Reflections

Thanksgiving and Eugene Peterson

It’s unusual to have deep affection for someone you’ve never met but we all have people whose writing has made us feel like kin. Eugene Peterson, the beloved theologian and author, who died last month at the age of 85 was one those people for me. So it seems fitting this Thanksgiving (since I won't be sitting around a turkey dinner tonight here in London which is also known as a normal Thursday) to express my gratitude for the gift Eugene’s words have been to me.

Last month, the day before leaving London for France, I went in search of one of Eugene’s books. I wanted to leave a second copy of The Message (Eugene’s translation of The Bible into contemporary language) at our new house in France. Too last minute for an Amazon order, I checked several local bookstores - none of which had a copy in stock. I aborted the search by early afternoon when I had to be in Regents Hall on Oxford Street for a school event. As it turns out, Regents Hall is an event venue AND the home of London’s Salvation Army Centre. And as providence would have it, there in the lobby was a small Salvation Army bookstore with exactly one copy of The Message left. My France bookshelves are mostly bare but Eugene is there. From Oxford Street to rural France.

It was only a few days later that I read in the news that Eugene was under hospice care. It was as if something in me knew that I would want his company in his last days.

I have learned a lot through Eugene’s writing but his most profound impact came from an interview I heard him do more than a year ago. In the interview he talked about his practice of reading the Psalms (the prayers and poems of the Bible). He described his attraction to the Psalms in this way: “Poets tell us what our eyes, blurred with too much gawking, and our ears, dulled with too much chatter, miss around and within us. Poetry grabs us by the jugular. Far from being cosmetic language, it is intestinal.”

Eugene had picked seven Psalms he described as “covering the waterfront” of what it means to be human in a spiritual world and committed himself to them - over his entire adult life. His practice wasn’t about figuring them out but rather “entering in” and allowing them to work on him. Over and over again. He spoke about his practice in what I can only describe as being a “small voice” - shy, humble, awestruck. There was no specific formula, no right way of doing it, only a commitment to listen ... and keep listening.

Stirred by his small voice in a time where loud voices dominant, I decided to give the practice a try. Since Eugene was far from prescriptive on which Psalm to use, I landed on Psalm 119. I picked it for the simple reason that it is the longest Psalm. I reasoned that it would both cover a lot of ground and do double duty in expanding my ever diminishing attention span. When my mind was regularly drifting during the solid 15 minutes to read the whole bit out loud (think of all the things you could accomplish in 15 minutes!), I thought I might have made a rookie mistake. That first month was mostly about staying awake. But somehow, I stayed with it.

I heard that same interview with Eugene rebroadcast this past September and when I went back through my journal, I couldn’t believe how much Psalm 119 has showed up. I’ve “entered into” Psalm 119 hundreds of times now. I read it, sometimes with attention and sometimes with lots of doubt. I listen to it as I walk or have it on in the background when I’m getting dressed or cleaning the house. When I’m feeling blah, I reach for it before I reach for anything else. And I really love coffee, chocolate and wine. It’s like Psalm 119 has become my secret best friend who always says what I need to hear even when I don’t know the question I’m asking.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that by allowing my mind to stretch over and over these words that have been spoken for generations, my heart now instinctually responds differently to things. The circumstances are the same but the way I relate to my own thoughts has changed. I know it sounds completely goofy but the words of Psalm 119 have become my new mantras. Now when I see something beautiful, my inner voice often responds with: “You are good and what you do is good.” Or when I’m feeling small and insignificant, my inner voice counters with: “Your hands made me and formed me.” Or when I’m dealing with a rude person, I hear: “Let your compassion come to me the I may live.” Or when I’m heading down a rabbit hole of wasted time and energy, I think “Turn my eyes away from worthless things.” Or when I think the world is a mess (I double down on that thought for another beat) but then the whisper always comes: “The earth is filled with your love.” And on and on ... because I still have a lot more listening left to do.

