Musings: January 2019

I’m no physicist, but it would appear that a cannon ball, shot due north from Bangor, Maine on a snowy-cold Saturday morning, could travel unobstructed all the way to the Canadian border. We left home in the dark for a quick visit with much-loved relatives, eight hours round trip, but worth every minute and every mile. We snickered at the green and white signs alerting us that we were nearing T2-R8, and noticed that the wind-sculpted snow alongside Maine’s interstate highway was so undisturbed that we could detect the presence of rodent life, tunneling underneath.

Northern Maine is no longer home to me, but my years there were formative to my understanding of home, as “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Because I have been “taken in” so faithfully in so many places, those words from a Robert Frost poem guide my thinking about the swinging door on this country hill and the bright red door on the church where I worship.

Since Scripture is “a home story,” home figures prominently in the biblical narrative, and God’s work on our behalf becomes an example of welcome and provision–or homemaking! Stability is a spiritual discipline, an opposite to rootlessness,  and it signifies a commitment to make a difference in a specific place and time.  The paradox of the Christian life is this need for full investment, wherever we are, whatever our calling — in stark contrast to the need to also hold it all loosely.

On My Mind

The Adjacent Possible is a principle from biology, but it describes the way we make real progress forward. For example, the invention of the iPhone could not have happened in 1997. However, by 2007, technology was in place for Apple to roll out its new, world-changing invention. It became possible because of the innovations that preceded it.

The concept of The Adjacent Possible has changed the way I approach adding spiritual disciplines and healthful practices to my life. Adjacent means in close proximity. If I am looking for The Adjacent Possible, I stop scanning the horizon for a “eureka” moment and begin looking close by for a small positive step in the right direction.

I didn’t choose a word or make a long list of resolutions for 2019. I want to persevere and be faithful in doing the next right thing. At this point in the year, that includes teaching the preschool Sunday School class. When you are the Sunday School Superintendent in a small church, recruitment is always a challenge, and it sometimes means that you are your own best substitute teacher. Painting murals of “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters,” and imagining Samuel’s anointing of David with a drop of scented oil on our fingers is a pretty terrific way to spend a Sunday morning!

On My Nightstand

Over Christmas vacation, I spotted a couple of Kindle deals on Wendell Berry’s A Place on Earth and A Place in Time, and it’s been a pleasure to re-visit Port William, Kentucky and the World War II-era backdrop that showcases Berry’s exquisite description, character development, and dialogue.

Add to this Paraclete Press’s new fiction release Lights on the Mountain  by Cheryl Anne Tuggle (look for a review of this one in February!) and it’s been a delightful winter of reading a bit of fiction alongside the rest.

On the Screen!

Have I ever recommended a movie or a show here before?
I don’t think so, but with an empty-ing nest, it is occasionally possible to watch a movie that has absolutely no light saber duels, car chases, or endless quests to dispose of a certain piece of jewelry. Recently, the patient husband and I settled down to watch Howard’s End on Amazon Prime Video. The mini-series is based on a novel by E.M. Forster with a quiet and meandering plot, period settings, and delightful British accents. Margaret, the female protagonist, is a force to be reckoned with and models forgiveness, an admirable anchoring in solid values, and an astute understanding of marriage.

Definitely worth a date night or two.
Ice cream optional, but very nice.

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On the Blog

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The Gift of God in Exchange for Ashes

If you are at all familiar with Elisabeth Elliot’s no-nonsense style of teaching and writing the Truth,  Made for the Journey: One Missionary’s First Year in the Jungles of Ecuador will reveal a part of her story that may surprise you!

Adoption and the Journey Toward a Surrendered Heart

Surrendered Hearts: An Adoption Story of Love, Loss, and Learning to Trust is Lori Schumaker’s 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.

An Invitation to the Generative Life

Working from insights gained in his calling as an artist, Makoto Fujimura invites his readers into the generative life, which is “fruitful, originat[es] new life, [and] . . . draws on creativity to bring into being something fresh and life giving.” The Perennial Gen graciously shared my review of Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life.

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Speak Up

Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up by Kathy Khang is challenging me to look carefully at the way I use my words, lending the realization that even my choice to be silent communicates something. Apathy, insecurity, or laziness are not traits I want to “give voice” to, so I’m trusting for courage to lean into a gracious and yet more vocal role in the communities I inhabit.

