Doctor of Goodwill

Woman: (laying in bed, looking at a man passing the doorway to her room) Who was that?
Chaplain: That is your doctor. He’s going to come visit you to see how you are doing.
Woman: Oh, another doctor!
Chaplain: You haven’t seen a doctor already this morning, have you?
Woman: I mean you, dear.
Chaplain: (chuckling with a smile) I’m not a doctor.
Woman: Yes, you are!
Chaplain: (Thinking she’s getting confused. She has Alzheimer’s.) Oh, really? Well, what kind of doctor am I?
Woman: (grasping my hand and smiling) You are the doctor of goodwill.

_________

People assume that being a hospice chaplain would be depressing; they are wrong. Everyday my patients inspire and encourage me.

Death is sad because it always involves loss, but death also has the potential to spark something good within us. The expertise of the dying is passing on life to another human being — this I am learning.

I receive and hold their spirit as a precious gift.

A Letter A Day: Reflections on Lent & Love

ImageI’ve been meaning to report on my practice of Lent this year but time has blown by lately like a desert monsoon. (I started a new job in mid-March and I reserve most of my free-time for brain recovery.)

A love letter a day. I loved the idea and for much of the season, I enjoyed the discipline. However, I bumped again into one of my weaknesses: I’ve never been good at doing what’s best for me every day.

I find time to read fiction 1-2 hours a day and it is of some value. Exercise, reading scripture, prayer — these are of higher value and yet I struggle to make them part of my daily life. Even excited to write these Lent letters, there were days I had to pull out my calendar and count boxes to know how many letters I needed to write to catch up.

The major benefit of writing to so many of my beloveds? I was constantly reminded to offer myself the grace and love that I show others. I forgave myself the skipped days and focused on enjoying the hours spent with pen, stationary and warm memories.

The picture above is my final stack of love letters before I stuck on Forever stamps and sent them across the globe. The easiest part of this whole practice was deciding to whom I should write. Composing these letters often slipped into times of praise and thankfulness for the many cherished memories and relationships I’ve formed over the years. I wrote to each of my 7 nieces and nephews, to my siblings, parents, some extended family, many former college students whom I mentored, and friends from every stage of life.

I wrote to my mentor from high school, thanking her for showering me with unconditional time and love. I credit her gentle and considerate presence in my life as one of the major reasons that I have an authentic faith in Christ today.

I wrote to my friend and former roommate Joni who is a long-term missionary. She recently moved to Madrid and despite debilitating chronic pain from scoliosis, Joni lives with such joy and purpose. Since meeting her in 1999, she has inspired me to take risks and to push against the boundaries of what I think God can accomplish through my ministry.

Secrets and trust were themes in many of the letters. I wrote to several friends about secrets shared and released. I met Karen at a time when I held many things tightly and fearfully inside me. Openly and honestly Karen shared a personal struggle with me, which enabled me to trust her with my stuff. By example, Karen ushered me trust again. Writing to Karen sparked a second letter to a friend who last year broke silence to me regarding a life-long struggle. I wrote thanking her again for trusting me with her pain. I sealed the second letter realizing that have become a safe place for others because Karen was first a safe place for me.

I sent Lent letters to more than 15 states. Three went to Canada; a few to Europe. The youngest recipient was my niece Kherington, who, at age 3, got a few silly jokes her mother will have to read to her and a terrible drawing of a cat.

Some letters remain on my bookshelf, stampless. There are 5 written to God, labeled with different names of God depending on the nature of the letter. I sent those through a prayer office rather than a post office.

There’s a letter written to a friend whom I’ve lost contact with, but for whom I pray regularly. Over the past two years I have asked for his new address via Facebook and email. He has not responded. My concern that I caused him pain is the very reason I wrote. I hope he will allow me to make amends. I’ll hang on to his letter with hope.

I never wrote the letter to my former sister-in-law. I stared at many blank notes intended for her. In the end it was too difficult to write, too charged. I chose instead to pray for her, for us, for all whose lives were forever changed by her actions.

