Catching Up

I’ve not written here in a while, but I’ve been posting elsewhere. Here are a few things that have gone up on other blogs and sites:

Journey Through the Faith Series Everyday Liturgy

Three posts about my childhood experiences in very different faith communities overseas, and how they shaped my own understanding of faith

“A Year in Asia with Anglicans”
“A Year in Asia with Evangelicals”
“A Year in Asia with Bible Christians”

fountain penWhen I was nine years old, my family moved to Hong Kong for a year. Though a child of an internationally transient family, I, until that point, had grown up in a single church in the north central United States and had very little church experience outside our Baptist-in-name-and-form-but-not-denominationally-affiliated. My parents would probably not have defined themselves as fundamentalist Baptists, even my church may not have fit that definition, but it was definitely the direction my young ecclesiology leaned.

And then we went to Hong Kong.

“The Feast of Grace”—Church at Charlotte Blog

We’re surrounded by marred shalom today. We see it in a passenger airliner downed by a missile meant by one warring party for another. We see it in two brothers on opposite sides of the world who have just lost their whole family.

And we can’t do anything about it. But we are invited to be part of the restoration of shalom.

“The Ice Bucket Challenge”The Curator

My parents were always generous donors to many individuals, missions, and charities. They gave regularly through our church. But the moment at the cash register was rare. It wasn’t often that I saw them say “yes” to that kind of request for a cause.

And I knew why the yes had been said. I knew what the pause meant. Those three little letters had made all the difference: ALS.

This one was ours.

“Ask a Teacher Series: Eight Questions from Writers to Teachers, Back-to-School Edition”—WriteWorld

You are communicating ideas. Writing is simply a vehicle for doing that. We’ve got a lovely language that is flexible and strange and has all sorts of cobbled-together rules for use because it’s been a cobbled-together language from the start. And some of those rules are worth noting and remembering and following and some of them should be thrown out the window with the silly people who made them up. English is a living language. The rules you learn today may be out of date by the time you’re forty. Such is the nature of having a living language.

“Exploring Infinity”Church at Charlotte Blog

Last week, I got into a discussion about time and the quantum universe on Facebook. Yes, this sort of thing happens in my newsfeed. A friend who is a physicist had started the discussion thread—he’d been pondering some ideas as he drove home from work, and decided to share them in a group we’re both part of.

I never took physics. I didn’t even take chemistry. I enjoyed science in school, but my math skills are abysmal. When the math required in my science classes got beyond me, I found other sciences to study. But I’ve always been fascinated by science—particularly physics and astronomy—and while much of my friend’s post was beyond my understanding, I still loved entering the discussion with him and sharing my thoughts on the topic.

Catch these posts at the links, and catch up on my past writing here.

Whoever Plays the Germans

The final whistle blew and I found myself trying to parse complex feelings.

I’ve gone on record saying I always root for whoever’s currently playing the Germans. And I hold to that—excepting of course when they’re playing Portugal, or need to beat someone in order to oust Portugal (as a “neutral,” I can be fickle). But I always enjoy watching the Germans play. They have been, and continue to be, a remarkable team.

So, though technically according to my “rules,” I was a Brazil fan yesterday, I was actually looking forward to seeing Germany win. I fully expected they would. Brazil had showed its cracks, and without two key players, I expected Germany to exploit those cracks.

But watching yesterday’s match was like watching a street beating. I wanted to look away, to cry out to the Germans to stop inflicting pain.

The final whistle blew. A mercy. It was over.  And, as they so often have, Germany had sent another team packing.

It was the right result for that match. Brazil fell apart. It was the right result based upon the play of each team during this tournament.  But it was so hard to watch. Could I say I was “glad” to see Germany win? No. Could I say Brazil “deserved” to lose? No. It was more complicated than that.

And then I watched the Brazilian players weeping. And my heart was torn for them.

But then I saw what may have been the most provocative images of this tournament so far: Joachim Löw walking up to Luis Felipe Scolari and putting a hand on his arm. Miroslav Klose moving past a group of Brazil players comforting each other as they cried, on his way to join the German players who were rightfully celebrating their win—and stopping, reaching a hand in to the group to squeeze the shoulder of a weeping man.