In the same way it’s unusual to have affection for someone you’ve never met, it’s also unusual to share a personal practice with a public audience. But it’s not every day you meet your secret best friend through the small voice of an 85 year old man on a podcast. Thank you Eugene for pointing me not to yourself, or to a program, but to deep truth and wisdom which you knew would do its gentle rehabilitation work if I allowed my imagination and heart to simply enter in.


Click Bait Headlines

Closet Check: 5 Must-Haves.

Not immune to the circus of consumerism we all live in, I took the bait and clicked the link.  I wondered if maybe I had one passable version of the 5 must-haves already in my closet.  When I got to the “5 Things You Need NOW” webpage, there were actually 84 items on the page. 84.  I didn’t have any of them.  Not even close.  See below.  Yellow Floral Pant Suit.

Now 0 out of 5 makes you feel like your missing out.  0 out of 84 makes you feel like you’re living on a different planet.  Either way, it’s designed to make you feel like you aren’t prepared for the next season until you click the BUY NOW link.  Of course I know that and yet when my guard is down, I’m susceptible to catchy subject lines. And then once I go down the rabbit hole, it makes me feel like there’s a hole in my closet.  See below.  Pink Power Blazer.  

The more destructive thing about the rabbit hole is that is stirs up dissatisfaction with things you can’t click a BUY NOW link to fix.  Like 20 years younger and a flat tummy.  Will your spring be better if you have this white top?  See below.  Because this one isn’t in the realm of possibilities for me.  

 

This Morning Drink Will Do Wonders for your Weight, Energy and Skin.

You’d click too, right?  So I had The Morning Drink this morning and weight = same, energy = negative, skin = still dry and tummy = very, very unsure.  Tumeric in a drink?  I want to believe.  I will try again tomorrow and for the next two weeks before I make a judgment.

We are all consumers and guidance can be helpful as we sort through the many choices available to us.  If not,  I would have never found my two most recent jean purchases from Jack Wills.  The best, softest, no butt cleavage jeans of all time.

But ….mostly the “Must Have”, “Must Do”, edicts leave me feeling disillusioned.  It falsely promises that the “perfect” answer is still out there.   It’s going to take a long time before the world is convinced that there’s a better morning drink than coffee.

Closet Check: 50 Must Purges.

It wouldn’t have the same click through rate. Also who besides a closet organiser or simplifying guru would write that?  But that’s probably the thing that would bring us closer to wardrobe harmony, and metaphorically, happiness. 

Deciding what to let go of is so much harder than adding something new into the mix. Cutting something loose requires a hard look at what we’ve outgrown, what we’ve made a mess of, and what we should have never bought in the first place. Likewise the path to happiness often involves pruning back the garden of your life to it’s barest essentials.

A tidying up of relationships that have passed their season allows you to focus on the important ones in front of you.  A ditching of bad habits that leaves us in threadbare knots brings new things to the forefront.  Weeding out the trivial things that we mindlessly gave space to is one of the best ways to foster growth.

To thrive, a garden really only needs the basics of sun, water, and the care of a gardener.  When something is missing, our natural inclination is to go out searching for something new.  But what if what you really need is already there, just buried under a whole bunch of stuff?

If that's true, and I think it is, we won't be needing the Pink Power Blazer this spring. 

A Dream

Last night I had a dream that woke me up from a dead sleep at 2am. It was so vivid and felt so real that I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m in London in a neighborhood I don’t know. I have my camera and am doing some street photography. It’s dusk and cold. An older woman approaches me. She tells me that I should be careful as it is getting dark and the neighborhood is not safe at night, especially for someone like me. There are no other faces that look like mine in this neighborhood. She doesn’t look like me.

I tell her I’m not afraid, thank you, and that I feel safe. She insists I follow her to the nearest Tube station. She looks trustworthy. Since this is her neighborhood, I follow her even though I want to stay and take more pictures. As I follow her down a side street, a group of teens causes a distraction and one of them grabs my phone. The older woman, my escort, grabs my purse and camera and everyone scatters.