Standing on the Edge of Inside

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you know that I make no secret of the fact that I am an unabashed fan girl of Luci Shaw’s, and her latest collection of poems, Eye of the Beholder (Paraclete Poetry) has only served to heighten my respect for her work.

How to Keep the Main Thing as the Main Thing

Truth from Paul’s letter to the Philippians is an anchor to The Main Thing. Basics for Believers: The Core of Christian Faith and Life is Carson’s exposition of a well-loved epistle. Although Paul’s words have become the source for many a swoon-worthy Instagram post, they are a gritty call to fellowship in the gospel, where the focus is obedience, self-denial and a muscular commitment to the well-being of others.

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What was a highlight in your January? Are you making plans for 2019? Please share in the comments, and may you know the stillness and peace that come with knowing God,

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7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Speak Up

Several years ago, with one tentative toe dipping into middle age, I read life-changing words from the pen of Ruth Bell Graham, who confided she was finally learning that she did not need to weight in on every topic OR to speak up at every opportunity. This seemed reasonable to me at the time, a wise grid through which to steward my words, and I have consciously applied the rubric to social situations. (I’m sure the practice has been a blessing to both family and friends.)

However, recently, I’ve noticed some regret creeping in around the edges of my restraint. While I’m still an advocate for verbal discretion, I can think of at least two memorial services as well a couple of other gatherings where I felt strongly that I had something meaningful to share, but talked myself out of it:  too risky, too vulnerable, too “out there.”

Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up by Kathy Khang is challenging me to look carefully at the way I use my words, lending the realization that even my choice to be silent communicates something. Apathy, insecurity, or laziness are not traits I want to “give voice” to, so I’m trusting for courage to lean into a gracious and yet more vocal role in the communities I inhabit.

Khang shares her own legacy of silence, struggling with her role as an immigrant from South Korea, feeling voiceless, learning to raise her voice “doing the good work of the good news,” while struggling with credibility and suffering from imposter syndrome. Challenges arising from her experience as a woman of color in a leadership role in para-church ministry drove her deeply into the Word of God for assurance from biblical role models like Esther and Moses. Beloved and known by our Creator, we are called, at times, to speak gritty truth to one another, not to hurt or tear down, but to bless and to influence for good.

Learning to Speak Up

Going forward, I am working on a reasoned approach to raising my voice based on seven questions Kathy Khang has posed:

  • Who Am I? What unique perspectives do I bring to the table as a white, middle-aged, long-time-married mother of sons with plenty of time in a pew? Who else is sitting around the same table with me? What can we learn from each other?
  • What is in My Wheelhouse? The downward draw of imposter syndrome has muzzled me more than once in situations where I probably had the most experience in the room, but was too intimidated to speak up–even though I saw the conversation going in a direction that looked ominous to me. The lesson here? Any combination of gifting and experience that God has graciously given comes with a responsibility to speak up.
  • Am I Willing to Fail or Be Judged? Quite honestly, his is huge for me, but most of the time, I am probably much safer than I imagine. Kathy points out that testing my voice is a matter of humility. I don’t need to “toughen up, become immune, or be unmoved by criticism or failure.” (59) I just need to be willing to learn from it.
  • What Are My Unique Gifts, Talents, and Skills? Good stewardship demands that I put myself in the way of risk to be available for God’s agenda.
  • Who Are My People? Who needs my encouragement? Whom has God already put within my circle of influence?
  • What Diverse Voices Am I Learning From? Reading, listening, paying attention to people whose faces and stories are radically different from my own has been life changing. Raise Your Voice sat in a pile beside my bed for months before I made the commitment to read it, because I knew the author would call me out of my comfort zone. A word to the wise:  sometimes the journey into discomfort is easier in community. If you’re looking for a challenge, The Red Couch Book Club is reading Kathy’s book this month.
  • How Do You Care for Yourself? Self care can be as simple as going to bed at a reasonable time, eating healthfully and mindfully, or saying no to unreasonable demands. If my voice is shrill from exhaustion or unreasonable because of poor preparation, the message God has given to me may not be conveyed in the best possible way.

Raise Your Voice!

There’s plenty of work in these seven questions to last me well into the new year, and I’m wondering if you also are feeling the tug to raise your voice in profound and courageous words. It can be a fearsome thing to be visible in the world by becoming uncomfortably audible. God invites us to inhabit our vulnerability by faith, a sinewy confidence in a sovereign God that trusts in His placement of our voices, cherishes His assignment of our customized message, and leaves the outcome in His powerful hands.

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.

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 sharing products and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up 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 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.