He wasn’t the only one.

I mentioned the behavior to my mom in a text a little while later. I said it had impressed me. She wrote back with one word: “Grace.”

Yes. Grace. The wild celebrations are fun. The winners are victorious. But when you see something like yesterday’s game, your heart is crying for a little grace. And the German players and coach offered it. And for that I commend them.

I’ve still got complicated feelings going into the final matches of this World Cup. I want to see the Netherlands finally get a trophy. I want to see Messi’s skill matched with the accolades he deserves (though I’m not certain his current team does). And when the final comes along, I’ll be cheering for whoever plays the Germans.

But I won’t forget their grace.

Rethinking Scarcity: New Post at The High Calling

Slaten and Rogers

Two artists: Son of Laughter and Jonathan Rogers. Photo by Mark Geil.

I’ve got a new post up at The High Calling today. I was asked to write on the theme of “rethinking scarcity”—and to look at in the context of art. Immediately I thought of the ways the artists I know come together and support one another in their work, forming communities that not only advance the production of art, but also deepen its quality.

“The Industry” is not dead, but it is desperately trying to stay alive in most cases—often at the expense of good art. So those who want to create new art, quality art, honest and true art, are forced (and, I think, will increasingly be forced) to step outside the industries. Rather than seeing this as a setback, perhaps we should look at the situation as a gift—and a challenge:

From the post:
“I expect no one would disagree that creative innovation often arises from scarcity. From Ritz cracker apple pie to the dinners we developed with nothing but a microwave and hot pot during college, some creative spark in human nature thrives when put to the challenge of limited resources.

Likewise, in comparison to the booming creative industries of the 1990s, today’s musicians and authors—even some of those signed with major labels and publishers—are creating within the context of limited resources. While the leaders of the companies that produce and distribute much of our art are cautious about taking costly risks like launching a new artist, rapid developments in technology allow artists willing to take the risk themselves to bypass the industry and get their work into the hands of the audience. Adam Young of Owl City wrote in 2012: ‘Here at the outset of a new century everyone is back at the starting line fighting to be heard. It’s effortless to hear and steal new music so bands have to think of ways to reinvent themselves and turn the box inside out.’

So perhaps it is no surprise that there is a particular richness in some of the art being created today when economics and technology have joined together to topple the industries of yester-year.”

Read more at The High Calling.

When The World Cup Rolls Around

I’ve heard many complaints throughout my life that Baseball’s World Series is improperly named. It’s not a battle I feel like fighting, but I’d have to agree with the complainers. Frankly, the United States and one city in southern Canada do not the “World” make.

So, perhaps the complainers are right to argue their point at every turn, but I’d rather put my energy in another direction: focusing on a real world-wide sport: football (or fùtbol, if you speak Spanish; or soccer, if you speak American).

Tomorrow starts the 2014 World Cup. I’m aching with anticipation, but not perhaps like others. Someone asked me today who I picked as a favorite to win and I realized I hadn’t even given that a thought. I responded by saying, “I really want to see some unexpected team rise to the occasion. I love the underdogs.” It’s true. I do.

I had an essay published today at The Curator that I wrote about my love of Croatia, not a favored team. I’ve mentioned my fondness for the Croatian team here before.

And then there’s England. My number 2. Failing to win a Cup since 1966. Yes, the Three Lions have a space in my heart as well.

Both as a quasi-patriotic American and as a rooter for the underdog, I should probably have more fondness for my own national team, but, I admit, they so rarely manage to get any energy going that I struggle even with that. But when they do get some energy, suddenly my national pride finds its way to the fore.

Perhaps the only front-runner I’ve given attention to in recent years is España. They swayed me to their side after my favorites fell in Euro’08 and have kept up the magic since. Or perhaps I just like saying “Iker Casillas.” Go on, say it. It’s fun. Remember, in Spanish the double-l has a “y” sound.

But when it comes down to it, part of the joy of football for me is seeing giants fall. I love to watch those greats play; I love to see the magic of Brazil’s game or the beauty of Germany’s. But, in actuality, unless they’re playing Portugal, if I’m watching those teams, I’ll probably be rooting for the other guys.


On Dust and Bravery

“When I was young, I fell in love with story.”

