Tag Archives: Lost

In the Land of Nod

In the Land of Nod (CaD Gen 4) Wayfarer

So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Genesis 4:16 (NIV)

From the beginning, I called this blog/podcast “Wayfarer.” Over the 16 years I’ve been blogging, I’ve discovered that the word is unfamiliar to many people. It means “one who is on a journey.” Not only do I perpetually use the metaphor in referencing my life journey and spiritual journey in this life, but the blog has become a chronicle of that journey and of my chapter-a-day thoughts which all come out of a unique time and place on that journey.

I walk with purpose. I have a fixed destination like the Wayfaring Stranger in the famous old folk tune. And yet, along the way I have observed many who appear to be walking their respective earthly journey without purpose, or with a purpose that stands in stark contrast to mine.

Today’s chapter is the ancient story of the very first restless wanderer and the story of his family to the seventh generation from Adam (seven is not a coincidence, btw. It’s the number of “completion” and is paralleled by the listing of the seven generations of Seth in the next chapter). Cain was the first son born to Adam. The “first born son” was a position of power and prominence in human systems throughout history. From the start, however, there is a self-centered and rebellious nature in Cain that carries down through his descendants.

Cain and his younger brother Abel bring offerings to God. Cain brought “some” of his produce while Abel brought “the first-fruits.” The difference is that Cain chose to give God what he wanted (it might not have been the first or best of his crops) while Abel’s offering was the first and best, which was a way of Abel saying to God “It’s not mine. It’s all yours, and only by your blessing am I blessed with it.” Cain’s offering did not find favor, so the seed of his self-centric pride sprouts into envy and anger toward his little brother, which leads to murder, then to Cain’s famous denial “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Interestingly enough, God’s judgement for this fratricide was not “eye-for-an-eye” capital punishment. Instead, God condemns Cain to a life of restless wandering in the “land of Nod.” Nod means “wandering” in Hebrew. Cain and his descendants keep pushing against God’s design and judgement:

  • Cain spends his human effort to contradict the sentence of “wandering” by building a permanent home (vs. 17).
  • Lamech was the first polygamist (vs. 19), rejecting God’s design of monogamy in the Garden (2:20-24), and perhaps overcome God’s curse by having more children at a faster rate.
  • Lamech then follows Cain’s example by killing a man for “wounding” him and glories in his vengeance (vss. 23-24).

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking of the restless wanderers I’ve observed along my own life journey. Those who appear aimless in life. Those who appear mired in destructive generational patterns. Those who appear motivated to think, speak, and act in perpetual, oppositional defiance. The spiritual descendants of Cain.

As I mull these things over, I don’t feel condemnation or judgement. I feel empathy, even sadness. The story of Cain and his descendants is a sad one, and they represent those whom Jesus came to redeem. Were it not for my decision to become a Jesus follower, I can only imagine where my restless wandering would have led. I’m quite sure it would not have been to good places. I’ve struggled enough following in Jesus’ footsteps and still finding myself prone to wander off course.

I’m reminded of a lyric from one of my favorites from Bob Dylan: “Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break.” (from the song Every Grain of Sand on the Shot of Love album).

And so I wander into another day on the journey grateful to have purpose, a fixed destination, and a savior who is the Great Shepherd of lost sheep. A Shepherd who will leave the flock to find one lost lamb, even in the land of Nod.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

My Eternal Mystery, My Forever Friend

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.
2 Kings 22:8 (NIV)

Occasionally I have had people ask me how my “chapter-a-day” journey began. It goes much further back than blogging. The roots of it go all the way back to early 1980s. I was in high school and had only recently struck out on my path following Jesus. I had an after school job, and my boss was also a follower. He invited me to join him in studying God’s Message together, and the first thing he asked of me was to memorize Joshua 1:8:

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

I did memorize the verse,  and I took it to heart. As I meditated on the verse during the memorization process, I came to mull over the word “meditate.” It struck me in those early stages of my journey that God’s Message was to be more than something I give a nod to on Sunday morning when the pastor refers to it. It was supposed to be more than a routine duty that I check off my daily task list of religious self-righteousness. God’s Message was the guide. It was the constant companion and the mystery to be endlessly understood. It was something to ingest and digest on a continual basis. It was something to dive into, excavate, mull over, and apply to my every day circumstances. Success in the spiritual journey came through the conduit of meditating on the Message.

