Sing Your Song

In April 2014, a young woman in North Carolina died in a car wreck. The investigation revealed that, at the moment of impact, she was posting a selfie on Facebook.

Oh, the rush that comes from a human touch through social media. The laughter, the buzz, the flirt. Human contact is so intoxicating, especially for the young. He notices me. Maybe I can see her tonight. 

But then…the grill of the gravel truck. The earsplitting grind of steel and glass. Bones splintering. The odors of fire, motor oil, and blood. Then everything is still; the only sound is a distant dog barking. 

Reality always wins.

Eventually, we all learn why Goethe said, “The things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”

Have you noticed that so much of modern life teaches us to look away from reality? People die every day because they invite amusement (one definition: “to distract the attention”). 

It seems we’ve all been trained to just download data, provocations, concerns, even excitement. We do not think or meditate or study; we tend to just wait for various stimuli (like “breaking news,” talk radio, Facebook posting, political or religious agendas, etc.) to set up a crisis or a cause. Then, like a balloon man at a car wash grand opening, we jerk into reaction.

Are we so bored by our own lives and thoughts that we eagerly give ourselves to anything or anyone that moves or makes noise?

I care about God, Joanne, our kids and grandkids, extended family, friends, conversation, coffee, humor, our dog, Bernie, books, and music. I don’t have enough heart or brain space to give myself to things that matter least. 

Yes, I know many things matter to many people. I don’t despise that. But doesn’t the right to speak also carry the right to not speak? That’s not denunciation. I’m often silent just because others already work that side of the street and do so better than I could. Therefore, I simply choose to not open my heart about some issues (except with trusted friends as we sit on bales of hay in a barn on a rainy afternoon).  

Maybe it all comes to this: I don’t have enough sand left in my hourglass to annex other burdens, dreams, urgencies, or fights. I have a wife to love, a mission to fill, books to read, words to write, conversations to join, and places to go. I want to spend time with my family and friends, laugh, pray, and fire my friend Doug’s cannon.

Thoreau told us most people “go the grave with the song still in them.” Do you realize you carry a song? It flows from your Creator’s unique and personal design and gets boiled in and pushed out through your life. No one else carries your song, and many need to hear it. On this side of the grave.

Want to see what the song looks like? 

In his book, The Wright Brothers (Simon & Schuster, 2015), David McCullough looked at Wilbur and Orville Wright’s unrelenting focus on flight. The brothers worked side-by-side six days a week. They gave no opening to distractions (neither ever married).

At Kitty Hawk, they endured wind, cold, and swarms of mosquitos that blocked the sun; they stood for hours watching birds climb into the wind, ascend, glide, turn, plunge, and land. 

Wilbur and Orville knew their song. And because they were faithful to sing it, humans can mount the air and soar to the edge of the universe. Think about that. 

You and I have a choice. We can let the pollutions and conflicts of the lower elevations constrict or distract our attention or we can rise above the diversions and stimuli, perch like an eagle on a high rocky cliff, and sing our song. 

Finally, I’ve learned the song never springs from glamour or buzz. The deep wells of pain and loss seem to produce the richest and most moving tones. Like caring for a spouse, parent, child, or sibling as they move toward darker, deeper, and more resplendent glory. The most majestic songs I’ve heard were composed by some of you as you laid down your life for another.

Now, to turn an old observation, no one is going to lie on their deathbed wishing they had just read one more blog, sat through a few more sermons or sales meetings, watched another episode of Yellowstone, or joined more causes.      

But we may wish we had sung our song more clearly and often.

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A Quiet Life

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands… 1 Thessalonians 4:11

A former prison inmate once told me that the worst part of prison, for him, was the inability to control his environment; he lived in continuous clamor and light.

Mother Teresa reportedly said, “God is the Friend of silence . . . He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grow in silence. See the stars, the moon and sun move in silence.”

