Homesick, Part 1


Well, I’ve written a book, y’all!  Over the next few weeks I am going to post a few excerpts, so stay tuned.  Comment like crazy, the more the merrier!  Here goes…

I have felt it since I was a child. I do not belong here. I am an alien, a sojourner. This place is foreign to me, and though sometimes it reminds me of home, more often it is slightly toxic. I am ET, breathing strange fumes. I need to phone home.

But here I am, here we all are, stranded on this hostile planet, waiting. Longing. Maybe you feel it, too. Maybe, stuck in traffic, you realize that you feel equally stuck in life. Alone, maybe, or just out of place. The things you’ve given your life to don’t seem to amount to much. You can’t remember how you spent yesterday, or what it was you wanted to be doing at this age. Maybe what you’ve waited for your whole life has never come to pass, or when it did, it wasn’t what you expected. Maybe your life has been one heartbreak after another, or maybe, if you’ve had a happy life, you live with a vague fear that it just won’t last. Although the waiting seems interminable, there are reminders that in truth, our lives are short. A healthy older man, chopping trees one day, struck down with cancer the next. A young mother, collapsed on the cold tile floor after a spider bite. A baby, slipped away during the night in his sleep.

In one of the most-quoted passages of one of the most-performed plays of all time, William Shakespeare said it this way:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

It is a howl, frustration and sorrow and loss and fear — what is the meaning of life? I’ll tell you — life is a tale told by an idiot! Life is meaningless! Life is too, too short.

Ah, but with Christ, everything has changed. Out of disorder, he teases beauty, out of tragedy, he orchestrates grace. The waiting is charged with purpose, urgency, even. Time is short. The song is growing louder. We are going home.

In the meantime, we are undeniably stuck here. “Under the sun,” says Solomon, cynic of scripture, “life is really lousy.” As various translations put it, life is meaningless, vanity, vainglory, futility, vapor, emptiness, falsity, smoke. Under the sun there is toil and heartache and devastation and bitter, angry days on end. So how is it that Christ, unflinching, proclaims, “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly”? Is he speaking of earth-bound souls? Is he mocking me?

Under the sun, Ecclesiastes said — squirreling out from under God’s hand, choosing instead the slippery, deceptive rulers and authorities, thrones and principalities of a fallen earth, well, there, “futility of futilities!” life is without purpose. It’s reminiscent of creation un-breathed upon: “formless and void,” dark. Oh, but then! The world did not remain untouched; the Word said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Light, shining on confusion, suddenly spotlights God’s sovereignty, and in a blink, chaos becomes meaningful. Delay becomes opportunity, tragedy is transformed into triumph, and along the way, snivelling, petty humans acquire the dazzling likeness of Christ.

“Patience,” says Oswald Chambers, is critical here, under the sun, where suffering seems to linger forever. It’s “more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says–‘I cannot stand anymore.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.’”

Patience I have in short supply. Perhaps that is exactly why I am asked to wait so often — how else will I learn? He stretches, I strain, the longing becomes so loud a roar in my ears that I cry out. Home! Take me home! And he will; one day, ordinary in the beginning, will by close of day be my homecoming, and looking over my shoulder I will see there is no going back.image

How do we spend the days granted us? How do we live abundantly, fully, richly, deeply satisfied before the sand in the hourglass is gone?

See eternally.

Worship wholeheartedly.

Walk purposefully.

Care passionately.

Give generously.

Hold loosely.

Love deeply.

Stand firm.

Choose light.


Sticking it to the To-Do List

Wildgänse im Flug, A skein of greylag geese.
Wildgänse im Flug, A skein of greylag geese. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning I read an Ann Voskamp quote saying that the remedy for anxiety is worship, or something to that effect. So true. To be full of wonder — wonderfull — how can the to-do list retain its power to freeze the veins? How can the But Gods crush and conquer?

There is a very real list of things unfinished, important, urgent even — a list of things blundered and things intimidating and things impossible — staring me in the face today. Standing at the back door with a cooling cup of coffee I can choose what to see. The porch in need of repair? The grill in need of cleaning? The fence sagging, neighbors’ house peeling, grass not growing? Or the tracery of branches across pale sky, geese in military formation (except for that one that can’t get it together), squirrel acrobatics? I can stare down the lists that march on my day or look past them to see the myriad opportunities for laughter.

