31 days, day 28
Writing Prompt: Song

Like good music, life’s composition must vary. Too often, we try to match our lives to Rimsky’s The Flight of the Bumblebee. We seek to live prestissimo–as fast as possible, but a life lived so quickly is both uninteresting and unsustainable. Instead, our life’s song fluctuates. It is sometimes fast, and sometimes slow; sometimes joyful and lively, but at other times somber and dark. There are places for both major and minor keys.

And there are times for rest. Rests are not the absence of music, but an essential part of the score. I was anticipating a joyful and lively day spent with dear friends, drinking in the beauty of their country setting. Yet, circumstances have changed. The score now reveals a rest and so we pause, and rather than playing on, we listen.

For reflection: Spend some time thinking about how music evokes emotion. 

Wholeness or Harm?

Write 31 days, day 27
Writing Prompt: Whole

If you were to ask me what thoughts fill my head during the day’s mental pit stops, there would be just a few things I would mention. I think a lot about Jesus and I think a lot about the transcendentals–truth, goodness, and beauty. Wholeness is the other concept I give a lot of mental space. I also believe that these three topics are closely related. Jesus epitomizes truth, goodness, and beauty. Jesus is wholeness.

Yet when I look around at the world, I rarely see wholeness. I see brokenness.  I see division. I see hatred. I see dis-integration. I suspect you do too.  Just today, the news told us of another hate crime. This time, a gunman killed 10 people and wounded others at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. Every time these attacks occur, we disintegrate further. But it’s not just these publicized attacks–it is every murder, every rape, every sexual assault, every physical assault, every action motivated by hate. Every hateful word, every time we use name calling during disagreement, we are contributing to this degradation.

It grieves me when I see my friends using name calling. I wish I could say that my Christian friends on social media rose above name calling and hateful invective, but from what I can tell, they don’t. In fact, some days it seems that those who profess Christ are more likely to engage in character attacks and name calling. Friends, it ought not be so. We are called to live lives of love…in everything (1 Corinthians 16:14).

Earlier I shared on Facebook:

Stand against hate in all its forms. Christians, we are called to testify to the truth and to do so lovingly. Every person…hear me…EVERY PERSON, bears the image of God. EVERY PERSON, regardless of creed, is to be loved, not hated. Yes, speak out against bombings of Jewish Synagogues, or black churches, or movie theaters, schools, and bars. But also speak out against the hateful words so often spoken against or about those who think differently.

Every day, we have an opportunity to use our words. Will we use them for wholeness or harm?

For reflection: What does your social media presence look like? How do you speak about those with whom you disagree? 

I just wanted a betta

Write 31 days, day 26
Writing prompt: Moment

“I think I’m going to get a betta.” My wife looked at me, assuming I was joking. I told her I was quite serious, that I really liked fish, and that I thought it would be fun to have one. As a family, we already have 3 dogs, 2 guinea pigs, 8 sugar gliders, and a horse, so why not a fish?

A betta in a bowl soon progressed to a 20 gallon tank, but I didn’t get the betta. Instead, I got an Australian rainbow, a silver dollar, two guppies, and a pearl gourami. That was just a few weeks ago. Not too long after, my wife asked if I might want a second tank for my birthday. “Sure. That would be cool.” Never one to disappoint, she scoured Craigslist. She first brought home a 40 gallon tank, but it was too scratched up. Then she found another 20 gallon, which was in really nice shape. But last weekend we found a garage sale that had a nice 70 gallon tank.

You might imagine where this is going.

Today, we went and bought some more fish. I now have 4 mollies, 4 silver hatchets, 1 upside down catfish, 1 ghost catfish, 1 cory, 1 pearl gourami, a pleco, 1 Australian rainbow, 2 catfish, 1 blood parrot, and 1 firemouth cichlid in a 70 gallon tank and a 20 gallon tank. I also set up another 20 in my youngest’s bedroom. She has 7 guppies, a cory, and a betta.

Twenty-six fish, all because I wanted a betta. Yet I have no regrets. I sit here and stare at them. I get lost in the present moment and, for a little while anyway, the hurries of the world melt away.

For reflection: try identify something that allows you to get lost in the moment, and then do it.

