Tag Archives: Road

The Mystery of Real Strength

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.
Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

I have a tat on my left bicep. It is a reference to King David’s song of repentance, written after he’d been caught committing adultery, conspiracy, and murder (along with a host of other mistakes). The reference is on my the left arm because throughout the ages the left has metaphorically been used in reference to foolishness, oddity, and wrong doing (Wendy and I are both left-handed, btw). It has an illuminated “P” inspired by the Book of Kells in honor of the monks of Ireland who kept God’s Word alive on the edges of the known world while the institutional church and ecclesiastical powers in Rome and France led the western world into the dark ages. It is on my bicep to remind me of exactly what the ancient prophet Isaiah called out in today’s chapter:

In repentance and rest is your salvation,
In quietness and trust is your strength

For a good, long time on my life journey I followed the path I find most of the world follows. I hid my shortcomings beneath a well crafted public veneer of purity and self-righteousness. Like a successful political candidate I obfuscated, excused, ignored, and covered up. I refused to acknowledge my selfish motives, wanton appetites, and foolish choices. Like David, I woke up one day to find myself at a place on life’s road I swore I would never be. I had wandered so far.

My experience taught me hard and painful lessons in humility. Trouble is a powerful tutor, and I quietly began to understand what Paul was talking about when he wrote to the followers of Jesus in Corinth “But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.'”

The mystery of the spiritual paradox began to lay hold of me. In repentance is strength. Spiritual power is birthed through grace amidst the shattered pieces of my life and the tragic evidence of my own frail humanity. I struck out in a new direction, understanding that repentance, not self-righteousness, was the way of strength.

I put a tat on my left bicep to remind me, every day for the rest of my journey, what I have learned, and what I am continually learning.

Last night on the way home from rehearsal I was scanning through the music on my iPhone and stumbled upon an unlikely song I didn’t really know I had. It’s essentially a negro spiritual sung by the old Irish rocker Tom Jones. Talk about a paradox. I listened to it multiple times on the way home. Seems now like a bit of synchronicity in light of my thoughts this morning. I may find myself in a place of trouble, but God uses that trouble “for to make me human, to make me whole.”

Here are the words:

When I close my eyes, so I would not see,
My Lord did trouble me.
When I let things stand that should not be,
My Lord did trouble me. 

Did trouble me,
With a word or a sign,
With a ring of a bell in the back of my mind.
Did trouble me,
Did stir my soul,
For to make me human, to make me whole. 

When I slept too long and I slept too deep,
Put a worrisome vision into my sleep.
When I held myself away and apart,
And the tears of my brother didn’t move my heart. 

Did trouble me,
With a word and a sign,
With a ringing of a bell in the back of my mind.
Did trouble me,
Did stir my soul
For to make me human, to make me whole. 

And of this I’m sure, of this I know:
My Lord will trouble me.
Whatever I do, wherever I go,
My Lord will trouble me. 

In the whisper of the wind, in the rhythm of a song
My Lord will trouble me.
To keep me on the path where I belong,
My Lord will trouble me. 

Will trouble me,
With a word or a sign,
With the ringing of a bell in the back of my mind.
Will trouble me,
Will stir my soul,
For to make me human, to make me whole. 

To make me human, to make me whole.

Stories Behind the Blurbs

He judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died, and was buried at Shamir.
Judges 10:2 (NRSV)

I had my annual physical this past week. In just over four months I will hit one of those birthdays with a zero in it, and medically things kick into gear with this one. There are more tests, and more questions, and more pleas for precaution. I have the rare experience of having the same doctor who cut open my 11 year old leg to remove a giant chunk of skateboard now sticking his finger up my backside to check my prostate (Sorry…TMI).

So it is that my thoughts have wandered into the big picture considerations of life’s journey in recent days. I’m asking the GPS recalibration questions of life’s road:

  • Where have I been?
  • Where am I at?
  • Where am I going?

One of the interesting things I have observed as we journey through the Book of Judges is that there are Judges for whom chapters are devoted to telling their stories. Then, there are judges like Tola and Jair in todays’ chapter who are mentioned in passing. Tola led for 23 years. Period. End of story. Jair led 22 years, had 30 sons who rode 30 donkeys and lived in 30 towns. Done.

Garrison Keillor, in one of his Lake Wobegon monologues, made the observation that a small town newspaper isn’t really the news. What a small town newspaper prints is just a table of contents to what’s really happening (which will never be printed). I have come to realize that the same thing is true of obituaries.