Yesterday I told the Lord that what gets me down is choicelessness. The things I want to do I cannot do, the things I pine for are out of reach. If only I could make effectual choices, I could live with the consequences, I argued. (You can see I am happily delusional). Of course, it is harder to trust, to let someone else do the choosing, and yet isn’t that kind of the cornerstone of faith — that God chose me to dearly love? So I wiggle and squirm and finally relax and try to rest. OK, God. You choose. But still He graciously gives choice every day — choose light. Choose joy. Choose the lists with their ugly power, or brush past them and choose hope. Live wonderfull.

So today I praise. Two thousand years ago a young girl rounded with fear and trembling, hope and joy. The reasons to worry, the staredown of Impossible and Inadequate must have circled her tight and taunting. But in those months of waiting and uncertainty she threw back her head and hollered her choice: “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”

Impossible? Pah! Nothing is impossible with God.

Gumball Dynasty

Move over, ducks.  The Gumball Dynasty is a-comin’.

Gumballs (Photo credit: grandmasandy+chuck)

It all started with the World Vision Christmas catalog.  At the table one night, we poured over it:  “Look!  A goat for only $75!  A water buffalo will set you back $1100.”  You might be surprised to hear that we are contemplating buying livestock, but on the other hand, maybe that is the kind of kooky thing you’ve come to expect from the Morgans.  Who wouldn’t want to share space with a llama, after all?

Of course, it wouldn’t actually be for us.  World Vision, as you probably already know, helps needy people around the world, and this is their annual gift-a-thon.  For $548, for instance, you can send a live nativity scene to a modern-day Bethlehem somewhere around the world: a donkey, a sheep, a goat, and a pair of chickens.  Manger not included.

imageI love, love, love the World Vision Christmas catalog.  I am right there along with my 8-year-old, who wants to give not a single sheep, but the whole darn farm:  28 farm animals for under $2500.  What?!  So the kids and I were brainstorming.  Could a kid raise that kind of money?  How?

So we got online to research kids and fundraising, and we started planning the bread we could sell, the crafts we could make, the bubblegum… huh?  Did you know that kids can have their very own bubblegum machine?  You know, the kind you put a quarter in and get a handful of M&Ms or a giant ball of cement with a bright candy coating?  My kids, doing some math, were all astonishment.  Gumball machine:  $100.  One bag of gumballs yields:  $200.

Little Man might just be the next Philip Anschutz, because since making this discovery, he has changed all of his previous Christmas wish list plans.  Now the only thing he wants for Christmas is a paid-in-full gumball machine , half of the proceeds of which he intends to use to buy a farm for World Vision.  (He wants to reinvest the other half into more gumballs until he has his own little vending route and enough money to fund college and a lifetime supply of Nerf guns.)

Can I just say, I wish I were so creative, caution-to-the-wind, and passionately generous as my 8-year-old?  Here’s to the gumball dynasty.  Here’s to 28 farm animals and a village lifted from hunger to abundance, and the knowledge that they are deeply loved.

Can’t I just learn the hard way?

English: Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract
English: Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Little man really wanted to try some of that vanilla I was putting in the banana bread.  “It’s yucky, buddy,” I said.  “Yummy in the bread, not so good by itself.”


“You won’t like it.”

“But Mom, can’t I just learn the hard way?”

Oh my gosh, he is just like me!  How many times have I struggled and strained to have my way against all warnings and my own better judgment?  Course, I am not usually so honest about my stubborn streak; it takes an eight-year-old to be that forthright.  Me, I justify.  I give my arsenal of good reasons and my own persuasive puppy-dog eyes.  “Pleeease?”

When I know I should just say no instead of adding one more thing to my plate, I have to learn the hard way.  Why not rest when I need to?

When I know I am going to regret that second doughnut in about 5 minutes, I have to learn the hard way.  Why don’t I stop when I’m full?

When I’m smack up against a closed door I don’t like, do I listen to that still, small voice saying turn around?  Nope, not me.  I have to learn the hard way.  Just… gotta… force… it… open — there!

And unlike little man and his vanilla craving, my learning-the-hard-way tends to hurt.  Bad.  I burn out, dry up, lose faith, lose heart.  I trade freedom and joy for shame and a dark pit.  Why do we make it so hard on ourselves?  The funny thing is, God’s way — that narrow way we tend to associate with deprivation — is always the best way.  I never regret obeying him in the first place.

