Peace

Ride the High Country

Almost every morning, Joanne and I start our day with good coffee, conversation, laughter, reading, and prayer. 


This morning, as we prayed for our family and friends, I felt a strong sense of Isaiah 30:18 (only a bare memory of it; I had to look it up). When I found it, I saw how it applies to me. Today. But, it may also help some others.


…The LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.  

So often, it seems, I jump into my day with a prayer that the Lord will show up in my world, help me succeed (or just hang on), rescue me, prosper me, bring justice for my concerns and issues, etc. Sadly, most of what I think or pray revolves around me. 


And so often, it seems the Lord doesn’t respond at all. To any of it. Instead, He just invites me/us to come up to His House. That’s where, “He waits on high to have compassion on you.” 


Ride the High Country is my all-time favorite western. But this morning, that title also gives voice to my heart. I want to ride up through His High Country.


May we all find the grace and space to turn our attention to Him—away from the swirl of coronavirus, cancer, conflict, politics, social media, etc. As we do, perhaps, in the words of an old song, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”


And, yes, I do wish we could sit together…on the porch (mine or yours) in this beautiful and bracing autumn air. 

Going Home

Every society falls along the line between order and chaos. And we all know the names of the command centers along that line: patrol car, court, jail, prison, hospital, morgue, and mortuary.

 

Those who work in those command centers know that those places inevitably squeeze out one word: “home.” It is whispered or growled, laughed or sobbed; “Go on home, son.” “Can I go home now?” “Ma’am, please take your daughter home.” “Oh, Mama; Daddy just went home to be with the Lord.”

 

What and Where is Home?

Have you ever walked into a house, garden, maybe a hotel suite, or place of worship and felt an immediate sense of harmony, safety, and belonging? I think that is the image of our true Home inscribed on our heart. For as long as we live on earth we seek that image. And from time to time we catch a fleeting glimpse of it.

 

Home is that enclosure, that construction of solid, protective walls and roof, wherein we find peace and rest. As Dryden said, “Home is the sacred refuge of our life.” And “sacred” may be the key. A true home is a holy place; built, crowned, and furnished with the blessing of The One.

 

Although we enjoy rest within those walls, we also dwell carefully, lest the holy atmosphere – the “Heaven on earth” – depart. That’s why Joanne and I use caution about who or what – sounds, images, thoughts, attitudes, words – enter into our house. Because we see our home as an embassy of Heaven, it must reflect the spirit of the home country.

 

The Fragility of Civilization

A friend who spent time in prison told me that the worst part of incarceration is the prisoner’s loss of control over his or her environment. The levels of noise and light remain harsh and inescapable. So often, when I watch or listen to news, his description chills my spine and spirit. We often don’t know what a great treasure we hold until we lose it. And losing our safe place is one of the most severe losses in life.

 

Jay Nordlinger recently wrote, “Civilization requires constant, hard work. It does not run on auto-pilot.” I am concerned that the rootless, seething, mostly young, men and women caught so vividly in the televised conflicts do not carefully hold the great treasure that is America. And losing it would create a national prison; our safe places would vanish. Harsh light and sound would dominate.

 

So often, when I see people or scenes on the news (as in Las Vegas), I immediately wonder if he or she – that person right there! – has or ever knew a place called home. Did the thieves, murderers, and rapists that walk through courtrooms ever, one day in their lives, feel sheltered, needed, or loved? Do those rioting in streets, regardless of background or cause, know the peace and quiet of a safe place?

 

Please Go Home

A few months ago, I heard an Emergency Room doctor tell my granddaughter’s High School graduation audience, “Nothing good happens after midnight. Please go home.”

 

What a brilliant observation by one who lives and works on that line between order and chaos. So, why do so many spend so much time away from home at night? What sheared them off from the quiet safety of home?

 

One of many oddities of our time is that we only seem to value things that are somewhere else. We don’t sufficiently cherish spending time with others – spouse, children, parents, friends, relatives – who live within, or pass through, our house. We have little desire to dive into meals, crafts, projects, books, or music at home. We must, it seems, always go somewhere else in order to touch, spend, eat, drink.