To Corrie, July 1st, 2017 — this is the label of the letter I wrote to myself in 5 years. I’ve spent a lot of time in these tumultuous three years praying and thinking about the woman I want to become. I’m not looking for a brand new me but a Corrie who is renewing, refined, purposeful.  This letter had several lines of celebration for the real and far-reaching love I’ve experienced.

I wrote all of these letters sitting on my bed just an arm’s-length from a high school graduation gift – a friendship quilt made by my relative Augusta Cole. I always hang it close to my bed, where I do most of my praying. The quilt, like these love letters from my seventh season of Lent, reminds me that my life is not about me.

My life grows richer because I move toward others, as I share myself with others, when I love others. I thank God that I learned this lesson young.

My friendship quilt. Each cream square is signed by a friend.

My friendship quilt. Each cream square is signed by a friend.

morning, the first day

Study of Women Mourning by Michanelangelo Buonarroti

Study of Women Mourning by Michelangelo Buonarroti

 

 

dirt and ash adorn my head,
a dark covering of filth gritty on my scalp.
thick, tangled hairs scratch my cheek like coarse threads,
strangely comforting.

hands hang guiltily at my sides.
soiled, broken nails like swords
left streaks of red down my arms
as I rent the clothe of my tunic.
tight fists like clubs that beat purple, black and green onto my chest.
iron fingers that ripped clumps of hair from roots set deep in my skull.

eyes, swollen from the blow of wind and grief,
see little but tan ground or grey sky;
everything out of focus and unremarkable.

my body is parched:
muscles shriveled and limp,
skin cracked like the wadis that line every valley.
even the marrow seems sucked out of my cavernous bones.

i think i should waste away but the gushing never stops;
(perhaps another of his miracles).

tears tear a wide rift down the plains of my face,
a mark of my homeland etched into a thousand layers of skin.
some slide into my mouth creating a paste with the dust that always coats my tongue,
today made thick and repugnant by the yeast of bitterness.

lips posed like the spout of a clay jar,
a feature delicate but useful,
tremulously pouring forth watery wails birthed deep in my bowels.

my voice joins the chorus of anguish made by the many women of this illegitimate tribe:
a babe in the arms of her grandmother, neither able to be pacified,
a wife and a prostitute standing as sisters,
an adulteress supporting the weight of one already weakened by years of bleeding,
a samaritan’s tears soaking a galilean’s breast,
one who was possessed by demons now doubled by a stronger affliction,
some rich, many poor —
all unpaid mourners weeping a sweet harmony of sorrow.

a single flute accompanies our morning song;
its high pitch slices through the humid air,
giving tragedy a proper dissonance.

the mingled cries produce a slow rhythm;
our bodies sway to its haunting pulse.
feet drag slowly forward in steps so heavy
they could cause Jerusalem to go the way of Jericho.

we follow the dusty wake of the bier,
a simple pallet that bears the dead form of our master,
torn from a cross.
some of our brothers carry him, an excruciating weight.

many in our procession grow faint.
some stumble to their knees,
tripped by grief or fatigue.
hands reach down to drag the fallen to aching, splintered feet.
we must reach the tomb.

the carnivorous sun,
unrelenting even when death is done,
waits to consume his flesh.

we will give him shade in death;
we could not provide as much in life.

the room is sealed but we hunker just beyond the slab.
every limb, feature, voice twisted and marred in the expression of woe.
our bleating continues;
perhaps it will never cease for suffering was never so dark as now,
today,
just the first of innumerable days of mourning.

Seventh Lent: Writing Love from Ashes

Seventh Lent: Writing Love from Ashes

I wasn’t raised in a faith tradition that celebrated or followed the liturgical calendar save Christmas, Good Friday and Easter. It wasn’t until I attended seminary in my early twenties that I met followers of Jesus that practiced this thing called Lent, rung in by this day they call Ash Wednesday. Here it is again, the day that is a doorway into a foreign spiritual practice that I have organically stretched and grown into like a child pulling on an adult’s sweater. 

