“Now I Become Myself”

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before–”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!

“Now I Become Myself” by May Sarton, from Collected Poems 1930-1993. © W.W. Norton, 1993.

Hello, Silence. I hear you.

Hello, Silence. I hear you.

Here, at my crossroads moment, I hear the voice of silence bid me to linger.

“Voice of silence.” That’s how Elijah described his crossroads moment in the Negev wilderness of Israel (cf. 1 Kings 19:12).

Yeah, I know. Your version probably says something like, “the sound of a low whisper” (ESV), “a gentle whisper” (NIV), “a still small voice” (NKJV), or somthing like that.

The literal Hebrew expression reads, “a voice of small silence” or “a voice of thin stillness.” It’s meant to be paradoxical, a seemingly self-contradictory, absurd description. In other words, Elijah perceived God’s presence supernaturally.

Elijah’s crossroads moment occurred after a significant personal failure.

For many years he had steadfastly opposed the despotic, idol-worshiping rule of Ahab and Jezebel, boldly speaking truth to power. His long campaign then climaxed with a triumphant showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:20–46).

After this dramatic victory,  the prophet’s confidence should have reached an all-time high. His years of ministry had been validated by God’s omnipotence and he stood on the threshold of victory. Yet when Jezebel threatened to kill him, his courage wilted and he ran.

As his personal failure sank in, he prayed, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4).

After God gave His servant food to replenish his body and sleep to restore his mind, He called Elijah to enter a season of solitude. Forty days of quiet reflection in a very special place (1 Kings 19:5–8).

When the time was right, in the midst of his crossroads moment, Elijah perceived God’s silent voice and received the affirmation and direction he needed so desperately.

My natural response to moments like this is not to remain where I am. Ordinarily, I would take action, get busy doing something positive, seek constructive change.

But this time is different. There’s nowhere to go. Nothing different I should be doing. My triumphs and failures have led me to an empty cave, where life has left me famished, and I hunger to hear from God.

While I am still, I am not idle. I have work accomplish–worthy work. I have people who need me to be present when I am with them. Waiting to hear from God isn’t a time for passivity.

There are things we can do to prepare for perceiving God’s silent voice. And I am doing them.

Entering My Circle of Trust

Entering My Circle of Trust

Everyone needs a circle of trust.

Sadly, the movie, Meet the Fockers, has all but ruined the phrase in popular culture. Even so, The Center for Courage & Renewal, owns the phrase (literally trademarked) and keeps the true meaning alive and well.

This video, featuring Parker J. Palmer, explains how a circle of trust is especially important when you’re standing at a crossroads moment.

I must confess that, as of this writing, Parker’s every word resonates deeply with me.

 

My Castaway Crossroads

My Castaway Crossroads

My journey has led to a crossroads.

A true crossroads moment is rare. It comes along once–maybe twice–in a lifetime. It’s more than a mere intersection, where one must decide which direction to take toward a particular destination. A crossroads moment, instead, begins with the realization that you have no particular place to go.

A crossroads moment represents the end of a journey, along with the mourning that usually accompanies loss. And it represents the potential start of a new journey, with all its frightening uncertainty and tentative hope.

It has the vague sense of being lost, except there’s nowhere to be . . . other than here.

Staying put is the only wise choice.

A crossroads moment calls for a deep reevaluation of self. My past has contributed to who I am, but God now wants to fashion someone new out of that old me. To join my re-Creator at this crossroads, I have spent the past couple of months in a detailed examination myself in the harsh, unforgiving light of truth.

I have reviewed my Myers-Briggs, my StrengthsFinder, and my Enneagram results. (Please don’t suggest another assessment; I have moved on from this phase.) I participated in the painful affirmation of a 360 Feedback Review and engaged the honest insight of trusted colleagues by asking the questions, “How have you experienced me as a co-worker?” and “What advice would you have for me to improve as a leader?”

