When You Expect Nothing and Get the Gift of Everything

There’s an old hymn that we don’t sing much any more, but it’s worth re-visiting because the final verse puts words around the futility of language in expressing the inexpressible:

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”

(Frederich M. Lehman, The Love of God)

Singer, songwriter, and author Michael Card describes words (somewhat less poetically) as “clumsy bricks” we attempt to employ in defining concepts. While they enable us to have thoughts and conversations about God and about intangibles such as hope and love, ultimately, meaning cannot always be contained within syllables. In his biblical study, Card has found this to be particularly evident with the Hebrew word hesed. 

The Struggle to Translate Hesed

Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness is founded on the mystery of this unique word. With no clear path to the English language, hesed has appeared in various versions of the Bible under a number of different labels. In fact, in 1535, Miles Coverdale jerry-rigged the term “lovingkindness” in an attempt to translate hesed, and it is still in use in the American Standard Version. More recently, the English Standard Version has employed the phrase “steadfast love,” and the New Living favors “unfailing love,” but, in reality, the struggle with translation is only a pale adumbration of the true challenge–that of wrapping our minds around a God who hands out second chances to the guilty and opens the door of His life to welcome frail humanity.

Michael Card’s definition of hesed is simple and direct:

“When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.” (5)

Hesed is put on display richly in God’s Old Testament dealings with the nation Israel, for He met their faithless betrayal with forgiveness and restoration. Then, Solomon stepped into the unbroken stream of hesed  when he ascended to the throne of David:

“LORD God of Israel,
there is no God like you
in heaven or on earth,
who keeps his covenant and hesed
with your servants who walk before you
with all their heart.”  (II Chronicles 6:14)

The temple musicians set to music their wonder at hesed in abundance:

 “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; his hesed endures forever.”    (I Chronicles 16:34)

And the psalmists vented their outrage over its lack:

“God of my praise, do not be silent, for wicked and deceitful mouths open against me . . .Let no one show him hesed . . . for he did not think to show hesed.” (Psalm 109:1, 2, 12, 16)

The Struggle to Embody Hesed

The prophet Hosea was assigned the task of putting God’s hesed on display in his calling to love and marry a prostitute, in spite of her ongoing unfaithfulness. “Though she has no right to expect anything from Hosea, he will lavish everything on her. Their relationship will incarnate the meaning of hesed.” (89)

The Apostle John picks up the theme in the New Testament with his description of Jesus, the Word, who came to us “from the Father, full of hesed and truth.” In eight of Jesus’s thirty parables, he defines hesed either by its lack (the unforgiving servant) or by its rich exemplification (the Good Samaritan). 

Card warns readers who seek to embody hesed that our own experience will be like Jesus’s:  misunderstanding and rejection. While we are often unclear about God’s expectations for us, the example of Jesus bore out the truth that “hesed is always something you do.” (116) This has vast implications in a world where “doing justly, loving mercy (hesed), and walking humbly with God” may be subject to wildly disparate interpretations.

And since hesed is something we do, what are the implications of such a counter-cultural doing?

  • How faithfully is my “doing” flowing from my “loving?” Is my “love” in keeping with the love of God toward the undeserving?
  • How would my actions and motives be different if I understood–and trusted–God’s deep and never failing love, mercy, and kindness toward me?
  • Can 21st century believers find the sweet spot where our compassionate outrage over injustice is both offered to God with trust and paired with action on behalf of the oppressed?

Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Because of the LORD’s hesed,

michele signature[1]


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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

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Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

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Your Invitation to Embrace a New, True Life

Soon, I will take up over-sized loppers with wooden handles that should have been oiled last fall, and, once late winter begins to move toward almost-spring, I will snip branches from our feral and fly-away forsythia bush. Bare branches in a sturdy vase will eventually give way to bright yellow blossoms–except for when they don’t . . .

My haphazard, slipshod approach to pruning, my uninformed and ineffective bush management yields uneven and unpredictable results. God is not THAT gardener. When He lops off a spiritual branch in the life of a believer, you can be certain He is after fruit, and His methods are sure. He knows what is superfluous. He knows what dead wood is weighing me down and also, when an apparently “good” thing must go.