Life in a Fishbowl

Write 31 days, day 20
Writing Prompt: Audience

Life in a fishbowl
Do they know that I am there
Watching them swimming?

For Reflection: Have you ever felt like you live in a fish bowl?

Who is a Seeker?

Write 31 days, Day 18
Writing Prompt: Search

Good stories encourage us to think beneath the obvious meaning, wondering what else the author may have intended. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is just such a tale. Those familiar with the story know that Harry’s greatest passion is the game of quidditch. Harry is the seeker for Griffyndor, the player whose job it is to “seek out” and catch a small flying ball called the golden snitch.

Yet, being a seeker is not just a game to Harry. If we understand Harry’s story, he is a seeker in life. He is trying to understand who he is. Through the adventures of each of the seven books, the undercurrent is that Harry does not know himself. Friends and strangers alike routinely tell Harry who they understand him to be: James and Lily’s son, the one who stopped Voldemort, the “chosen one,” but Harry must ultimately come to understand his identity on his own, sorting out the various influences in his life.

For a life well lived, each of us must also take an honest inventory of who we are. In the opening to his Institutes, John Calvin wrote, “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” In this life, we are all seekers.

For reflection: What have been the major landmarks on your journey? What made them significant?

The Pause

Write 31 days, day 17
Writing Prompt: Pause

“What happened to my day?” I wondered aloud as I walked through the nurse’s station at quarter past four. How could it possibly be this late? The day was not particularly overburdened patient-wise, but I’ve been at my desk for over nine hours, minus the brief visit with my wife over lunch. Patients were seen and reports were written, but without a break to catch my breath.

Normally, I take time to pause. Before the workday starts, I sit in the corner chair, eyes closed, and ponder Christ’s presence. Later in the morning, or perhaps mid-afternoon, I take a walk. A slow walk. I saunter. Amble. I listen to the leaves and watch the birds. I feel the breeze upon my neck or the sun upon my face. I breathe. Life is better when I am not hurrying through it.

For consideration: take five minutes to pause today. Or thirty. 

The Melody of Shalom

Write 31 days, Day 16
Writing Prompt: Pray
(NB-I skipped a few days staffing Men at the Cross in Kentucky)

If you want to make many Christians feel guilty, ask about their prayer life. Every one of them would agree that prayer is important; the Bible talks frequently about prayer. Paul even told the Thessalonian believers to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:16). If you want to add confusion to their guilt, ask them what it means to actually pray without ceasing.

The reason we feel guilty and confused about prayer is that we define it too narrowly. Perhaps we treat it exclusively as “making our requests known to God” (Phil 4:6), or bestowing platitudes upon God: “O God, Dear Holy Lord, you alone are amazing. Just be with me God. In Jesus’ name. Ah–men.” Even some of our prayer tools (e.g., the ACTS method) restrict prayer. To be clear, these are wonderful prayers, but I want to challenge us to expand the horizons of our prayer. We learn with training wheels, but eventually, we take them off.

Prayer is so much more than we make it:
Prayer is delight, and prayer is lament.
It is requesting and receiving;
Gratitude and thanksgiving.
It is wonder and frustration.
Prayer revels in the beauty of creation, and groans under the weight of its brokenness.
It is boisterous merrymaking, and wordless agony.
It is walking hand in hand with your daughter in the chill October air;
It is holding space for your spouse’s pain;
It is harmonizing with your son in song;
It is attentive presence to your child’s story.
Prayer is seeking, and it is finding. And it is seeking again.
It is imprecation, celebration, lamentation, and contemplation.
It is confession and absolution;
Supplication and adoration.
It is intimate conversation with a friend.
It is the language of wholeness, the melody of shalom.

Prayer is union with God.

For reflection: 
Spend a few minutes reflecting on what you have come to believe about prayer. Has it changed over time?  

Listen

Write 31 days, day 13

Writing prompt: talk

I chewed on this word several times today, looking for something clever to say. All I kept coming to was this:

Let your words come to a stop.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Then listen and keep listening.

Our world desperately needs our ears more than our mouths.

Reflection: sit in silence for ten minutes. Practice the spiritual discipline of not having to have the last word.

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