Archive | quiet life

in my father’s footsteps

father's footsteps

“So, will any of your kids follow in your footsteps? Will any of them be doctors?” Several people have posed the question over the years. “Not if I can help it.” My dad responds.

As a matter of fact, my dad has been so open about the pitfalls of becoming a medical doctor that he has talked many students out of going to medical school (so many, in fact, that there was a Facebook group for all of the converts!) Many nurses and physicians’s assistants do what they do because my dad convinced them that becoming a doctor isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Obviously, the world needs doctors, just as the world needs fighter pilots and miners and astronauts, but none of us have turned out to be any of those either. My dad works as an emergency room physician in a busy college town and he is amazing at what he does. His schedule is never the same, sometimes days, sometimes nights, without so much as a cubicle to take a break in. He has to be a leader, a thinker, a calm presence at all times to perform well. He sets bones and prescribes medicine and comes home sore from CPR and yes, he has to watch people die. He has to tell parents that their child didn’t make it. He stops and prays with the family and sometimes, around the advent wreath, we all cry as he tells the story.

Because yes, your doctor goes home and cries. He goes home and kisses his wife and prays with his kids and falls asleep wondering if he should have done anything differently. He spends his days with runny noses and contagious disease, his nights with drunks and suicide victims. He restarts hearts, sews up wounds and delivers babies in the ambulance bay. His job is anything but easy.

Like I said, none of his kids will be MDs, and yet we do follow in his footsteps. You see, I might have a little more medical knowledge than the next girl, but the main thing my dad taught me was to love Jesus and to depend on Him at all times. God is often called “The Great Physician.” Jesus said he came to heal the sick. These days I hear people calling the church a hospital. We are the church and we make house calls.

Just like my dad gets weary and we all wish he could catch a break or make a breakthrough that would allow him to do something else before he does break, my siblings and I come home and we are weary. We wonder how many more of our friends we will talk through divorce? How many more friends will leave the faith? How many more times we’ll sit at Starbucks and listen someone say that they just can’t hold on any longer?

We have no briefcase, no scrubs, no diploma on the wall, and yet God continually sends us to the sick and needy. He continually puts the medicine in our hands and says, “Go and minister.”

I think of an ordinary day and my older sister is texting the single mom and my brother is on the phone with a friend whose marriage is on the fritz, my little siblings are all praying at dinner for the man in the coma and I’m penning letters to the lost and lonely. Where was the sign up sheet? Are we qualified for this job? Will we be paid?

When I see what my dad does, day after day, I think he doesn’t get paid nearly enough. And I think the same about anyone who does their job to the glory of God. We put in more than we’ll get out on this earth. Going the extra mile can make you sweat and being somebody’s only friend can exhaust you and praying with the dying can drain you, but it can also come back around and bless you. God works in mysterious ways, they say. Man, that’s true.

The stuff we never would’ve signed up for had there been a sign up sheet, the stuff we never would’ve felt qualified for had our calling been on the phone, the stuff no amount of money could ever pay for, it is the most valuable kind of work. You don’t get paid for it because you can’t get paid for it. There is no method of payment for compassion. No fund or grant for empathy. It’s a different line of work that didn’t originate here and you can’t go to school for it. People think you’re weird for doing it and they probably tell you to just stop. You wouldn’t know it by your bank account, but it pays better than the NFL. You pay in your time, your blood, sweat and tears, your comfort and blissful ignorance, but at the end of the day you don’t regret it.

I may be squeamish around blood and disinterested in a degree much less medical school, but I do follow in my father’s footsteps. My dad’s money goes many ways, but he seems okay with that. After all, we can’t take it with us, he says. Our eyes are on a different goal.

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how to truly end waste

spanish moss

This post is part of a series. Part One, Part Two.