Part of the majesty of God is revealed in how His great works take place in hushed tranquility. He moves large balls of enormous weight through the universe or drops tons of snow on the earth, all in muted splendor. Prairie sod, crops, and forests grow, and eagles soar and great rivers flow . . . without a sound.

Maybe prisons are prophetic; today we all seem to live in harsh lighting and jarring noise that is pervasive and perpetual.

How did we get here? Like any prisoner, we embraced a “promising” idea or temptation. Then, as we slipped deeper into the relationship, the object of our affection suddenly slammed its steel jaws around us.

We wanted wealth and we wanted security, fame and privacy, intimacy and anonymity, leadership and selfishness. Together. We wanted to sow and not reap. And various tools — technology, politics, media, and religion — promised that we could have things that had always been mutually exclusive. They said we could suspend the Golden Rule; we could do unto others what we would never want for ourselves.

For example, Facebook (not the only, and perhaps not the worst, offender) flirted with us, using the idea that we could find meaningful (even intimate) and no-risk connection with other humans. It would build a safe road through our raging insecurities and the badlands of relationships. We could really express and market ourselves, preach and proselytize, and possibly recover our youth. Hands went up, “Yes, I’ll buy that.”


We did not get the safety and recovered youth, but we did get streaming noise, drama, the invasion of our privacy, and (some say) new addictions. A government agent told a recent law enforcement academy, “I’m telling everyone I know to get off Facebook. NOW.” Why? Sophisticated software has given criminals the same tools used by law enforcement. They find vulnerabilities and move into them.

A recent article about the capacity of “smart” TVs to spy on their owners warned that we “might be careful about what they say or do in the device’s presence.” Why would anyone tolerate (much less, buy) a box that violates your privacy and then sells what it learned about you to others so they can transgress you further?

I like and use high-tech tools; I don’t have seizures about technology. But the gadget is not the problem; humans are. And I’m not convulsed about that. I’m just trying to build a buffer between me and those who use the Internet, GPS systems, cell phones, phishing, computer malware and spyware, photo sharing, and other tools to take stuff from me.

Bottom line: Our trust has been violated. After all, we paid for those things; they weren’t a gift and we didn’t negotiate a better price. They slapped a price on the screen and we said, “Sold!”

Clearly, a promise has become a prison.

A couple thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul told Thessalonian Christians (and us) to “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, mind your own business, and work with your hands.”

Joanne and I live in a peaceful habitation. But, in 2013, we’re going to step further into the quiet (which means further away from sources of noise, anxiety, and restlessness). We don’t know the details, but if you look around familiar places and realize you can’t find us, just remember that we still want to meet with our friends whenever possible.

But instead of virtual meeting places, let’s sit on the porch, in a bar or on bales of hay.

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Come Outside

A recent Forbes article, How I Improved My Memory Over Lunch (by Kristi Hedges) clearly identifies a serious impairment of modern life. Consider these observations from the article:

“…we’re turning into a society that’s addicted to distraction.

“…we’re losing our ability to think critically, which also chips away at the human need to be contemplative and strategic about our work and our lives.

“…the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain responsible for decision making and control of emotions, goes on hiatus when it gets overloaded. ‘With too much information…people’s decisions make less and less sense.’

“…information retrieval has replaced memory as what passes for knowledge.

“The combination of powerful search facilities with the web’s facilitation of associative linking is…eroding [our] powers of concentration. It implicitly assigns an ever-decreasing priority to the ability to remember things in favor of the ability to search efficiently.”

When God revealed His magnificent plans for Abraham (and the whole earth), the Bible says that He first took Abraham “outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’” (Genesis 15:5)

For some reason, we humans seem convinced we can improve on God’s creation. We gravitate toward our own fabricated environments. We build it, burrow into it, become addicted to it, get lost within it, and finally, incarcerated by it.

So, when the Larger Intentions of God come to us, the first thing He says is, “Come outside…” away from what we have manufactured. To even catch a glimpse of eternal purposes, we must stand in the magnificence of the natural order.

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