Tag Archives: Calm

Calm Assurance in Stormy Seas

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Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.  Acts 27:33-36 (NRSV)

I grew up on the water, and as a boy I wanted nothing more than to be a sailor. There was a period of my childhood, around the age of nine, that I wore a sailor hat all of the time. My mother still jokes about finding me asleep in bed with my sailor hat on and jumping into the pool forgetting it was still on my head.

Our summer vacation every year was two weeks on Rainy Lake which lies on the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada. It’s a large lake and our daily fishing excursion normally entailed a long trip in our rented john boat across a vast expanse of open water. When storms came up, the white caps could swell to decent heights. It could definitely make the trip back to camp in our small boat a rather frightening affair for a small kid.

I can remember as a young boy paying attention to my dad during those seemingly endless trips in stormy waters. If dad was calm as the boat rocked and rolled, if I looked back at dad and received a “Isn’t this fun?” smile, then I knew everything was going to be okay.

I thought about those moments this morning as I read the chapter and imagined being on board the ship with Paul and Dr. Luke as their small ship was mercilessly pounded by a raging storm for two entire weeks. The fear and mental weariness among passengers and crew had to have been immeasurable. And then Paul speaks with faith and assurance. He smiles, and encourages them. “Take some food. Be strong. Don’t be afraid. Everything is going to be okay. We’re all going to make it through this.”

This morning I’m thankful for parents who comforted me as a child in stormy times. I’m thankful for teachers, counselors, mentors and friends who walked with me through various difficult stretches of life’s journey and gave me the encouragement I needed to weather the storm. I’m praying today that I might return the favor to those in my sphere of influence who face their own frightening storm clouds and the gusty winds of life change.

Refusing to Feed Emotional Fires

source: judy baxter via Flickr
source: judy baxter via Flickr

If a ruler’s anger rises against you,
    do not leave your post;
    calmness can lay great offenses to rest.
Ecclesiastes 10:4 (NIV)

I am the youngest of four siblings. It is said, primarily by elder siblings, that the younger children always have it easier than their older brother and sisters. I do agree that parents tend to chill out as they get older. I don’t know whether this is because they have more parenting experience or because they are simply worn out. Perhaps a little of both. In that leg of my journey, I found that my path was sometimes made easier by observing and learning from the mistakes of my brothers and sister.

When I was young I watched the arguments between my parents and my siblings. Like all families, we had our fair share of them. My observation led me to perceive and understand that there was a consistent pattern in the way arguments escalated between my parents and my siblings:

  • Child asks for something they want.
  • Parent says, “no.”
  • Indignant, child rolls eyes and asks for reason.
  • Defensive, parent plays the authoritarian trump card. “Because, I said so.”
  • Child plays victim card, makes snide remark (under his breath, but still meant to be audibly heard) about never getting his way.
  • Parent takes offense, reacts, and angrily calls child out for his attitude.
  • Child raises his voice and accuses parent of injustice, recounting a string of similar cases.
  • Parent raises voice, recounts their own rap sheet of the child’s offenses, and threatens further punishment if child doesn’t back down.
  • Child screams and accuses parent of running a concentration camp for children.
  • Parent screams back what an ungrateful child they have and grounds him for life.
  • Doors slam.

Having observed this pattern on a number of occasions, I quickly learned that:

  1. Arguing never changed my parents initial decision, it only entrenched it.
  2. Arguing almost always ended with the child in worse trouble and more punishment.
  3. Arguing led to parental defensiveness and mistrust.

So, I stopped arguing:

  • Child asks for something they want.
  • Parent says, “No.” Instinctively sets defense shields to maximum.
  • Child calmly says, “Okay.” He returns to his room (face it, either way it’s where you always end up).
  • Parent scratches head and wonders what just happened.

To be honest, I wasn’t always happy about my parents decisions. My pragmatism didn’t lessen my adolescent anger. I threw some private tantrums back in my room that I refused to let my parents see. It just seemed to me that all the escalation and arguing was a waste of time and energy, and the ultimate outcome threatened to be worse than just sucking up the disappointment at not getting what I wanted. The result? I think my parents were ultimately easier going and more trusting with me because I was an easier going kid.

Looking back, I believe that learning this lesson proved valuable throughout my life journey. Directing my emotional energies where they can truly make a difference and wisely choosing my emotional battles has served me well. As Solomon alluded in today’s chapter, refusing to react to another person’s emotional outburst and remaining calm usually halts any further escalation. Choosing not to add fuel to the emotional fire, the other person’s rage will usually smolder rather quickly.