I am hesitant to sign up to host an angel, because I’m not always a perfect hostess. What if I’m in a bad mood and fail to make conversation or I burn the casserole and forget to buy butter? And yet, when scripture says some of us will “entertain angels unawares” we are being warned not to neglect showing hospitality to strangers. Do we not think that human strangers also report to God? That He is not watching them just as closely as He watches His angels? We are to be hospitable to everyone (never knowing if they are an angel or “merely” a child of God.)

I think we tend to keep our planet and it’s animals, eco-system and human life very separate from the spiritual realm. Stories of miracles and angels interacting with mortality are like quick visions of meteors streaming across our view of the milky way. If you believe in them at all, you think they happen once in a blue moon and never guess that you yourself might be looking up when such a thing occurs.

That is probably why it has taken me so long to write this series. I had a lot of thoughts on waste, but they all seemed disconnected. There was the truth that kept sinking deeper into my mind that God wastes nothing in our lives, not even pain or loss. And then there was the ordinary type of waste. Actual trash we put in our dumpsters and time we spend worrying about our crooked mouth and un-plucked (or as I like to call them, “free range”) eyebrows.

I do believe in meteors and I believe that sometimes they crash into planets or other things in space before they burn out, like a miraculous meeting of two kindred spirits (only a little more explosive.) That’s the way this series was born. Suddenly I realized that my thoughts were connected. All waste is the same. Everything comes from God. God wastes nothing. We waste everything.

Material waste is a huge, huge issue in our world. Not only is it greatly hurting the planet itself, it is hurting people directly. I recently read that 1.3 billion tons of food produced world wide is wasted or lost each year. (That’s 1/3 of the annual production.) While some of this food is lost or wasted in production, most of it is wasted by consumers, particularly in the United States. In 2010, an estimated 33 million tons of food waste went into U.S. landfills and incinerators.

How is this hurting people? A billion people are malnourished today.

While I was whining about what was on my plate and wishing I could throw my stir-fry to the dog, my baby brother was being born in Port-Au-Prince and growing a huge, bloated belly. Waste hurts people because they need what we are throwing away.

Do you know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? Do you know why God had to burn the whole county down with fire from heaven?

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49, emphasis mine.)

And that’s when I realized how to truly end waste. Waste has a natural enemy, and it’s not recycling. The natural enemy of waste is gratitude.

compost

You never, ever throw away something you are truly grateful for. I was not grateful for the ice left in my cup after drinking a glass of water, but the children at the orphanage would clobber for the sink to grab it from the drain, grateful (if not also a little greedy.) We throw away food and clothing and time and relationships because we simply don’t appreciate them. We do not bow our faces to the floor and thank God for the things we scrape off of our plates.

When you cultivate a heart of gratitude, you cease to waste. And when you see the gift and the beauty and grace in everything that comes your way, you never think of throwing it out. You keep it, you use it, you share it, but you don’t waste it.

If the people of Sodom had taken their excess of food and used it to aid the poor and needy, we would’ve know they were not proud. They would’ve been a grateful, humble people, probably honored in scripture rather than held up as an example of despicableness. That’s the irony of the holiday season. We want more, grab more, covet more and waste more during this season than any other. Why can’t we see that we have more to be grateful for than we have to complain about? Why don’t we see that we are filthy, filthy, filthy rich?

In her wonderful book, Discipline: The Glad SurrenderElisabeth Elliot writes:

“The goodness and love of God choose the gifts, and we say thank you, acknowledging the Thought Behind as well as the thing itself. Covetousness involves suspicion about the goodness and love of God, and even His justice. He has not given me what He gave somebody else. He doesn’t notice my need. He doesn’t love me as much as He loves him. He isn’t fair.

Faith looks up with open hands. “You are giving me this, Lord? Thank you. It is good and acceptable and perfect.” Pg. 108

So back up a bit, look at the big picture. The sky is full of meteors and you’ve been given eyes to see.

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this is the day

beauty berry: this is the day

I’ve often heard it said that we should live like we’re dying.