When Michelle DeRusha and her family visited the Portland Japanese Garden in the Pacific Northwest, they observed the masterful application of open center pruning, a process that yields, over time, a tree with uniquely healthy and beautiful form. For DeRusha, the image of branch-by-branch relinquishment became a metaphor for the stripping away that happens on the way to one’s “true, essential self,” (19) and the outcome of her pondering is the gift of her latest book:  True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created

Pruning for Deep Transformation

Michelle discovered that deep transformation requires three things:  (1) observation; (2) reflection; and (3) time. These are all in short supply in most peoples’ lives, and our addiction to busy-ness just reinforces all our connections to a false identity. Silence and stillness provide the necessary brain sabbath to allow the doers and the driven to remember that we are more than just the sum total of our accomplishments.

Pruning for Clarity

A journey toward the true self may uncover some things we’d rather not deal with. On a writer’s retreat in Tuscany, Michelle came face to face with some startling truths:

“I didn’t have rest in my life because I didn’t have rest in God. I didn’t have clarity in my vocation, in my calling as a writer, because I didn’t know who I was in God. I didn’t know who I was, period, because I didn’t know who I was in God. And I didn’t know who I was in God because I didn’t know God himself.” (83)

Pruning in the Wilderness

When God met Moses on the far side of the wilderness, it was largely because Moses had stopped and taken the time to look at the burning bush.  From that moment forward, the character-shaping, excruciating process began. God was after a leader sufficient for the task of shepherding an unwieldy rabble out of slavery and into an understanding of their role as the people of God. Standing barefoot beside Moses, I can imagine this must have felt like a wounding and a tearing away of all Moses knew about himself.

Jesus reminded his disciples, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Matthew 16:25) This transaction, Michelle reminds us, is just plain hard. As all the fallacies we believe about ourselves are pruned away, we may also feel wounded and wilderness bound.  Even so, the “stay and wait” (131) of wilderness living is the hopeful path to hearing God’s voice through His Word and realizing that the message is for you!

I share a number on the Enneagram with Michelle DeRusha, so her references to her “three-ness” resonated (and meddled) with me.  We are the Achiever/Performers:   followers of Christ who need continual reminders that there is no merit badge for busy-ness. Even standing still, we are planning the next task or talking to ourselves about how great it is that we are standing still so skillfully . . . (I know– it’s really sad!)

God has a better plan:

“Stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes!”  (I Samuel 12:16)

Standing still in heart, mind, and body; paying attention to what God is up to in creation, in my own faltering steps of faith, in the lives of my family and friends:  this is a good beginning for calming the restlessness and for coming home to my true self.

What strategies help you to stay in touch with the True You?

Many thanks to Baker Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Cheering you on toward your new, true life,

michele signature[1]


P.S.
I’ve had the fun of reviewing two of Michelle’s previous books. Most recently,
Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk was released in 2017 just in time for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. I enjoyed reading and writing about the Luther marriage, for the righteousness which is “of God, by faith” is available in Christ for all who commit their lives (and their marriages) to Him — by grace alone.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees  linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created or Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content 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.

Adoption and the Journey Toward a Surrendered Heart

The collision of lives is mysterious and unpredictable. Friends meet at a gathering and are bonded for life. A man and a woman from random backgrounds are introduced to each other and eventually share grandchildren. Adoption is a choice that puts this miracle of connection on display in unique ways that seem to defy race, culture, and even geography.

When Lori Schumaker adopted her beautiful daughter from Bulgaria, she entered into an unfolding story that was being orchestrated offstage by a Conductor who makes no mistakes, but whose music is frequently strange to our ears as we struggle to find the melodic line. Surrendered Hearts: An Adoption Story of Love, Loss, and Learning to Trust is her triumphal and grateful anthem of praise for God’s infinite wisdom in bringing her family together. It is also a story of her family’s yielding to this process even when it involved the dissonance of unmet expectations and grinding disappointment.

Peace is a By-Product of Surrender and Trust

The Schumaker family was carried through their journey by an overriding awareness that adoption is an image of a far greater reality than simply adding a child to their family. Adoption is a mere shadow of God’s choosing love that grafts us to his own heart in a way that gives us a new name, a new identity, a forever home, and (most astonishing of all) a heart like His, forged in the furnace of New Covenant grace. For Lori, the outcome was a surrendered heart and an embrace of God’s will in the wake of miracles she could never have anticipated at the outset of her adoption journey.

