The white post became black

“If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution.”

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy


My personal email account has more than 300 unread emails in it.

Most of them aren’t important. 

There was a time when I never had more than a handful of unread emails.

What changed?

I stopped tending to my inbox. Stopped reading. Stopped deleting. Kept subscribing. In Chesterton’s terms, I left the white post of my email alone. It quickly became black.

It’s a rule of life that things that are untended will degrade.

Stop exercising and you will gain weight.

Stop mowing the yard and you’ll soon have a meadow.

Stop keeping a calendar and you’ll be repeatedly late.

The key thing is to ensure that you’re tending to the right things. 

 

 

What is it about snow?

It snowed yesterday.

And last night.

And as I left for work this morning.

What is it about snow?

How does snow make an ordinary neighborhood extraordinary?

How does snow make the world stop its manic strife?

Is there any silence like unto the silence of a snow-covered landscape?

 

Snow takes the mundane and make it magical.

It takes the frenetic and bids it stop.

 

Snow allows our deepest values to bubble to the surface because it–ironically–limits our freedom.

Snow is our modern day sabbath.

It invites us into a reality we should be experiencing each week.

It stands our modern life on its head and we’re surprised to find that we like it–just like the sabbath.

 

when life is like the Metro ride from hell

I once got thoroughly lost on the Paris Metro. It’s true.

The London Tube I know almost by heart–at least zone one. But take me away from that familiar vodka-bottle-shaped map and I’m hopeless.

I spent a day riding forlornly from one hopelessly Gallic-sounding station to another. It’s just one more reason to dislike the French.

Sometimes life is like the Metro ride from hell.

You feel lost–like you’re a piece of ice in a vodka martin shaken–not stirred–to the point that you don’t know which way is up.

The map doesn’t make sense.

The familiar landmarks and waypoints have been eclipsed.

Hope is hard to come by.

Despair seems reasonable.

The world around you is full of Parisians who think you’re a bloody idiot for getting lost.

 

Exile.

That’s the kingdom word for the experience of lostness. 

 

When we’re lost the part of us that looks for God becomes sensitive–a finely tuned antenna searching for a signal of the Divine.

When all is well we take our bearings from other places.

We look to familiar people, places, themes, pleasures in order to make our way through life.

But in the fog of exile these are diminished.

And so we creep forward, slowly, seeking just a little light to guide our feet–slipping through the haze like a ship making for an obscured harbor.

We often find that God is in the mist and our faltering steps in those moments are more faithful than other times when we confidently strode into our self-actualized future.

Exile is hard.

But it is necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

the irrelevant church

“Jeff,” heralds the nurse. I stand up and move toward her, coat in hand, stuffing my phone into a pocket.

There follows a series of uncomfortable moments.

I step onto the scale. The weights clink as she shifts them, moving and awkward number of them to the right in order to offset my bulk on the metal plate.

“Thank you.” No, thank you.

We step into an exam room. Mouth open, tongue lifted in order to receive the almost sacramental placing of the thermometer.

Sleeve rolled up. The buzz of an electric motor as the band expands constricting my arm. I feel a heartbeat in my arm.

“Thank you. What seems to be the matter?”

There follows my awkward attempts to capture what in particular ails me.

The church is an exam room. 

The word pokes and prods us, looking for behind what we think ails us. We see symptoms. The Spirit exposes the causes.

Is the doctor’s office comfortable?

Is a pleasant consumer experience?

The ambience is perfect, isn’t? The magazine collection perfectly curated.

Quite the contrary.

 

We come to church to be exposed, to be known.

We are known by Him to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and no secrets hid.

We receive gospel medicine in word and sacrament. 

And when we meet other sin-sick people, we tell them that we know a good doctor.

 

the power of the uncomfortable

Ash trays on the coffee table. 

Rotary telephones.

The card catalog.

An LP.

Things that once seemed perfectly normal can–with the passage of time–become completely foreign.

They belong to a world that has ceased to exist.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have value.

Some do. Others, not so much.

There’s pleasure in a long draw on a cigarette. There’s also cancer.

The rotary phone slows us down but it also stops us from entering digits into an automated system.

The card catalog… never mind.

There are trade offs.

Wisdom consists in figuring out those things from worlds seemingly long past that retain value.

The things that are, ironically, good for us–even though they’re uncomfortable or slow.