At The Crossroads

crossroads-confusing-sign-595x335Doesn’t Wisdom call out?
Doesn’t Understanding make her voice heard?
At the heights overlooking the road,
at the crossroads, she takes her stand. (Proverbs 8:1-2)

We may not be clear at all times, but the crossroads are revealing. We are faced with options. Whether we are under pressure or have time to process, gray separates into black and white. We know we need to take a step. We may not be completely certain of which way to go, but we stand up, turn, gaze forward, and walk.

With Wisdom and Understanding, we have courage and assurance. Even when we misstep, Wisdom and Understanding correct us. God knows. He helps. He guides.

Without Him, the crossroads are disorienting.

With Him, we proceed in faith.

The Rest of Sabbath

128983854_8963f7d9fcAbout a month ago, I had a fuller-than-usual Sunday planned.
I try to set aside as much time as possible on Sundays. It’s not about a legalistic practice for me (although there have been some times in my life that was true). It’s about rest, a retreat, a Sabbath, a set aside time to intentionally steep in God’s presence, letting Him recharge me and prepare me for whatever is next.
But sometimes, I have responsibilities that need my attention on a Sunday. This was one of those days. The commitment took a three-hour block out of the middle of the afternoon, but I had peace about serving. It was important, not just to me, but to others. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
I still focused on rest as much as I could every minute that wasn’t scheduled. And at the end of the day, I glanced back and realized the vast amount of rest, reading, and journalling that would normally not fit into a day if I had nothing else scheduled, let along fitting it between this and that.
A Sunday overflowing with Sabbath. Even in the midst of some busyness.
Only God.
He meets us in the chaos when we’re willing to still ourselves.

Carbon Copy

816889570-papier-calque-bulletin-de-salaire-boite-a-cartes-ficheMaybe you don’t know what a carbon copy is. Except perhaps to know it’s what the “cc” stands for when you email someone.
But you’ve seen it work. You’ve seen the receipt books, where someone writes on the top page, and there are two or three different colored copies of the same form beneath the top page, so what’s written on the top page gets transferred? Workers who come to your house often have receipt books to take a copy and leave a copy.
People used carbon paper in typewriters to make multiple copies at once (although the back pages were often lighter or smeared). My husband’s grandma wrote letters to her daughters with carbon paper between, so she could share the same news with half the writing time.
But carbon copies are never identical to the original. The carbon paper shifts or smears. Inconsistent pressure with writing created differences. And there was no erasing.
Carbon copies are handy when emailing people. We get to communicate with several people at once. (But please use “bcc” – blind carbon copy – when emailing a lot of people, so everyone doesn’t have everyone else’s email address to spam later or can “reply all” and inundate our inboxes with chatter.)
But the concept of carbon copies has it’s drawbacks, especially when we try to apply it to people. For example, we declare what a mom should do or look like, or what a successful person does or looks like. We declare a look or behavior as less or more manly, attractive, or worthwhile. Then we hold ourselves and others to the standards we claim.
Standards aren’t bad, but projecting the need to squeeze into a mold can be harmful, not to mention a waste of time. Becoming like someone isn’t the same as becoming the person. We have role models and try to emulate their most positive attributes, but we can never become them.
In the Christian faith, we often emphasize the importance of becoming like Jesus.  But we aren’t and never will be the same as Him. We look up to Paul, David, Ruth, and Mary, but we don’t become them. We respect people who have mentored and taught us, but we don’t become them. We gather the very best of them and let those qualities seep into our lives, and we become the best us we can be.
We’re not the same, and we weren’t intended to be. We have common, but not identical, purpose. We have threads of similarities with streaks of differences. We have unity but not uniformity.
Becoming like in order to become ourselves. No carbon copies.

The Crushing Cost of Quarrels

water explosion

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. (Proverbs 17:14)

Some battles are worth fighting, but quarrels are wastes of time – time we’ll never recover or relive. I know some people who want to argue just for the sake of being able to prove a point and be declared “right.” But “right” at what cost?

Many of the things we disagree about aren’t paramount. They aren’t life-giving or life-changing. Yet through the disagreements, we damage each other. We try to dismantle the other point of view, but in the process, we dismantle friendships. We erode our own credibility. We elevate ideas or even ourselves in arrogant ways. The points we prove aren’t just about the content of our quarrels. We prove many things about ourselves that we might rather ignore.

Watching someone throw fuel on a fire might give a momentary thrill, but it’s destructive. So, the next time you dig in your heels to prove a point or spew your viewpoint on social media, remember: a breached dam isn’t cleansing; it’s destructive.

Just Make a Decision

“Doublemindedness is a refusal to face a choice.” James MacDonald

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Some of the decisions we make aren’t the right ones. That can discourage us from making decisions in the future. We don’t want to take a stand and be wrong. But if we don’t make a decision, we get stuck. We don’t move. Which means, we can’t grow. We might avoid a mistake, but we also miss a lesson from the mistake.

