The Isolation that Comes With So-Short Days

In the summer, when everything is cloaked in heat waves that squirm up off the pavement, I feel very much part of the physical world around me. Somehow the warm temperatures glue all the molecules together. I am not only me, but I am also the ground I walk on, the sky above me, and the air that I take in. Even sounds and smells feel like an extension of my skin.

But in the winter I feel separated. I am only me, and I am aware of the cold sidewalk and the streets I cannot cross and the smells that come from somewhere else.

There is an isolation that comes with the cold and these so-short days.

Yet there is also space and distance. These smallest of margins leave room for retrospection. There is time to stop on this long walk along the old stone wall and put the stones back in place, to lift them from the hard ground and build something beautiful.

Today I am embracing the space.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.      – Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

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Here are some posts by a few more folks extolling the virtues of How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp. Check them out if you get a chance:

Clay Morgan
Michelle Woodman
Alise Wright
Team Aidan

Or buy your own copy HERE.

So Much Waiting

Last week the folks over at Deeper Church were kind enough to post something that I wrote about how my grandma died and then Maile started miscarrying that day. Here is an excerpt:

I spend three solid days and nights there, waiting for her to die. I go home only because I need to shower and, besides, I feel bad for my wife, pregnant and watching the four kids by herself. But she shushes my apologies and says, “Grandma won’t be here much longer.”

And all eight of my aunts and uncles return to Pennsylvania, and nearly all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren show their face from time to time. Usually there are thirty or forty of us there at night, all sitting in the largest room our aunt’s house has to offer. Some sit on the floor, others sprawl on the folding chairs. My grandmother sits in her armchair, eyes open, barely breathing. This atmosphere, being surrounded by her family, the singing: it’s as close to heaven as she’s ever been.

Songs spring up out of the silent spaces, old hymns and gospel songs, and I realize that somehow I know the words even though I can’t remember the last time I sang them.

What will it be when we get over yonder
And join the throng upon the glassy sea?
To greet our loved ones and crown Christ forever,
Oh, this is just what Heaven means to me.

But eventually I realize I cannot spend my entire life waiting for someone to die, no matter how much I wish I could be there when she leaves, so I look in on her one last time and then I get on with my life. I text my dad to see how things are going. I stop by a few times each day, peek my head in to make sure.

Seventy-two hours later, two in the morning, my phone buzzes on the side table.

To read the rest of the post, head over to Deeper Church.

Forget the Path Behind You – It Leads Back to Mediocrity

It’s a strange place to be, this particular spot in life where we’re too committed to the current path to even consider going back. Do you know what I mean? Have you ever reached that point?

Before this, there was the beginning. The starting out. The hemming and hawing and difficult decisions and the voices – oh, the voices! – protesting and arguing and whining. There was that sense that our feet were far too tender for the path we were called to travel. A lonely path. A path few understood.

Then, when we finally started off down this narrow way, there were the (many) places where it was hard not to look back, and while looking back, hard not to turn back. That was the place of second guesses and curious road blocks. That was the place where the launching point was still in view, still attainable, still turn-back-and-findable.

But the last six months have been a machete slicing its way through undergrowth. The path, once felt so defined, vanished, but the place at which it melted away became its own launching point, and with all the slashing and breaking, the stinging and stooping, we completely lost all sight of where we’d come from. We stopped and we looked around and we marveled at the silence. The peace. The unrecognizable.

When that realization hits, that the way back is no easier than the way forward, the first sense is panic. How did we so easily lose our lifeline to that place of safety? What now? Where do we turn? There is, at that point, no greater temptation than to sit down and cry a river of tears and hope you can somehow drown yourself in their shallow stream.

But we did none of those things. We kept moving forward. And we learned something rather shocking.

There is a remarkable peace to be found when the way back to mediocrity has been erased. There is a remarkable excitement when the way forward has nothing to offer but calamitous failure or life lived to the fullest.

And who is to say that one is not found in the other?

What’s Your Golden Ticket?

There’s plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket, there’s only 5 of them in the whole world, and that’s all there’s ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?

– Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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This is my favorite part of the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Charlie, on his third try, manages to buy a chocolate bar with a golden ticket inside. Only five children in the whole world will find a ticket and gain entrance to Willie Wonka’s private candy factory.

It’s a dream come true. Charlie finds a ticket. But on his way out of the candy store, someone offers him $500 for his ticket. Charlie is dirt poor. By the time he gets home with his ticket, he has made a difficult decision: his family needs the money more than he needs a trip to a chocolate factory.

But his grandfather looks at him:

“There’s plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket, there’s only 5 of them in the whole world, and that’s all there’s ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?”

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What’s your view of money? Do you realize how common it is? What are you willing to give up for it?

What’s your golden ticket? What limited edition thing (dream, opportunity, lifestyle, gift, the list goes on and on and on) are you about to give up, just so that you’ll have more money?

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Turns out, by keeping the ticket, Charlie ends up owning the entire factory. That sounds a heck of a lot better than $500. If you give up your golden ticket, what are you actually giving up? What are you gaining?

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We all give up certain things for money. Part of that is a necessary exchange. If we want to have a place to live, clothes to wear, food to eat, then most of us have to give up our time and work for money. But sometimes we start to really like the extra stuff that money can give us. So we start leaving more and more stuff at it’s altar.