It was the first line that caught my attention. I knew that feeling – that falling in love with story. I’ve done that.

But then the words went on, and struck even deeper chords than my love of story: the tension of roots and wings, of settling and adventuring. It put words to the ideas I’ve walked around recently in conversations with friends about listening to the small voice that tells us there’s something else out there, but not yet hearing the voice that says, “Here, here is the place you should be.”

Sleeping At Last so often takes my soul’s deep groanings and puts words to them.

“The Projectionist”
Sleeping At Last

When I was young I fell in love with story,
With the eleventh hour, with the blaze of glory.
The theater lights dim and all goes quiet.
In the darkest of rooms, light shines the brightest.
When hands are tied and clocks are ticking,
An audience convinced: we’re leaning in,
Holding our breath again.
Just when we thought the game was over
The music lifts and our dying solider lives!
And we breathe a sigh of relief.
We’re leaving, we’re leaving our shadows behind us now.
We’re leaving, we’re leaving it all behind for now.
But even dust was made to settle
And if we’re made of dust, then what makes us any different?
I guess we give what we’ve been given:
A family tree so very good at giving up
When we’ve had enough.
Though truth is heavier than fiction,
Gravity lifts as the projectionist rolls tape.
And it makes us brave again
And it makes us brave again
And it makes us brave.
So we’re leaving, we’re leaving our shadows behind us now.
We’re leaving, we’re leaving it all behind for now.
And it makes us brave again And it makes us brave.
We’re leaving, we’re leaving ‘em all behind for now.

The Night Cary Grant Hooted

Photo courtesy of Dr. Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans

It started with Cary Grant screaming.

Well, maybe you’d call it more of a hoot. “Squeal” is too high, “scream” too sharp. It’s this startled “whoooo!” sound that’s rather difficult to describe.

It was 2006. The Olympics were in Torino and I was in Alaska. It was February, one of our warmer weeks of that month, and the sky was overcast.

Your television options were pretty limited back in 2006 in Glennallen. There was satellite or analog antenna—which basically meant satellite or nothing. My antenna picked up a fuzzy NBC that cut out regularly.  Sometimes. The rest of the time it picked up nothing. Thank goodness for VCRs, DVD players, the local library, Netflix, and the personal collections of friends. Golden resources for your entertainment needs.

I’d borrowed Bringing up Baby from the library. Videos were typically a better bet from there—the DVDs were regularly scratched. So I was watching it on video when my friend Kristie called to chat. I pressed pause. And we got talking.

Remember how on VCRs, if you put the video on pause, it would hold for about 10 or 15 minutes and then it would start playing again?

I was standing in the kitchen, back to the living room and the TV, deep in the midst of our conversation. And then Cary Grant hooted. Scared me out of my bones. I squealed.

Kristie laughed at me as I recovered myself and explained what had happened. I scrambled to find the remote, this time planning to press STOP. I tracked it down on the couch and pushed the button with the little white square.

And I had TV.

I’m pretty sure those precise words came out of my mouth, actually.

“Kristie! I have TV!”
Her response was just as excited. “You do!?”
And in the instant it took her to say that much, I’d realized what was on my screen. “It’s men’s figure skating! It’s the Olympics!”
Kristie responded with the only logical question: “Can I come over?”

She did, and we reveled in the wonder of television. (Note bene, when you don’t watch TV for a long time, commercials become interesting.) We watched as sport after sport was shown. Bob Costas expertly guided us through the evening’s events.

And then he introduced us to Snowboard Cross.

Photo from AP Photo/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott

The sport was making its Olympic debut that year. I’d never seen anything like it. The ski and snowboarding events had always been my least favorite parts of the Olympics, mostly because they were races against the clock, not another competitor. If you’re going to race, I’ve always thought, you should see your competition out of the corner of your eye. But here it was: a snowboarding event with four racers at a time.

We watched until they turned off the Olympic coverage that night, and I didn’t get TV again for the rest of its run.

It was one magical night when the stars aligned (somewhere, high above the low-lying clouds*): a good friend by my side, an entertainment treat, and a new sport to look forward to watching every four years. Just think, if it hadn’t been for that night, I might not have discovered Snowboard Cross until 2010.