I’m still not very mindful of following the church calendar throughout the year, so Lent sneaked up on me again. A Presbyterian friend who is a fellow minister and blogger posted last week about Lent. I groaned, not because his post was lacking but because it was convicting. My mindless wandering through the time-faith continuum always leaves me with less than adequate preparation. It’s always the week or days before that I begin asking myself what I will do to enter the desert with Christ this year, to walk with him on the path to the cross, to prepare myself for the wonder of his resurrection. This is not an easy question to answer – I really need to give myself more space and time to consider this fully.

How will I enter the desert with Christ this year, follow him toward the cross, fully know the sacrifice of his death so that I can wholly celebrate his resurrection?

For life-long Lenters, these forty days are often about fasting, sacrifice, giving-up, repentance. As a Lenten adolescent, I want to live into the practice, rather than follow a set of rules or expectations. In many ways, practicing Lent has become a work of imagination. Rather than being about soul-stripping deprivation, I like to approach Lent with curiosity, looking for what I can learn about life from one (Jesus) who has experienced the fullness of the life-cycle – birth, death, resurrection and life eternal. I approach Lent wanting to open myself to more of God as I empty myself of self-obsession, to have my spirit expanded not crushed or shriveled, to see and feel God create and grow love for the world in me. 

Lent is less about what I do than who I’m becoming. Lent is an opportunity not a rule. Lent is a creative and imaginative act of my freewill not a mindless religious obligation. I practice because I believe it is a tool available to me to build up my faith in God.

This year I reach Ash Wednesday already in a season of deprivation. When I considered how to practice Lent this year, I rejected a lot of ideas. I thought about subtracting bread from my diet and each day reading passages that teach how God sustains us. Out of kindness for my weary soul, I shelved that idea for another year. Finally, this morning, in the eleventh hour – inspiration.

What do I know to be true about God, even in times of deprivation? I know that God is the source of life. God created each of us; he knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. God nurtures us like a breast-feeding mother and we grow content. At the center of God’s character, actions, message – in my interpretation – is love. If I do any good thing or believe any good thing but do not have love, what good am I? To grow more like Christ, I must grow in my capacity to know and give love.

For the next forty days I will read and meditate on passages about God’s love and each day I will write one love letter. I’ll care little about length, style or the delivery method of these letters but focus my attention on expressing love for the recipient. I’m sure I’ll write to family members, dear friends, even to myself. On Sundays I will write my love letter to God. Some of these letters will be easy, my thankfulness for the recipients overflowing onto paper. Others will be excruciatingly difficult, like the letter to my sister-in-law whose deception and abandonment have caused our family so much pain. I’ve started hundreds of letters to her in my heart. I have known and loved her half of my life but now my love is so mixed with pain, anger, betrayal and confusion that words don’t seem to be the right tool to express all that is in me. Smudging ash across a white page seems the most fitting. Regardless, this letter has been burning within me for years. It’s time to write it out. I imagine it will be the most difficult letter of my life. 

I may not send every letter. I may not know how to finish some of them or even where to send them. But I will do my best to learn from and borrow the love of Christ and spread that love along every curve and point in my script.

Learning love. Borrowing love. Spreading love. It’s shaping into a fruitful forty days.

Unvarnished: Healing our Images of God

The following is an adaptation of a sermon title “Healing our Images of God” which you can listen to at http://hopechurchchandler.com/sermons/sermon/2012-12-30/healing-our-images-of-god.

All of us have experienced pain, whether past or present. A bomb may have dropped in your life 10 years, 10 months or 10 days ago. Have you dealt with the pain? Have you explored how the shrapnel from that bomb may have damaged your relationships with God? It’s likely that circumstances in your life have affected how you see God. Having a whole and healthy relationship with God is essential for health in all other areas of life.