Really? Like we’re dying? That sounds kind of panicked if not macabre. What about living like there’s something worth living for, whether you have a thousands of days left on this earth or just one?

I’m in a pseudo college student season. Most of my friends are in class all day, watching their grades, applying for internships and grad schools. They all seem to have a few questions in common, “What should I do after I graduate?” being number one.

Though my lifestyle is very different, our questions sound the same. I’m living at home, writing blog posts instead of papers. I spend 90% of my time with my family, most of that at Eyrie Park. I cook, clean, run errands and goof off with my ten-year old sister almost every day. It’s not the life of a college student.

But I have the same fears. What if I’m wasting my life?

crooked: this is the day

What if I never marry? What if I never become independent? What if I get stuck and nothing comes of any of this effort?

It’s a season of questions and waiting. There is a feeling of rushing down a river toward a waterfall, unsure of what fate might lie at the bottom. Every day bustles by, every iphone has a full calendar app. Plans must be made and made now or you’ll miss the boat! And everyone knows what happens to people who go over the waterfall without a boat…

sisters: this is the day

Sometimes my house is suffocating, but I’m always thankful that I live here rather than in a dorm with a couple of people my own age. I sometimes slip out of the house and walk around in the pasture (less now that we’re building a house there!) and think about what’s changed and what’s remained. I know that some changes come like spirits through all the walls and locked doors we may put up. They appear when we least expect them, but their presence is impossible to ignore. Jubilee is getting tall and losing her baby teeth. She reads chapter books in a day and bravely goes to overnight events at the church. You can’t mistake the fact that she’ll soon be a young lady.

But I think I forget to remember this one thing: today is today. And today is the day. The day that the Lord has given me at this ordained time. I will never wake up and say, “Hooray! It’s finally “tomorrow”! Now I can be the person I always wanted to be!” The future won’t feel like the future. It will feel like today.

photo ala photo: this is the day

And that’s the secret to living life like life’s worth living. That’s the secret to enjoying your life! Enjoy today. And then enjoy today. And then enjoy today.

I’m not waiting for anything. Sometimes I get giddy thinking of what God might have in store for me, but I don’t know what that might be. One way or another, it is beyond my imagination. But I don’t have to “wait” for that. He’s given me something today. Life. Breath. People to love. Things to do.

My rushing about doesn’t change how soon God’s best will come. It’s a daily thing. New mercies every morning. The rising of the sun. The postal service. :)

rainboots: this is the day

I’m done wasting my life while waiting for it to begin. There is so much given to me daily and so little faith in all my plans. God planned this day for me. It would be a sad thing indeed to waste it waiting for tomorrow.

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day..” Hebrews 3:13 

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the myth of the macho man

macho man

Once upon a time God created the earth and he needed someone to destroy it, so he created man.

Or so you would think the story goes by listening to the conversations I overhear between guys. Now, I don’t want to be a man-hater in this post. I have some excellent men in my life and I am sure there are many more in this world I’ve yet to meet. My dad, brothers, brother-in-law, cousins, friends from church and that handful of guys who have always read my blog and followed me on Twitter much to my confusion (hi guys!) are all wonderful.

Even the guys that this post is about are really great guys. They go to church, they treat their girlfriends right, they tell their mamas that they love ‘em. They’re good ol’ boys (as my grandpa would say) and yet they seem to have a very skewed view of manhood. I am not going to try to define manhood (I’m hardly the person for that job!) but I don’t feel unqualified to write this post. All I am going to do is to quote scripture and voice my opinion on what I appreciate (and what I don’t) in the behavior of male acquaintances.

With those disclaimers (refresher: I don’t hate men and this stereotype does not apply to all males, amen!) I give you The Macho Manifesto:

1. All male Christians should be macho, because otherwise, they’re feminine/untrue to how God made them. Boys will be boys, or should be anyway.

2. To be macho is to be wild, undomesticated, loud, rough, sloppy, hungry, dangerous and most importantly: destructive (to the glory of God.)

