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Guardrails for the Christian Life

Early on, the life of faith looks beautiful in the distance, but very confining up close. So many rules. So many prohibitions. So many boundaries. But the guardrails prevent us from experiencing the consequences of the natural laws during our early learning.
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But our persistence pays off. Maturity is unconcerned with guardrails, only the beauty in the distance. We have one who guards before and behind, to the right and to the left.

the path of freedom

“I have come, not to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them.” ~ Matthew 5:17

The Lake and I played today

The Lake and I played today.

We played peek-a-boo.

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We played hide and seek.

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We played with crayons, mostly orange.

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We played red light, green light.

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We played follow the leader.

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Which started me singing. Step by step, you lead me. I will follow you all of my days. So touched, was I by this Mom who peeked out from the bushes and, seeing only me, thought it safe to cross. She shuttled the brood – mostly grown – out ahead of her, and then sidled past to lead them down the grassy hill to the stream below.

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I am that mother.

Across the planks of that wooden walkway I jogged and sang in her honor until entering the path through the wrought-iron gate marked, “Asbury Trail.” I slowed, and stepped, and looked to the Lake.

There it was, playing. 013ed45b1f3414da53ead32b3521a9e2187193adf7 Reflecting the arch of a blackened branch. How lovely, but really not remarkable, but for its moment. It became the still waters of psalmists, long gone and modern day. This moment.

A graying man walking toward me, his little furry friend on a leash, smiled in my direction. I, feeling sheepish because he had first looked to where I was aimed and snapping a photo. Nothing remarkable about that spot or that shot his eyes said. I know, I wanted to say. Just illustrating a psalm here. Having a private conversation in this amphitheater filled with years and tears spent in weathered times, hope and peace, gathered in all times.

I’ve written a book, can you illustrate it for me? the Lake had begged. I obliged. But it was not the Lake who asked. It was the lake’s Keeper.

I’ve written a book, can you illustrate it for me? whispered the Keeper. Not with camera or crayons, simpler still. I want you to illustrate my book. You be the artist for my clay.

I rounded the bend and traversed the goose-poop-laden asphalt of the parking lot. I hurdled and jumped, hopped and cut right and left, till I stood face to face with the Lake. That psalm still churning.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Cup overflows…cup overflows… I’m stuck on cup overflows.

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The Lake and I played today.

 

Are there layers to listening?

Folks today listen fast. We have to. We have information coming at us from all directions at rapid fire pace. Young people are unfazed by this. They’ve grown up with it and seem to have perfected the technique.

The young woman at the register was completely amazing. I approached her to exchange a pair of shoes. In the next 90 seconds she:

  • scanned in my receipt
  • checked her computer for stock availability
  • found it in the size in another color
  • pulled up that color and described it to me

Then:

  • responded to the caller on her headset
  • asked if she’d like them to hold those for her
  • wrote up a slip

Then:

  • responded to the woman bringing 2 large boxes about where to put them
  • put the slip with these boxes

Then, she looked back at me.

Nearly, speechless, I asked if she’d hold my shoes while I went to look at what they had available. I had no doubt that my shoes would be waiting when I returned. This woman was astounding.

And I tell her story this way, in bullet points, because I must. It’s how we read and how we hear — these days. Our lives are filled with distraction and diversion, but we manage to take it all in. Just enough of it to get the idea, because that’s all we have time for. Funny, diversion used to be such a good thing. It was something that rescued us from our monotony and lifted us to the sublime, the humorous or at least the entertaining. Now, it’s standard. Comes on the basic model.

What, then, of us “contemplatives?” And I don’t mean monks or hermits or cloistered religious folk, but people who tend to cogitate and reflect by nature. Are we being shallowed, too? Perhaps, we, like the Universe, are slowly moving away from our center. Not exploded by the force of the Big Bang but drawn outward by a magnetic force.

I was struck by this definition of contemplative prayer offered by the Shalem Institute:

“Deep listening in the silence.”

If I am always operating at the surface, what is in the deep?

I drew 3 concentric circles in my journal and stood by to see what emerged. The surface was very easy to populate with words: shallow, listen up, easy to wake, distraction, diverge, snapshot, wander. Surprised myself with: productive and superconcious.

But these words did not emerge alone. They came in 3’s, partnered with under words and yet deeper words. Underneath were: dig, delve, order, explain, reason, data, apply, converge. Surprises: wonder and hypothesis. Perhaps those are borderline to the deeper words like: discover, uncover, naked, appreciate, adept, perspective, see, tiptoe. That was the place of deep listening.

How’d a kinesthetic get there? By one smooth, clear, baptismal stone. It was a gift from the folks at SOULfeast during one of their worship services. I like it because it’s surface feels right to my fingers. Somehow it clarifies my thoughts.

When I was finished writing words, I set it down on a word. I was surprised to see that it acted as a magnifier. The word it magnified was “subconcious.” Near it I had written, “How do you know that?”

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Amazing the power of one smooth, clear stone.

Up close. That’s what it said. From a distance, this small stone looked like a drop of water, beaded up from the page.

How can I magnify my listening from a distance? I can’t, but God can. No matter how far I pull away, I am still in connection with the center that holds me.

How do I know that? I have seen it.

Even when I can’t see it, I can feel it.

It spells itself out for me. Imagine that… just for me. Magnificent!

 

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