Over the course of a rigorous two-year process, Lori discovered that “God grows a child in our hearts as unmistakably as He does in our wombs.” She first saw her daughter Selah’s face in an emailed picture. There were a few medical red flags in her file, but nothing could deter Lori from the idea that this toddler with brown sparkling eyes and black ringlets was meant to be her own child. The “knowing came through the peace,” and, although the process was gritty, continual prayer carried Lori through the uncertainty of a story that swerved between hope and despair. She found that the peace she longed for was a “by-product of surrender and trust.”

Living with a Surrendered Heart

Lori’s account of two trips to Bulgaria, the heartbreaking goodbyes, the grueling wait, and the eventual joy provide a very personal glimpse of the adoption process from inside. Those who are considering adoption will benefit from the realism, and those who are walking alongside adoptive parents will find excellent insights that will make them better able to pray their loved ones through the adoption process.

It takes courage to live with a surrendered heart. The vulnerable position of welcoming a child into your home is just one example of the many ways in which believers can live a poured out life characterized by availability and a willingness to respond to God’s resounding “YES” to us with an answering yes that opens the door to miracles.

Many thanks to Redemption Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Rejoicing in Hope,

michele signature[1]

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Surrendered Hearts: An Adoption Story of Love, Loss, and Learning to Trust, simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

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

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The Gift of God in Exchange for Ashes

Sit on a wooden bench (behind a goat) for a day long bus ride through the Andes.  When the bus stops, the only way forward in 1952 is to rent a horse for an excursion over steep mountain trails with muddy puddles up to your knees. You’ll know you’ve reached the village of San Miguel de los Colorados because the large clearing before you is ringed by a number of small houses–and because your fellow missionaries open their doors in greeting.

This was the inauspicious beginning to Elisabeth Elliot’s famous missionary career. Those who have read Shadow of the Almighty or seen the Life Magazine accounts of her husband’s brutal death at the hands of an unreached people group know that Elliot became a sought after public speaker and her words reached literally millions via print and radio ministries. With her perfect diction, ironic humor,  and crisp, no-nonsense delivery of gospel truth, she set the course for my following life and has influenced my teaching and my parenting like no one else, and yet her on-ramp to ministry was beset by disappointment and confusion and was characterized by nothing that would point to a future of success or influence.

These Strange Ashes was originally published in 1979, and when I read it during my early mothering years, it quickly became my favorite of Elisabeth Elliot’s books, partly because of its realistic portrayal of the mundane (and sometimes simply boring!) nature of ministry life, and partly because of the titular reference to a poem in which Amy Carmichael writes about the experience of personal suffering that seems to come to nothing:

“But these strange ashes, Lord, this nothingness,
This baffling sense of loss?”

I hear in the anguished question a howl that expresses a broken heart and empty hands, but Elisabeth is quick to point out  the “mysterious exchange” by which we offer this emptiness to God and receive back from Him the gift of Himself. Following the death of John Chau and in a season in which many believers seem to be disappointed that salvation has not arrived on Air Force One, Revell has re-released Elisabeth’s deeply personal account of her first year as a missionary under a new title, Made for the Journey: One Missionary’s First Year in the Jungles of Ecuador with a foreword by Kay Warren. In a world in which Twitter and YouTube can bestow celebrity status upon anyone, it becomes a holy experience to read about “calling” in the sense that God “calls people who believe in Him to [go to] others who do not.” This “going” may be beset by what looks for all the world like “downward mobility” and, in Elisabeth’s case, entailed a good bit of what she referred to as “jungle housekeeping,” the making of a safe and livable dwelling in the midst of amoeba infested waters, plain and monotonous food choices, and often deep loneliness.

Taken from journal accounts and her own memory of her young adult self, Elliot comes across as restless and uncertain. Her evangelical roots have led her to expect that her “calling and election being sure,” she should expect resounding success in the jungle– success being defined as a written language for the people, a Bible translation in their brown hands, and a line up of converts to be trained and discipled. What she found instead was a self-sufficient people group, hidden from white culture and content to stay that way, who may have been living in “bondage, sorrow, and night,” but were not interested, “not in the least, in our definition of liberation.”