Suddenly, I’m alone and it’s quiet. Everything I had with me is gone. It’s a scam and I’ve been set up. I’m not frightened but I am furious. Furious that I’ve been set up. Furious that I was so trusting. Furious that I fell for it. Angry that maybe the warnings I had been given about people like this were right?

I shout and swear to the empty street: “Why?!” A voice of someone I can’t make out (not the woman) evenly, unemotionally answers: “Because you have everything and we have nothing and you think you see that, but you can’t really see.” My fury shrinks and turns to shame and I begin to weep. Uncontrollably and for a long time, because maybe actually, that voice is more right.

When I look up, the young man who took my phone is standing in front of me. He hands me my phone and when I ask why he is giving it back, he softly answers: “Because I saw HOW you cried.” I tell him that I could call the police. He is returning the phone to me at great personal risk. Softly again he answers: “I know.” I don’t call the police. He does not seem surprised.

Later at home, a knock on the door. My husband tells me there is a group of woman at the front door, for me. It’s the older woman. She has brought friends. She hands me my purse and camera and says sorry. The tenor of her voice tells me she means it. She tells me that she took some pictures on my camera she hoped I might like. I thank her and close the door.

Back inside, I check my purse. Everything is in it. I pull out the camera and scroll through the pictures. The photos aren’t carefully framed or the work of an artist but they take my breath away. They have captured the soul of their neighborhood -- the joys, sorrows, hardships, humor – all scenes I couldn’t see when I was trying to photograph their streets. I cry again this time a mix of tears and smiles. It’s not my stuff they wanted. It was compassion they were looking for.

I run back to the front door and open it again. The women are still standing there. They are ready with their “Yes” when I ask if they’d like to come in.

I can’t help but wonder how this dream relates to this quote I read less than 12 hours later in Beartown by Fredrik Backman:

“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.”

Thanksgiving Top 20

Here's my list of 20 things that make Thanksgiving Day special.

1. 2 weeks of planning boils down to 20 minutes of eating and 200 pieces of silverware that need to be hand washed.

2. The unexpected +1 invited by your sister-in-law's second cousin turns out to be vegan and not a football fan.

3. Marshmallows meet up with casseroles, cranberries come out of cans, and jello keep it weird. Use the pass wisely.

4. The fake drama between this year's new and improved version of the brined, stuffed, organic turkey versus a Butterball out of the deep fryer. The fried bird always, always wins.

5. Name cards, napkin rings, electric knives, turkey salt and pepper shakers, Grandma's china and that embarrassing family story live to see another year.

6. Someone has overly ambitious plans for gratitude sharing around the table.

7. There's never enough mashed potatoes so you can practice being thankful for the small helping you got.

8. Somebody under the age of 10 is unhappy about being at the Kid Table and threatening to only eat a roll.

9. Everyone else is wondering how we can move that one distant relative "over the age of should know better" to the Kid Table.

10. It's totally appropriate, highly encouraged even, to double time on dessert and add liquor to your coffee.

11. You still have 12 hours before your forced to think about Christmas but are seated next to the Black Friday strategist who has already finished their Christmas cards.

12. It's a rough day for white tablecloths and single people who'd prefer not to talk about how their love life is going.

13. The smartest person in the room is the one who can get the young and old, the shy and loud, the football inclined and football resistant, to stop what they are doing and play a classic parlor game.

14. The dumbest person in the room is the one who wore skinny jeans.

15. Clean up takes a small army and is long enough that everyone's ready for leftovers by the time active duty has finished.

16. Having the wrong footwear won't get you out of the post dinner walk.

17. If you nap with your mouth open, someone will capture and share the moment.

18. In late night programming, The Return of the Gout airs. (a family drama, rated R for strong language.)

19. An emergency plumbing or ER visit is always a possibility.

20. You realize that there are family traits given and chosen and each of them have the potential to be a blessing.

 

Life is a Beautiful Ride

One of my joys this fall is that I’ve gotten back into spinning. I thought I would start spinning again right when I moved to London but it’s funny how inertia sets in when there’s been an extended gap from doing something you once did with proficiency. It took me nine months to work up the courage to give one of the boutique spinning studios a try. I felt like a fish out of water walking in alone the first time to Psycle in Central London but as soon as I clipped in, my body remembered what to do and I was hooked again. I just had my 15-Class Anniversary at Psycle which was my inspiration for writing this:

Life is a Beautiful Ride

By Kate Ballbach (Psycle Rider since 2017, Life Rider since 1970)

We ride alone in our own saddle, yes, but even in a darkened room or during a darkened time unless your eyes are glued closed, you know that we also ride together.

