For All Who Have Chosen Wrong Roads

Maybe it’s the bright yellow of autumn here in New England, or perhaps it’s just my affinity for Robert Frost’s view of the world, but I can’t seem to turn calendar pages past the fall equinox without mumbling phrases from “The Road Not Taken.” It’s unfortunate that a glut of 70’s-era posters and way too many graduation speeches have rendered the poem hackneyed, mooring it in its final and familiar stanza:

Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This simplistic portrayal of a fork in the leaf-strewn path seems to veer on past the melancholy of regret that characterizes so much of Frost’s poetry. Hear it in this earlier line from “The Road Not Taken”:

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence . . .

It is both our glory and our demise that humanity has the ability to re-cycle a decision. This was nearly my undoing when I was agonizing over college choices and the selection of a major, but it has gifted both freedom and fresh air to me in my understanding of calling during these years of living past the mid-point.

Picking up C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce after a long absence, I have been surprised to find not only the expected words about the great chasm between good and evil, but also glorious truth for those who have chosen what they now see to have been a wrong road. Lewis likens the restorative process to the correction of a math problem which (after having shepherded four homeschooled sons through algebra, I can heartily attest) “can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point.”

This is good news to me, for, I can think of a number of things I’d like to “work afresh.” I invite you to join me in taking a good hard look at the elements of your own story that cause you to hang your head or avert your eyes – or go foraging in the fridge in search of something to fill you up.

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And while you’re thinking about that, come on over to SheLoves Magazine and finish reading my ponderings on wrong roads and the truth that they are not dead ends after all, so long as we don’t insist on “simply going on.”

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Faith Going Forward: A Mid-Life Following

I can just barely admit this, but I have finally hauled all the cassette tapes — John Michael Talbot, Carole King, Billy Joel — out from under my bed.

And I’m going to throw them away.

Letting go of this one thing may not free my hands to grab hold of an entire universe, but who knows?

This unloading is initiated, I think, by my oldest son’s purchase of a house:  endless boxes and piles of belongings, so overwhelming, and yet minor, inconsequential compared with my extensively curated mess.

Then, there’s the presence of teen sons still in the nest, their growing competence a continual reminder of my slippage toward obsolescence.
The prayer of my heart as I fill the waste basket with relics from the 1980’s is this:

“Oh, Lord, please keep my heart from becoming brittle and plastic,
unconsciously stuck in rigid notions of my own right-ness.
Grow in me a willingness to jettison anything that slows my growth toward You.”

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I’m sharing this post with readers, writers, and thinkers at The Perennial Gen, a website devoted to the process of growing deeper roots in the dirt and light of midlife.

This offering winds up their October theme of health and wellness, and I’d love it if you’d join me over there now to read about what that looks like here on this country hill in Maine.

And I invite you to join the discussion.

  • Has your heart found grace enough to view, in retrospect, your stumbling steps as the exact price for becoming the person you are today?
  • What are you letting go of at this point in your life in order to move forward in health and wholeness?

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

5 Books that Breathe Faith into the Cancer Journey

Those who shake their family tree may be pelted with details they’d rather not know. The blight I encountered in my particular grove was cancer—multiple varieties, hereditary strains. Suddenly I feel a deep kinship with the unending parade of friends and acquaintances who are hearing the word cancer breathed into the air of clinical spaces. I’m thankful that God has hand-picked a few writers who have suffered the effects of cancer to speak from their experience, for while it is true that no two cancer journeys are identical, it is also true that shared grief is lightened.

Cancer is this month’s theme for The Redbud Post. I’ve added my voice to the message that cancer does not have the final say by contributing a compilation of five book reviews from various perspectives on the topic. My hope is that this will be a resource to those who are learning the grace lessons of a day-to-day struggle with cancer.

Thanks for joining me over there to read the entire post, and if you know of someone who is walking that hard path, be sure to share this month’s Redbud Post with them so they can be encouraged by the stories of others who have walked the same road.

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

No Bitterness in the Wait — Embracing the Aging Dream

Most of the dreams that carried me forward and burned brightly in young adulthood lost their luster years ago.

My twenty-something self would be mortified at the woman I’ve become.
I can imagine her indignant voice, hand on hip, eyes wide:

“What? No gym membership?”

“How many kids did you say you have?”