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Top Five Quiet Places

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Speaking of quiet, this week’s Top Five Friday are my Top Five quiet places. The places where I like to steal away:

1. My home office. I grew up having a room of my own and, as a child, I retreated there to play, imagine, create, and rest. Some days my room became the bridge of Star Trek’s Enterprise. Other days it was a courtroom, or a battlefield, or a football stadium. Now that I am grown, I still retreat to my room which is my home office. While the primary focus on the space is work, it is also the place for my quiet morning conversations with God. I still find myself playing, creating, and letting my imagination run free.

2. The Playhouse. We intentionally have not hooked up a television signal here. There is a television and DVD play for movies, but we’ve chosen to hold back the intrusion and constancy of the noise. Here at the lake the house, the deck, and the dock are places for quiet.

3. My car. I spend a fair amount of time on the road. The trip to Des Moines for work meetings is an hour each way. A trip to the Twin Cities for client meetings is roughly four hours each way. While I don’t always love the long drives, I’ll admit that I sometimes look forward to some windshield time. Sometimes it’s nice to turn off the radio, let the white noise of the road rumble on, and let my mind go.

4. The Des Moines Art Center. It’s always quiet. It’s free. There’s amazing artwork to inspire me no matter what my mood or mindset. What’s not to love?

5. Coffee shops. I don’t have a favorite, though I’m particularly fond of unique, out-of-the-way coffee shops which offer a one-of-a-kind ambiance and a slower, quiet neighborhood type of pace. There’s something I like about sitting alone in one place with my coffee and my journal, newspaper, or book and letting the rest of the world buzz in and out past me.

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Called to Quiet

IMG_1491But I have calmed and quieted myself….
Psalm 131:2 (NIV)

What a great verse for this morning as I awoke at the lake. I arrived late last night and will spend the weekend with three friends for an informal men’s retreat. Quiet is a big part of the plan for our time together, punctuated by intentional conversation and great meals. Here’s the loose itinerary:

Friday evening: “Who Am I?” Over a great dinner we will share our stories and learn about the respective paths on which God has led us. Depending on how the evening goes, a good action or war flick may be in the offering before bed.

Saturday morning: After breakfast each of us will spend some time alone in quiet and prayer. Walk down on the dock. Take a walk. Cloister yourself in your room. Whatever trips your trigger. Spend some extended time with God and let Him recharge your batteries.

Saturday afternoon/evening: “Where Am I?” The loose schedule for the afternoon and evening will include some intentional conversation about the place in life you find yourself today. What are the current challenges you face? How do you feel God working in your life at the moment? In what ways do you feel encouraged/satisfied/content? There will be plenty of time for conversation, more quiet time (if you want it), and enjoying a good movie or two.

Sunday morning: “Where am I going?” We will enjoy one last meal together as we share where we sense God leading us, and how we can pray for one another as we return to our routines. I plan to be cleaned up and take off after breakfast so that we might be home mid-day and still have some reconnect time with our families.

We all need a little calm and quiet from time to time.

The Calm Before the Storm

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Wendy and I spent a working vacation at the lake this past week. Our friends the VLs had been there for a family weekend when we arrived on Sunday and we got to spend an evening together before they headed home. I call it a working vacation because we both had work to do which was accomplished remotely on our laptops. It was also a working vacation because, while we enjoyed the quiet of the lake for a few days, there was a lot to do around the Playhouse. I power washed the deck and sealed it – a task I’d been putting off for two years. There was also a long list of little “honey dos” that we worked on throughout the week.

On Thursday Wendy and I took a personal respite, got out on the water, and enjoyed a meal at one of our favorite haunts. By Friday morning it was clear that I didn’t do a good job of putting sunscreen on. Yikes! My chest and belly were splotchy patches of alternating beet red burn and pasty white.

On Friday, our friend Cyndi arrived with Megan and Ben and we got to play for a few days. We enjoyed time on the water. I got to teach Megan how to drive the Waverunner. We watched movies and enjoyed an afternoon and evening meal at Bear Bottom Resort, one of our favorites.

Our friends left late on Sunday morning and Wendy and I had a couple of hours to get things cleaned up for our next round of guests. Newlyweds Michelle and Austin arrived to spend their honeymoon week at the Playhouse. I was also pleased to get Father’s Day phone calls from Madison in Colorado and from Taylor and Clayton in Uganda and enjoyed catching up with them.

So, the (semi-)calm week is over as I stare down a stormy couple of weeks with multiple business trips around the country along with some impending big deliveries for work.