Confronted with four stunning set backs to her ministry in the jungles of Ecuador, it began to appear to Elisabeth that God had failed her. Given the opportunity to prove Himself strong before the Colorados, He chose to work in quiet and incomprehensible ways that looked, to Elisabeth’s young eyes, like the silence of betrayal. Those who struggle with the mysterious ways of God or who have experienced the anger and disappointment of feeling as if God is not to be trusted will find a surprising voice of comfort and collegiality in Elisabeth Elliot’s long, slow wait:  waiting for help from the nationals with reducing their language to print, waiting for the local population to trust the missionary presence, waiting for a commitment from her fiance, Jim Elliot, that would allow them to marry and minister together.

When God does not “cooperate” with our vision of success or yield to our will for Him, the believer is left to yield her own will to a story arc that may eventually untangle itself in the passing of years–or it may not. In characteristic Elisabeth Elliot fashion, the veteran missionary looks back with clear eyes on her youthful disappointment and derives bracing counsel for us in our days of uncertainty.

Whether or not God chooses to reveal His plans to us, “faith, prayer, and obedience are our requirements.  We are not offered in exchange immunity and exemption from the world’s woes. What we are offered has to do with another world altogether.” Our assignment, then, becomes a fierce cooperation with God that brings our hearts into alignment with His to the point that this other world becomes more valuable to us than the one we can see with our own eyes.

Many thanks to Revell for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Thankful for joy that “lights the way like some great star,”

michele signature[1]

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Made for the Journey: One Missionary’s First Year in the Jungles of Ecuador, simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a very small commission at no extra cost to you.

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

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Photo by Yoal Desurmont on Unsplash

Beloved Differences Bring Us Together in Hope

Conversations about the laws that govern chemistry might be one of the most spiritual things going on this week at my dining room table. Homeschooling chemistry involves revisiting the Periodic Table of Elements with its jagged line separating the metals and the non-metals and the tiny numbers that define and describe unseen properties of pure substances, and for me this is pure joy. Chemistry’s Law of Definite Proportions that I’ve been unknowingly applying to my pancake recipe all these years points to a God who is not only a Creator but also a Designer. The fact that a highly reactive metal and a poisonous gas, when combined in the correct proportions, can be sprinkled on my hamburger to heighten its flavor is a joyful lesson in the unexpected, but then, the laws of science serve to heighten our awareness of the exceptions to the rules and the unpredictability that leaves room for the unknown.

In All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way, Patrice Gopo declares herself to be a combination of elements, unique and unpredictable–more evidence that “elements that hold certain properties in isolation. . . together yield something perhaps less obvious.” (26) Her story points to the beauty that is inherent in unexpected combinations of geography, ethnicity, and culture. As a woman with a unique mingling of genes from the Asian and the African continents, as a black Jamaican American who grew up in Alaska, she struggled to land in a known space, and her writing is a travelogue in which Gopo finds peace in living with and learning to love her “unpredictable unknown.”

Through a collection of essays, the reader realizes that it is possible to find home in far off places, and that our differences actually lend us a point of commonality, a gift to celebrate, and a reason to come together. It is through loving our own people, through speaking the language of our heart, through cherishing the unique beauty that our genes produce, through embracing that heritage, and accepting our own way of being in the world that we begin to see our “differences” as an offering to the world–not a barrier from the world.

Speaking a Different Language

What is the “ideal” way to raise a child in a multi-lingual home? Patrice and her husband Nyasha both speak English, and his Zimbabwean Shona is more a cultural memory than a heart language. Even so, they have honored its presence in their family by dipping their brush into its palette to name their daughters. They are learning as a family to count to ten in Shona, and have resisted the Americanized pronunciation [plan-tayn’] of Patrice’s delicious Jamaican plantains [plan’-tins].  There is room in their home for the conflation of all the various cultures and practices that are part of their family’s heritage.

Cherishing a Different Beauty

Giving up her routine of hair relaxing chemicals and returning to her natural hair texture, Patrice discovered strength that came as a complete surprise. She weaves foundational wisdom behind her choice throughout a number of her essays, calling readers to attention regarding the prevailing views of beauty that idealize very specific white traits.

Learning to style and manage her daughters’ hair has heightened the importance of Patrice’s understanding of her own feelings about beauty, and you can read her essay on acquiring both skill and confidence over at SheLoves Magazine.

