The Sounds of Silence

When I started this blog, it was my intention to write something twice a week or so.  Well, with one thing and another, I have already missed that target.  But twice a week is my goal, and it’s a process.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

So I sat down at my desk this morning to write, but found the noise from the construction site next door to be too distracting.  No problem, I thought, I’ll just go to the coffee shop and get a cup o’joe to sip on while I write.  (Seems appropriate.)  But there was a guy there, holding forth at one of the tables in an obnoxiously loud voice, and happily giving his opinion on all sorts of subjects. (Please, no comments about the pot calling the kettle black…)  I was across the room, and unwillingly in the middle of the conversation.  So I left.

I drove to the library, where I sat in my car waiting for the library to open, and began to read.  A city worker came by with a leaf blower, and it took him three passes back and forth in front of me to remove all the leaves and blow them out into the street.  Your tax dollars at work.  I resigned myself to finding no quiet until I actually got into the library.

So I went in and sat down.  And that’s when my phone rang.  *Sigh.*

Silence isn’t golden.  It’s vanished.

So instead of writing about what I WAS going to write about (I’ll save that for another day.), here’s a thought: I believe we could use more silence.  Somehow, I think our society has associated noise with busy-ness with purposeful activity with personal significance.  Furthermore, we often seem unwilling or unable to simply sit still and meditate.  It’s like many of us are afraid to be alone with our own thoughts.

The scripture does NOT say, “Be frantically noisy and busy, and know that I am God.”  It says, “Be STILL and know.” (Psalm 46:10)  So here’s my resolution to be a little more intentional about seeking quiet time each day to be alone with God.  And to those of us who are already doing it, here’s a (quiet) pat on the back.

A Buck and a Quarter

I took the bus to work this morning.

Now, that’s not all that unusual – I often take the bus to work.  But today, Kathy had to keep the car with her, and so even though it was sprinkling, I had to take the bus to get downtown.  The fare is $1.25.

There’s something remarkably humanizing that can happen when you use public transportation instead of your private vehicle.  You share the experience of the trip with your fellow passengers.  There were two apparently deaf ladies, communicating furiously with sign language.  There was a heavy-set man, obviously a waiter, who got off at the same stop I did.  I’ve seen him a few times around the neighborhood, but I don’t yet know his name.  There were a handful of other folks, and a very young driver whom I hadn’t seen before.

Taking the bus humbles you just a bit.  You have to adjust your schedule to fit theirs – that bus is going to go by my house at 8:32, whether I’m ready or not.  I have neighbors who have to take two buses, and then walk some distance, just to get to work.  Sometimes that means they may have to leave their house way before time to be at work, to allow time for the ride, the transfer and the walk.  Or maybe they need a really understanding boss, who won’t hold it against them if they miss a connection and show up late for work.  And when it’s the end of the day, they still have an hour’s worth of a bus ride just to get home.

One of the disciplines believers are called to practice is fasting.  Remember that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus didn’t say, “IF you fast…” – He said, “WHEN you fast.”  Fasting, as we all know, means to voluntarily give up food for a specific time, skipping a meal to have extra time to pray or read the Bible, for example.  But fasting is also a good way to identify with the poor and the hungry.  When we discipline ourselves by going without food, we remember that there are those who are hungry, and we learn compassion by identifying with them.

Giving up food is not the only kind of fasting.  Sometimes we can fast from television, from the Internet, or from anything else – even our cars! – if it will help draw us closer to God, to realize that HE is our ultimate desire, and to enable us better to identify with others.

This idea of IDENTIFICATION with others is important to God.  I am convinced it is a major factor in Jesus’ coming to Earth – so that, as Hebrews says, we could have a High Priest who was tempted in every point as we are, yet was without sin.

Let me respectfully suggest that, from time to time, you leave your car parked at home and take the bus.  Yes, it’s good for the environment and all those reasons, but more than that, it’s a good way of identifying with, and sharing in the humanity of others.

Not bad for a buck and a quarter.

“The problem is, I don’t want a drink. I want 10 drinks.”

As some of you know, I recently went to my doctor for my semi-annual checkup.  And I’m sorry to say, it did not go well.