Having officiated my share of funerals over the years, I’ve come to realize that the two or three paragraphs printed in the newspaper and read in the funeral service don’t really tell the story of a persons life any more than the silly numerical trivia of Jair’s sons can possibly be the totality of his tale. It’s when you sit around the living room with grieving spouses, children, and grandchildren eating a day old donut brought to the house by a well meaning neighbor that you begin to catch a hint of it. Hearing their memories in the privacy of home, away from the public eye and amidst the din of screaming children, you hear stories of quiet strength, simple love, and moments that changed life for an individual.

Tola and Jair may not have had stories that fill chapters in the Great Story. I know, however, that there is more to the stories behind the blurbs we read today. So it is with all of us. Very few of us get more than a two or three paragraph summation at the end of this journey. But, that’s not the whole story by a long shot. The real story is being written daily in our relationships, our words, our gestures, and our seemingly insignificant acts of kindness and love.

So how’s my story going as I approach mile marker 50?
Where have I been?
Where am I at?
Where am I going?

December 11. It’s about time to watch It’s a Wonderful Life again.

Top Five Restaurants on the Road

To the uninitiated, business travel may seem kinda cool and glamorous. Perhaps for some professions it is, but the reality is that I rarely see more than the inside of my client’s office and the inside of my hotel room. I’m usually tired by evening and just want to go somewhere reliable for a decent meal.

Here are the Top Five restaurants I like to frequent as a frequent traveler:

  1. Despite my less than stellar experience in Texas last week, my favorite the past few years has been Buffalo Wild Wings. The naked tenders are reasonably healthy and I can usually watch the Cubs on one of the 3,293,492 televisions at every location.
  2. Another favorite is Chili’s. Chips and Queso are always a winner, and if I have the will power to resist that, the guiltless grill options are pretty good too.
  3. If it’s lunch time, I’ve recently been looking for an Applebee’s. They have a great tortilla soup which they serve in combo with half a turkey sandwich. Usually quick and not too filling before a long afternoon of meetings.
  4. If I’m really feeling tempted to ignore my diet by eating a great burger that’s really bad for me, I’ll head to Famous Dave’s and have a Devil’s Spit burger.
  5. If Wendy is with me on the road, and I’m blessed that she gets to join me at least a few times each year, we always look for Buca di Beppo. It’s too much for one, but the Italian food served family style in a fun and festive atmosphere has become one of our favorites as a couple. Ever since they inexplicably closed their West Des Moines location, we look forward to any opportunity to diner there.

Journeys, Waypoints, and Destinations

familyThese six were born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven years and six months. David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years…. 1 Chronicles 3:4 (NIV)

Time has been on my mind a lot lately. From my current waypoint on life’s road I’m watching our daughters in the early stages of their adult lives. Taylor has been working and planning for grad school. Madison is taking a year off of being a full-time student to work and get her Colorado residency. They are dealing with jobs and bosses and learning lessons about living life on their own. Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, has been living with us for almost a year. We’ve helped her manage her senior year of high school, watched her graduate, and now we’re helping her navigate job, plans for college, and setting a course for life. These three very capable young ladies have so much of life ahead of them, so many lessons to learn, and so many things to experience. I’m excited for each one.

Wendy and I are at a very different place in the journey, and it sometimes feels odd to me in the same way it feels odd for Taylor not to have the summer off, for Madison to be taking time away from school, or for Suzanna to think she never has to go back to high school. I look at our parents and assume that they have their own oddities they feel with their respective waypoints on life’s road. The journey is about being in motion. The road never stops taking you to places unfamiliar. Try as you might, you can never rush the journey. “Shortcuts make for long delays.”

I’m reminded once more this morning of David’s journey. Anointed King of Israel as a boy, it was many years before he was crowned the head of his tribe, and another seven and a half years before that led to the throne of Israel for which he was anointed and destined (remember that destiny and destination are related!). Roughly twenty some years lay between those two waypoints in which his life’s road twisted, turned, rose, fell, and switched-back in odd ways. C’est la vie.

Today I’m grateful for God’s faithfulness and abundant grace. I’m excited and prayerful for our girls as they follow behind on life’s road. I’m prayerful and supportive of our parents who blaze the trail ahead. I’m content knowing that with every knew experience along the way come odd feelings and new lessons. Our job is to keep moving. We’ll reach our respective waypoints in God’s perfect timing.

