Author Archives: Randy Ehle

31-Day Writing Challenge—Day 25 :: Think

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“What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing much.”

It was a lie—a big, bald-faced lie. In truth, he was thinking thoughts so weighty they almost terrified him. How could he possibly put that burden on her? Not now—already there was too much fear, too much insecurity, too much uncertainty … too much of too little.

Besides, the thoughts weren’t even formed in his own mind; words to express them would certainly fail. The thoughts were mere wisps of cloud; speaking them would be a breeze distorting their already-shapeless being. In the very act of speaking, the thoughts would dissipate into nothingness.

(It’s funny how that works, isn’t it—how we think in words, but verbalizing our thoughts fundamentally alters them?)

“You look deep in thought.”

“Sort of,” he lied again.

“So what are you thinking about?,” she pressed.

(Does it always have to be about something? Can’t we just think? To think about reduces the transcendent firmament of thought to a single, inconsequential subject line.)

“I don’t know—random thoughts. Nothing in particular.” At last, truth. (“Clouds” wouldn’t have been incorrect.)

“Well, can’t you think out loud? I want to know what’s going on inside you.”

(Be careful what you ask for.)

So slowly, haltingly, the words blew out. Wisps of ideas scattered. Unformed thoughts took shape. Fears peeked out as if from behind night-darkened trees. The words were, as expected, insufficient, inexact, incorrect. They described ideas he hadn’t had, distorted images that had been crystal clear before being breathed out. He wanted to retreat again, into the quiet refuge of thought.

(How is it that words can so befuddle a wordsmith’s thoughts?)

And as the words spilled out haphazardly, confusing and distorting the very thoughts she’d asked to know, her own thoughts joined with his, creating new thoughts, new life … and, yes, new fears.

“What if …? What about …? Could we …? What do you think about …?”

In the precise imprecision of language, thoughts give way to ideas, possibilities, hopes, dreams.

“So what have you been thinking about?,” he asked.

It’s her turn now.

This entry is part of the 31-Day Writing Challenge 2021 from Five Minute Friday.

31-Day Writing Challenge—Day 22 :: Still

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[I’ve missed a few!]

Shhh…. Be still, my child. Abba’s here. Abba’s got you.

I know it hurts. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. But I’m holding you. I love you, and nothing can ever change that. I will never let you go. I will never stop loving you. No matter what anyone else says, no matter what anyone else thinks or does … I love you.

(But you have to love me—you’re my Abba.)

Yes, I have to love you … because I’m yours, because you’re mine … because I AM … I have to love you. I want to love you. I do love you. I love you because I love. I love you because I am love.

(That doesn’t count. I want to be loved for me.)

Yes, I understand—I want to be loved for me, too. And I know how it feels to not be loved for me. It’s hard. It hurts. So much, in fact, that I could just die. But—oh wait, I did die. I loved and loved and loved so much that it killed me. (Literally!)

My child, you will never be enough for others to love you for you. After all, if I’m not enough …. But you’ll never have to be enough for me—just let me be enough for you.

(I’ll try, Abba. I love you.)

I love you, too, my son. Now hush … be still … and know … that I am God. And I love you.

This entry is part of the 31-Day Writing Challenge 2021 from Five Minute Friday.

31-Day Writing Challenge—Day 7 :: Encourage

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Since May, I’ve been talking with a coach each month. Since June, my wife has been fighting a myriad of health problems that have consumed us.

I entered into the coaching relationship intending to gain perspective and assistance in leading forward in the church I pastor—an historic church (it predates Abraham Lincoln’s presidency!) in the heart of California Gold Country. Since moving to this beautiful area a little over three years ago, I’ve come to realize how hard it is to be new here: in one gathering of parents of high schoolers, one parent introduce herself by saying, “we’ve only lived here three generations.” In fact, as one who has moved often throughout my life, I can say with great confidence that this is the hardest area to be new that I have ever lived in. And I know people who have lived here for fifteen or twenty years who still feel new.