I want 2013 to be a year of healing for all of us – healing in many ways, but most of all, healing in our relationship with God. I want all of us to be people who wear crowns of beauty, who are anointed with the oil of joy and wrapped in garments of praise, just like the word pictures painted by the prophet Isaiah (61:1-3). Doesn’t that sound great? But to live that way in 2013, we need to pause, take a close look at our lives and see how circumstances have damaged or distorted our image of God.

Let me illustrate with a bit of art history.

Rembrandt's 'THe Night Watch'

The image above is Rembrandt’s most famous work. It’s popularly called “The Night Watch” because its actual title is long and descriptive. Painted in 1642, The Night Watch is a scene of a militia gathered in the center of town surrounded by supporters. What few people know about The Night Watch is that it was covered with varnish sometime after Rembrandt’s death – as was the custom. Cleaned in 1940, the varnish came away and restorers discovered The Night Watch was actually a day scene! When they saw the lightened image (below) they realized that the popular title for the painting was all wrong.

The Nigh Watch (unvarnished)

Another little known fact – when The Night Watch was removed from its original location in the 1700s, the painting had to be trimmed to fit its new location. This process cut off two characters on the left side of the painting (seen below).

Night Watch trimmed

Now we know that for hundreds of years when people viewed The Night Watch, they did not see what the artist created. I believe that the same thing happens to our image of God. Our painful experiences are like dark varnish that shade and distort the way God meant for us to see him. 

How many of you have witnessed or experienced something so terrible that your concept of God no longer fits into your experience of the world? Maybe the recent school shooting in Connecticut or another world disaster or something closer to home has you wondering how God can really be good.

When something bad happens, how many of us trim God down so he can fit in our new understanding of reality? Unfortunately, when we do this, we cut off part of the story that God originally revealed to us. 

Rather than acknowledging and holding the tension between who God is and who the world portrays God to be, we allow life circumstances to distort the truth of God’s character.

Let me offer my life as an example. In the past six years I’ve experienced significant pain in circumstances both professional and personal. The past three years have been particularly difficult. What caused this pain is best kept in the confidence of my counselor and my mentors, so I’ll ask you to suspend your curiosity. Let me simply say that pain has varnished my life from sunshine to mud. Pain has distorted my image of God.The best way to illustrate this is to share a story from my days as a hospital chaplain. It’s a very difficult story to hear, but please bear with me.

One day I was working as the chaplain on call and was paged to the emergency department. There I met a young, single mother. Our staff was frantically trying to revive her four-year-old son.  During an hour of terrified waiting she told me what happened.

She and her son had been swimming in the family pool, he securely clipped in to a life jacket, she floating on a raft nearby. The grandfather came outside and the little boy said he wanted to go inside. They unhooked his life jacket and when he turned to go inside with grandpa, mom pushed off on her raft to continue relaxing. Several minutes later she decided to go check on her son and see if he had everything he needed. Only, she could not find him inside and grandpa hadn’t seen him. She raced outside and looked in the pool but didn’t see anything. (Later she told me the pool pump was broken and the water was very murky.) Thinking her son might have gone to the playground beyond their back gate, she raced there and ran around calling his name. She searched nearby and then ran back to their yard.  When she looked into the pool again, she saw a foot in the murky water of the deep end. She dove in, pulled out her son, yelled for the grandfather to call 9-1-1 and began CPR. None of the efforts of that mother or our staff saved that beautiful little boy. I lay on the floor with this devastated young mother as she wept that her child must never have gone inside, must have slipped back in the pool with her and drowned without her seeing or hearing him.

I worked many drownings when I was a chaplain. Unfortunately, few of them had happy endings. It sounds strange, but when tragedies like these are a part of your daily work, you learn methods to cope and move on to the next case. However, this drowning knocked me down. I could hardly function the next day, couldn’t bring myself to see patients, couldn’t stop the tears. I asked myself why this drowning was affecting me so personally and profoundly.

