Archive from June, 2015
Jun 25, 2015 - Devotional, My Story    1 Comment

Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is one of my favorite words. It ranks in my mind alongside onomatopoeia, hyperbole, and synecdoche both in multi-syllabic rhythm and definitional genius! Juxtaposition is the perfect term for certain situations. It is a noun meaning “an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.” 

Two things that shouldn’t exist alongside each other suddenly thrown together. It can have quite the effect. I experienced this in a fun way a few weeks ago while I was bowling in the library.

Yes, that’s not a typo.

I went bowling in the theological library. My roommate, who works there, set up a game night for the students and their families. It was hilarious to me to juxtapose the expectation of quietness and reserve of the library with the noise and activity of bowling. I had a grand time. And not just because the shelves acted like bumpers nearly guaranteeing a strike every time!

library bowling

library bowling

library bowling

It got me thinking about other contradictions which are pushed together in my own heart. I am a jumble of contradictory emotions and experiences. I both pride myself on being introspective and high on self-knowledge, but am also blindsided by things about myself that I’ve somehow missed for decades. I am a curious mixture of joy and sadness, hope and fear, knowledge and ignorance, anxiety and adventure. I do not understand how all of these feelings can coexist in one person. And that is the adventure of life. It is full of peculiar turns and extraordinary mash-ups, just as unexpected as bowling in a library.

What juxtapositions have you experienced lately?

Jun 20, 2015 - travel    No Comments

Quiet Hour

My life needs a quiet hour. I am continually prodded for more productivity, accomplishments, efficiency. Much of this prodding comes from within my own head and heart. There are very few voices in my life telling me to stop. Rest. Just be.

I need more of those voices.

I need a quiet hour. Every day. A time to remind myself that I’m not in charge. That I’m not in control. That I’m not responsible for everything.

I need to live at a sustainable pace.

I need to move to Italy.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-45

Quiet hour is a social construct in Italy. It’s expected. Most people in Salerno close their shops, head home for lunch, and then have a quiet hour. They can nap, read, rest, or just have a time of stillness. It was socially enforced to the point that we had to turn off music and couldn’t vacuum during the quiet hour out of respect for our neighbors while we were working there. After an hour of two, Italians head back to their jobs to finish their day, rejuvenated and refreshed.

It was a powerful reminder to me as a mini, daily Sabbath.

I’ve been studying Sabbath for years now. I understand the importance of it more intellectually, but I still find it difficult to practice. Italy is helping me with that. I long to change the pace at which I run in life and have some quietness and stillness to remind my heart that it’s okay. It’s okay if I don’t have all the answers. It’s okay if I don’t get everything checked off my to-do list. It’s okay if I need a rest.

No, it’s more than okay. It’s commanded.

Exodus 20:8-11

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

How to you encourage restfulness in your heart and life?

Indiana Jones and the Mamertine Prison

No, this is not an anticipated fifth Indiana Jones movie. It’s just what I thought about when I was in Rome.

(I promise the analogy will make sense in the end!)

I traveled to Salerno on a mission trip and we worked hard for a week helping a church plant get set up in their new worship center.

And then we celebrated! Celebrated our work and what God had done over the week. We walked fifteen miles in Rome and saw so many notable sites: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi fountain, the Roman aqueducts, the Spanish Steps, the Forum, Senate and Colosseum. These were lavish, sites bursting with historic significance, glamour, and intrigue.

But the plainest, most understated sight was my favorite.

The Mamertine Prison, a single, drafty, underground room near the forum, was the site that most changed my life. The room was small, dim, and understated, but it is the room where Paul dictated (likely through a grating in the ceiling) many epistles which have altered the course of history. This could have been the room where Paul wrote Philippians, four small chapters that changed my life. But whether in this room or under house arrest, the language of guarding jumped off the page in new ways to me. I was near tears as I thought about Paul talked about the joy he had in Christ while imprisoned.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-424 mamertine prison

And then I thought about Indiana Jones.