Another realization I had shortly after becoming pastor: never before in my life have I even been part of a church with only one pastor and with fewer than sixty people—much less a church that is 80% over age 65. To say it’s been hard is an understatement. And don’t even get me started on the added challenges of the past eighteen months.

Back to coaching. Since early July my coach, formerly a pastor and church planter for thirty years, has started our phone calls with a question: How’s your wife? Answering that question—and airing all the difficulties and sorrows of her health and its impact on me, our family, and leadership—has consumed our calls. And in that, my coach has consoled, commiserated, and encouraged. It’s been good, but it hasn’t been what I would call “strategic.” It hasn’t helped me navigate the challenges of leading this church.

Or has it? Today I shared some of these thoughts. I said that as my wife’s health has stabilized and improved recently, it’s probably time to get into the real coaching. My coach heard my gratitude for the encouragement and he heard my desire to begin thinking strategically again. We made a start in that.

And somewhere in the conversation a light went on. I realized that maybe the listening, caring, and encouraging was just what I needed in order to stay in the leadership game over these past few difficult months. Maybe I didn’t need someone asking me about a strategic plan or Fall Kickoff or how to better care for a bunch of comfortable older women in church. Maybe the encouragement was strategic.

I’m not as natural an encourager as some are, as my coach is. But maybe there’s a lesson I can learn as I try to lead my church forward into new ways of thinking and being: encouragement is strategic.

This entry is part of the 31-Day Writing Challenge 2021 from Five Minute Friday.

31-Day Writing Challenge—Day 6 :: Whole

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Can broken be made whole again?
Is broken less than whole?
Is repaired less than whole?

Brokenness is part of life. Not the good part, perhaps, but there is good even in—or at least from—brokenness. “Scars have stories,” Dan Allender says.

I just read an encouragement to story. (I like the idea of story as verb.) But what story? What scar? What death? What brokenness?

[This entry was written—and interrupted—the second morning of a trip to a conference. I guess whole doesn’t have to be long!]

This entry is part of the 31-Day Writing Challenge 2021 from Five Minute Friday.

31-Day Writing Challenge—Day 5 :: Patient

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By now I know, from the general theme of these writing challenges, that the spirit of today’s prompt is an adjective referring to forbearance, not a noun describing a doctor’s client. But this is my blog, my writing, my imagination, and I’m going to take it where I want.

There is of course a connection between the adjective and the noun. After all, a patient must be patient; at least, it helps … how often have you had to wait (hopefully patiently) for the doctor? How often have I had to wait over these past four months?

It’s been a rough summer in our family, health-wise. We’ve spent a lot of time waiting—in doctor’s offices, having medical procedures, waiting for test results. And in the emergency room … don’t even get me started! I’ve theorized, based on three ER visits in as many days (or nights) that it doesn’t really matter when you arrive at the ER; you won’t be released until three o’clock in the morning.

And in our case, that release came with precious little help: no answers, so suggestions, no solutions. In short, since death wasn’t imminent, we simply waited. And waited. And waited.

I get it. The ultimate purpose of an emergency department is to keep people alive long enough to get more long-term care. And if there’s no indication that you’re knocking on death’s door, you’re pretty much the lowest priority. Even if it feels like death is knocking on your door.

And that’s how it felt for a while. And when we got help, it always came with the same message: this is going to take a while. But when you don’t feel good, you want to get better … now. Healing is slow. Be patient. But it’s hard being patient. It’s hard being a patient. It’s hard being a patient patient.

The amazing thing is, they were right. Healing is coming. It’s not complete, but it’s getting better. Not better enough (yet), but still a lot better.

Healing is slow. Whether it’s a broken arm or cancer; a broken heart or abuse … healing is slow. Be patient. With the people helping you heal, with the process, with yourself. Be patient.

This entry is part of the 31-Day Writing Challenge 2021 from Five Minute Friday.