Tuesday, September 30, 2014
This is the first in a series of 31 posts as I join forces with a troop of other women on a writing quest with a sweet little blogger named Myquillin Smith. I’m not really a home decorator type, but I love this lady’s positive, simple spin on life. ( If you do like fixin’ up your house you’ll be doubly blessed visiting her blog: TheNestor.com.) We picked our own topics for the month of October, and sharpened our pencils (well, calloused our typing fingers here in the 21st century) to exercise this particular set of “muscles”.
Thanks for joining me. I haven’t written for this many days in a row since 2009. That was the year a terrible car accident forever changed my life and the life of my family (you can read about that at
That was 11 months of writing, every single day. I’ve written since then of course, but I’m not as “in shape” as I was then.
So here goes…and my topic is 31 Days of Courage.
There is no false modesty here when I make this claim: I am the world’s biggest chicken.
Though I long to be Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, with his “Today is not that day” speech, I’m really more of a Hobbit hiding out in The Shire. And though my heart calls me to be George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life, (that self-sacrificing hero of Christmas fame), I’m more likely to put on an old episode of Columbo, have some Milano cookies and milk and hope there’s a way to avoid the conflict of the day.
A long time ago I heard it said that courage is not the lack of fear, but action despite fear. And putting words on paper is one way to act. In spite of fear. Fear I'll be thought a fool by those who don't beleive as I do. Fear I'll say something dumb that my kids will still be able to read long after I'm dead. Perhaps mostly the fear I'll be a hypocrite: spewing out words without the real will to live them out.
For 31 days, I plan to tackle a subject where I am a rank amateur in order to become less of one. I hope to not only write about courage, but to “do” courage in the small things of everyday life.
Believe me when I tell you the doing will test me far more than the writing.
The most courageous man of all time shows the way to ordinary and extraordinary courage. He wasn’t afraid of what people said. He didn’t care one whit what anyone thought of him. He had the courage to rub shoulders with the unpopular, to take on the deceived leaders of his day (while still treating them with respect!), and to stand up to the point of death to the great enemy of our souls.
And so for 31 days I want to learn from Him, and share what I learn with you, you who are trembling in storms of relational failure, health crisis’, financial disaster, and every other ailment that causes the human heart to fear. Perhaps we can learn to be a little more brave…to maybe do one thing every day that gives us that crummy feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Still, it will be worth it. No one who was ever lauded for their courage thought they were being brave at the time of action. It was only later, and often without their knowledge, that the fruit of courage grew heavy on the tree of their life and character.
You may not be Aragorn today, astride a beautiful steed, hair blowing in the wind while a gaggle of Orcs surrounds your outnumbered army. (And let’s not forget that’s literature). But you may have the opportunity to stick up for a coworker who's misunderstood.
You may not be Dietrich Bonhoeffer, defiantly loving even his enemies while waiting to perish in Hitler’s death camps. But you certainly can speak loving truth to your friend who is in a destructive relationship.
You can try cooking when all you’ve ever done is make sandwiches.
You can get out of bed, when all you want to do is pull the quilt over your head.
You’re not Abraham Lincoln, Mother Theresa or Magellan. But what of it? The Bravest of all still says to you:
“Be bold and very courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Those words are for everyday people in everyday life.
Even consummate chickens, like me.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,
Saturday, September 6, 2014
Many times I’ve wiped these cheeks dry with the sleeve of a sweatshirt lo these few years since the BC/AD (before crash/after disaster) marker of my life on this bleeding planet. (And I don’t mean “bleeding” in the British curse sense, but in the more literal interpretation of the fallout of trauma).
This very day I sat in a vinyl lawn chair at another STOP DWI awareness venue, next to my friend Bill. In 1977 his wife, oldest son and daughter were killed by a drunk driver. His youngest son was in a coma for 30 days, but survived to grow up without his mother, brother or sister.
People stopped by to talk. A man with severe Parkinson’s disease, age 50, approached our table and spoke with grace and candor to me, describing the device implanted in his chest with probes to his brain to control his wild shaking and seizing. His slurred words could not disguise the clarity of his grateful heart.
My sweet friend with pancreatic cancer occupied my pondering over the course of the day. She weeps over the thought of blueberries she may never pick with her beloved 8- year old granddaughter.
And I wait for a text from my daughter, alone in an apartment 400 miles away, at war with a brain that works intermittently well and poorly since the BC/AD marker when a drunk driver nearly killed her.
Still, the sky is achingly blue. There’s the smile on the face of the man with Parkinson’s. And the joy of the pool player who does tricks and tells the gospel story with the different color cue balls. Not to mention how I laughed out loud listening to the lady who works for the county telling me about her 81 year old mother standing on the bed to change a light bulb. These are the grace gifts of a fallen world.
We always ask “WHY?” in tragedy. It’s an appropriate question - and an honest one.
But have you ever heard anyone ask “WHY” for the beauty and wonder of it all?
Why are there Hydrangea bushes, bursting with indigo and white, like giant puff balls for a fairy tale queen?
Why to that foamy, blue- green sea, bubbling up on shore like a 3 year old in gales of laughter?
Why to the cherry red cardinals at the bird feeder on that chilly morning in late September, or the crunch and sweetness of August corn, or that first sip of coffee in the morning?
Why is a fair question, but only when asked from both sides of the aisle.
In a way, it’s easier to answer the why of trouble and heartache. The unfairness and darkness of this world are ingrained deep into our bones. We’ve fought to survive and protect ourselves from pain since the fall. We see the darkness in ourselves. And though many blame The Most High, most folks understand there are forces at work, from within and without, that are ancient and sadly, predictable.
But loveliness is at once over-familiar and startling. I cross the Hudson every day and miss the sweep of sky and color over that mighty river. Then, at once I am overwhelmed by the mist lifting off the river’s wave peaks and twirling upward like some wispy dancer made of vapor. Why? Why such a superfluity of beauty on display all around me every day? Do I ever question the absolutely obscene abundance of goodness on a planet wracked with suffering?
C.S. Lewis said pain is God’s megaphone to the world. I think he might be right. I never lose track of the burden of bone weariness that news stories about racism create in me. I’m keenly aware of the heartache of a daughter swimming against a rogue current where she was tossed by someone else’s sin. And I certainly don’t miss the pain of the injury to my own soul by my own sin and folly. These stretch me out with both loud cries and desperate whispers to the Almighty. No, the mess doesn’t seem to pass by unnoticed. But sadly, the beauty does.
Why is evil rampant? Why is good astonishingly ubiquitous?
No short answers on this essay.
WHY is a loaded question, no matter how you ask it.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,