Through prayer and reflection I realized that I identified with that boy in the pool. The pool scene was my image of God. My circumstances made me feel like I was a child without a life-jacket, drowning in the murky waters of my life. Oh, I knew that God was with me like that mother was with her son in the pool, and I believed that God loved me as much as that weeping mother loved her child, but I felt like God had taken his eyes off of me and I was slipping under the water, unnoticed. Inside, my soul was crying out, “Don’t let me drown!”

Six years of painful experiences and events changed the way I saw and related to God. My image of God morphed from a loving parent to a neglectful parent who overlooked me. I had known what it was to bask in the love of my heavenly Father, but I could no longer feel the warmth of his gaze on my face.

Pain is not the end of my story. I’m walking a healing path. If you want a fuller picture of the healing in my relationship with God, listen to the sermon.  Here, I’ll simply list for you significant healing points. This is not my advice to you. It is not a step-by-step process or a self-help strategy. None of this was very intentional but was the result of a desperate desire to have my image of God and my relationship with God restored.

Lament – I embraced the biblical practice of lament and cried out to God. I took the Psalms and made their words my own when I had no words.

Prayer – I realized that my inner thoughts and prayers were sliding into a kind of un-holy and depressing complaint. I got sick of wallowing. I needed something constructive so I changed my prayer life. Prayer became an intentional time of silence where I simply acknowledged that I was in God’s presence. The only thing I ask of God is to be given consolation as I wait for things beyond my control to change.

Self-Exhortation – Sounds strange, but I reached a place where I had to confront myself. I had to ask myself the questions, “Corrie, is God negligent? Is that the truth of God’s character?” and then struggled toward the answer. It was a process of shoveling through the manure pile that was my pain and scraping through questions until I got to the bedrock of truth. I understood that I was the one who allowed my life circumstances to varnish and distort God’s image. Here is the most important question I unearthed: who is the artist of God’s image – me or God?  Put simply – who holds the paintbrush?

Sorting through Shadows and Light – Rembrandt was famous for a technique called chiaroscuro, using bold contrasts between darkness and light in a painting’s composition. Regrounding myself in the belief that God is the artist of his image and the Bible is his canvas, I’ve schooled myself to check the things the world says are true about God against what God has revealed as true. Having faith means that even when circumstances and feelings paint a bleak or dark picture in my understanding of God, I seek out the light. I find the light in the narratives of scripture.

I felt that God was a negligent parent who overlooked me in my pain, but as early as Genesis 16, the story of a downcast woman named Hagar reminds me that God is “the God who sees me.” So I focus on the light in this story, the truth of God’s character. The God I worship is one who sees the downcast, the abused, the runaways.  He is the God who finds them and who blesses them abundantly.

Waiting – I can’t tie this post up in a nice little bow for you. I have not reached ‘the other side’ of these tribulations, if there even is one. I realize that I am in control of very little that can change my circumstances, but I can shape my response to these things. I’m learning all kinds of difficult lessons about waiting, endurance and trust. I’m sure there are many blog posts to come about these.

I want to encourage you to think about ways in which painful life circumstances have varnished your image of God. Have you struggled for so long that you can no longer hold the tension between your life and your understanding of God?  Have you trimmed God down so he can fit into your understanding of the world?

If we believe scripture is the truth, then we need to see it as the canvas on which God painted his image for our viewing pleasure. If we want to be shaped by the Word and not the world, then we need to surrender the paintbrush. We need to give it back to the Master Artist. We need to gaze long and deep into God’s canvas, the Bible. We need to submit our feelings and our experiences to his story, to his revelation. Oh, what an image he creates!

If that message does not connect to your soul, then maybe it is time for you seek healing in your relationship with God. Maybe you need to look deep into your own story for the place where things went wrong and see how your image of God got stained and distorted.  Maybe it’s time to surrender the paintbrush and let the Master Artist restore his greatest work, the image of his love for you.

