Embers

I’m writing this post in front of a cabin fireplace in one of the most rural places I’ve been in the United States: the mountain area of northwestern Pennsylvania. It’s a familiar place from my senior year of high school when my dad said yes to be a pastor of a small congregation in a town where the major export was wood from the mountains.

Downtown Caledonia, PA

It’s always interesting coming back here. Mixed emotions. For one, I’m wired naturally for a more urban context, so the more isolated I get in these parts, the less comfortable I am. However, this area of the country is one of the most beautiful. It’s space that’s very close to being untouched by us — lots of undeveloped land. It’s been nearly 25 years, and not much has changed. It feels like the land that time forgot. Really the only things that look different are the cars in driveways. The roads aren’t straight. The population is sparse. And there’s no cell phone service here. Really; it’s 2014, and no bars. I’ve literally been all over the world and have had service — except here. Today I like it.

“Parking” by the Cabin. The view is beautiful.

I rode my motorcycle here from Michigan; about 420 miles. When I arrived cold and tired, one of my closest and lifelong friends, Dave, greeted me. The fireplace was loaded. The cabin was warm. It was quiet, simple. I like it.

One of the goals for this week is to embrace the quiet and listen. I’ve created so much noise in my life that I’ve forgotten how to listen. Sometimes it takes creating space to do this. I’m in it right now.

Morning quiet and writing through Storyline by Don Miller

There’s lots of noise in general in my life. I don’t know about yours. Life is a balance that I’m not all that good at. I try to be a good husband: attentive, sensitive, godly. I try to be a good dad. It’s easier said than done when you have a 16-year-old daughter. I try to be a good friend to those I care about deeply. I’m also part of a missional software company at which I work hard. Be a good team member, a good leader, a valuable employee, and a trusted friend. We’re all in it. There always seems to be some sort of challenge daily. Each of these areas seemingly takes turns providing me opportunities to tackle. The Internet is out. The garage door doesn’t open. My daughter wants to tell me about a boy she likes. My wife feels neglected because of work, which piles up and causes me to travel and be away from home. The car breaks down. The furnace dies. Life keeps spinning.

In the midst of this life, a consistent reminder comes from multiple fronts that the God of the universe seems to be interested in me. He likes me, maybe even loves me. He wants to spend time with me. The crazy thing is the more time we share, the less noisy my life feels. I know this. I know there are power, peace and life in time spent with Him.

 But the garage door is broken, and I’ve got to get the oil changed.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a mess. I need some time and space to recharge in order to make sure where I’m headed and where I lead my family is the right frontier. I can do this a variety of ways:

  1. Wing it.
  2. Talk to other people and ask their advice. Then figure out my own version.
  3. Read lots of books and websites for wisdom.
  4. Be quiet and listen.

Can you guess which one I’m not good at?

Me after Dave and I took a half-day hike up to the second pipeline only to be drenched on the way back.

I have never been able to figure out how to get quiet consistently. I’m now 42 years old, and I still don’t have it down. But for some reason, getting on a motorcycle and going someplace where there’s no Internet or agenda helps reset the compass of my spirit. It’s kind of like becoming reacquainted with my heart —  and the Father’s. Stillness isn’t something I do well. However, I’m recalling verses like: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). I’m recalling that Jesus went away by Himself to a quiet place. I’m finding that, in the quiet, He speaks more than in the noise. Or maybe He speaks the same volume. But it’s sure easier to hear when it’s quiet.

One of my favorite things to mellow me out: read/write by candlelight in the quiet. Doesn’t happen enough.

So, for a chronically noisy person, I’m praying for help from the Father to draw me to the quiet. I’m also putting it on my calendar (literally), and I’m going to venture into some space I’m not comfortable or familiar with because my spirit longs for it. When I do get quiet enough long enough, the garage door, refrigerator, family funkiness and tension seem to drain from me and are replaced by peace.

And the things of this world will grow strangely dim.  I want this.

Check out more pics of my bike trip to PA in my Flickr Album

 

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