And I owe it all to Cary Grant’s hooting.


*I’m fairly certain that these low-lying clouds were the reason for our serendipitous signal that night. On clear nights, I never saw anything on TV.

Stopping by the Woods: A Review of A Year in Weetamoo Woods

I’ve never written a poetry review before, so perhaps I’m doing this all wrong. Perhaps I should talk of meter and rhyme, cadence and word choice. But I’m not going to do that. I shall leave such things to those better versed in the criticism of poetry.

Instead, I shall approach these verses as a reader. For, though I’ve studied its creation and taught its analysis, I am simply a reader when it comes to poetry. From time to time my thoughts present themselves in poetic structure, but such is a rare occurrence. More often I find myself going to poetry as a devotional experience—my favorite poems being those which consider the things of this earth, the things of heaven, and the age-old wrestling match between them.

I shall have to add some pieces from Christopher Yokel’s new book of poetry, A Year in Weetamoo Woods, to my collection of wrestling poems. As the title implies, it is a book of nature poetry, primarily. For a year, Yokel walked in the woods and wrote his poems and then collected them by season in a book. And honestly, if you had woods nearby named “Weetamoo,” wouldn’t you be moved to use their name in a title?

I like the pictures Yokel presents of his creation process throughout these poems. In “Arden” he writes, “Here I come/ where Adam’s curse is felt/ less cruelly, . . . / Here there is space to think/ to be,/ to draw out poetry from trees.”  In “The Price of Art” he writes, “I have flung myself over/ tree and trail,/ rock and stone,/ in payment for what I have come to take.”

Overall, what stood out to me about Weetamoo Woods were the pictures. Yokel is gifted in painting with simple words images of what he sees (or smells, or hears, or feels)—both in physical reality and in his imagination—and making them clear to his reader.  Leaves, branches, paths, stones, water, earth, wind. All are seen, felt, smelled, heard, touched: the rush of a breeze in “Stirring,” when he says, “All the trees stir together,/ as God passes/ through the midst of the garden”; the fluttering summer leaves  in “Flags,” when he writes, “The sun glinted and glimmered through/ a hundred spear shafts standing to the sky/ their bright green banners snapping in the breeze”; the frozen fields in “Tinidril,” when he says, “The fields are laid to rest/ stiff with winter’s embalming.”

Perhaps it is because I read these poems in the short, dark days at the turn of the year that those in the section titled Winter stood out to me most vividly. “The Barren King” was a favorite poem of the collection; its images of a frozen stream and the snow-covered forest bring to mind memories of hushed walks through winter woods in northern climes. Yokel captures precisely what I’ve always thought of those days in his final stanza:

Snow glorifies the branches of winter,
covers over their naked shame,
and makes them kingly for a day,
with memories of greening leaves.
The monarch in winter is a monarch still.

The images of “Ghosts of the Old Year,” also stood out from the rest—“dead leaves creak/ like ribs rubbing together,/ quiver and vibrate/ like frozen cicadas.” I love the idea of the old leaves as ghosts of the old year—what is gone is not forgotten in its lifelessness. There is a solidity to that season that looks like death, though we know it will give way to resurrection in the spring—as Yokel writes in “Awake O Sleeper” looking at the “corpses of trees” he hears “the sound of the/ robin, singing the first/ notes of resurrection.”

In this, you see, there is that wrestling of heaven and earth—and of the New Heaven and Earth with this one that will pass away. Yes, I shall have to add some of these poems to my collection.

And perhaps, after mulling them for a while I will find myself where Yokel does at the end of his year—looking back to where he set off, “another person ago.” I will be changed, like a tree in a wood from season to season changes, and I may not know myself at the far end. But perhaps, to paraphrase Eliot, that is where I will know myself for the first time.

The End

When you come to the end,
to the place where the light is
you will look back and see
the weight of your soul,
how the journey has given you
more than you carried
when you set off another person ago,
how you traded your cheap wares
for precious possessions,
ingots of memories,
experience in folds,
to arrive like a beggar in guise
but your treasure
all carried inside you
where it cannot grow old.

