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

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 Healed Soul

The Healed Soul

“The soul is healed by being with children.”

–Fyodor Dostoevsky

Happiness came at last for Dostoevsky in his mid-forties. Anna Snitkina and Fyodor Dostoevsky married and enjoyed sixteen wondrous years.

Anna’s writings gave us an intimate glimpse of Dostoevsky as an adoring husband. Once, he waited three hours for her on a street corner when her return was delayed. He also took great joy in giving her beautiful gifts—even when money seemed scarce.

8b0c79d0b2He had a tireless love of children and soothed the housekeeper’s children when he heard coughing or crying in the night. As a devoted father, he helped with bathing and feeding their children, unlike men of his day. Anna described him…

“Fyodor was uncommonly tender with his daughter, fussed over her, carried her about in his arms, sang her to sleep and felt so happy that he wrote (a friend), ‘Oh, why aren’t you married and why don’t you have a child? I swear to you that ¾ of life’s happiness lie in that, and ¼ at most in the rest.’”[i] Anna added, “Neither before nor since have I seen a man with such a capacity to enter the world of children.”[ii]

Dostoevsky also proved to be deeply passionate about God. He knew the depths of spiritual battles and once wrote:

“Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man.”[iii]

Another time he wrote, “God sends me sometimes instants when I am completely calm; at those instants I love and feel loved by others, and it is at those instances that I have shaped for myself a Credo where everything is clear and sacred for me. This Credo is very simple; here it is:Continue reading