And perhaps we don’t avoid making a mistake after all; indecisiveness can be a mistake.

Double-mindedness is wanting two things that can’t co-exist. We can’t simultaneously be on both sides of a fence. We should certainly pause and discern before swinging a leg over to one side of the fence or the other, and that process can take some time, but we can’t get stuck in the process. It’s an uncomfortable position to be in, yet some people find comfort in it.

We face choices all the time. I’m not talking about decisions about what to eat, who should drive, and what to wear. (Although ambivalence about these things can be as maddening.) I’m talking about significant choices that impact our next steps. We think, if we delay long enough, we can avoid the choice, have the best of both worlds, or fall into the default.

God wants us to be more intentional and willing to engage in the choices we face. Those choices and the way we handle them impacts our faith. They reveal our trust in Him. They refine our hope. They prune our character.

Just make a decision.

A Birthday Gift

A year ago, Dad’s birthday fell two weeks after he died, one week after his Celebration of Life.

My mom celebrated his birthday by arranging for everyone in the local coffee shop to get free coffee that morning. And she took gifts of appreciation to the nurses at the local hospital.

Birthdays weren’t a huge deal when I was growing up. I definitely felt like it was a special day, and everyone celebrated, but…the world didn’t stop. No matter how extravagant a celebration or gift, the world stops for no one.

My dad (and mom) rarely asked for anything for their birthdays. They always said they didn’t need anything. It’s not that they had everything possible. It’s that they had what they needed and much of what they wanted.

They were thankful to celebrate another year of life.

Birthdays are celebrations of life. We don’t have to wait until someone dies to celebrate his or her life. We can celebration others’ lives and our own today and every day.

Give a gift today. Celebrate life. Extend a hand, encouragement, and smile. Have a conversation. Listen well. Look someone in the eyes and tell him or her what you’d say if you knew he or she wouldn’t be around tomorrow. Write a note of appreciation. Be kind to a stranger.

Every day is someone’s birthday. Every day, we can learn, grow, and start something new. Every day, we can celebrate life.

Good Directions

My dad was phenomenal at directions. He knew where he was going. He was incredibly familiar with roads (main, side, and virtually unknown). He loved studying maps. If you asked him the best way to get to anywhere, he’d insist on clarifying before answering: were you looking for the fastest route, most scenic route, least traffic route? What were your goals?

He insisted on everyone in the family knowing how to read a map. Before the days of GPS, we had atlases and foldable road maps, and we never left home without them. A state map was essential to every car anyone in the family drove. We needed to be able to tell which way was north without an arrow on a GPS screen or vehicle display telling us. We needed to be able to navigate.

Dad was phenomenal at navigating, but at times, he was slightly less phenomenal at following someone else’s navigation. He was good at determining where to go, and sometimes he had trouble being willing to follow someone else’s assessment of where to go…even when that someone else was looking at the map while he was driving. He usually thought he was right. And he was willing to err on the side of trying his own way first, even when he ended up wrong. He had a GPS when traveling very far from home, but it was a back up. He listened to his own ideas first, then checked with the GPS, then relied on whomever was navigating – in that order.

He was usually right. But not always.

For years when all the grandkids were young, Dad created a scavenger hunt for Easter. Mom took care of all other aspects of the celebration, but Dad covered the scavenger hunt. He created notes to place all over the property, best accessible by ATV. We all traveled together, with him driving the ATV and the rest of us pulled on a flatbed trailer with bales of straw for our seats. (Well, everyone except for a couple son-in-laws who usually volunteered to stay behind for one lame reason or another.)

Dad got excited when he handed one of the grandkids the first note. And that’s when the problems began. Dad was good at directions, but not quite as good at handwriting and spelling. A lot of notes needed some deciphering. We’d laugh and let the kids try to figure out where the next stop would be, pile onto the trailer, and enjoy the ride to the next stop, where the grandkids had to find the next clue, usually rolled up and tied to a twig, tucked under a rock, or perched on a limb. Some years, the notes had an added layer of security in a plastic bag in case of rain. (Then there was the year a surprise downpour drenched us all. It’s one of my favorite photos of Easter. Even though we’re all soaked, we’re laughing and having a great time. Another favorite is the year we all jumped off the trailer at just the wrong time, causing an imbalance that sent my mom tumbling. She was fine. The funniest part wasn’t watching it all happen in slow motion – although that was hilarious – but was my dad laughing, when that probably wasn’t the wisest choice he could have made at the time.)

As good as Dad was with his own directions, instructions often broke down in translation. Of course, that’s the case with all of us when we communicate. We know what we want to say, but others might not hear it through the same lens. Or we think we know what the other person is trying to say when we actually get their message wrong.

We can still enjoy the time together and appreciate the relationships we have even when there are misunderstandings, even when we end up taking some twists and turns we hadn’t expected. After all, that’s part of the adventure of life together.

A world (or family) in which we all think the same would be a bit frightening and boring.