Twelve Days

Twelve Days

There comes a time after listening and learning, when “doing” becomes all-important. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I need is another page of notes. If we don’t put anything to the test, how will we know if what we’ve learned is real? So for this last post of the year, I’m challenging you to take action.

One thing—each day—for twelve days.

Day 1 – Do something surprisingly generous. It doesn’t have to be monetary. It could be the gift of listening or sharing food. My friend Greg once went out of his way to deliver a box of donuts to a state government office—a place where the overworked staff were a little cranky. His simple gesture, so unexpected, changed the atmosphere!

Man on stormy beachDay 2 – Take a solitary walk and tell God your innermost thoughts. It helps if you can talk out loud. Tell Him your darkest, most hopeless, or cynical feelings. Tell Him what you’re afraid of—the future? Finances? Sickness? Death? Confess to Him your secret failures, your loneliness. Get it out in words and lay it all before Him. He can handle it. Then listen.

Hands in skyDay 3 – Take an hour to worship God. Not meaning church on Sunday. Pick a place where you can recline—a favorite chair, a hammock, a couch, a bed or even a floor. My granddaughter likes to lay under the Christmas tree. If you’re like me, let go of your driven holiday mindset. Pick your style of worship music and if you’re not alone, use earphones. I’m currently swept away by Ola Gjello’s Sunrise Mass. Though sung in Latin, the music is moving and sends me to heavenly places.

Day 4 – Ask God for a single word or phrase regarding your life at present. I remember feeling upset when my husband had to be away in Africa for two months. I asked God for a word of encouragement. The word “respite” came to mind. At first I thought, “re-SPITE”? Was it even a word? But the term, “RES-pite,” is in the dictionary and means an interval of rest. God reframed our time apart as a season to recharge, write, and enjoy some solitude. Any introvert would understand. Still it meant something to hear God’s take on it.Continue reading

The Trap of Joylessness

The Trap of Joylessness

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a Saturday Night Live skit called, “The Girl You Wished You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.” Cecily Strong acts the role of the girl who is characteristically drunk and ditzy, with know-it-all opinions in a pseudo-activist kind of way. She’s looking for a fight. The “straight man” is played by Seth Meyers.

“So are you excited about the holidays?” He asks.

“Excited. I’m repulsed. All this ‘mercialism around Christmas is an outrage. It’s a trajesty. It’s like ‘What are we even doing?’ …” She scoffs.

“You really seem like you’re in the Christmas spirit,” he teases. What does one say to a contentious soul?

“You mean the Christ-mas spirit? Oh right, you don’t care about Jesus because you worship Hallmark.”

“Oh boy!” He looks away.

Later she asks him what he wants for Christmas.

“I don’t wanna tell you,” he says.

“Would you just relax? I’m just asking you what you want for Christmas.”

“Okay, well, I was hoping to get the new iPad.”

She responds with staged timing. “I asked for an end to genocide.”

“Oh, c’mon.” He rolls his eyes.

She slams him further. “Okay, so maybe the next time you’re on your new iPad…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” He feels it coming.

“…Look up ‘How to be a decent human being.’”

And so it goes. Though she doesn’t really portray a Christian, her contrary nature is something I’ve seen in Internet exchanges and Facebook arguments by all kinds of people, including believers.

I stopped to reflect. Some have said that Christians would be called “the haters,” in the last days. In a culture that often reverses right and wrong, standing up for what’s right can be polarizing. Still it doesn’t have to be hateful.

Big stack of colorful Christmas presentsAs I watched the skit, I felt a twinge in my chest. Something else was stirring inside me. Continue reading

Slightly Out Of Reach

Slightly Out Of Reach

“A father holds out his hands to a child who is learning to walk, and he comforts the child with words and draws it toward him, but he lets the child feel the risk it is taking, and lets it choose its own courage and the certainty of love and comfort when he reaches his father over—I was going to say choose it over safety, but there is no safety. And there is no choice, either because it is in the nature of the child to walk. As it is to want the attention and encouragement of the father. And the promise of comfort. Which it is in the nature of the father to give. I feel it would be presumptuous of me to describe the ways of God…when there is so much we don’t know. Though we are told to call Him Father.”

A child feels the risk...

A child feels the risk…

This excerpt is a letter from the remarkable old pastor John Ames, to his wife, Lila, in Marilynne Robinson’s new novel, Lila. The wife has gone through hardscrabble beginnings and is searching for an answer as to why things are the way they are. Why do things happen as they do? Over the course of the story, her husband reveals what he’s come to understand about existence and suffering.

Premiers pasIn the pastor’s kind letter, God is portrayed as a father who offers certain love. At the same time, the child has to take that step and feel the risk of taking it. The toddler has to choose its own courage, because there’s no safety in those first steps.

And so it is for us in choosing steps of faith.

Bill Glass, former NFL star, has worked in prison ministry for decades. He’s shared his life message—“The Healing Power of a Father’s Blessing”—in and out of penitentiaries all over the world. Years ago, I heard his basic talk on the subject. It’s in my top five.

He says a father’s blessing conveys love only if it includes the following…Continue reading