Embracing a Different Heritage

When Patrice arrived at Carnegie Mellon University to study engineering, she also received free and immersive tutoring in Black American culture with details that just were not part of her upbringing by two Jamaican immigrant parents with Indian ancestry. Her identity process has been one of claiming all the parts, living under the weight of all the varied stories, accepting the unknown chapters of the those stories, and living the sum total with congruence before her children.

As a black family worshiping in a mostly white congregation, Patrice offers thoughtful commentary on the tension between Paul’s declaration that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Gentile” and the Sunday morning tightrope walk of parsing her sentences, avoiding offense, and dodging sensitive topics. While reaching out to her white sisters one at a time, she shares that “sometimes only a person who looks like me can understand certain things about me. Like what it feels like to walk into a room and consistently be the only person of my race.” (191)

Beloved Differences Bring Us Together in HopeAccepting a Different Way of Being in the World

Selfless serving has become a counter-cultural pursuit, so when Patrice announced that she was “giving the year after college to God,” there were some raised eyebrows and concern among family and friends. She ended up in a far off land . . . washing silverware to the glory of God.

Returning to the United States to begin her career in engineering, she eventually moved on to community development, and she shares her conflicted journey of leaving a career that sorely lacks black female role models. Almost surprised to find herself a writer, her voice is raised in the pursuit of problem solving and justice.

Patrice Gopo joins Deidra Riggs in the choir of women who are singing “God Bless the Whole World” in a minor key. With writing that carries depth of emotion and clarity of expression, they remind white mothers like myself that our sons need not fear the fate of Philando Castile or Alton Sterling, and they offer words to bridge the empathy gap.  Looking squarely at tragedy, Patrice acknowledges that we live in the space between what is and what will someday be while praying for God-initiated transformation leading to oneness in heart and in mind.

Even as a seasoned under-liner-of-sentences-in-preparation-for-a-thorough-book-review-to-be-written-very-soon, I found myself gulping down this collection of essays with my pen idle in my hand, forgetting to read like a reviewer, and just reading for the experience, because each of us is a collection of stories. We forget this at our peril, for the unfolding of a story implies hope and possibility at every stage of life:

“You press forth into the unknown,
and the other side, the reality of
the other side, pierces your heart in a way
that reminds you of your humanness,
of your possibilities, of your very life.”

Patrice Gopo, All the Colors We Will See

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Thankful for the differences that just might bring us together after all,

Michele Morin

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Patrice’s website is a rich resource with links to many places where her writing has appeared as well as her speaking schedule. Click here to visit for further information about her book and her career.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content 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.

 

Run Toward the Darkness with Borrowed Light

In times of danger and disaster throughout history, true believers have made their mark by running toward the darkness. Whether it was a plague in second century Rome or a twenty-first century hurricane in America’s deep south, if we follow Mr. Rogers’s advice and “look for the helpers,” we might be surprised by how many of them are Christians who have chosen to be part of this particular dark setting in order to put the Light of the World on display.

As Christians, we have no light of our own, but the nature of our Borrowed Light is so compelling that others are drawn to its warmth and luminosity, just as we are drawn to the borrowed light of the moon against an inky sky.  In her poetry collection (The Consequence of Moonlight: Poems), Sofia Starnes has expressed this exact quality of sainthood, the here-ness or there-ness of a life that “orbits the earth but [is] not of the earth.

It is the discipline of recalling the source of our Light that keeps the underlying Presence in proper view. G.K. Chesterton borrows the same reality for his own timeless metaphor, for “just as the sun and the moon look the same size” at first glance, a right understanding of the universe soon reveals that “the sun is immeasurably our master, and the small moon only our satellite.” (229)

An accomplished poetess, Starnes employs delightful wordplay to embody the intangible to convey the loveliness of her observations:

“I wonder how such puny a word as pit,
could be both seed and slum, both dormant agency
and tomb; both conflict verb–met up against–

and scoop; a stone that yields, yields small,
yet hurts the hand. I wonder how,
but pittances deceive; thus is the way of potency

and plea; the oil is notched by hooves
and by the Fall, and then by falling fledglings,
insecure.

How measured is the earth for gift and scar,
for creaks and croons, for the precarious child.”  (69)

Borrowed Light for Living

One of my favorite elements of poetic writing is the surprising Scriptural connections that arise. Writing of Israel’s waste and desolate places, the prophet Isaiah imagines the complaint of future generations:  “The place is too cramped for me, make room for me to live.” (Isaiah 49:20 ESV) The poem “Catacombs” (64) adds to the imagery with comparison to an 80-year-old woman’s real-life six-day confinement in earthquake rubble, prompting the reader to examine her own surroundings. From what cramped places may I also emerge unscathed and with a great story to share?