Lace ’em up friends. Here we go.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Carte Blanche Companions

 

Joab confronts the grieving King David
Joab confronts the grieving King David

Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.” 2 Samuel 19:5-7 (NIV)

One of the most fascinating aspects of my day job is the opportunity I have to work with many different companies and to interact with people at diverse levels of the organization from the front-line to the executive suite. Long ago I realized that the culture of a company is a trickle-down affair that begins with the man or woman at the very top. I remember one client whose CEO ran the company by fear and intimidation. No one would stand up to him, even when he is clearly mistaken or making a wrong move, for fear of losing their proverbial heads in a board meeting (and, perhaps, their jobs). The result was a highly dysfunctional organization which mirrored the CEO. The entire corporate culture was one of intimidation, fear, and c.y.a. which permeated virtually every level of the operation.

One of the things I’ve observed about David as we’ve been reading his story the past few months is the fact that David had a select group of men in his life who could get in his face and call him to account even if they had to be careful about how they did it. In today’s chapter, David’s general and right-hand man Joab confronts David about the grave danger he’s putting himself in by allowing his grief for Absalom overshadow his duty as king. The kingdom was in a precarious political situation and David was close to losing it all. Joab lost no time in getting in David’s face and speaking the truth to him. To his credit, David listened to his long-time trusted general and advisor.

I have a handful of people in my life, people with whom I have intentionally surrounded myself, who have carte blanche to get in my face whenever necessary. These are people with whom I talk about and share life with on a regular basis. We talk about business, church, family, friendships, finances, and relationships. If they think I’m screwing something up, then they have permission to question me or call me out, and they would expect the same from me.

This journey through life can be a long hike. The first rule any child learns about hiking in the wilderness is “buddy up.” To go it alone is to put yourself in danger. Ironically, our greatest danger often resides within ourselves. Without faithful companions who can catch it and call us out, we may not realize it until it’s too late.

Today, I’m thankful for my faithful companions on this life journey.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Top Five Quiet Places

IMG_1486

Speaking of quiet, this week’s Top Five Friday are my Top Five quiet places. The places where I like to steal away:

1. My home office. I grew up having a room of my own and, as a child, I retreated there to play, imagine, create, and rest. Some days my room became the bridge of Star Trek’s Enterprise. Other days it was a courtroom, or a battlefield, or a football stadium. Now that I am grown, I still retreat to my room which is my home office. While the primary focus on the space is work, it is also the place for my quiet morning conversations with God. I still find myself playing, creating, and letting my imagination run free.

2. The Playhouse. We intentionally have not hooked up a television signal here. There is a television and DVD play for movies, but we’ve chosen to hold back the intrusion and constancy of the noise. Here at the lake the house, the deck, and the dock are places for quiet.

3. My car. I spend a fair amount of time on the road. The trip to Des Moines for work meetings is an hour each way. A trip to the Twin Cities for client meetings is roughly four hours each way. While I don’t always love the long drives, I’ll admit that I sometimes look forward to some windshield time. Sometimes it’s nice to turn off the radio, let the white noise of the road rumble on, and let my mind go.

4. The Des Moines Art Center. It’s always quiet. It’s free. There’s amazing artwork to inspire me no matter what my mood or mindset. What’s not to love?

5. Coffee shops. I don’t have a favorite, though I’m particularly fond of unique, out-of-the-way coffee shops which offer a one-of-a-kind ambiance and a slower, quiet neighborhood type of pace. There’s something I like about sitting alone in one place with my coffee and my journal, newspaper, or book and letting the rest of the world buzz in and out past me.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Worthwhile Spiritual Exercise

Long Road
(Photo credit: Johnny Peacock)

If the Lord had not been on our side….
Psalm 124:1a (NIV)

The lyrics of David’s psalm this morning are straight and to the point. Had it not been for God, he sings, he and his people would have been swallowed up by their enemies. Suddenly as I read the lyrics this morning I thought of all the ways my life’s path and destination would be different “If the Lord had not been on my side.”

If the Lord had not been on my side:

  • I would have given myself over to dark impulses a long time ago
  • I don’t believe I would have found my way out of dark places
  • I would be buried in and paralyzed by crippling shame
  • I would be a far worse arrogant jerk than I am
  • I would be nowhere near the waypoint in life I find myself
  • I would likely have never met Wendy
  • Wendy and I might not have survived a few of those years
  • As David sings: “The raging waters would have swept us away”

What a worthwhile mental and spiritual exercise to start my day, which leads me to a similar conclusion as it did David in his song.

Thanks, God. I am both humble and grateful.

Enhanced by Zemanta