Top Five Friday: Top Five Things I Loved About Our Cruise

2014 02 Caribbean Cruise15I’ve joked with friends all week that our return to the (literally) frozen tundra of Iowa after a week on a Caribbean cruise has prompted me to want to call my doctor as ask for antidepressants in an I.V. drip. Getting unburied from the piles, I have yet to find time to write a worthwhile post about our adventure, but for Top Five Friday I thought I’d give the Top Five things I loved about our cruise:

  1. Being “at sea.” Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a love of being on the water. I dreamed as a child of going into the navy and spending my life at sea. That didn’t happen, of course, but being on the ocean brought back those childhood dreams and desires.
  2. Being rocked to sleep by the motion of the waves. Some people struggle with the gentle rocking and rolling motion of a ship at sea, but I absolutely loved it. At home, Wendy and I sleep each night to a should machine making the sound of ocean waves. Now, if I could only rig up some kind of hydraulics to rock our bed gently!
  3. The view. See my earlier post this week.
  4. The quiet. If you have ever been on a cruise you know that the cruise line gives you a long daily list of activities, games, classes, workshops, entertainment, and experiences that can and will keep you busy from early morning until the wee hours of the following day. Wendy and I pretty much eschewed all of it in favor of quietly sitting on the verandah, sipping a drink, reading a book and watching the ocean roll by. I don’t regret the decision to do so.
  5. Elegant, fine dining every night. We did, however, enjoy cleaning up and dressing up each night to make our evening meal in the dining room an elegant experience. The service pampered us and the amazing food/wine spoiled us. On Friday afternoon in the Bahamas a woman who had eaten at the table across from us a couple of nights stopped to ask Wendy and me for directions. She did a double take and pointed to Wendy saying “YOU I recognize, but YOU (she pointed at me) look TOTALLY DIFFERENT without your bow tie!” ūüôā
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“Freud’s Last Session”

C.S. Lewis
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smok...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Psalm 146:2 (NIV)

Wendy and I went to see a wonderful play last night entitled Freud’s Last Session. It is set in the early days of World War II. Sigmund Freud fled Vienna and sought refuge in London. It is 1939 and his death from oral cancer is imminent. The play is a “what if” imagining in which the brilliant psychoanalyst and staunch atheist calls a young Oxford Professor and ¬†Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, to visit him in his London office.

The two intellectuals spar conversationally for an hour and twenty minutes about life, death, God, religion,¬†history, sex, and family. There is precious little agreement but plenty of humorous jabs and flashes of passionate verbal conflict in-between very poignant human moments. The German Blitz and impending war is a present reality in the room as is Freud’s impending death. Their world views are polar opposites and in conflict with one another, yet under the tense debate between proud, brilliant scholars is a respectful curiosity of the opponent, a delight in the conversation and the desire understand.

There is no “winner” or “loser” in the play. Neither man is convinced or converted. In the final minutes through his coughing up blood, Freud makes his declaratory statement that the truth he sees is that “the end [e.g. death] is the end.” Lewis amicably departs his session with Freud, and each audience member is left to weigh the arguments themselves and carry on the conversation.

I woke up this morning thinking about the play, the men, and their respective world views. As I read the psalmist’s lyric above, I thought of Lewis, the story of his conversion, and his personal faith journey which . I have a story like his, and I closely identified with the faith and world view which molded Lewis’ own life journey for another 34 years after the play’s end. I can’t imagine my life apart from my faith. Like the psalmist, like Lewis, it is a faith journey which I will walk to my grave. At the same time, because of my faith I can’t imagine not loving and respecting those who don’t share it. Even those who passionately disagree with me.

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A New Song

Musician in Funchal
Musician in Funchal (Photo credit: lode.rummens)

I will sing a new song to you, my God;
Psalm 144:9a (NIV)

Can people really change, or are we stuck in patterns of behavior over which we are powerless?

That is a pretty important question for anyone who gives serious consideration to their life and path. Over the years I’ve run into a lot of people who truly and honestly raise the white flag of surrender on their habits and destructive behaviors:

  • I was born this way.”
  • It’s genetic.”
  • It’s just who I am. I can’t change.”
  • There’s nothing I can do about it.”

I have come to recognize that there are some things that we can’t change, although I’ve discovered that most of the things that I can’t change are circumstances and people I don’t and shouldn’t control. My own thoughts, words, and behaviors however are things I’ve found that can¬†and do change.

I was struck this morning by David’s commitment to sing a new song to God. He’s not just singing a song, but a new song. It’s an important recurring theme in David’s lyrics. Across the anthology of psalms you’ll find the phrase “new song” in psalms 33, 40, 96, 98, 144 and 149. I love the word picture because God is a God of transformation. Through victories, defeats, major successes and abysmal failures David continued to recognize God’s continuous and transformative act of creation in his life.

My personal experience of following Jesus is that it leads to a never ending call to examine, confess, and change. My life is a churning process of personal re-creation. The theme of my life’s song changes from season to season. Old things pass away, and new things come. And, it never ends in this lifetime unless I choose out. And, choosing out is always an option. Many people do.