Let us continue to trust in the borrowed Light that dwells in power, living our way into richly share-able tales by holy risk and trusting in the the “Lord of spill and swell” (118). May we also, in our own day, run toward the darkness with a glorious excess–“not merely patched: pampered, festooned, unspent,” but instead (YES, Lord!) trusting in the future of “a risen body our flesh has never dreamt.” (118)

Many thanks to Paraclete Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase The Consequence of Moonlight: Poems simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Rejoicing in the Brilliance of Our Borrowed Light,

Image Credit:  Calvin R. Morin (on the bridge to Rackliffe Island) 

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content 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.

 

Reclaiming Our Pilgrim Identity

I did not set out to live at the same address for 25 years, and, technically, I suppose my deep roots in this country hill may disqualify me from reviewing a book entitled Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity.  At the outset, I actually thought I had been born to wander, having purchased my first one way plane ticket at age 17 with no intention of ever returning to Maine.

Life does have a way of handing us gifts we didn’t expect, and for me, the gift has been rootedness. For the past 25 years, the only time I’ve changed mail boxes is when the snow plow has wiped ours out and sent it flying into the ditch. However, having read Michelle Van Loon’s thoughts on the pilgrim life, I have found that there are those who “pilgrim in place.” (135) This is good news to me, because I know from experience that it is possible to choose to stay in one church for two decades because staying put is more difficult than cutting and running. I have borne witness to the gritty process of knowing and being known by people who remember most of my faults and failings, but love me anyway.

Looking for Me in All the Wrong Places

Even when staying put, the pilgrim at heart acknowledges that the Christian life is one of exile. Post-Eden, humanity has lived uprooted. The people of Israel in Old Testament times were formed by wandering and displacement. The New Testament church grew because the hot breath of persecution blew them like milkweed over the field of the world. Contrary by nature, Christians have become experts at finding ways to live opposed to this part of our history, either by leaning into safer narratives and getting stuck or by turning the pilgrimage into a self-centered pleasure jaunt.

Van Loon describes a tourist mentality as a “slogan-based approach to faith.” (39) When we fold aspects of the American Dream in with a pinch of entitlement and a dab of self-focused ambition, we have dropped our pilgrim’s staff and re-defined the following life.

The Gentle Slope, Soft Underfoot

C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape described the safest path to hell as a gradual one with a “gentle slope, soft underfoot without sudden turnings,” and perhaps this is also the best description of how easy it is to fall into the life of the “Settler” —  without even realizing it. While we crave contentment and were created with a longing to live in safety and security, the Apostle Paul describes a form of contentment alien to most of us in 2018 with our desires continually spurred on by affluence and Amazon Prime. This godly contentment says “enough”  regarding material things, while also keeping the believer in a state of discontentment that will not be assuaged on this planet.

“Godly contentment makes pilgrims out of us.”  (55)

The pilgrim life is lived in moment-by-moment obedience, praying like breathing, and assiduously avoiding the diversions offered by formulaic living. This is best done in community, but with the caveat that “formulas may work in math class, but real life in a rebel world is rarely that simple.” (152)

From the moment of new birth, the believer is drawn into the wandering life that is imprinted upon our spiritual DNA. As we follow the invitation to come and be loved by the God who promises to meet us at every point until the end of our following road, we find that the home we have always longed for is not a destination, but a Person, and can be captured by this question:  “Are we moving toward God or wandering away from him?” (26)


Many thanks to Moody Publishers for providing this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with complete honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity simply click on the title (or the image) here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

One more thought:  Author Michelle Van Loon has teamed up with Amanda Cleary Eastep to curate a lovely gathering place called The Perennial Gen. In a community of Christian women and men in the second half of life, they tackle issues pertinent to midlife via the wise, curious voices of thoughtful Christian writers in their second adulthood. If this sounds like you, be sure to hop on over for an encouraging read.

Thanks for reading, and may you find yourself wandering in all the best ways,

Mailbox photo by Mikaela Wiedenhoff on Unsplash

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