Thus, what became this chapter-a-day blog began in a young man wearing Forenza parachute pants and sporting a righteous mullet. I’ll let that imagery sink in while I transition back to today. 🙂

The setting of this morning’s chapter is Solomon’s Temple. It is the Temple of the Lord built to the exact specifications prescribed in God’s Message through Moses and by plans developed by David. It was built to be the worship center of YHWH whose first command was “don’t have any other gods before me.”

But, over time the temple had become a multi-cultural interfaith religious center filled with the worship of all sorts of local dieties, some of whom practiced all sorts of nasty things we can scarcely imagine today. The scroll of God’s Message had been so long forgotten that the High Priest didn’t even know where it was nor remember what it said. When the scroll is discovered during some Temple renovations, it is a major find. When King Josiah tells the priest to “Inquire of the Lord for me concerning this book,” the priest has to scour the city to find a lone prophetess named Hulda who was “keeper of the wardrobe.” [Note: I’ve learned in theatre to always trust the costumers. They make a lifetime of keeping track of things long forgotten by others!]

The Message had been packed away, put aside, and forgotten. The words that were to be the guide for the journey weren’t even known and barely remembered. Without the guidebook, the people naturally wandered until they found themselves spiritually lost.

This morning I’m reminded of the simple principle that came out of meditating on a verse that I was asked to memorize as a kid:

If I’m going to be successful in this journey of following after God then I have to do my best to do what God’s Message says. If I’m going to do what God’s Message says then I have to constantly discover what that is and what it means. The Message has to become my source material, my constant companion, my eternal mystery, my forever friend.

Lost in Thought

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus….
Hebrews 3:1 (NIV)

Whatcha thinkin’ about over there?” Wendy asked me yesterday in the car.

It’s a common question that gets asked back and forth between us. It happens often in the car when time driving in confined space allow for long periods silence. Usually the question comes out when one of us seems lost in thought.

Lost in thought.”

It’s funny how we have these phrases we use all the time without really pondering their meaning. How often am I “lost” in my thoughts?

Lost (adj) [lawst] having gone astray or missed the way; bewildered as to place, direction, etc.

My brain is constantly thinking, pondering, and ruminating. It never really stops in my waking hours and when I go to sleep it continues to process in my dreams. I wrote last week about my brain sometimes being like a runaway train. The truth is, my brain is always a runaway train unless I train myself to control.

In this morning’s chapter the author of the letter to the Hebrew followers of Jesus encourages them to “fix” their thoughts on Jesus. The word picture is to consciously think about or give consideration. It makes me think about the difference between spacing off in class (runaway train!) and actively listening and taking notes on the teacher’s lecture. The writer is making a simple yet profound point. If I’m following Jesus, as I say I am, then my attention needs to be fixed on the One I’m following. It’s hard to follow if I’m lost in thought.

I learned along somewhere along this life journey that my thoughts will be lost and wandering if I am passive about it. My thoughts can also be corralled, controlled, directed, and “fixed” where I choose. I am either in control or I relinquish control to let my brain wander around lost in thought. It requires the development of a certain amount of self-awareness to what my thoughts are doing, and self-discipline to direct them where I choose.


Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4

This week I am publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which  took place this past week, June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.

While Wendy slept I found my way to Starbucks on the Royal Mile to journal and have some coffee. I stopped by the La Barantine patisserie on Victoria Street to grab Wendy a chocolate croissant on my way back to the hotel. Upon my return Taylor texted to ask if I wanted to have coffee with her. We met me back at the patisserie for a cup of tea while Wendy got ready and we enjoyed a little father-daughter time together. It was nice to just sit and chat. We’re blessed to have enjoyed Skype and FaceTime calls this year, but there’s nothing like talking in person (especially when you’re in a quaint French patisserie in Scotland)!

Today was the day Taylor and planned a little adventure for us outside of Edinburgh. It was cloudy with light rain as we headed to the Waverly transport station to get tickets to Stirling, a medeival town and hour’s train ride west of Edinburgh. Stirling was an important gateway town to the highlands marked with a castle atop its prominent castle hill. It was about a 45 minute train ride and it was still raining when we arrived. We immediately walked to the bus station that was next to the train station and grabbed a bus for a 20 minute ride outside Stirling to the small town of Doune, home to Doune Castle where Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed.

