Monthly Archives: June 2014

In the Between

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Something is happening. I’m not sure what—or where—but it seems to be the quiet before the storm. The house is quiet; power outages have that effect. Coming on the heels of a week of activity, a sixty-guest dinner party, and a morning-after of cleanup, there is a quietness that goes beyond the silence of a powerless refrigerator and an air conditioner that cannot condition the air. And the blank stare of the TV screen—even blocked as it is by its closed cabinet doors—offers a reflective bliss. A nap, an hour of Maya Anglou, and a never-tired daughter lost in outdoor play. Silence. It is good.

But there is an expectant wondering in the silence, too. There is a question: What’s next? Beyond the momentary silence of the afternoon is the silence of change, the silence of death before life, the silence of the birth canal – between the in utero struggle of the now-but-not-yet life and the shocked and shocking cries of postpartum new birth. Our life is in the between….

School is done. Not just the kids’ school but mine, too. Eight years of constancy, of moving from class to class, semester to semester. Eight years of theology and christology and ecclesiology and school-ology; of hermeneutics and homiletics and escaping heretics. Eight years of study for a degree that, in someone’s mind, should only take two. But that someone didn’t, I think, have a wife, and three children in school. That someone didn’t have to balance declining Greek verbs with helping his son figure out quadratic equations. He didn’t have to decide between studying for a pneumatology exam or attending his daughter’s first band concert (the squeals of the clarinets winning out over the groans of the Spirit). He didn’t have the pleasure of escorting his Girl Scout to a daddy-daughter dance when the 1,500-page text book in 8-point font cried out for a double date. But whether two years or eight, school is in the past. There is no exam to study for, no textbook to read, no next-semester schedule to balance with a family vacation. All that is left is to walk in a ceremony, shake a hand, thank the family, and receive the hard-earned diploma. Silence.

Work, like school, is all but done. A few transitional tasks, handing over duties and keys, striving to finish well. But no new work, no inbox; only an outbox. The last messages have been preaced (and, I think, well preached. Oh, so much better than that first one with all the love song titles!) There are some reflective tasks (which I enjoy): what did I do well? What do I wish I’d done better? I enjoy the reflection, but not so much the evaluation; I’m very hard on myself. And, of course, there’s the packing. The books are in boxes, but the thought of defurnishing the office is a bit unnerving. Empty rooms once so full of life and thought are somber places, as if haunted by the ghosts of what was and what might have been.  Silence. Yet how different was that empty room the first time I opened the door? Then it cried out the hopes of all that would be, that might be. Perhaps this time when it is emptied it will again give voice to those hopes—hopes that not I, but another, will see. But for now, in the between…silence.

This home, too—so alive with guests and decorations and party not 48 hours ago—today stands quiet. And over the next weeks it, too, will be defurnished. The chalkboard finally filling the frame we have carried empty for 1,500 miles will be off the wall and boxed. The couches stored, the shelves emptied, the rugs rolled. This house, barely a shell when first our romance with it began, has become our home. We have, in a sense, become one with it. The fingerprints of my wife’s heart are forever embedded in its walls and windows and cabinets. How can we ever leave? How can we ever live in another house? It would feel almost adulterous! (But not quite.) This home, like my schooling, has been part of us, part of our lives, even if only for three years. My dear, creative, beauty-loving wife gave it her all and she deserves for her creation to fill the pages of magazines! But for now, only silence.

And so the silence of the power outage, this silence of the between times, so aptly suits our lives now. We are between the certain and the unknown, between birth and life, between womb and room. And in the quiet, pleasing stillness there is yet an unpleasantness in that unknowing. There is a confidence in God’s call yet a tinge of fear in the absence of direction. Silence.

And in the silence we listen for God.

In the silence we look for God.

In the silence we cling to God.

In the silence we hope in God.

In the silence we rest in God.

Stones on the Journey

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This is a synopsis of the message I preached yesterday at Cold Springs Church. It is based on Abram’s call and journey in Genesis 12. I see four “stones” on Abram’s journey:

The Stone of Separation: God’s call separates us from all that we find comfortable and familiar—from everything in which we find security apart from him. But he promises to replace our security with him: Abram was called to leave his country, but was promised a new land. He was called to leave his kindred, his community; but was promised a great nation. He was called to leave his father’s house, but was promised the presence of God. (Notice that this ties nicely into one way of looking at a theme throughout the Bible: that God creates a people, for a place, to enjoy his presence. We see that theme in creation, in the story of the people of Israel, and all the way to Revelation, as we see God gathering his people to a new heaven and new earth to enjoy his presence forever.) Where are you finding security apart from God?

The Stone of Promise: Sometimes God’s promises are unbelievable, impossible, or unimaginable. But that doesn’t keep us from trying to imagine how God will fulfill the promise—we just usually get it wrong! (Because, after all, “our thoughts are not God’s thoughts; nor are our ways his ways.”) What we need to cling to, though, is not the promise; we need to rely on the character of the promise-giver.

The Stone of Obedience: We want to obey God; we really do. We want to do God’s will, but we often hesitate in uncertainty; God has said Go, and we want to know where to go – or at least what direction. We are too often frozen into inaction by our very desire to do God’s will. But his will is sometimes simply, Go. And we need to obey the call…even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.

The Stone of Remembrance: When Abram obeyed, he came to the place where God said he should be: “To your offspring I will give this land.” And there—where the Lord had appeared to him—Abram built an altar. Continuing on the journey, Abram built another altar to call on the name of the Lord. One line in the old hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” says, “here I raise my Ebenezer.” An Ebenezer is a stone of remembrance. We need those. Maybe it’s an actual stone; maybe it’s a memory; maybe a journal entry or a photo. However you remember, when God shows…remember. For me, May 28, 2009, is a stone of remembrance. On that day I prayed a very specific prayer that God answered very specifically and very immediately. God showed up, and that date is engraved in my mind.

Separation. Promise. Obedience. Remembrance. Stones along the journey of faith. It’s a journey with no road map, only milestones. But once you start on the journey, the risk – the adventure – will get into your blood and course through your veins and you’ll never again be satisfied with the comfortable, secure, risk-free life you once knew.