 

One of our neighbors recently told us that she and her fiancée were beaten and knocked unconscious, in a bar the previous night. I so wanted to ask, “What was the downside of just being home?”

 

Scientists know that we can go as far into the microcosm as we can into the macrocosm. They are equally vast and mysterious. That may be why “going home” is one of the most beautiful phrases ever spoken or considered. Maybe we’re all called to explore the depths and layers of the incomprehensible safety and beauty of “home.”

 

And maybe it’s time to defy the centrifugal forces that spin us away from going home. Discovering the joy, gentleness, and quiet rest that awaits us there could be the most radical act any of us will ever attain in this life.

 

The Wisdom of “And” 

Minutes before I spoke to a Christian leadership retreat, another speaker took a position disputing what I would soon be saying. Wanting to avoid conflict or embarrassment, I discreetly asked my friend Mike Bishop to step outside. When I sought his counsel, he nodded his understanding and said, “Just remember, and, not or.”

         Mike’s wisdom set me free. I could add to – rather than contradict – what had just been spoken. 

         I’ve often thought about Mike’s “and” in this election season. The swirling accusation that attends presidential elections seems to pull all of us into sharp (but quite unnecessary) polarization and conflict. Everything tends to be either/or. We seem incapable of reasoned, thoughtful, and charitable assessments of opposing views or candidates.

Both Sides Now

Columnist William Raspberry once told me “most people believe more than one side of any issue.” That has become an enormous and orienting truth for me. But when the structures of our time cannot tolerate complexity or nuance, everything becomes either/or. 

         To live in “And” just screws up the algorithms of the age.

         Let’s face it; most of those who prefer Trump are genuinely concerned about the integrity of national borders, terrorism, pervasive incompetence, and the loss of respect for America throughout the world. Those people are not crazy or evil; they are grappling (however inarticulately) with serious issues. 

         And most of the people supporting Clinton are reaching for a more just and inclusive society, one that rejects the old structures of privilege and power. In fact, I think most people on the left yearn for a new story, one that rises above the old rules and allows dreamers some space. 

         As author Jonathan Haidt suggests in his book, The Righteous Mind, conservatives are more concerned about authority, loyalty, and sanctity issues. Liberals are more focused on care, fairness, and choice. Those tensions are valid and necessary. They are all “and, not or” issues; surely a civil society can and must discuss all of that intelligently and kindly. 

         But for some reason it is difficult to just listen to a position and then respond with, “Yes, I see that. And perhaps we also need to also consider…” The biggest problem with that position is pride; what I know is often the enemy of what I dont know. 

         Humility is the only antidote for pride.

The Path of Humility

Humility is always appropriate, always in season, and always dignifying. Humility is not self-degradation or passivity; it isn’t a servile posture. Real humility is based on the conviction that my view is incomplete. My capacities and perspectives are limited; I need others. 

         That’s why I like what pastor and author Tim Keller says about the integrity of conversation. He says we should “do the work necessary to articulate the views of your opponent with such strength and clarity that he or she could say, ‘I couldn’t have said it better myself.’ Then, and only then, will your polemics have integrity…”[1]

         Now imagine Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump sitting at a table in a TV studio, earnestly and humbly talking about issues. Clinton says, “Now, Donald, here is what I heard you say in Cincinnati. Now, please tell me if you agree with the way I express it or not.” And Trump listens carefully, nods, and says, “Hillary, that’s it. Thank you. That is my position.” 

         Sadly, we all know that is never going to happen.

But you and I can practice that kind of relational and conversational integrity. We can humbly, patiently, and respectfully listen to one another – even on Facebook! Even when others speak in anger and exaggeration, we can love, listen, and respond gently. 

         When I think of how little I really know about life, God, His creation, about anything, I catch a glimpse of the towering ignorance that drives anger and conflict. 

         What if…we all stopped fighting, humbled ourselves, and turned our energies to exploring the deep and immeasurable riches all around us? It is just possible that you may discover a vital link to a beautiful treasure…one that would be enormously helpful to others, including me. 

         What a beautiful world. 

[1] Keller, Timothy. Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012. 

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