Specifically, I thought about the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where he is forced to choose the holy grail. Initially his nemesis chooses the golden, bejeweled chalice as the cup of the King of Kings. Afterwards, Indy chooses the understated, scratched, clay pot saying, “This is the cup of a carpenter.” This is a powerful scene that in a way highlights both the transcendence and imminence of Christ. Yes, He could have chosen to drink from the golden cup, to exert authority and power, and would have been within His rights to do that. What is amazing is that he condescended himself, took on flesh, experienced temptation and pain, and drank from the plain clay pot. I had seen extraordinary and beautiful things in Rome that day and the unexpected “clay pot” was my favorite.

God has a way of making ordinary things extraordinary. A stable. Bread and wine. Even a prison cell in Rome. I was struck as I thought about the beauty of this often overlooked, understated, holy room.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-423

What ordinary thing has God made extraordinary in your experience?

Jun 12, 2015 - travel    1 Comment

Salerno Team 2015

I made six great friends.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-409

Being knee-deep in black mold has a way of bonding people!

We are the Salerno Team!

Italy-Salerno

Salerno 2015 - Mike-13

We traveled to help the Valiquettes and the Davidsons in Salerno, Italy. We painted, we cleaned, we constructed a stage, we disinfected, we ran cables, we swept, we sealed, we organized, we vacuumed and mopped, we declared war on mold!

war on mold

Those are the tasks we were assigned. But here’s what we really did. We encouraged those who serve on the front lines. We made a house a home. We encouraged restfulness. We built relationships among a scattered network. We showed people, and were shown the Gospel in a new way. We created a space for worship. We fell in love with a people and a culture.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-24

We worked hard. We played hard. We prayed hard.

It was awesome.

I am thankful that blessing goes both ways. We went to serve and to be a blessing and ended up immensely blessed. I appreciated the Italians who befriended us and asked real questions. I appreciated the pace of life and frequent rest times in Italy that made me relax. I appreciated the welcoming table and never-ending food supply we experienced. I appreciated my team who got sillier as the week went by instead of irritated. I am thankful that it was va bene. Good. Good because God was in it all.

Thank you to everyone who gave financially, prayed, asked me questions, wanted to see pictures, and was excited as I went on this trip. It was delightful. Thanks for being a part of it!

Here’s some more beautiful pictures of our time!

Salerno 2015 - Mike-224

Salerno 2015 - Mike-394

Salerno 2015 - Mike-8

Salerno 2015 - Mike-45

Salerno 2015 - Mike-460Ciao!

Jun 2, 2015 - travel    No Comments

A Very Present Photograph

I just returned from Italy, the land of good food, large gatherings, and plentiful hand gestures for communication.

I had a delightful time. Va bene.

I traversed hundreds of miles via planes, trains and automobiles. I hoofed dozens of miles with my own two feet. I witnessed literally centuries of history: People, places, vistas, monuments. And in all of this travel, I took only one photograph.

Would you like to see it? Would you like to see how I summarized the entire experience of a lifetime in a single picture?

photo

Could have done better, eh? This sign in the airport bathroom made me giggle so I snapped a picture of it before I turned off my phone. We had strict packing guidelines for this trip and my digital SLR just didn’t make the cut. I also chose not to upgrade to an international phone plan so my cellular phone spent ten days off to allow me to be off the grid.

Both of these decisions were made purposefully to allow me to be fully present. I took one photograph not because nothing else was worthy, but because everything was worthy! I wanted to be immersed and fully present where I was for the short time we had in Italy. I wanted to see the sights with my own eyes and trust my teammates (who had better camera equipment than me anyway!) to capture the beauty. One day, I sat on the boat returning from Amalfi, perhaps the most beautiful coastline in the world. I was drowsy and tempted to nod off through the steady rocking of the boat. And yet I thought to myself, “These sights will not be before these eyes forever. Enjoy them today. Soak it in.”

Be present. Enjoy. Take mental pictures. I long to capture moments by turning off my phone and camera and enjoying the setting in my being instead of through my technology.

So I only took one photo. And I’m totally okay with that. Va bene.

 

What will not be in front of your eyes forever? Children, views, art, projects, cities, concerts, ceremonies. What makes you want to be fully engaged now and how can you be better at being present? 

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