Ten Steps to a Better Happier You, Five Easy Exercises to Lose 5 lbs Now!, 100 Ways to Be More Creative, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, The Eightfold Path in Buddhism, The Ten Commandments — life is full of maps, guide books, steps and techniques for living it better, for getting us where we want to go (or at least where we think we ought to be).
We are creatures of habit, oriented around a linear way of living. We like the idea that B follows A and C follows B and life ought to be pretty predictable. So, most of us got out our road map to life — followed a fairly prescribed path (perhaps like our parents), went to school, got a plan, followed a dream, met a guy (or a girl), had a family. And so it goes (until the flower becomes the seed again and the seed another rose). But the trouble with plans, and some road maps, is that life is as much about the unpredictable as the predictable. Let me share a story . . .
Some years back, Linda and I were in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (a town clearly guided more by a sense of being than a sense of time). I found a curious wooden drum on display in a gift shop along one of the hilly side streets. It was a little larger than a shoebox with slits, or tongues, of different sizes cut lengthwise into the wooden top. When you tapped them lightly with your fingers, they made curiously deep, resonant tones of varying notes. It was very cool! So, of course, I had to have it!
And, of course, it wasn’t for sale. It belonged to the shop owner who, being a curiously “deep” person, simply had it out to play while folks perused her store “to connect them with the rhythm of life,” she added. “But,” she smiled, “the guy who makes these drums lives just a short drive outside of town.” Linda, who has been on more of these “journeys in search of odd treasures” with me than any human ought to endure, said reluctantly, “I’ll go get the car.” And she disappeared out the door as I took down the directions to the drum makers’ shop. Needless to say, this was pre-GPS and smart phones.
“Take a left on Main Street, it’s just down this way (she pointed) — that’s Main Street. It winds through town a while. When you get just out of town, things level off into some pastures and you’ll come to a Farm Road — FM 167 or something like that. I never notice the actual signs. But there’s a big oak tree — I mean, it’s really big — probably a hundred years old. I used to climb in it when I was a kid. Turn right at that tree. Now you’ll go, I don’t know, maybe 5 miles, and you’ll come to another intersection. It’s a county road, #55, I think. But you can’t miss it. Old Mr. Sansom leaves his tractor there, on the right. Seems like he’s always plowin’ that field. Well, you turn left at that intersection and . . .”
Well, you get the picture. There were dozens and dozens of big, old oak trees at most of the intersections — Arkansas is a woodland state! County Road (not Farm Road) 167 we figured out was actually 716, and Mr. Sansom’s tractor was apparently in his barn somewhere that day. But there was a 55 mph speed limit sign at an intersection 15 miles down that county road, so we turned there. The only thing that proved helpful was that she told me, “Once you get out on those old county roads, there’s only one farm house out there. That’s where Buddy Anderson has his workshop and makes these drums. You can’t miss it!” After driving around for more than an hour, we decided to go up to the first farmhouse we saw and ask for directions. And, you guessed it, that house turned out to be Buddy Anderson’s place! Of course, we hadn’t bothered to call ahead of time to see if he’d even be there, much less if he had any drums on hand. But that’s another story . . .
Instead, I’d like to think with you about the way we think about things. Life isn’t always as linear and predictable as we’d like. We know that. We can try to get control, make resolutions, map it out, follow three steps, obey the Ten Commandments . . . “Every story has a clear beginning, middle, and end,” we’re told in elementary school. But, in truth, sometimes it feels like it never got off to a good start, or an ending comes right in the middle of things.
The past few weeks have been unexpected for Linda and me, to say the least; and it all started January 2. One friend wrote in her sympathy card, “Given the challenging start you’ve had to 2017, maybe your New Year’s Day could be February 1! “ So, we’re doing my mother’s memorial service this Saturday, and on Sunday I’m starting a new series for the next five Sundays — The Beatitudes and the Art of Being.
Maybe life is less about mapping things out and more about discovering what’s already there! When you’re bumbling around in the dark, or lost out on someone else’s map of life, and you’ve no idea how to get out of the dark, or find your way home, you can think of yourself as a bumbler in the dark . . . or you might try to think of yourself as a discoverer. So this Sunday let’s look at what it means to hunger for what’s right, for what is true. I expect we’ll all discover something along the way!
This Sunday, “Was Jesus Lying?”
Singer-songwriter Christa Russell will be back with us
as well as the eleven:eleven Revolution Band and the music of
Ruthie Foster, the Wailin’ Jennys, and John Mayer
Hope to see you Sunday!
Join me in August 2017 for . . .