For the opportunity to help others.
We give thanks.
For abundant lives and generous spirits,
For the strength to take action.
Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth,
Last night was cold. While I slept warm and snug in my bed, there were people sleeping on the streets, under bridges and in doorways: People in this very town slept under the stars and exposed to the winter chill. They are unknown to me. They are a problem for some government agency to fix. They are people who would benefit from a program of some sort.
I’m praying today because I realize that these people are not unknown to you. You know them by name. If they matter to you, they should matter to me. If they are precious in your sight, they should be precious in my own.
And so I pray that you will lead me to action. Guide me to caring. May I know how to act on your behalf before another blanket of bone chilling cold settles this night.
There are a few places in my life that bring deep peace to my heart and soul. When I enter the space, I find comfort and ease. Some of these sanctuaries of solace include the obvious locations: The Chapel in the hospital and my church auditorium.
Others are more obscure: McGregor Park, Turkey Run State Park, The Rocky Mountains, The Library. But one haven of healing stands out above all others.
Of all my precious asylums, our abode is my favorite. Our house is nothing short of a retreat center for my spirit, a balm for my soul. It is a residence of rest, a hearth of harmony, a quarter of quiet. Our home is a dear and wonderful place of tranquility and renewal.
I’m not exactly sure what makes this place so magical to my weary heart. It might be the way the light shines through the dining room window on a late autumn evening. It could be the way the grass grows in the back yard, thick and lush even on dry summer days. It is possible that it is the amazingly warm and inviting colors we’ve painted the walls. Or, most probably, it is the love and trust we’ve honed over the past thirteen years in this a little, vinyl-sided structure planted on a cul-de-sac in a norther-Indianapolis suburb.
Whatever it is that creates the mystery of this mansion, this house is more than my home. It is my sanctuary: A place of grace. It is “Grace House”…my place of safety and strength. And I love it, dearly.
When the day comes to an end and the sun slowly drops below the western horizon, it is a good opportunity to give thanks for another day; whether it was good or bad, evil or holy. It is a moment to reflect that our world, though filled with trouble, does not compare to those who just lost everything in the wind and rain of a storm. Our life, though disappointing at times, does not come close to the devastation that some suffer as they learn of the violent death of their loved on on the field of battle. Let us be thankful. Today, we drove to work and made it home safe. Today, we earned money to buy food, put shelter over our heads and clothes on our backs. Today, we celebrated the rising of the sun and the setting of the same.
As the weight of the world builds in our hearts, may we breathe in your goodness and breathe out our pain.
As the chaos of our work week accumulates all around, may we breathe in your order and breathe out our frustration.
May we breathe deep the breath of God. May we take into our very being your grace and peace. May we be enveloped by your sweet fragrance of love and mercy.
“Mercy triumphs over judgement.” James 2:13b
First, read this four-word nugget of wisdom again.
Now, think about the last time you were judgmental. Perhaps it was in the line at the grocery store when you questioned the items of the person in front of you. Maybe it was at your last family gathering when a sibling started talking about their financial struggles, again. Or, on the other extreme, when a coworker blathers on about their new car, boat, TV, or their latest trip to some exotic location. Or it might be every morning on the highway as that car cuts you off and speeds away. We often begin and end our days with judgement.
We are very good at judging others. We should be; we practice it enough. But what does that get us? I would suggest it gets us nothing more than a jaded perspective and a hardened heart.
Now think of the last time you showed mercy. It’s not as easy to come up with examples, is it? Let me help: It could be the time you listened to your coworker, spoke gently to your children, forgave your brother, encouraged your sister or bought lunch for a stranger.
Mercy triumphs over judgement. It could if we practiced it more often. I should if we allowed it to be a driving force to our actions. It will when we stop thinking of our selves and really pay attention to those around us.
Answers to hard questions are seldom black or white. Even when we think we have the obvious solution to a difficult problem, it is doubtful that we’ve exhausted all the possibilities. If we look hard enough, we discover other viewpoints that provide valid routes to the a successful and final destination.
This is as true in relationships, business, school work, sports or any other area of life. Creative thinking and honest dialogue almost always reveal new options; some times as obvious as the proverbial “Nose on our Face”.
Take for instance the government shut down. The issue isn’t really black or white (or Republican or Democratic, if you will). But no solution is evident because our governing officials aren’t looking for any shades of gray. They only see the black and white. And until someone shuts their mouths and opens their eyes and minds, everyone loses.
It’s been said, “No man is so blind as those who choose not to see.” It’s time to look at new options. It’s time to consider a different shade.
Many, MANY years ago, I snapped this picture as part of a photography project for art school. The assignment, to complete a set of pictures as part of a series, was a fun task that challenged my creative nature and technical skills. I decided to carry a bunch of bananas with me to various locations and take pictures of them in unusual situations. These locations ranged from a downtown city street to a hog lot at the Davis Purdue Ag Center. By the end of the project, the bananas were black, slimy and disgusting. I got an “A” on the project. It was after all, great art.
My favorite shot occurred in front of the swing set while my nephews played in their back yard during a family gathering. The picture itself won high praise from my professor who loved the angles (roof of the house, swing set, and shadows) , the compartmentalized individuals (my nephews, my father-in-law on the porch, my wife to the far right), and the action occurring while the fruit is in the foreground.
This picture also is one of my favorites because it represents a more innocent time in our family’s life. It is a symbol of life “Before”. This shot was taken when the boys were young. It occurred when we were all living a more simple life. It was before tragedy had visited. It was before Alex’s accident and death. It was before Granny’s stroke, the cancer diagnosis, the fall down the stairs. It was before Alex’s accident, his death and funeral.
It is a moment of time, captured in that perfect state with shadows stretching long over the newly cut grass, children’s laughter ringing in the air and the smell of barbeque lingering in the cool evening breeze. And it is a moment that will never be again. When this picture was taken, the bananas were still fresh and ripe in the basket.
I love this picture…for so many reasons.
My two boys (young men of 23 and 18) signed a lease together and moved nearly all of their worldly belongings to an apartment in Indianapolis yesterday. It was a day of celebration and a bright future; Both are employed full time. Both posses their own cars. And both enjoy spending time together. So, this is the perfect arrangement.
Another two trips with the truck and they’ll be completely out, or nearly so. I’m sure we’ll find a random book on a shelf or a single sock in the drier, but by the end of today, the dirtiest of the work should be over.
Life transitions are good. Even when they are hard. Even when they are painful. Even when they are uncertain.
Babies learn to crawl. That’s good.
Toddlers learn to walk. That’s good most of the time.
There’s a first day of school: Good. First lost tooth: Weird but good. First crush, first date, first kiss: All good.
There are school programs and graduation. There’s a first job. A first dented fender. And the first home away from home.
We’ll miss them, sure. We’ll wish they would stop by once and a while, of course. But this transition in life is long overdue and much anticipated. They’re going to love being out on their own. I love that they are out on their own.
Yes, the boys are out.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…” ― John Muir
Today was amazing. We started the morning with a horseback ride up into the mountains where we were fed a wonderful breakfast of eggs, sausage and pancakes. We all agreed, they were the best pancakes we’d ever eaten at 7,000 feet.
We then saddled up again for another three hours of riding through pine forest, over rocky canyons, across stream beds and along ridge lines. Always, ALWAYS we had an amazing view.
It’s been a long time since I’ve sat astride a horse and my legs were pretty wobbly when we dismounted at the end of the trip. But it was worth every minute and every penny.
If I thought I’d be able to walk tomorrow or the next day, we would do it again!