Years ago, Nicholas Herman slogged along a snowy trail in the dead of winter. As a weary soldier, he could hardly wait to thaw his frozen feet and eat a bowl of hearty stew. However, while trudging home he came upon a mature fruit tree, stripped bare of its summer beauty.

It gave him pause.

red apple on green leavesGazing at the tree, he considered how the leaves would burst forth with vitality come spring. A flurry of flowers would bloom, bringing color and fragrance. And after lush rains and summer sun, fruit would form.

Like something from nothing, God would provide a bountiful harvest. Suddenly, it all seemed miraculous.

As he stayed in the wonder of those thoughts, God’s presence quietly descended on him, showering glory all around. Who knows how long he remained there. Time had somehow stopped.

d5545757-2c90-4727-80f0-9ec5d0b269c7And in those holy moments, God imprinted something on his soul, which never faded. Released from the mindset of things-as-they-seem, he was captured by a “high view of the providence and power of God.” Later, he told a friend that the experience produced a passion for God in his heart that did not diminish in the forty years that followed.

That young soldier was also known as Brother Lawrence, a kitchen worker for the Carmelite monks in the 1600s. Like a dormant tree in spring, he awoke from an earthly mindset to a heightened heavenly awareness.

He believed an extraordinary God was intimately involved in ordinary life. And that one remarkable truth sparked an ongoing conversation with God that would last the rest of his life.

All because he paused.

Woman with headache, overwhelmed with lifeThe Spirit of God hovers over our busy, distracted, caffeine-charged, multi-tasking days—waiting for us to pause.

But the complexities of modern life demand our constant attention. An ad in the Wall Street Journal for SAP, a multi-national software company, stated that, “Complexity is becoming the most intractable issue of our time, an epidemic of wide-ranging proportions, affecting our lives, our work and even our health. Eight out of ten children today think life is too complicated. A third of working professionals experience health issues as a consequence of stress associated with information overload. And 62% believe their personal relationships are suffering as a direct result of complexity.”

“Complexity comes at an enormous cost,” the ad writer concluded.[i] Of course, SAP is peddling technical resources that promise to simplify. But software, no matter how helpful, is not a balm for our weary souls.

The question is—why don’t we pause? Is there a poverty of soul that we’re afraid to be in the same room with? Do we silence it with the drone of TV?Continue reading

Swimming Out of Our Depth

Swimming Out of Our Depth

In June 1975, Spielberg’s movie, Jaws, became a blockbuster. Chilling in its unpredictability, the movie left a searing mark on the imaginations of many.

photoDuring production, the mechanical shark sank on its first test run, and the crew started calling it “Flaws.” But something interesting developed as a result of the failure. Spielberg said, “I had no choice but to figure out how to tell the story without the shark. So I just went back to Alfred Hitchcock: ‘What would Hitchcock do in a situation like this?’… It’s what we don’t see which is truly frightening,” Spielberg said. With that insight, he started using the shark’s point-of-view, and in effect heightened the suspense exponentially.

It ruined ocean swimming for me.

That same summer, I worked as a lifeguard at Young Life’s Saranac Village in upstate New York. Each week, hundreds of high school campers came to enjoy sailing, swimming, canoeing, waterskiing, and even parasailing. Many would remember their experience as “the best week of their life,” because they also heard the greatest story ever told.

4YoungLifeCamp22One week, a powerboat driver pulling a water-skier failed to see some campers in a canoe. Fortunately, the kids bailed before the motorboat careened into their vessel.

No one was hurt, but they hauled the wrecked canoe up on the beach.

If you’ve been around Young Life, you know the staff had to make up a funny story about how that canoe got so mangled. With the horror of Jaws on everyone’s mind, they spun the legend of a great white “lake” shark. In its youth, the baby shark adapted to fresh water by swimming up the St. Lawrence Seaway from the ocean. Over time, it worked its way through smaller tributaries into Saranac Lake, while growing bigger every year. Right!

But the tall tale didn’t end with a mythical shark lurking in dark waters like the Lochness monster.

At the same time, certain leaders had been teasing the kitchen staff about the sticky peanut butter bars served at lunch. The treat was so gooey and tough, you risked extracting all your fillings. It was perfect fodder to embellish the shark story.

Leaders explained to the campers that leftover bars had been dumped in the lake. The scent drew the alleged shark to the camp’s waterfront. After gorging on the bars, it subsequently lost all its teeth. Thus, they nicknamed the shark, “Gums.” One leader added, “Believe me—it’s far worse to be gummed to death.”

1PropertyShot-SNV1The very next week, the camp hosted an inner-city group. The kids had never been on a waterfront, and therefore, were slightly more gullible. Leaders recounted the infamous story of Gums. The twisted canoe remain on the beach as tangible proof.

“Ah dudes, you jus messin’ wid us,” one kid surmised.

So the boat drivers schemed a live skit to bolster the tale. Continue reading

The Type E Person

The Type E Person

cheese puff backgroundI have a weakness for Cheetos. I admit it. I think about them in the grocery aisle. Sometimes I hide them in my pantry when others come snacking. I notice if anyone’s eaten more than his or her fair share. I’m a Cheetos aficionado, but it’s not a dangerous obsession. Yet.

Far more perilous are the mindsets that remain hidden and “run” my life. What’s insidious about these deeply held ideas is that they’re good things—things woven into the fabric of what it means to follow Jesus. It sounds like this…

“Do all the good you can…by all the means you can…in all the ways you can…in all the places you can…to all the people you can…as long as ever you can.”   —John Wesley

I embraced that sort of mantra down to the core of my being—even as a young girl— because it seemed good and right and true. But application is everything.

photo-4Just a few days ago, I realized that the only Beatles song I ever purchased was Eleanor Rigby. It struck me. What a sad song, about sad people, living sad lives.

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”

I cared. I worried. I tried to help and serve the marginalized, the rejected, the lonely, the troubled ones, the brokenhearted, the welfare mom, the elderly, the homeless, the kid in my high school who was persecuted for being a narc.

Drunk woman  with glassI can remember weeping at frat parties in college because so many kids were destroying themselves with alcohol, drugs and promiscuity. Crazy I know. Who does that? This acute awareness of others felt like wearing high-definition glasses. I saw too much.

Go the extra mile.Over the years, my “do-all-you-can” thinking was reinforced through Scripture, preaching, books, and even trusted people I admired. The title of Oswald Chambers’ devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, just about summed it up.

The enemy is treacherous, because he will take good things and make them more important than God, while convincing you that it’s all for God.

So The One who loves me had to paint a dramatic picture of what was happening to me. Continue reading