Sometimes we spin in circles, forgetting where we are heading, which is why it’s helpful to look up at an instructor you trust and mirror their body language until you find the beat again.

We can tune out and just ride when the coast is clear but when we need to add on or double time, we can go further and faster wherever people gather and where there is music.

The multifaceted wonder of music, that welcome distraction when we feel pain, that subtle builder of endurance, that megaphone to drive us deeper into synchronicity with ourselves.

In a world of nonstop talk, we forget that our ride does not depend on our ears or tongue. It's the position of our feet, clipped in and pedaling one push at a time, and our hands, open and not gripping too tightly, as we learn to build our core strength.

We can skate through, cheating our resistance dial, or we can choose to give it our all where we are guaranteed to get soaked in sweat but where we know it's the only way to find the zone.

The zone, where effort feels momentarily effortless and your Everest feels possible, isn't a place where we can live permanently but isn't it glorious to know we can pass through from time to time.

Life is a beautiful ride, yes, but it’s only when you get out and ride through headwinds, heartbreak hills, and heat that the promise finally makes sense.

Freaky Friday: When Your Children Become Fitter than You

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Peanut M&Ms and sports trivia used to be our currency of choice when trying to get our boys, one boy in particular, to soldier on for family hikes (see above.)   I was remembering those years of vociferous reluctance and bribery during our recent 7 day hiking trip to Slovenia

My position on family hikes has always been the caboose, in part because I like taking pictures and because in those early years one parent needed to fence in any attempted escape back to the car.  In Slovenia however, I pulled up the rear because try as I might, I couldn’t keep up.  After years of hiking exposure, that boy in particular is now the young man who bounds ahead and waits for the rest of us.   And this time it was me not them that needed cajoling to carry on. 

It’s a funny thing, those inversion moments with your children, where they are the ones whispering in your ear: “You can do it” when you’re sure you can’t.  Twice I found myself crouched on a mountain paralyzed by my overbearing fear of heights and twice my children came to my rescue, not with peanut M&Ms, but with an unwavering confidence in me.   I, not gracefully or without tears, did eventually do it.  They then hovered around me until they knew I was comfortable again before they raced ahead to the next climb.

My boys have now traveled to 29 countries.   A lot of those first trips, like our early hikes, were hard because they were young and not entirely flexible.  None of our trips were a waste but some were sacrificial.  When we set out on this commitment 5 years ago to spend our time and money on travel, we hoped that the exposure to new cultures and experiences would make them more adaptable and curious about the world.   I admit that personality, and maybe even parenting, plays a large role in how travel experiences are ingested but the mere experience of seeing a new part of the world is enough to crack open children's natural curiosities.

It seems unlikely that without that unwavering commitment they would have passed the hours hiking in Slovenia by quizzing each other -- without parental involvement -- not only on NBA stats but mostly on African capitals of the world.  Or that they would start to genuinely love it when we, no longer embarrassing parents, stopped to talk to a local and asked bare (North London slang for "very") questions.  Or that they would be willing to eat whatever was on the chef’s menu, even if that menu wasn’t in English or the ingredients weren’t recognizable.  And in Slovenia, they eat bear ... thank goodness we got the venison.

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I’ve noticed in these 5 years that as they have become more flexible travelers, I have become a more finicky one.  I’m not exactly sure why I’ve digressed while they’ve expanded -- maybe it has something to do with expectations?  More often than not when we travel, it is them urging me to be patient when service is slow, or when we get lost, or when we’re stuck in a standstill for 1.5 hours on a two lane road when it's late and we’re starving.   Whatever the reason for my backslide, it is pure pleasure to pull up your mental accounting of a trip and for there to be a legitimate zero under “kid complaints.”