My diabetes has gotten worse.  Well technically, IT hasn’t gotten worse, but other things have.  Back in January, my doctor put me on injected insulin for the first time in the eight years or so that I’ve been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.  And I immediately felt better when I began taking the once-daily shots.  But as he explained to me, my diet had remained more-or-less the same, and the stuff I was eating that I shouldn’t, was making me gain weight, raising my blood pressure and elevating my bad cholesterol and triglycerides.

Sorry if that’s more information than you wanted.

Anyway, as a result, he has advised me – STRONGLY – that I make some changes.  As the saying goes, not a diet, but a lifestyle change.  I’m trying to  break my carb addiction.

All my life, I have loved starchy, filling foods.  Rice, potatoes, beans, corn, pasta, bread.  LOTS of bread.  And the fact is, it’s killing me.  So, with the help of my sweet wife and family, I’m making some changes.  Protein shakes for breakfast, instead of toast or cereal.  Salads for lunch, instead of sandwiches.  Meat & NON-starchy veggies for supper.  Almonds & olives for snacks, instead of popcorn.

Sharing dinner with our friends, the Pages. I grilled marinated pork tenderloin and a squash medley – and NO, I didn’t eat any of the roasted corn on the cob!

This is not all bad, by any means.  For one thing, I LIKE eating meat, so I got that goin’ for me.  Also, grilled veggies work really well with this concept, especially grilled squash, onion, peppers, etc.

One of the things I’m discovering is how truly addicting carbs are, at least to me.  You eat something starchy, thinking it will satisfy, but an hour or two later, you’re craving more of it.  It’s like that scene from “The West Wing,” where Leo is trying to explain to a young staffer what being an alcoholic is like.  She asks him if he’s allowed to have a drink.  He says, “The problem is, I don’t want A drink – I want ten drinks.”  (Thanks, Eddy, for reminding me of this great scene!)

Isn’t that the way sin is?  You “indulge” yourself with whatever your favorite sin is – bitterness, anger, greed, lust, whatever – thinking that will satisfy you and you can get on with life.  But consuming a little bit of that just makes you crave more.  And more.  And it’s never enough.  Because, as has often been said, Satan will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and charge you more than you want to pay.

In Isaiah 55:2, God asks, “Why do you spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

I appreciate your prayers for me, as I re-learn what & how to eat, and adjust to these changes.  Meanwhile, let’s ask the Lord to reveal to us what addictions we are feeding within our own hearts – addictions that are keeping us from becoming all that the Father wants us to be.

Welcome to My New Blog!

Howdy and Welcome.  I hope this will become a place of interesting observations and stimulating discussion.  And since I like to sip on something while I do my thinking, I’m calling this “Sip with Dusty.”

Sometimes these comments will be devotional, sometimes not.  Sometimes they will be brief, other times, perhaps, not so brief.  You are always welcome in this conversation.  We may not always agree, but perhaps we can find some common ground and learn from each other.

Like many of you, I enjoyed watching the recent Olympics.  It’s a bit of shameless theatrics that NBC almost always closed its nightly broadcast with a medal ceremony of some American athlete – swimmer, gymnast, or whoever – standing on the platform, hearing his or her name called, then receiving the gold medal, finally capped off with the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.  It makes for great TV, and it IS an American network and an American audience, so why not.

How thrilling it must be to stand on that platform and hear your national anthem.  How satisfying it must be to reflect back on a LIFETIME of training, hard work, early morning practices, pulled muscles, and receive that gold medal.  Finally to silence all those who said you couldn’t do it.  Finally to know that all the discipline, self-denial and hard work was worth it.  Finally to hear your name called.

Of course, we understand that the modern Olympics are based on the ancient Olympics, and similar contests from antiquity, and the idea of a victorious athlete being called up to the platform to receive the prize is nothing new.  And I believe this is precisely the image that Paul has in mind in Philippians 3:13-14.

  • “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” – just like an athlete who doesn’t dwell on the years of training and self-discipline, or even worry about those running beside him or her, but instead, focuses on the finish line ahead.
  • “I press on toward the goal” – not athletic glory, or a wreath, or even a gold medal, but the goal of knowing Jesus, intimately & personally (see 3:10).
  • “For the upward calling of God.” Here I think the NIV got it wrong.  They interpret it as “for which God has called me heavenward.”  That’s not a bad sentiment, but the text literally says, “for the calling-up of God.”  I think it’s an image of an athlete hearing his name called and stepping up on the platform to receive the prize.

May God grant us grace never to stop short of the finish line.