3. Appropriate Macho activities include but are not limited to: playing sports, watching sports, getting involved in borderline illegal activity and killing animals.

I am not saying that men should not be manly or that sports are evil or that I want to marry someone whose favorite activities are manicures and yoga. That’s not the point at all. The point is that somehow throughout time, men have been fed a lie. A lie that tells them that to be a real man and to be attractive to women, they must stomp through life with no concern for the wake of damage that follows behind them. This is not true. Scripture does not back it up and I can personally testify that this is not attractive to my Godly female friends or myself. This is not merely a matter of preference, but of ethics. Preferences are things like blue eyes or a great singing voice. This is an issue of men taking an unethical view of creation and thinking that it should be, not only acceptable in the Christian life, but the pinnacle of Godly manhood. Here is why I disagree:

1.   All of creation belongs to God. He takes no pleasure in death.

 I don’t like the idea of hunting if the goal is simply to domineer oneself over an animal. God made it clear that we have dominion over all of creation, we don’t need to trap and kill to prove that. Sitting in a tree house throwing corn out for deer day after day and then shooting them with a scoped rifle is hardly hunting. If you enjoy being in nature, observing animals, camping, tracking, etc. be my guest, but there is no reason for these kinds of activities to end in death. I can’t imagine that Jesus, who came to conquer death, would want us to find any pleasure in death, even the death of an animal.

Using dead animals as trophies doesn’t impress me. As a matter of fact, it lessens my respect of a man. If a man thinks that his worth is based on how many little animals he can conquer and mount, he has a very sick view of the purpose and power of the human spirit.

2. Abusing or killing animals does not make you a stronger man, but a weaker bully.

In scripture, The Holy Spirit is represented as a dove because doves are a spectacle of purity and grace. Today, dove hunting is a huge sport. How does killing a tiny bird make you more of a man? One of my favorite passages of scripture is Matthew 10:28-30,

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”

If God’s eye is really on a sparrow, why don’t we hesitate to take its small life?

Cruelty to animals is not manly, but rather childish. Remember that God let a donkey speak out against his abusive master! He also commanded that his people not muzzle an ox that was treading out the grain. (Numbers 22:28, Deuteronomy 25:4.)

Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, writes in Proverbs 12:10: “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”

3. Scripture is adamant that man is to care for creation.

As you might’ve guessed, the beginning of this post was a parody of the true creation story. In reality, Genesis reads like so:

“…then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:7-8, 15)

The literal translation from the Hebrew is that man was to “serve and protect” the natural earth. I also believe that we are to use the earth. It is subject to mankind, but it is also a gift. If someone gives you a gift, they want you to use it, not stow it away in some glass case. But neither do they want you to abuse it, destroy it or desecrate it in anyway. When we take what we need from the earth and give back to it as well, we are using the gift. When we take pleasure in the destruction of nature (be it animals, plants, the atmosphere) we are abusing our gift from God.

4. God honors creation and protection, condemns destruction and violence.

Without getting into a discussion of war, I think we can all agree that God calls us away from violence into a life of peace. He tells fathers to love their wives as Christ loves the church, giving of himself for her. He says that greater love has no man than this that he gives up his own life for a friend. He tells us not to provoke our children to anger, but to be gentle with children. He tells us to forget “an eye for an eye” and to instead turn the other cheek. Proverbs 3:31 warns,

“Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways.”

5. Jesus wasn’t macho

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m about to make a case for some sweet, girlish version of Jesus that just goes around patting people’s hands and smelling flowers. That is far from the Jesus I’ve read about and known. However, despite the fact that Jesus was no wuss (He understood better than any of us the power of The Spirit) he was actually nothing like the man described by The Macho Manifesto above. He did not take pleasure in pain or death. He was gentle to women and children. He spoke against violence and pride. So if men aren’t supposed to be “macho,” what does scripture say man is to strive for? Well, first and foremost, we should all (regardless of sex) strive to emulate Christ. When scripture gives us requirements for men who want to lead in church, we hear descriptions like, “of good repute, wise, not drunkards, honest, dignified, gentle, self-controlled” etc. In other words, Gaston would not qualify.