Return of the Prodigal Son, (detail) by Rembrandt Van Rijn

(The Return of the Prodigal Son (detail) by Rembrandt Van Rijn, 1669)

Best Sellers

This is a list of books I’ve drafted in my head and will one day get on paper.  Post a comment about the book you would be most interested in reading.

#1.  Overcoming Religious B.S.: A Model for Pastoral Care

This is a non-fiction work that teaches Christians how to and how not to care for people in crisis.  Chapters will include: silence as care, using scripture in a healing waImagey, space to speak the unspeakable, lament, allowing others to make their own meaning, and organic blessing and prayers in the moment.

#2.  Prayers from the Dust and Dirt

This book will be a compilation of prayers of the vulnerable in North American society – orphans, victims of human trafficking, single parents, the unemployed, felons, the abused, etc.  I will personally travel, meet and pray with the vulnerable.  The second portion of the book will be prayers written and prayed by the privileged on behalf of their vulnerable sisters and brothers.

#3.  Prayers for the Table

This is a compilation of prayers written for everyday meals, special occasions and holidays.  I hope to solicit written prayers from my many artist and pastor friends across many cultures.  It will include simple sung prayers.

#4.  Coyotes & Cacti: A Metaphorical Survival Guide for the Spiritual Desert

How many of us have read self-help books that break down our bad behaviors and then offer a long rationale and dubious list of “healthy” behaviors to implement?  In this book I contend that changes in behavior are far more successful when we first have a change in vision, when we look at the same situation and see it differently.  Notice the clues and tools that are already available to you.  I put this theory into practice and help those in the spiritual desert recognize the survival metaphors inherent to desert landscapes.

#5.  Freedom, Imagination & Risk: The Missing Pieces in Kingdom Growth

The more I observe what the church does and what the church doesn’t do, the more convinced I become that Christian discomfort with biblical freedom, a lack of vision or imagination for the gospel’s power to transform and a fear of risk-taking are the major stumbling blocks of today’s church.  This book will explore this premise, taking up the sometimes controversial topic of “women in ministry” as a case study of what could happen in our homes, churches, country and our world if we lived the Christian life with more freedom, imagination and risk.

#6.  Asylum

This is a memoir of my early years of faith and my experience of the church.  It will explore the church as a place of both refuge and insanity.  It will encompass my childhood through discerning my call to pastoral ministry.  Essentially, this work will cover the awkward years, the effects of bullying, body image issues, unconditional acceptance, discovering my gifts, etc.

#7.  I Am: Jesus’ Seven Proclamations in the Gospel of John

This will be a two book set, the first a collection of creative chapters that explore the history/context/images of the seven “I am” statements in John (bread of life, light of the world, gate for the sheep,  good shepherd, resurrection and the life, the way, truth and the life, the true vine).  The second book will be an accompanying bible study guide for personal or group study.  In my opinion, the world is greatly in need of some meaty bible study guides!

#8.  Benched

This will be an internal critique of evangelical churches that bench women from living out their gifts and calling to leadership, teaching and/or pastoral ministry.  It will feature testimonies of real women who are committed to the evangelical church but have grappled to live out God’s calling on their lives.  This book will be co-written and edited by my friend and fellow advocate Alyssa Brooks-Dowty.

#9.  The Gospel According to Eve

Before I am unjustly condemned like author Dan Brown, let me state before it’s published that this is a work of creative fiction.  There won’t be any radical departures from the biblical story like suggesting that Jesus had a child.  Instead, this book will give accounts of Jesus’ ministry and message from the perspective of his female followers.  I hope to write and edit this book with fellow writer and pastor Stacey Gleddiesmith.  We will solicit the work of female alumna of Regent College, Vancouver B.C..

#10. Get a Move On: Five Contemporary Injustices We Can Change 

I don’t want to give away all five, but here’s a sneak peek at two social issues that I truly believe we can and should change.  Since culture is constantly in flux, this work should probably be an article for a magazine or newspaper.  Perhaps I could submit a new list every decade!