Family travel is a muscle that requires exercise and like hiking, there is a point at which you as the parent will lag behind because they have become fitter than you.  Enjoy the view while you still have them in sight. 

I leave you with this beautiful quote from the book I'm reading now, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng:

“To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person; your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all existed at once.” 

A Window into a Child's Imagination

One of my memories about heading out the door for school was my Mom reminding us that she had spies watching us.  She was someone who knew the neighbors.  Mostly their job was to report if we took our hats and coats off before getting on the bus.  For a few years, until big hair and jean jackets made hats and parkas untenable, "Operation Stay Warm" worked.

Today was my boys first day back to school.  While I don't know enough neighbors to create a spy network, I may have found something even better ...

Last week our 10 year old son shared something about his life that he hadn't told anyone in detail before.  He told his 14 year old brother first, who in a fine display of teenage grace, thought it was really cool.  

That something was that our 10 years old has been in a movie for as long as he can remember.   We've heard him mention his movie a couple of times over the years but we didn't know how active the movie was playing out in his daily imagination.  He says the movie started when he was born but he only became aware of it when he was about 6 years old.  

The movie is about his life.  He is the main actor but he doesn't have to perform because the movie is about the real him and his real life.  There are about 15 people who watch his movie, seeing everything he sees through his eyes. The 15 people were born when he was born and will die when he dies and because they aren't in this world, they have time to just sit and watch his movie.  They don't talk into the screen at him but they do sit on a couch and eat popcorn.  (A few of them are also apparently overweight.)

He says he doesn't think about his movie every day, but when he does get down or bored he remembers that being in a movie is interesting.  He says the 15 people don't mind when things are a little boring but he sometimes spices it up with auditory "tutorials" like "how to properly shampoo your hair" when he's in the shower or "how to fall asleep" when he's going to bed.  Some tutorials, like "how to sit still in the hairdressers chair and make it easier for them to cut your hair" are thankfully conducted without audio.  (We now understand the regular chit chat coming from the shower.)

You might think that a kid that feels like his life is a movie would be either self-absorbed or with his head in the clouds, but Lawton is neither.  He is both empathetic and keenly observant of his surroundings.  Perhaps because the movie is about his real life not a superhero life, the movie allows him to keep his feet firmly planted in the here and now.  He seems to see the scenery, characters and lighting of life in way more color than many of us do.  Interestingly, he says he can't rewind or fast forward his movie.  (As as regular in his movie, I would have liked to cut a few scenes I didn't know were being filmed ...) 

But the most fascinating part is when he explained how being in a movie affects his life. He said that knowing people are watching makes him want to work harder and not cut corners.  (This is so much better than spies!)  And that even though the people watching his movie have seen him make mistakes and have meltdowns, they still keep watching because they are with him for life.  Also the audience will always be the same 15 people, even if his life gets way more interesting.  It's like having an angel on one shoulder, a devil on the other shoulder and a small brigade as a cape.

Many of us believe in a visible and invisible world but few of us know how to articulate it.  In the unique way only a child can, Lawton has painted a picture of what that duality might look like.  A world where you are the Director and Actor of your own movie but there is a committed audience to your every move and their role is to help you bring out your best self.

Lights, camera, action ...  

 

 

Do not withhold good

Anger towards injustice can be a useful emotion. It fuels us to rise up and act. It helps us to turn a Facebook rant into a telephone call. It compels us to get out of our seats and onto the streets. It causes us to open our wallets and front doors.

There is a Proverb in the Bible that says: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act.” Believing it is necessary to have an immigration policy that is both safe AND fair, this week – like many people -- I have been signing petitions against the ill-conceived, not so hidden religiously intolerant Travel Ban and its authors, sending emails to politicians, and donating to charities serving refugees. You may disagree with me but that’s not the point of this post.