I think I have a reasonably objective view of myself, including admirable and shadow qualities. I struggle to make sense of my mixed bag of abilities, education, and experience, which qualify me for a vast array of vocations . . . and, therefore, none in particular. At least none in plain view.

So, at this crossroads, feeling more than a little paralyzed by too many options, I have decided to embrace the moment. I will savor this unsettling freedom and allow God to do His work within me. And I will do the hardest thing of all: wait.

If you think of me, pray that the Holy Spirit will bring clarity.

If you find yourself at your own crossroads moment, I hope these words offer encouragement and insight. I pray you find your path.

A Command Is a Command

32 - Salute (iStock_000005426456XSmall)Captain George Little served with distinction in the United States Navy.  So, after obeying the order of his Commander-in-Chief, he never expected to find himself on the wrong end of a lawsuit, liable for damages in the commission of his duty.

In 1799, war between the United States and France appeared inevitable. In preparation, Congress passed a law allowing President John Adams to seize any vessels bound for French ports. However, Adams took this power a step further, ordering the seizure of vessels heading to and from France. Captain Little, commanding the USS Boston, captured the “Flying Fish,” a Danish ship, as it arrived in St. Thomas from France. And he carried out his orders to the letter. After all, refusing to do so would certainly have him court-martialed, perhaps even executed.

So how could he have been liable for civil damages for carrying out a clear order from the President? The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that “instructions cannot change the nature of the transaction, or legalize an act which, without those instructions, would have been a plain trespass.”[1] In other words, orders from a superior officer—even the Commander-in-Chief—do not release a person from his responsibility to do what is right.

Chief Justice Marshall admitted his personal conflict with this decision. He sympathized with Captain Little, who merely acted in good faith, and he worried that the ruling might undermine the integrity of the military, which depends upon the implicit obedience of its members. But, in the final analysis, much more would have been lost if he ruled in favor of the hapless skipper. Continue reading “A Command Is a Command”

“Red Beans,” Bud, and Me

Mark with Truck 3200 acres of secluded bliss. No place on earth felt more like home to me than the Dimple-C ranch. Whenever I could find the time, I made the journey to Duffau, Texas just to hear the brambles scuff across my boots and the grasshoppers flutter as I wandered its chalky, limestone hills. The cicadas buzzing in the August air always made it seem hotter to me, but I didn’t mind. This was the real Texas, and the Dimple-C always welcomed me like a mother’s embrace.

Of course, the ranch was nothing without my Uncle R.B.. Some of my fondest memories come from the days I spent playing outdoors with old “Red Beans” and his fishing buddy, Bud Stringer. (I kid you not; his actual name.) Several times each summer, from the time I was 12 ‘til at least 20, the old coots loaded up the farm truck and drove me through thicket and brush to a tributary known only to Bud. In seventy years, he never lived more than 10 miles from the spot of his birth, and no place existed within a hundred he didn’t know intimately. Continue reading ““Red Beans,” Bud, and Me”

Are You a Reed Shaken by the Wind?

26 - Discouraged (iStock_000000453292XSmall)Sometimes, I identify with John the Baptizer. Not in his fiery prime, when he stood against the religious hypocrites of Jerusalem. Not when he prophesied the coming of the Messiah. Not when he called multitudes to repent of their sins and to submit to the rite of baptism. No, I empathize with the man whose faith stood on trembling legs in the squalor of Herod’s dungeon. Undoubtedly bewildered by his suffering, he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).

What a curious question for the Forerunner of the Messiah to ask. What could have caused this man of almost superhuman faith to question Jesus’ identity? After all, from the moment of his conception, John’s destiny compelled him to prepare the way for the Christ. Even before he took a single breath outside his mother’s womb, the prophet sensed the divine presence of the Expected One (Luke 1:41, 44). Nevertheless, John’s confidence waivered for the same reasons many vocational servants of God struggle today.

First, John suffered outrageous injustice.

  Continue reading “Are You a Reed Shaken by the Wind?”