This morning I am more committed than ever to the music God is composing through my life. There are dissonant notes coming out of my thoughts, words, and actions which I know I need to change. There are parts of the orchestration that I don’t control and I must be content to make changes and improvisations that weave my notes into harmony with them. The one thing I don’t want to do is stop playing.

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The Hope of Dawn

Dawn Over Lake of the Ozarks
photo by Tom Vander Well

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Psalm 143:8 (NIV)

Morning has always been one of my favorite times of the day. Each day I wake up and the sun rises it is a fresh eucatastrophe of Life.¬†Hope comes with the dawn and I have a fresh start and a clean slate in front of me. Whatever poor choices I made yesterday, the dawn brings opportunity to make different and better choices today. I can’t change the past, but each morning I am reminded that I have this day to love well, live well, laugh well, en-joy my blessings, be a blessing to others, and join the Creator in the art of creating something new.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote in his poem of Lamentation that God’s love and compassion are “new every morning.” ¬†Old things pass away each night, and new things come with the break of each dawn.

Today lies before me like a blank canvas. What picture will I paint in my relationships? What story will I write with my choices? I am not guaranteed a tomorrow. What will I do with this one day that is dawning; The one day I know I have before me?

Good morning.

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7 Things Sunday

Wendy and I are proud of our daughters, and of the wisdom and maturity they demonstrate for their age. I submit to you, as Exhibit A, Taylor’s blog post from this past week. Enjoy. You can follow her blog at http://love-taylor.com

Love, Taylor

7thingssundayyy-1

Bring-little-love-simple-Spring-blooms-flower-heart-print-16

I hope that you all had happy hearts this week! I hate that couples take the cake on Valentine’s Day because really it’s just a day to overtly celebrate love. Anyone and everyone can do that. Think about or do the things that make your heart sing! Treat yo’self: to pedicures. To an extra piece. To a dance in your new underwear. To an hour of quiet. Make things: hats for people with cold heads. Drawings for people with naked fridges. Gluten-free cake for people with sensitive tummies. Tea for the friend who is sad. Give things: Nice words to people without smiles. Kisses and hugs to your grandma, boyfriend, kid or cat. Your precious time to the ignored or poor. Your prayers and thankful heart to the Creator. Remind people they aren’t alone. FYI: This week is Random Acts of Kindness Week! What a perfect way to extend the…

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Big Blue Sky; Deep Blue Ocean

Canon EOS 6D f/18 1/320 ISO 100
Canon EOS 6D f/18 1/320 ISO 100

Suzanna asked Wendy and me what our “favorite” thing was from the cruise. For me, it was sitting on our verandah taking in the view of the sky and ocean. I spent a lot of time last week simply sitting quietly and watching the ocean roll by. It’s not something I get to see living in Iowa, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Sometimes I like photographs, not because they are a particularly perfect from a photography perspective, but because they are linked to something very personal and intimate. I took a lot of photographs of the view from our verandah last week. This photo captured, as well as any, a hint of the immensity of it. I loved that the sun was high and intense. There was a balance to the elements and the gradient of the hues of blue (my favorite color) in both air and water was gorgeous. This photo is linked to my experience and all the moments of peace, comfort and quiet looking out over the vast ocean, and that makes it special to me.

 

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Personal Captivity

Source: Doug Floyd
Source: Doug Floyd

Set me free from my prison,
    that I may praise your name.
Psalm 142:7 (NIV)

The key to understanding David’s “prison” is by reading the liner notes to this particular song’s lyrics: “A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.” The fact that the note is specific in mentioning “the” cave means that it refers to the Cave of Adullam which was a secret fortress and a bandits hideout. David was on the run from King Saul who unjustly wanted to wipe him out. There was a price on his head. For David, as time passed, the cave transformed itself from a place of refuge into a personal prison.

One of the definitions of “prison” is “any place of confinement or involuntary restraint.” Our prison can be any number of places that have nothing to do with steel bars and razor wire. Our prison can be a house or a room within a house. For a weary traveller, an airport, airplane or auto can become a prison. Relationships can become tortuous places of confinement. For those struggling with addictions, disorders, disease or handicap, our very own bodies can become our prison cell. Any who have struggled with the weight of guilt and shame know that our very soul can become our personal penitentiary.

David’s song is a wailing blues number and a desperate cry for salvation from his intensely personal problems. Each of us experience our own places of confinement. Sometimes we have been placed there involuntarily. Other times we find, like David, that a place we once ran for refuge has become a source of torment. Crazier still, we sometimes choose to stay in our personal prison because the torment we know seems less fearful than the freedom that is available to us.

I am reminded this morning of the quote from the prophet Isaiah which became the core of Jesus’ first public teaching:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
¬† ¬† to proclaim the year of the Lord‚Äôs favor.‚ÄĚ [emphasis added]

Today, I am praying for myself and all those who know the pain of captivity in all of its diverse and personal manifestations. My prayer is rooted in Jesus’ words: “If you hold to my teaching,¬†you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

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