“What is this shipwreck you’ve made of our resume?”

But then, for most of us, there is a dream or two that sticks around, still cherished and yet unfulfilled.  It reminds us of its presence with a subtle pressure, like a pebble in the shoe.

Dreams with a long shelf life can light a spark in middle age, or . . . they can become the seedbed for bitterness and regret.  Sarah (Old Testament wife of Abraham and matriarch of the Hebrews 11 “faith chapter”) knew well the taste of disappointment and frustrated dreams. Over and over she heard about The Promise, a major topic of Abraham’s heart-to-heart talks with God:

“The Father of a Great Nation,” God had promised.
“Children as innumerable as the stars in the sky,”

God had spoken, and Sarah had worked hard to believe.

Are you finding yourself, along with Sarah, wondering if the promises of God apply to you?

Does is seem to you as if hope is something for the young and the uninitiated?

CaptureI’d love it if you would join me over at God-sized Dreams today for more of Sarah’s story and a challenge to press into the truth of Scripture where we read about the laughter of dreams fulfilled that follows the tears of sowing seed and long waiting.

While you are over there finishing my story about the power of Truth to cast out fear, I hope you’ll meander around the site and be encouraged by others who have set sail on the journey toward their own God-sized dreams.

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In just a couple of weeks, we will begin what I hope will be a leisurely and joyful read of Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry.  The humble bachelor barber of Port William, Kentucky is surrounded by a cast of characters that weave in and out of his story, sharing their wisdom in their turn.  In light of the tragic mayhem of recent days, these words from farmer Athey Keith frame simple truth:  “It might prove out to be that if we can’t live together we can’t live atall.  Did you ever think about that?”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

My Piece of the Elephant

Long ago and far away there were six men, wise indeed, but, alas, they were all without sight.  An opinionated lot, every one, in the course of their wanderings, they happened to meet an elephant, standing squarely in the center of their path.

Feeling duty-bound to report on his discovery, the first wise man gripped one of the massive beast’s sharp tusks and declared, “It is stunning how much an elephant resembles a spear.”

The second wise man, equally confident, reached out until his hands connected with one large and floppy ear.  “Nay,” he retorted, “you are mistaken, for ‘tis clear to me that elephantine nature is like that of a fan.  Already I feel the cooling of air around me as this fine elephant sweeps back and forth.”

The third wise man could no longer hold his peace, for he had meandered off to the rear and found the elephant’s tail.  “Neither a spear nor a fan, my brothers, could take this shape or form.  Obviously, an elephant is like a rope.”

And so the story proceeds with one sightless hypothesis revolving around the muscular snake-like trunk, another enthusiastic theory about its tree-trunk legs, and a final proclamation that the body mass was surely a broad and impassable wall.

Each was partially right, but all were in the wrong. 

Underneath this ancient story’s observation about human nature lies a chilling truth about the perils of logic on this broken ground. To save time and energy in its quest for certainty, the brain will hide its own biases from itself. All the while believing in the thoroughness of our research, we immerse ourselves in evidence that does nothing but confirm our preconceptions.

A minute’s thought will reveal the six wise men had all they needed to correct their narrow perspective:  the observations of the other five.  A move to the right or to the left, a hand extended to a broader reach, or a question posed to a nearby brother:

“What do you mean, it feels like a rope?  Here, put your hand on THIS and see what you think!”

Any of these would have changed the whole story.

Research indicates diverse groups have the ability to reveal hidden biases. What this looks like here on the ground is that if I share my piece of the elephant, while also listening to my sister’s thoughts on elephant morphology, we both get a more accurate view of the beast in question.

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This month, we’re sharing our thoughts on The Elephant in the Room over at SheLoves Magazine. I’m thankful for the people in my life who rescue me from the blindness of a singular seeing — who keep me from reenacting the elephant story in my own time.  I would love it if you clicked on over to SheLoves to finish reading the rest of my post.  And I hope that while you’re there you’ll share your thoughts, because we do need each other’s voices.

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Beginning September 7th, I’ll be hosting a discussion group focused on Wendell Berry’s  Jayber Crow.  His story spans much of 20th century American history and demonstrates the poignancy of this quote from his musings:

“Telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful.  There is always more to tell than can be told.”