A Year in Weetamoo Woods was released on January 6, 2014. More from Chris Yokel can be found at his website: Yokel’s book of poetry is available for purchase from Lulu, Amazon, and B&N.

A Year in Weetamoo Woods Book Trailer

When Your Tuque Falls in the Curry

The full title of this piece—which, sadly, wouldn’t fit very well—is:
When Your Tuque Falls in the Curry:
And Other Problems of Using Your Laundry as an Outdoor Fridge

-The Annals of a Philly Winter-

Our laundry facilities are in a lean-to by the side of the kitchen that doubles as an entryway to the apartment. It is completely un-insulated and it has two windows and a storm door. So, heat: no.

These facts are unhelpful in the deepest, coldest days of winter when the water line to the washer freezes and you’re stuck, unable to launder your clothing. There’s a space heater in there for just such moments. Sadly, I have a tendency to forget that until after I’ve discovered the frozen water line again.

However, the lack of heat is quite helpful on those late fall/early winter days around the Thanksgiving and Christmas when the temperature outdoors is cool and the kitchen is filled to brimming with good things to eat. Hello extra fridge space!

On Sunday, we were to have seven people for dinner. Due to a snowstorm and horrid road conditions (and, if you were to believe headlines at, all kinds of impending doom), we only had three of us. There’s lots of leftover curry. I just set the pot out on the dryer and voila, it’s chilled. Today for lunch I took a ladle to it, dipped, and poured over my bowl of rice, microwaved and had deliciousness.

But I dripped. And I didn’t clean it up immediately. Little did I know the impact that one small lapse in judgment would have….


On Sunday, we got more snow in four hours than we had all of last winter. The winter before, it had snowed on October 26. That’s it. I think. I vaguely recall another snowstorm that I missed ‘cause I was out in Lancaster, but suffice it to say we’ve been in a bit of a snow drought these past two winters.

This week has been working to make up for it. Philly/NJ had eight inches Sunday (to our 4” up here) and today we’re looking at 4”-6”.

Here’s the thing about Philly snow, though: it’s wet. There’s almost no getting around it. You know that lovely, dry, squeaky stuff from Michigan and Alaska? The kind you can just sweep away with a broom? A rarity here.

So this afternoon I went out to shovel. I swept the wet piles off the car and then took the shovel to the drive, lifting with my knees the whole(ish) way through. (We won’t talk about how my back hurts right now).


Snow BWI live on a tiny street. Most of the houses on it were built 50-300 years before the advent of cars. You can fit two cars side by side, but, well, y’know.

So it’s a one way street.

But here’s the other thing about those houses built 300 years before the advent of cars: nobody was thinking about parking lots and garages. I look at the houses on my street and wonder where on earth they put the horses. They must have had carriage houses somewhere else, ’cause I can’t find ’em.

One would think, with this tiny street and no real parking options, that shoveling would be easy, right? But here’s the thing: one small truck plows one single lane. That’s it. And it’s on the far side of the narrow little street from my driveway. So my drive, filled as it is with a vehicle, with only about four feet between my back bumper and the street, takes on another 8-12 feet of length in its shoveling needs. Lovely.


Then there’s the fact that there’s nowhere really to put the snow. Directly in front of my car is a wooden deck. Beside it, a 3-foot by 4-foot garden bed, and then of course, the 1-foot easement across the street—another 12 feet away. It’s always an adventure figuring the best ways to pile snow into our miniscule snow piling spaces. 4”-6” is nothing. I’ve cleared over a foot into those spots.

But all this is hard work. And with the temperature just barely hovering around freezing (that’s 32 degrees Fahrenheit for you Americans, and zero Celsius for everybody else), you get hot pretty quickly—all that lifting with (sort of) the knees and pushing across the street and piling snow (and the leaves under it) in precarious mountains.

So even when you think ahead, and you only wear one layer under your coat, you still get hot pretty quickly.

I bundled myself up: Columbia jacket, water-resistant lined pants, ear bags (or “ears,” as I call them), gloves, and hat. And 20 minutes in, I was starting to overheat.

I know what to do first in that situation. It’s why I wear both the ears and the hat: remove the tuque.

I set down the shovel, go to the storm door, open it, pull off my hat, and toss it in, aiming for an empty spot on the dryer.