You ever have to learn the hard way?


Sixth grade class play.  Sitting on the dusty stage, gazing across at the little red-headed boy.  Who knew a heart could swell so big?  Little kids and country singers know the secret of grand dreams, great loves, and gargantuan disappointments.  You have to live with your whole heart.

I have been learning again lately about living by heart.  About rejecting duty and dogma in favor of deep-rooted, upwelling joy.  About the heart-need for heart-nourishment, rest, and protection.  About guarding my heart, remembering my first love (not the little red-headed boy), and putting a picket fence around what’s important.

At our house, we’ve been using the term “sabbatical heart.”  Having just come home from a five-month sabbatical, we gave our hearts a much-needed vacation, the chance to breathe.  So a “sabbatical heart” is thankful, not grasping, trusting, not fearful, rested, not rushed.  It’s a rocking chair on the front porch, a walk in the woods, pineapple upside-down cake and a game of Catan.  It’s a long soak in Psalms, prayer that’s conversation, and a good laugh.  In my new favorite phrase, it’s unhooked and unhindered,image free.  And it really doesn’t give a hoot what anyone else thinks.

What if you lived from the heart?  Made decisions on a heart-level?  Would it transform your marriage?  Your family?  Your vocation?  Grab a concordance, see what the Bible has to say on the subject.  God isn’t shy about wanting your whole heart.

  • Love me with all your heart
  • Serve me with all your heart
  • Trust me with all your heart
  • Seek me with all your heart
  • Praise me with all your heart
  • Follow me with all your heart
  • Obey me with all your heart
  • Have a soft heart
  • Have a heart that yearns for God, pounds for God, is fully devoted, stirred, steadfast, secure and undivided
  • Above all else guard your heart
  • Keep your heart pure
  • Rend your heart
  • Rejoice with all your heart

I heard the folk singer, Dave Wilcox, talking not long ago about a conversation his head had with his heart.  “I don’t understand,” his head said.  “It’s not in your language,” answered his heart.

How much do I need those conversations?  The ones where my heart gives my head a talking-to.  Not logic, not cut-and-dried or should-and-shouldn’t.  Love.  Joy.  Heart.

Jury Duty, Babies, Funerals, and Car Trouble

So I spent last week in jury duty. Have you had this delightful opportunity yet? You go in for what you assume will be just a day, a blip in your life — you reschedule, postpone, mush things, sit awkwardly in a packed waiting room full of fidgety folks, look at your watch one too many times. Maybe you bring some work to keep busy, or a book, but mostly you people-watch, sigh, look at that watch again.

This time, though, it was a really long blip in my little life — four days, as a matter of fact. We were chosen (I say “we” because soon enough, the strangers were an “us”) to weigh in on a man’s life, one loose cannon whose little joyride cost a lot of people their sense of security, their prized possessions, and their peace. This person I’d never met nor heard of, dozens of witnesses and attorneys, legal clerks, a judge, and 12 other lucky jurors all became my central focus for the better part of a week.

Meanwhile, one of the cars died. My husband and the kids were stuck at home, just…stuck. More things cancelled, shuffled. More lives affected. (Can I just say, the frustration level caused by a piece of metal is ridiculous!)

My good friend called in with periodic maybe (maybe not) going-into-labor updates. Another friend’s mother slid closer to the end of life until, this morning, she died. Car trouble? Appointments shifted? Little lower on the magnitude scale.

The whole surreal week seems to be screaming for my attention. Life, the whole messy pile of it, dumped in my lap to be sorted. I heard so many stories: funny stories, pitiful stories, gut-wrenching, beautiful, hopeful stories. People I’d pass without a second glance (and have I? A dozen times? In traffic, at the mall? One of the jurors, buying doughnuts for the jury, ran into the judge, also buying doughnuts for the jury, at the store. How many times had they passed each other before in aisle 9?)… these people, all with their intricate stories, suddenly reared up in my face as if to say hey, stupid. Notice us.

So life is barreling along, 100 miles an hour, like our buddy the defendant on his wild ride in a stolen car. Usually in my own little world, I walk right by a lot of hurting people, oblivious. Wonder what I’d see if I paid better attention?


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