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Go ahead, run that stop sign!

If I come to a complete stop, I’m stuck.

Not that I’m prone to hyperactivity. I’m actually quite a measured person. I consider carefully what I do. I’m not a risk-taker or an impulsive doer. Just a mover. Something about being in motion gives me a sense of myself in space, in place, in life.

So, I wonder about people who just stand there on purpose. Who, through clenched fists and tight lips, say “I’m waiting for ‘a calling’ or ‘for inspiration’ or ‘for a sign.'” As soon as they get the word, they’ll be off to the races. Until then, they are sweating bullets sitting at that crossroads.

I don’t work that hard. There’s a sign at the intersection in the front of my house that says stop. In my car, I do. But on foot, I don’t. I look right, left and straight ahead and then step off into the direction for the day’s venture.

Which way is the “right” way, I really don’t know. But what I have found is that the sign at the entrance is rarely God’s sign. It’s an earthly sign, erected by humans. It’s the law and I’m meant to obey it. But once I choose the way, once I turn in a direction, then God’s signs are all along it to tell me I’m on His path.

Occasionally I see another stop or a yield or a “rough road ahead” sign on this path. These are Him, too. Telling me I’ve made a wrong turn!

Perhaps if I listened more carefully at the entrance of my day I would hear Him calling me into something in particular. A “Go this way. I’ve made you a novelist!” Or “Go that way. I’ve made you a coach!” Or “Turn around. I’ve made you a personal trainer!”

Nope. None of that. The call for me is not a hearing, but a moving and then a noticing. What I am meant to be will come clearer along the way. Perhaps He’ll slap some armor on me and make me a warrior. Or stick feathers in me and make me a bird. Or pour syrup and sprinkles from above and make me an ice cream sundae.

What we’re meant to be will be revealed. For now I’m working on trusting. God’s not calling me to perform divine acts of great consequence. That’s His business. Just to the small stuff. “Go in the strength you have,” He says, “and I’ll be along.”

This requires a certain amount of letting go, a certain amount of trust and a heaping helping of humor. Trusting myself to make all the decisions, now that’s laughable. Trusting in God is much safer, much healthier and the way things are going to work out anyway. Along that path, I may even learn to trust myself! I’m not looking for anything in particular. I’m just coming.

So much simpler than trying to figure it all out ahead of time.


Closing the loop

I don’t like open loops. Things left undone. Songs left unfinished. Jokes interrupted before the punch line. My mind keeps chewing on them. It’s that broken record that repeats and repeats the same line over and over and over. Finish already!

I’m told this a normal thing. To want to bring something to completion. Our minds crave this. In fact they do it on their own. Supposedly, it’s the remedy for that Beatles song that is stuck in your head mid-phrase. Apparently, we humans tend to add our own endings or fill in our own details – even when they’re not accurate or not offered. Even if we don’t know the words.

We need to have a complete story.

But I have been troubled recently by a trend I see. It’s the “let’s just not worry about closing the loop.” No RSVP. No return phone call. A question asked that no one answers. Okay, call me odd, but I actually feel compelled to answer. Unless prevented by an extreme circumstance, I absolutely RSVP even it’s “no thanks.” I respond to the email. I tell you if I can’t show up or just don’t want to. My friend Mary Lou taught me this very helpful phrase, “Thank you for thinking of me, but that’s not my opportunity.”

I find people appreciate this, perhaps because so many loops remain open out there. We are forced to presume it’s a “no” when people don’t respond. Maybe they are just uncomfortable saying no. I get that. Me too.

But lately I have been picturing that open loop. A wedding band not yet united, the rope not yet knotted, the thread pulled lose and not secured. Things yet to be done wait for me. They keep pestering me to finish them off. I’m not sure I ever realized just quite how much power they were exerting on me. I tried to dismiss them, put them off, or just pretend that it didn’t matter to me whether the loops were closed or not.

But it does.

Why? I think part of it is that Beatles song phenomenon. So much mental and emotional energy invested in the continuous unproductive loop. But there’s more. God wants me to decide what to do. To make a decision yay or nay. It may even be more important that I make a decision than exactly what my decision is. Because once I respond, I close that irritating loop and can move onto the next one clamoring for attention.

Yes, I hate to say no. But the freedom I feel to say yes makes it worth it. ‘No response’ has left me in limbo for such a long time. Perhaps those non-RSVPers don’t experience the limbo. Maybe they can just write it off and never give it a second thought. Not me. I’m meant to close loops.

And I say loops plural, because part of what had been hanging me up was the notion that I had been only assigned one. One story to tell but to tell it perfectly. Nope. As I put the last period on the last sentence and send it off to the editor, I am not even done with my ahhh when the next loop opens.

That God. Do you suppose He has been sitting there the whole time, tapping His foot and looking at His watch? Maybe. I am grateful for His eternal patience. My goodness, am I ever.

And I guess I should stop complaining about all the loops in my life and start giving thanks for them. What a privilege it is to be one of those people that just has to make the connection in everything. I am a storyteller after all.

And when I just don’t see the connection, I trust there is an end to the story I can’t yet see. Because the Greatest Storyteller of All brings us all to completion, from start to finish. It’s a promise.

How do we know when it’s safe to cross?

photo-001I was driving in DC this week. I don’t recommend it. Big cities and cars don’t mix well; take the mass transport. Anyway, I was amused at the looks on the faces of pedestrians as I approached the intersections. They stared at me with their feet firmly planted on the sidewalk several feet from the asphalt. Safe. Secure. Waiting for the light to turn. Even then the wise pedestrian checks both ways and says a prayer. You never know what might happen when you venture into the intersection. It’s every man for himself out there. Cross at your own risk.

That is, unless you’re in Charlottesville. In UVA-land, college town USA, you don’t catch the eye of the oncoming driver to see if it’s safe to cross. You don’t even bother looking right or left, you don’t even pause before stepping out into the intersection. You just step. Because the drivers in Charlottesville stop for pedestrians waiting to cross. It’s just what they do. Everyone knows it…except for out-of-towners.

Now I, having learned to drive in DC and the surrounding suburbs, admit that there was a significant squealing of wheels and screeching of tires, not to mention angry glower from the pedestrian, the first time I failed to notice his intention to cross and then step out RIGHT IN FRONT of my car.

Isn’t it odd? I was always taught to yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. But I was also taught to look both ways. Because intersections are dangerous places. There is nothing preventing injury once I step out into traffic. My safety is not assured, neither by law nor by practice. I must decide when it seems safe to cross and then trust that the driver sees me, sees the red light or decides to yield to me. It may be a life or death decision.

In DC, they don’t risk it.

In Charlottesville, they presume it.

In life, we do it all day long. Come to a hundred intersections and weigh the odds that we can get across safely. Some of us are cautious, waiting for the green and several others to begin to cross before we venture forth. Some of us are bold, crossing even before the light changes, hurrying to what won’t wait on the other side. Some of us, perhaps most of us, look both ways and wait for the signal it’s safe to cross.

Dear Ian, you saw the safe sign yesterday at 2:38pm. You crossed from this side to the other. I expect you didn’t walk but rather danced and sang all the way into the Loving arms that received you. Had I better hearing I am sure I would have heard the heavenly accompaniment.

No more pain. No more suffering. No more intersections. Just Peace.

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