  • Orphans – There are currently over 400,000 children in America’s foster system and 100,000 of them are available for adoption NOW.
  • Homeless homosexuals – It’s a fact that a growing sub-population of America’s homeless is teenagers whose parents kicked them out when they came out as gay.

The Sixth Lent: Musical Abstinence

I’m still a novice at Lent; this is just my 6th season out of 32 years of life.   My first year I gave up sarcasm and exaggeration and learned an important (and humorous) lesson in growing into, rather than jumping into, a new spiritual practice.  Last year, when I prepared for my forty day fast, I dabbled with the idea of giving up music.  I first thought to give it up entirely, but then my body started twitching and my eyes began to sting and, in a gasping moment of reality when my tongue when numb, I realized that giving up music cold turkey might be a bit extreme.

Abstaining from music for four weeks would be a radically ascetic experiment for this melomane.  (That’s French for “music lover” and said with the caressing accent it gives you a sense of my love affair with music.)  Living without music for 960 hours, or 57,600 minutes, or 345,6000 seconds?  That’s like the 4th of July without the block parties, fruit-flag desserts, crepe-papered bicycles and chest-thumping fireworks.  Last year I wimped out and gave up added sugars, which was challenging, but nothing close to giving up my precious music.

2011 was a difficult year because of a sense of vocational stuntedness and a family loss.  2012 hasn’t yet loosened the grip its neighbor held on my heart.  For me, listening to music and singing along is often as cathartic as sipping a cool cup of water in the scorching Phoenix heat or shattering a glass against the hard stones of a fireplace.  But sometimes I abuse music.  I abuse it, and myself, when I use music to tune out the voice of my inner life.  I suspect that in the past year, music has been more of a muffle than a balm.  So, as much as I love music, as much as it gives me joy and energy and a certain dancing-in-my-soul verve, I decided to set it aside for a time.

I don’t want to become a person who claims that God has abandoned me in hard times.  Maybe I’m not hearing God’s voice because it’s hard to hear a whisper through a cotton ball.  Maybe God is offering me sweet melodies of truth and consolation that would bind together the ragged linings of my soul but I’m not listening well.  Maybe I’ve turned music into noise, a distraction, just an excuse not to courageously face the somewhat barren landscape of my life and follow my Savior Jesus as he ventured, alone, without supplies, into the desert.  Maybe the key to hearing God in the desert is clearing away all the distraction and stepping into aloneness with God.

Conviction tells me it’s time to clean out my ears, so I’ve instituted a silent commute for Lent.  For the two, thirty minute trips to and from work each day, there’s no top 40, no cds, no talk radio.  There’s just the sound of my breathing, the rev of my car’s engine, the squeak of breaks and the hum of tires rubbing against the pavement.  Yesterday at an intersection, the service truck next to me was blaring “Low Rider” and before I knew it I was bobbing my head in time and smiling at the driver.  I miss the music that got me merrily home but in the silence I’ve discovered a jam of thoughts and prayers waiting for their right of way.  In just two weeks, I’ve run into a lot of unanswered questions, discovered wounds that need healing, and prayed that God would grant me the senses to see, hear and feel hope for my future.  I’ve realized how self-centered I am and found forgiveness.  And it seems that with each turn of my tires I chant the name Sara – the one who left our family for other happiness.  But mostly, I sit in silence and listen to the sounds of my commute, the beeps, rubbing, the rattles, which remind me that though I am sitting still, I am going somewhere.

This morning in the silence an old chorus popped into my head – “Thou O Lord, art a shield about me; you’re my glory; you’re the lifter of my head.”  I believe those words are true, but I’m not able to feel their truth now.  As I hummed the chorus throughout the day, I stumbled across a thought – maybe it’s not my song to sing; it’s God’s song for me.   I the Lord, art a shield about you, I’m your glory, I’m the lifter of your head.  Okay Lord, I’m listening.  Thanks to the silence.