Three Truths that are Settling More Deeply into Our Hearts
A theme in Scripture is that God often sends people on journeys so that He can impress some truths upon them at a depth-level that for some reason is less possible when we’re settled in our homes. I feel this happening for me. The truths below are not new for me or for any reader; they are just working their way into my soul more deeply, and for that I’m grateful.
- Invest in People. We’ve all heard this a thousand times. But I’ve gotten to see it in some dramatic ways here. A decade ago Rich met a leader in Eastern Europe who impressed him as particularly gifted. Back then our financial picture was brighter, and we were able to give him some gifts that enabled him to pursue a seminary education. Today he is leading at a high level within a Christian organization, and we have heard people mention their appreciation for his leadership in three different countries so far! If God in his wisdom ever chooses to give us financial resources to spare again, I hope and pray I will pursue this shrewdest of all investment strategies: people, people, people.
- Pursue Work as a Vocation, not a Career. The word career comes from the Latin or French for a street and the car that goes down it. It tends to imply something that proceeds in an orderly pace, ideally from one promotion to the next. Many of you have experienced that in your professional life, and that is (or can be) fantastic. Some of you who know us as reasonably competent people have at times expressed surprise that our work trajectories have evoked the word careen more than the word career, as we’ve traversed the previous decade. I’m becoming more and more content with the likelihood that careening may be our future as well. As long as we’re listening for God’s calling, his vocation to us, we’re willing to let our road be a windier one than that of many of our peers.
- The Past Has a Long Shadow. This third truth is less personal and more of a summary of the pain we’ve seen in the nations of Belarus, Romania, and Bosnia. We in America are big on ‘moving on,’ ‘getting over it,’ etc. And that is in fact what is called for and what is happening, but it is also simply true that the wounds in these nations cut very, very deep, and the scars will remain a long time. Ask a woman in Ukraine why there are so few men in the churches there (and at the same time resentment of women taking leadership in them) and she will immediately go back to World War II and the death of hundreds of thousands of men. We don’t have anything in America that in casual conversation we date back to the effects of WWII! It does make me want us to be pretty darn cautious as we enter into wars today…but that’s political commentary for a different blog….
Three Practices That Are Helping Us to Thrive:
- Walking. In lieu of my stationary or regular bike, I’m trying to walk at least half an hour a day. Some days, large airports accomplish this for me (less fun), and some days the schedule or weather doesn’t allow it, but we are walking outdoors as often as we can. As we walk we savor stories, notice features of the landscape and the culture, and look for God’s presence in our days. It’s good.
- Saying thanks for the suitcase. A frequent response to our description of our journey is, “So you’ll be living out of a suitcase for a year???!” (As if we hadn’t quite thought of that…) A friend who’s been a missionary warned, “You will hate your suitcase after two weeks.” While I appreciate the compassion intended in her words, something in me decided to take them as a challenge, not to hate my suitcase. Yes, it is indeed a challenge to lug it from place to place, and yes, it can be tiresome searching for my hairbrush when it’s migrated to the bottom of the bag. But my desire is to end the year grateful for the incredible opportunity this year has been, and my suitcase is a key tool that makes the year possible. So my goal is to thank God for my suitcase at least once a day.
- Pray As You Go. When we have access to the internet and the time, I love beginning my day with the lovely reflections on Scripture found on this app.
Three Resources We Are Enjoying:
- Everybody Wins: The Chapman Guide to Solving Conflicts Without Arguing, by Gary Chapman. We are enjoying reading this one aloud to each other, chuckling at tendencies he names that resonate with our own, and appreciating his insights. Chapman makes the simple point that arguments (presentations of our ‘side,’ articulated with passion and logic and the goal of winning and gaining our preferred outcome) are perfectly suited for the courtroom, and singularly unsuited for a marriage. His simple alternatives to arguing are quite compelling.
- Soul Keeping, by John Ortberg. This book made me laugh aloud and actually made me cry as well. It is shaped as an extended tribute to Dallas Willard. I have to admit, I’ve never gotten into Willard’s writing, for some reason. This book makes me want to give him another try. I always enjoy Ortberg’s humor and thoughtful perspectives on spirituality, but had not known how deeply he was impacted by a decades-long friendship with Willard.
- How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson. I have been pondering storytelling as it relates to preaching and evangelism, and have read several books on the topic that frankly add very little value to the conversation. I found this book to be surprising exception. It ingeniously teaches the essentials of plot via an unfolding plot involving a certain big, not-so-bad wolf, an aspiring writer named Goldilocks, and her writing instructor, Baby Bear. A really fun read!
Three Most Memorable T-Shirt Messages So Far:
- The first has a story attached. The students were lagging a bit on our way to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and Rich was getting worried that we’d miss the time stamped on our pre-bought tickets. At just that moment I read a T-shirt that didn’t make sense to me. It said, “Let your Dreams Sail Away.” This just seemed silly—why would you do that? So I read it aloud. Rich, thinking I was trying to calm him, said, “I just have a simple dream of us getting to Sagrada on time! Is that too much to ask? Why are you telling me to let that dream sail away?” Fortunately Rich’s dream did come true and we arrived on time.
- Award for good-natured irony goes to the young man in Latvia wearing a T-Shirt that said, “Don’t blame me. Blame my gender.”
- Award for a slightly darker irony goes to the woman wearing glittery five-inch heels whose T-shirt read, “Don’t look at my shoes.” Loved that.