Periwinkle sky

Blues and violets were dancing together across the sky, accompanied by the setting sun. The trees on the hills strained to touch their tips to the periwinkle above. The highway dipped like a roller coaster and rippled for several more miles. It was a late-April evening in northern Florida, and it had been a day.

You know how some days can make your heart thump-thump-thump? My heart had been thump-thump-thumpy all day. Lessons hadn’t gone as planned and students were excessively edgy. Too many unexpected events, too many interruptions, too many minor hiccups were the perfect cocktail for a thump-thump-thumpy heart.

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Day-at-a-glance wisdom

Several years ago I found some books by Christy Barritt. The first series I read was called Squeaky Clean Mysteries. They are the perfect mix of suspense and hilarity. Barritt has written a handful of other series; her most recent is the Lantern Beach series. These books follow Seattle detective Cady Matthews who is forced off the grid. There is a price on her head from her undercover work. She killed a drug lord. His followers are out for revenge so she has to disappear.

She disappears to a small town in North Carolina where she takes on Cassidy Livingston for a name and owning an ice cream truck for an occupation. Cassidy has a complicated and sad past, one that doesn’t get less so with a new identity or residence. One of the few ties she has to life in Seattle and life before going undercover is a day-at-a-glance calendar from her deceased best friend. When Cassidy needs to bear up her resolve, she takes note of the day’s conventional wisdom and clings to it.

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O little town of Bethlehem

The countdown to Christmas is on. Last-minute shoppers will clog the stores tomorrow and Saturday. Gifts will be wrapped. Meals will be prepped. Families will start their get-togethers and gatherings. The hustle and bustle of the season is about to reach its climax.

Believers are trying hard to remember the reason for the season. The Incarnation gets lost between the wrapping paper and the bows. Glimpses of Nativity sets offer fleeting thoughts to Jesus and his birth.pexels-photo

I have had lots of preparation time leading up to Christmas this year. It is great because everything is ready for the festivities of family Christmas tomorrow and on Christmas day. I have also had time to think about what this time of year means for me and other believers.

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For you are greatly loved

Each Christmas the story of Jesus’ birth is told in homes and preached about in churches everywhere. People take this time to consider the events that led up to the arrival of the Son of God on earth as a baby in a manger. With annual citations it can be easy to stop paying such close attention. It can be easy to stop listening and really caring.

So the Christian must fight during this time of year to not let the Incarnation seem mundane or routine because it is a familiar story. It is anything but mundane. Yes, God used the ordinary and unexciting (a mom and a manger) for His Son, but the Incarnation is spectacular.

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Comparably, the events leading up to Jesus’ birth can be overlooked and oversimplified, too. Think of how quickly you read through the account of John the Baptist’s birth in order to get to Jesus’.

This year, though, when reading the pronouncement of John the Baptist’s birth, something about his father, Zechariah, stood out to me. When Zechariah came face to face with the angel Gabriel, it becomes clear that while Zechariah had once prayed for a child, which God was decisively answering, he had stopped praying because of his age.

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The dust of his feet

Elisabeth Elliot is one of my favorite authors. She feels so keenly, thinks so deeply, and expresses herself so well. I thought I had read all of her books but Coie introduced me to Keep a Quiet Heart. When I went to get it on Amazon, I found a few others I had never heard of, including The Path of Loneliness: Finding your way through the wilderness to God.

I am somewhat embarrassed to mention that I bought a book with this title because loneliness conjures up notions of hopelessness, lassitude, and desperate unbelief. Talking about loneliness is also a vulnerable endeavor. There isn’t any shame in loneliness, though. People can be lonely at different times of their lives for myriad reasons.

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Burdensome gifts

The JOY FM, one of the many radio stations I button-whack while driving, is celebrating 30 years of ministry and granting 30 wishes.

Last week I heard the spot for the latest wish that was granted. The JOY FM provided an RV for ten days of travel, and gas money and Visa gift cards for a family to take a vacation. This family has at least two children who have life-threatening allergies and some other health problems. The RV was provided so that family could clean and disinfect it themselves to eliminate the known allergens.

This family was granted a wish because the father is a stay-at-home-daddy because of his kids’ health needs. This family doesn’t have much extra money. We can all relate to times when there hasn’t been a lot of play money. I love that The JOY FM is so generous; however, I couldn’t help but think if this gift is more of a burden than a blessing.

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Musings and Rio 2016

The Olympics have been underway for three days now. Already there have been several stories of athletes who have been injured. There was the French gymnast who snapped his leg, the British gymnast who landed on her neck, and the Dutch cyclist who flew over the top of her handlebars when rounding a corner.

The Olympics are an amazing display of bodies that have been tested and tried and disciplined and pushed beyond what the average human is willing to endure in the name of physical fitness. But as the aforementioned examples illustrate, this fitness comes at a cost.

Now I love the Olympics. I love the competition and the way people band together to support their favorites. I love to see the camaraderie among athletes on the same team and the rivalries that sometimes surface. However, I don’t love to see people get hurt. I don’t like to see people push themselves so hard and far that they injure themselves, or even others.

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Living quietly

There comes a point when the daily grind becomes so monotonous that only time away can truly refresh the perspective. My break came during my recent trip to South Carolina, a place I am growing to love. Being away from home and my daily routine gave me time to think about life—nothing earth-shattering, just reflections on the last year.

During my first trip to South Carolina last year, the pastor at Coie’s church preached from 1 Thessalonians 4:11 on the Sunday I joined them. Coie now has a picture hanging in her dining room of flowers in a mason jar with the words of 1 Thessalonians 4:11 written beside them: “and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands…” Yesterday, the day after I came home, my dad preached from 1 Thessalonians 4:11. The timing of these sermons, my trips to South Carolina, and the opportunities to reflect was not lost on me.

The truth of Scripture, combined with the idyllic backdrop of South Carolina and the reinforcement when I got home, gave a fresh focus to my musings.

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Minding my own business and working with my hands is not so much a struggle for me as aspiring to live quietly is. Discontentment, often cloaked as hopes and dreams, pushes this rebellious heart to be bold, make a statement, or do something wild. Living quietly seems too good, sounds too much like being a stick in the mud, and hints too much at becoming a wallflower.

But this is not true. Living quietly means I accept with joy and contentment the life the Lord has given me. I forsake visions of grandeur; I forsake all notions of self-importance; I forsake the world and its cares; I forsake frivolity.

Regrettably, I spend far too much time and concentration deliberating about the way my life looks—the job I have, the company I keep, the things I like. Truth is, I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and as a believer, my life is fundamentally and radically different from the world anyway and always. I can spend as much time as I want worrying how I look to the world, but I will never fit in. I can’t fit in. I should not seek to fit in.

God, in his love and grace, allowed this trip and the last to South Carolina to be woven with reminders to aspire to live quietly, to follow Christ and trust him. Whether it was the serenity of my surroundings or the break from the mundane, the Lord firmly impressed on me the importance of living quietly and being content. This is not the dedication of the rest of my life to the mundane or unexciting, but it is a matter of obedience. I must obey (and can do so boldly) because aspiring to live quietly is good and right and mandated by God.