The Stirling bus station reminded me a lot of the Greyhound station in Des Moines growing up. Unlike the major metropolitan transport stations we’d gotten used to, there was no doubt that we were in small town Scotland. There was a tiny corner news stand and very little cafe. The station was filled with locals. There was one gentleman who was mostly deaf (you could tell by the huge hearing aid behind each ear) who was conversing in his thick Scottish accent with such ear splitting volume that I think you’d soon join him in deafness if you stood to near for too long.

The bus to Doune was not going to arrive for about 20 minutes so we took our leave of our loud Scottish friend in the terminal and waited by the stop, under the awning. The bus ride to Doune was another 30 minutes and I think both Wendy and I were wondering, “where in the world are we going?” Taylor had never actually been to Doune Castle, so we were kind of flying blind. When we got off the bus Taylor asked the driver about where to get to the castle. An older local gentleman who was departing the bus gave us instructions though I’m not exactly sure what he said given his thick Scottish brogue. Nevertheless, he pointed down the street and mentioned something about signs.

We walked in the rain through the picturesque little town, following the somewhat cryptic signs pointing us towards the castle. We found ourselves at a small gate that opened onto a field. We were laughing so hard at this point because we didn’t have the slightest idea where we were going and the idea that we would have to walk through an unmarked field continued to fuel our fears that we would end up completely lost in an on-going downpour (with only one umbrella). To make matters worse, there were two paths in the field with no markings as to which of the two led to the castle! We chose the left path which turned out to be the correct path which led to another gate though the path continued past it and we weren’t sure if the gate led out of the field toward the castle of if we should continue on through the field. We could kind of see the castle through the trees, so made our way out the gate and down a steep embankment to the road which led to the castle.

It was cold and rainy as we made our way up to the castle. Seemed apropos for some reason. We paid for tickets and our audio tour. The small personal players with headphones included narration by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python. It was actually quite entertaining and he described where different scenes were filmed. We did a lot of laughing and when the audio players cut to some of our favorite parts of the movie I’m sure that the three of us were quite a site laughing and mouthing along with the timeless lines.

The castle was a lot of fun and we enjoyed the relative freedom you had to explore. I was surprised by how big it was and how much of the castle was open to explore. This included long winding stone staircases that led up to the battlements. We agreed that they would never have had so much of the castle open to tourists in the States for fear of a turned ankle and a lawsuit. The castle, despite the difficulty in getting to it (and perhaps, in part, because of it), ended up being one of our favorite experiences of the trip. By the time we finished our audio walking tour the sun was trying to come out and the rain finally subsided, allowing us to walk around the exterior of the castle and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Scottish countryside.

“My dad introduced Monty Python and the Holy Grail to Madison and I at a very young age and it has been quoted in our household for years. Therefore, its no surprise that I particularly loved the day trip we took to Doune Castle just outside of Stirling where most of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed. The audio tour was equally historic and hilarious. Plus, it completely made my day that they had coconut halves available so you could gallop around and re-enact scenes.” – Taylor (from her blog: Love, Taylor)

We retraced our steps back to town and Taylor said she was hungry. We just happened, however, to catch our bus coming up to the bus stop and so ran to grab it while we could and headed back to Stirling. Upon arrival we hiked up the quaint medeival streets towards the castle, stopping at Holy Rude (derived from an old word meaning “cross”) church. The church has been there since the early middle ages and the roof is made of hewn oak timbers held by oak pins. The stained glass windows were gorgeous.

We enjoyed a stroll through the ancient graveyard and made our way to a “high place” with a commanding view of the surrounding region. It was so beautiful. We then started making our way back down the hill. There was an art center we were going to visit, but time was slipping by, Taylor was hungry, and a quick view of the art center’s website revealed that it wasn’t something we were really interested in seeing. So, Taylor stopped by the shopping mall to grab a quick bite to eat on the train, we used the loo, and caught the 4:07 back to Edinburgh.

We hiked back to the hotel room for a little breather and enjoyed a glass of wine in the room as we watched Serena Williams play in the French Open for a bit. We then made our way up to the top of Victoria Street to Pizza Express for dinner. Despite the name sounding like a fast food joint, Pizza Express is kind of an upscale pizza place where Taylor could get gluten free pizza. We were all hungry from our day’s adventure and enjoyed a leisurely meal together. We each ordered a pizza along with a bottle of wine and an appetizer of “dough balls.” We treated ourselves to a yummy dessert to cap off our adventurous day.

