newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

I hit a roadblock.

In an earlier post, I wrote about how challenging it was staying motivated to write the first draft of a book which I have been putting off for two years. Right before Spring Break, I officially hit the halfway point in writing the book. That was Saturday, April 4. It is now Monday, April 27. Today was the first time I worked on the book since taking a break from writing.

It’s incredible how quickly we can lose the momentum and progress that we have worked so hard to build.

Isn’t that how life goes, though?

I’m curious to know what other things I’m going to lose once life finds a new, post-quarantine normal. I’m hoping fitness isn’t one of them. My scale number has increased, but that it is because I am heavy lifting and packing on muscle (so I’m strangely okay with this fact). I’m hopeful that the amount of time I have not been spending on social media continues.

The question I have to ask is, “Now that it seems like we’re approaching the end of this thing, what’s worth keeping?”

Have you started doing something worth keeping? If so, what? If not, I’m just going to point out that it isn’t too late to start.

Easter Sunday pop quiz.

POP QUIZ! 

What is the first thing that Jesus says to his disciples on Resurrection Sunday? 

QUICK!!! WHAT IS IT???

Answer:  “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36)

This is not a coincidence. Two days previously, Jesus’s disciples  had witnessed the execution of the One for whom they had given up everything -livelihood, relationships, their own identities.

What would be running through your head after you watched everything in your world fall apart? What’s going through your head right now?

Jesus did everything with purpose. A common greeting of his day and age was all the more relevant at this moment, and you know this is why he chose to use those words. When he showed up in the locked room, he had the words (He is the Word) his disciples needed to hear to know that Resurrection had taken place and they did not need to fear anymore.

It’s also the word we need for now: “Peace be with you.”

Easter Sunday is our reminder that there is resurrection in the midst of it all falling apart. It may not look exactly like it did before it died (John 20:14), but in the end it looks better.

Nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:12).

May the One in whom you trust bring you through this time and on the other side may you see the resurrection power which has been at work this entire time.

 

REVIEW: “Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong” by Paulette Meier

This is a review of an album of plainsong titled Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong by Paulette Meier.

Before this last month, I had never given much thought to the idea of plainsong as anything more than a musical itch to scratch every now and then. The soothing timbre of Paulette Meier’s voice, the spiritual truths found within the Quaker principles found in these plainsong melodies, and the applicability of so many of the songs to this current context of the COVID-19 pandemic make Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong a much-needed addition to one’s music rotations right now.

To talk of the basic mechanics, it is pretty simple. This is an album of 21 short (only four of the songs are over two minutes in length, and even those are short of 2:30) a capella recordings song by one voice (that of Paulette Meier). The lyrics are quotes from some of the greatest writers and leaders of the Quaker tradition -George Fox, Margaret Fell, and William Penn among others. The entire play length is under 40 minutes.

There is a beautiful simplicity in these songs, which are spiritually nurturing, especially at a time like this. Wisdom such as “Ye have no time but this present time, therefore prize your time, for your soul’s sake” (“This Present Time”) is a powerful reminder that with the time right now, we should be cherishing every second of it for our own rest and healing. Words like “Mind that which is eternal, which gathers your hearts together up to the Lord, and lets you see that ye are written in one another’s heart” (“Mind That Which Is Eternal”) remind the hearer to place attention on something other than this temporary situation.

I have listened to this collection of songs repeatedly lately. I put the entire book of Psalms (all 150 of them) from the NIV Audio Bible, as well as Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong together on my iPod and click shuffle before going out on walks. The outdoors and the calming feel of the audio is a good chance for reflection and relaxation. A great break from what’s going on around us.

I cannot recommend Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong enough. Visit Paulette’s website, purchase it from her directly, and enjoy it. I received my copy of the album for free for the purpose of review, but intend shortly to check out her other music.

I received my copy of this album for free through the Speakeasy program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

Sometimes bad application is the best application.

This week feels like it has been the set-up to a bad post-apocalyptic movie. As an English teacher, my profession spends a good amount of time reading literature about dystopia, never expecting to end up in one. I should have paid attention.

I have a morning routine when I arrive to my classroom: “Bible before email.” When it comes to study of the Bible, there are nuanced rules towards accomplishing good exegesis of a passage. Some days, though, the takeaway from the passage when ignoring the rules is the one you should get.

Thursday morning, I read Colossians 2. I am reading it out of the NIV. For the first half of the week, there had been a general sense that something was building and people were beginning to act irrational. In the midst of all of it, I read the following:

They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow” (2:19).

I bolded the phrase from the verse for emphasis because that is what jumped out at me and got my brain thinking. While the “head” referred to in the passage is not talking about “common sense” or “control of emotions,” that phrase stuck me in just that sense. As I went through the rest of the day and school week, I kept reminding myself “Don’t be a they” in order to keep my perspective.

It helped.

So, to you, I say: Don’t be a they. Keep your head.

The book that reminded me of my fragility.

I was sitting at a table reading earlier today. Specifically, I was reading the book The Pilgrim’s Progress. More specifically, I was reading a paperback edition of the book The Pilgrim’s Progress which was published in 1985.

The same year I was born.

And as I was reading the book the way I normally read books, something unexpected started happening. The front cover started tearing. And you could almost hear the strain of some of the pages.

I’m not hard on my books, this book is just older.

Like I’m getting.

The book and I are the same age.

There’s a meme floating around the interwebs right now that reads: “The number one cause of injury in middle-aged men is believing they are still younger.”

It’s like, I’m starting to hit this place where sometimes doing the things I used to do hurt a little more for a little longer than they used to. And reading that book today reminded me of that.

Do you have any objects in your house that remind you of similar realities about your life?