I now have a woolen tuque with curry on it, friends.

Pieces Go Missing

I was reminded this morning that tomorrow, December 1, marks the day of an accident two years ago that took a beloved and friend and mentor from this earth. It was the start of a hard Christmas season. One where tears held their own against the joy and the laughter.

It was the start of a year of sorrow followed by sorrow—a year that changed my whole life in many ways. A year that I can look back to now with a measure of joy, seeing the hand of the One who shapes all my experiences with His grace and mercy, but a hard year, nonetheless.

There are pieces missing from my life now which were all comfortably settled in place just two years ago.

I could say the same thing about a cold, snowy January day almost five years ago. And another one four years back. And a hot, humid July one sixteen years back. I’m certain many of us can point to those days—those periods or moments—in our lives when everything changed, when the bruises formed for the first time, when we began to carry our burdens, when the cracks fissured our hearts.

And Christmas is a time when those bruises, those burdens, those cracks tend to lose the veneer we’ve washed over them for the rest of the year. Some of us have families who we can honestly share our burdens with. Some of our families are the source of those bruises. Some of us have found communities of friends that have helped heal our broken hearts. Some are still seeking them.

But, somehow, we still enter Christmas thinking perhaps this year will be different, this year will be the year we’re far enough from the hurt not to feel it anymore. We still look to January first as a new page, a new opportunity to try again.

I was struck this morning by the lyrics of Sleeping At Last’s song “Snow.”

The branches have traded their leaves for white sleeves
All warm-blooded creatures make ghosts as they breathe
Scarves are wrapped tightly like gifts under trees
Christmas lights tangle in knots annually

Our families huddle closely
Betting warmth against the cold
But our bruises seem to surface
Like mud beneath the snow

So we sing carols softly, as sweet as we know
A prayer that our burdens will lift as we go
Like young love still waiting under mistletoe
We’ll welcome December with tireless hope

Let our bells keep on ringing
Making angels in the snow
May the melody disarm us
When the cracks begin to show

Like the petals in our pockets
May we remember who we are
Unconditionally cared for
By those who share our broken hearts

The table is set and our glasses are full
Though pieces go missing, may we still feel whole
We’ll build new traditions in place of the old
’cause life without revision will silence our souls

So let the bells keep on ringing
Making angels in the snow
May the melody surround us
When the cracks begin to show

Like the petals in our pockets
May we remember who we are
Unconditionally cared for
By those who share our broken hearts

As gentle as feathers, the snow piles high
Our world gets rewritten and retraced every time
Like fresh plates and clean slates, our future is white
New Year’s resolutions will reset tonight

“We’ll welcome December with tireless hope.”

We humans are a people of hope. In light of everything that has happened in the course of human history, it seems a bit foolish. Why would we hope when we know that every lifecycle ends with death? Why would we hope when we see broken relationships all around us? Why would we hope in light of war, famine, nature’s destruction?

We hope because we are made in the image of God. We are a broken, fallen people, and we are offered wholeness and restoration.

We hope because the Son of God came to earth one Christmas and fulfilled His calling:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

–Luke 4:18-21, ESV

He came to this earth to partake in the human condition and to overcome it. He came to share our broken hearts and to make us whole. He came to rewrite the world.

May your December be filled with hope. May you remember who you are: You are unconditionally cared for by One who shares your scars.

Watch Sleeping At Last’s video for “Snow”

Sleeping At Last is offering a Christmas Collection (including “Snow”) for download at Noisetrade. I’m loving listening to it so far this season. Go get yourself a copy and feel free to leave a tip!

The Still, Small Voice

I sat at a concert about a month ago and listened as the man standing before us, guitar in hand, dredged up the whole of his soul and threw it down in rhythm, chord, meter, and lyric.

I desperately wanted to raise my hands and join him in the soul-pouring. I adored the song. I adored the performance. I worshiped with him as he sang. My soul resonated with every word, every chord.

And I spent the entire time in angst, torn between the desire of my soul and my inhibitions. That is so not me, I thought. And so not this crowd.