It has been enjoyable to catch up with Taylor. It’s been such a transitional year for all of us. For Taylor, it’s been a year of post-divorce searching, grad school, and blazing a new path in life with all the excitement, anxiety, and fear that goes with it. For Wendy and me it has been a stressful year of building, work challenges, and new directions. So, amidst the sightseeing we have really enjoyed just catching up and talking about our respective life journeys.

By the time we were finished with dinner we were all beat. We made plans for climbing Aurthur’s Seat on Friday morning. Taylor hugged us good night and caught the bus back to her flat while Wendy and I walked back to our hotel. I wrote a few postcards, but it wasn’t long before we were both sound asleep.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 3
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7

Chapter-a-Day Zechariah 10

Marish Lane, near Denham. This lane is near th...
Image via Wikipedia

They’ll get a fresh start, as if nothing had ever happened.
And why? Because I am their very own God,
   I’ll do what needs to be done for them. Zechariah 10:6b (MSG)

“Short cuts make long delays, argued Pippin. “The country is rough round here, and there are bogs and all kinds of difficulties down in the Marish – I know the land in these parts. And if you are worrying about Black Riders, I can’t see that it is any worse meeting them on a road than in a wood or a field.”

“It is less easy to find people in the wood and fields,” answered Frodo. “And if you are supposed to be on the road, there is some chance that you will be looked for on the road and not off it.”

“All right!” said Pippin. “I will follow you into every bog and ditch. But it is hard! I had counted on passing the Golden Perch at Stock before sundown. The best beer in the Eastfarthing, or used to be: it is a long time before I tasted it.”

“That settles it!” said Frodo. “Short cuts make delays, but inns make longer ones. At all costs we must keep you away from the Golden Perch!”

The journey is long. The road winds and forks and there are the occasional rabbit trails that take me of course. No one walks the entire journey without occasionally needing a fresh start. It’s just not humanly possible. Show me a person who has never needed a fresh start and I’ll show you that you don’t know them very well. Getting off course, experiencing the short cuts that make for long delays, and getting lost are part of the journey for all of us.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned on the road thus far is that God is a God of fresh starts and second chances. Were it not so, I would have been hopelessly lost many, many years ago. But grace, God’s favor which is freely given and cannot be earned, is the fuel that drives each stretch and brings me back to the path when I find myself wandering off on footpaths that lead me off course.

Need a fresh start today? Simply step back on the path and start walking. It will soon be as if nothing ever happened. God has already done what needs to be done.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 31

They found grace out in the desert….” Jeremiah 31:2 (MSG)

The desert is where you find yourself in the midst of wandering. You don’t seek out the desert. It’s not on the list of places you want to be.

“I think I’ll pack a lunch and head out to the desert.” Right.

The deserted wasteland is where you wake up bloodied and bruised with the pounding head of a terrible hangover and rack your brain to remember just what happened the night before. You take a shortcut and suddenly find yourself lost and long delayed there. You seek the fabled fortunes that you heard lay just beyond. Not only do you not find the fortunes, you also can’t find your way out of the wasteland.

I wonder if we all find ourselves in deserts of our own choosing at some point in life. I wonder if it isn’t necessary to the journey. Perhaps it’s just me. I can recall multiple deserts along my own particular trek (I admit it: I’m a slow learner). Maybe that’s why I love the way Jeremiah put it in today’s chapter: The desert is where you find grace. It’s where you find God looking for you, willing to lead you out and lead you forward.

“…I once was lost, but now am found…”

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and liao

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 3

NYC - Brooklyn Museum - Auguste Rodin's The Pr...
Image by wallyg via Flickr

The sound of voices comes drifting out of the hills, the unhappy sound of Israel’s crying,
Israel lamenting the wasted years, never once giving her God a thought.

“Come back, wandering children!  I can heal your wanderlust!”

Jeremiah 3:21-22 (MSG)

There are multiple paths from which to choose in life. Each day we make choices which way we are going to go. Which one of us have not, at one time or another, willingly chosen the road we know is wrong for us? Who among us has not found ourselves in places we regret?

I think it’s a good reminder on New Year’s Eve, as we all consider where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. No matter where this day finds us and no matter how lost we might be (as the prodigal son discovered) it is never too late to turn and head back home.

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