 

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Follow Your Calling in Spite of Your Fear

Three-hole punched and organized into a shiny new notebook, my teaching notes were ready to go.  The call had come, I had done the long work of study and heart preparation – and I was terrified.  Tiny voices of doubt nibbled away at my confidence:

“You’re such a spiritual lightweight! Nothing you can discern from Scripture could ever be helpful to these women!  You’re wasting your time – and theirs!”

When I allow anxiety and my feelings of inadequacy to be the loudest voice in the room, I’m tempted to hand my notes over to someone else:  “Here, you do this.   I’m not experienced enough.  I’m not brave enough.  I’m . . . not enough.”

Smiling as I read Scripture, it’s clear to me that I’m not the first God-follower to plead inadequacy in the midst of an assignment.  Moses famously “reminded” God that he had never been granted the gift of gab.  Jeremiah waved his birth certificate under God’s nose, as if the One who had formed him, chosen him, and assigned him to a prophetic ministry might have confused His young servant with a much older, more experienced servant of the same name.

In the moment, saying yes to God can feel risky.  The outcome of obedience is hidden from view, for the following life is like a film that we experience one frame at a time.  My fiery and faith-filled yes at the outset may lead to blessing and fruitful outcomes; there may be Red Sea crossings and miraculous provisions of nourishing bread and refreshing water at just the right time.

Or  —  my assignment may be more like Jeremiah’s.

Who in her right mind is eager to embrace a call to “pull up and tear down,”  to “tear apart and demolish,” and then, after the dust has settled, to “build and to plant?”  (Jeremiah 1:10)  Certainly not Jeremiah, but it’s interesting to note that God did not respond to Jeremiah’s anxiety with a slap on the back and a “You’ve got this, my boy” pep talk.  Instead, he gently turned Jeremiah’s anxious eyes away from his own inexperience and toward a greater reality . . .

When Jerusha Agen invited me to join her at the Fear Warrior Blog, I had just begun reading about Jeremiah:  his youthful lack of confidence, his impossible assignment, and then the way God met Him there and bent over backwards to communicate His promises of strong support and supernatural strength.  Who better to lead us into warrior mode in our continual assignment to fight against fear in our ordinary lives?

I’d love it if you’d click on over to Jerusha’s place and finish reading my thoughts on Jeremiah’s ammunition against anxiety.  It is my hope that you will hear God’s whispered words of comfort directly to your own situation through His strong reassurance to Jeremiah:

“I made you.
I called you.
I will go with you.”

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Can Busy Mums Really Find Time to Spend with God? (Part 2)

“Wait a minute, ” I interrupted.  “Read that again.  Is that really in Isaiah?”

My husband and I are reading through the Bible again this year — together and out loud.  Aside from the challenge of actually being in the same room (or the same vehicle) at the same time for this daily discipline and delight, we are both finding that reading the text out loud is affecting the details that we notice and deepening our understanding of the passage.  We hear the repetition and the rhythm of recurring phrases as our mouths form the syllables and the sounds of Hebrew names and the nomenclature of ancient Middle Eastern geography.

In addition to giving us something important to share in common in these days of the empty-ing nest, this practice keeps me grounded in the overall scope of Scripture’s narrative arc, reminding me that God is at work in a larger story that is massively redemptive and globally significant.

As a busy mum, I set modest goals for my reading and study, usually sticking with a chapter for at least a week in order to get the most out of it.  This is like the slow pace of a stroll in which details that are missed at 55 miles per hour in the car suddenly show up and ask to be noticed.  A slow read gives me time to read, re-read, and process.

This is Week 2 in the series for mums who want to step up their time with God, and this week, Shannon from Of the Hearth has posed two questions:

In what ways has being a mum changed how you go about having a devotional time?

What tools have helped you to be consistent?

In my answers, I advocate for the prudent use of little minutes, remind readers that God is committed to meeting with us no matter where we are, and I encourage mums to embrace the changes that are part of life.  I also share how important accountability has been in maintaining good study habits.

Elizabeth from Guilty Chocoholic Mama is sharing her thoughts along with Shannon, and the three of us would love to hear your input.  Click here to join the discussion, and be sure to share the post with other mums you know who are living this following life and seeking Truth in the small spaces between their loving duties.

For those who missed the discussion from last week, you can catch up here.

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.