Writing is hard.

I’m writing a book. I said I was going to do this two years ago. The difference is that two years ago I spent so much time trying to come up with a formal, structured outline before starting and then got caught up and overwhelmed int he planning phase.

This time, I’m 8,700 words and 35 pages into this thing. I think the thing that made the difference this time is that instead of trying to outline with multiple note cards, I came up with a broad idea of three major sections, and then started at the process.

I think it also helped that I had a one-sentence pitch for my book idea before I began writing. Here’s the pitch:

Often,we feel empty in life  because we are permitting things in our lives because they seemed like a good idea, and Jesus identified this problem 2,000 years ago.

 

Sometimes, you don’t need a great and complex plan. You just need a target.

What area of your life needs a target instead of a map?

Dangerous questions.

The young man said to him (Jesus), “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?”  -Matthew 19:20 (NET)

Perhaps the most dangerous questions are the ones, driven by pride, we ask when we are trying to prove to others that they are wrong because we are convinced we are right.

The young man in this story is not right.

Before Jesus even answers the question, the young man has already reflected that he is still lacking something. And that something is a change of heart. A changed heart not driven by materialism or pride would perhaps have prevented the young man from setting himself up to have his ego deflated. And Jesus does deflate the young man.

However, he does not answer the young man directly, but tells him instead to do some things which show the young man that he actually lacks much (Matthew 19:21-22).

So what’s the lesson? If someone challenges you on something, and you feel a rise in the cackles which could lead you to saying something foolish, understand before speaking that this may be a moment revealing something going on that you may not be prepared to deal with. And then after the moment passes, deal with it.

And you deal with that by praying, “Jesus, I feel as if I am lacking in ______________________. How can I close that gap?” Sometimes that makes all the difference.

An ambitious project.

“Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.”  -Romans 10:17

 

Two years ago, I read over 80 books in one year. Last year, I read more than 50 books. So far this year, I have finished two books.

But as I am writing these words, we are 25 days into the year and I have listened through 47 books of the Bible.

This year, I am also participating in a one-year Bible reading plan, and I am reading each day’s portion of the Bible out loud.

I am reading it at a whisper, as I read at 5:30 A.M. and I do not want to wake up my wife or daughter, but it is still out loud.

I have come to see that if we are not just reading the Bible, but also hearing it read, then we are missing out on a layer of the text. We miss out on the rhythm of the poetic texts. We miss out on the rhetoric in speeches. Jesus is a lot snappier and whittier when you hear his words out loud. YouTube has a vast assortment of different translations in audio/video format. Find one that works for you; I recommend the NIV Dramatized AudioBible playlist uploaded by The Bible-smith Project.

I’m a sheep.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” -Matthew 9:36, ESV

If you’ve spent any length of time in a church, especially an evangelical one, you’ve doubtless heard a sermon preached on the portion of Scripture from which this reference comes. It is the same one in which Jesus talks about a great harvest but few workers (Matthew 9: 37-38). And if your experience is similar to mine, then the point of the sermon was usually something to the effect of, “The lost are out there and Jesus needs us to go out there and get them.”

I don’t disagree with that idea. It’s valid. But there is a truth in this passage that often gets overlooked or minimized.

If we expand Jesus’s gaze beyond the immediate portion to all those who throughout time would be considered a sheep without a shepherd, one helpless and harassed, you are one of them. I am one of them. You are a sheep. I’m a sheep. The only way to have Jesus as the Good Shepherd over you is if you willingly submit to His shepherding. What separates “us” from “them” is whether or not we have a Shepherd, and it is not something we should use as a lens to justify ourselves in front of others. We’re all sheep.

We are a part of the crowd of which Jesus has compassion because He loves and lays down His life for His sheep. We need to remember this when Jesus talks about harvest. The lost need someone with the answer, but they also need someone with compassion, like we first needed. Looking at the harvest through this lens is the difference between, “We’re in this together, and I want you to know I have found a treasure greater than anything that could ever be imagined and you need to have a share of it” (see Matthew 13:45,46), and “You’re lost, condemned, and I have your answer.”

Did your faith collapse?

There are certain things in which we should take extreme care to their details. Health. Finances. How we raise our kids. Faith.

Faith?

Especially faith.

Have you ever tried to build a house of cards? If not, watch this video to see what it takes, and then come back. If you have, then you know that the tiniest thing can level the whole construction and leave nothing but a pile of 52 cards. This can lead to feelings of frustration or anger on the part of the builder.

Now expand those sentiments out to a factor of 100 and that approaches the internal feelings of somebody watching his or her faith collapse. There is something gut-wrenching and paralyzing about seeing the thing that you built your worldview and safety on fall apart right in front of you.

Here’s the truth, though.

If your faith collapses under the same amount of emotional/intellectual/spiritual stress as the small amount of physical stress that causes a card house to plummet, your faith wasn’t strong at all and probably needed bulldozed so that you could build onto a strong rock that is not broken in the wind, rains, and floods. (Matthew 7:24-25).

The reason we need to pay such close attention to the detail of the development of our faith is because our emotional and psychological health are directly tied to it. The soul is comprised of the mind, will, and emotions. The soul relies on faith the way that the physical world relies on gravity.

How does one develop faith?

Sit down with a journal and pen. Write down the answers to these two questions:

  1. What is something you believe so strongly that everyone needs to know and believe this, too? If you cannot answer this in one to two sentences, then you need to spend some additional time reflecting on this to come up with something clear.
  2. What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and found out that your answer to #1 was a lie? If this question gave you anxiety, then spend time writing in your journal about why you believe #1 above.

Faith is messy, which makes it beautiful. Its sturdiness, however, is something we need to work on for our total well being.