Though I think scripture speaks pretty well for itself, I leave you with the words from a great novel:

 “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

To Kill a Mockingbird

6

a warning for hipsters (and myself)

beach pic by pops

Peaceful and passive.

Two words I hear thrown around a lot these days. I try to think of the difference by imagining two different dads.

Passive: the dad who doesn’t come come to the school play, or stick up for you when you’re being bullied, or give up drinking when the courts want to take you away.

Peaceful: Atticus Finch.

And what worries me is that my generation tends to preach peace, but practice passivity. Somehow, we’ve come to think that anything serious, convicting or (heaven forbid) offensive is hostile and un-Christ-like. Don’t speak your opinion about politics, because we want people to make personal decisions. Don’t draw attention to the needs of those in Africa, because that might make someone feel guilty about their lifestyle in America. Don’t give feedback because that could start a disagreement.

Use your voice to talk about the weather and your favorite recipes, use Instagram to share pictures of your rain-washed windows, but don’t stamp anything down, don’t express anything solid, don’t take a stand. We use the excuse of trying not to judge others in order to protect ourselves from judgement.

The silence itself can feel like judging at times, you know? The absolute quiet during times of turmoil. The still, when the world needs someone to simply hold out their hand and say “peace” aloud.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but having an opinion isn’t a sin. And voicing it isn’t either. If you can accept that this isn’t a sin and that isn’t a sin, why not accept what I do with my words as holy too? Why not open your mouth and join the conversation once in a while? If not, we’re at risk of becoming part of the bystander effect.

I know that Facebook is loud and Twitter is whiny. I know people are plain mean sometimes. I know we judge and mock and laugh and sneer. I know. Sometimes silence is golden. But sometimes your voice is vital.

Scripture tells us not to have an unhealthy craving for controversy, quarreling about words and creating constant friction. (1 Timothy 6:4-5) It tells us to have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies, for they only create quarreling. (2 Timothy 2:23) This kind of behavior is contrasted with kindness and gentleness (Titus 3:2)

Does this then mean to keep our mouths shut at all times? To never voice an opinion, at least not in public? To avoid offending another at all costs?

At risk of diminishing the point I wanted to make with the scripture above, that holding one’s tongue is so often the best thing to do, I want to defend the defensive for a moment. I want to express my opinion about expressing opinions. I want to voice something about voice. (You get the idea…)

The apostles were often our examples of screwing up. Jesus called them out on multiple occasions. Think about that for a moment. Jesus called people out. He also tore through the temple violently removing the business people and completely chewed the church leaders out, calling them vipers.  But the apostles were also examples of living in the light of Christ. Paul, when he had turned from sin and began following Christ, continued to have a loud and bold personality. He preached until he was arrested and then preached in prison and then immediately preached in public again when he was released. In Galatians 2:11 we hear that he “opposed Peter to his face” in front of a crowd of people…Peter who so loved our Lord and tried to honor him with his life.

Though we are asked to be humble, we are also asked to be bold. Though we are asked to lead a quiet life, we are also warned against putting our lamp under a basket when we’re supposed to keep it on a stand.

God gave us the truth in scripture and we’re taught that it is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. He also reveals new things to each of us throughout our days on earth. With kindness and gentleness, I believe we are meant to spread this truth. With much love, we are equipped to express ourselves to one another and even reprove one another for the furthering of the kingdom. This is part of our freedom in Christ, part of our calling.

So hipsters. Instagrammers. Tweeters. Me: Don’t confuse foolish quarreling with sharing what God is teaching you. Don’t confuse peace with passivity. Don’t confuse a quiet life with a dangerous silence. For perhaps God gave you your voice, your thoughts, your opportunities for such a time as this.

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