I grew up in the kind of church where the movement of the Spirit sometimes resulted in an “Amen!” from the back row, but rarely anything more. I’m a stiff-upper lip type; emotionalism is about as far from me as you can get. While I know that there is genuine response to the activity of the Spirit that is not emotionalism, the times I’ve been in worship services where there is a more visible response to the Spirit’s moving, I’ve watched, detached, analytical, and probably a bit cynical.

My relationship with the Holy Spirit person of the Trinity has always been a bit stand-off-ish. God the Father—yep, absolutely, I get Him. God the Son? Sure! Who wouldn’t want to spend time with Jesus? But God the Spirit? He’s a little tougher to get my head around.

I’ve read the Upper Room Discourse in John’s Gospel. I can quote you the stuff Jesus said about the Spirit. It’s the actual living with Him that’s rougher going for me.

At various times in my life I’ve encountered people who seem to be so much more attuned to the activity of the Spirit than I am. I’ve sometimes felt envious. Sometimes felt overwhelmed. Sometimes been in awe. But an easy, back-and-forth, listen-response relationship with the Spirit has never really been my thing.

But God…

He likes to bring that contrasting conjunction into our lives, doesn’t He?

God’s been doing something in my heart in recent months (well, God’s been doing lots of things in my heart in recent months, but I’ll save some for other posts—this one is about the prompting of the Spirit). I’ve had more conversations about the Holy Spirit, about His activity today, about His role in the life of the believer. And I’ve been more acutely aware of moments like the one in the concert, where I felt the prompting of the Spirit, but didn’t know what to do with it.

Enter this past weekend. I was at an event, a fundraising banquet for a Christian organization. I was seated with folks I didn’t know all that well, and I took a moment to hide in my cell phone right as we were getting settled. I looked at Facebook. A friend had posted a request for prayer.

I’m not very good at following through on promises to pray. So most of the time when such requests come my way, I lift the person up there and then, and then go on about my business. In Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light, Grandfather describes prayer as taking someone into his heart and putting them into God’s hands. I love that description. And that’s what I do—I take a moment, take the person into my heart, and then put him into God’s hands. And that’s what I did when I saw that post.

But here’s the thing. The request didn’t leave my heart. Over and over throughout the meal I was burdened by it again, distracted from the conversation at my table.

I began to have a conversation with myself inside my head. One voice thought that I should tell my friend about this strange phenomenon. Another voice thought that it would sound like a meaningless platitude. The first voice insisted. The second argued back.

I finally settled the conversation with a plea to the Lord. If He wanted me to say something to my friend, I told Him, He would need to tell me what to say.

There was special music in the program, and I listened to the words of the songs, hoping to find a snippet I could pass along to my friend. Nothing. The Director of the organization got up and shared about the ministry. I listened to the stories, wondering if one of them was what I should pass on. Nothing. Then the keynote speaker got up to preach. And he opened up Hebrews 11 and said he was going to talk about faith.

Of course he is, the cynic in my head scoffed. It’s a fundraising banquet, they’re asking people to step out in faith and give.

From time to time, the Spirit joins the conversations in my head. He joins like He did Elijah outside the cave – not a fire, not a wind, not an earthquake, but a whisper.

He whispered, “I’ve been talking to you a lot about faith recently. Haven’t you been listening?”

The voices in my mind shut their mouths in surprise.

Finally, my soul found her voice. “You want me to tell my friend what You and I have been noodling together about faith?” she asked the Spirit. “But the prayer request was for something else entirely!”

“But we’ve been talking about faith,” the Spirit repeated. “Tell your friend about it.”

Later, in the car as I was trying to pull together my thoughts into a semblance of order for sharing, I heard the still, small voice again as the lyrics of a song played, “Share this, too.”

I wish I could say that I hear that whisper more often. I’m sure He’s spoken, in His quiet way, plenty of times in my life—and I haven’t heard because I’ve been too caught up in the noise, or I have ignored Him because I’ve been too caught up in my inhibitions.

These have been strange days for me. After that night’s encounter with the still, small voice, I’ve had more—like I’m suddenly tuned to the right frequency. But the stranger thing for me is this: I’ve been willing to raise my hands, to shed my inhibitions and pour out my soul because He prompted me to do so.

That is so not me.

But it is lovely. And in it, I see Him.