Nor am I saying that immigrants and refugees are the only people who deserve our action. You might have another. [I’ve also been looking for a good charity that supports our Veterans – particularly those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan - with job retraining as they are another marginalized group of people that I believe deserves the attention of those with the power to act. If anyone has a suggestion, please pass it on.]

I’ve been thinking however that while anger is useful for getting us out of the chair, as it did me this week, it is not sustainable on its own. If we want to really serve those who deserve our action we need to positively feed our faith in the long arc of justice enough so that our anger will be starved. We should love our world enough to engage with it, including in the public square, to want to see it as it was created to be. We need to surround ourselves with historians to lengthen our lens and believers to restore our imagination of what healthy interdependence can and should look like in a world full of color and differences.

For me, part of feeding my faith in justice is joining together with the people of my church here in London who believe and live out the invitation that: “This is a church that loves and accepts everyone … you are so welcome here.” Every Sunday I look out over the congregation which is full of people from every race and dozens of countries, so many of them young, and it brings me to tears every time. Every time. I’m trying to hang out with them more. I recently heard someone say, “The coals in a campfire burn bright and put off heat when huddled together but if that coal were to jump away from the fire, it would die out.” Action from the privacy of your home can only do so much. Action together, in whatever form that looks like, burns bright.

The other way I’ve been feeding my faith in justice has been a very small thing. On my regular runs in Regent’s Park, I make it a point of looking every Muslim woman I see in the eye and offering a smile. So far, every smile given has been returned with a smile that is somehow deeper and more beautiful than a courteous one. It seems to be saying “hello and thank you” at the same time. That too is a kind of fuel to remind me there is nothing different between white eggs and brown eggs - no difference in yoke or taste. You only know a bad egg once it’s cracked.

I was recently asked to do one of those online tests to find your strengths. I don’t like doing those tests and yet it confirmed for me where I should be investing myself. In some ways, this post is me trying to build on one of my strengths: positivity. This is a time in our country (and others too) where we all need to be exploiting our natural strengths. May you therefore use your time, resources, and even the platform of FB to take your strengths – which are uniquely yours and desperately needed - and work them out for the public good.

 

The Naturally Nervous First Year Parents Crop

Closed groups on Facebook can be sources of good information and sometimes, awesome entertainment. This fall as my son was entering his first year of college we joined a FB group for the parents of his incoming class. We 700 members are the cream of the Naturally Nervous First Year Parents Crop.

The posts contributed by the moderator around school events, housing, campus safety, etc have generally been helpful as have some of the parent questions and comments. Most parent members passively receive information. And then there is the smattering of …

1. Questions that Google has an answer for. As in: “What time does the football game start?”

2. Questions that Google has an answer for AND that you really should not be figuring out for your man child. As in: “Is there a Fedex or post office on campus. My son needs to ship something.”

3. Lost and found questions better directed toward campus security than parents in the off chance they have the kind of relationship with their student whereby they talk about other people’s missing things. As in: “My daughter lost here watch near X over the weekend. Did your student find it?”

4. The needle in a haystack questions. As in: “We are going to be on campus and while there, we need access to a marimba for our high school son to practice. Any leads?”

5. Delivery questions that Amazon can’t handle and therefore no one but a roommate or friend is likely to handle. As in: “Is there a delivery service that could deliver cold medicine and a vaporizer [in the next 2 hours] to my daughter who is sick during finals?”

6. The safety-first parent questions. As in: “Where we can find earthquake safety info and plans for the dorms.”

7. Delivery questions that make you feel guilty for only sending snacks from Amazon Pantry. As in: “Has anyone ever tried successfully to have birthday balloons and/or Edible Arrangement delivered to the dorms?”

8. Questions that make you want to cringe for the parent/student relationship. As in: “Does anyone know where grades will be posted?”

9. The parent/student selfie upload. Cute on your FB page. A little weird on the parent page.

10. The 100% school spirit post that includes no question or comment just an overuse of the school slogan, emojis and hashtags. It’s all there. Sometimes with a band video clip. Fight On!

God bless us as we Fight On letting go of our children. We are a funny bunch.

It's Election Day

I’ve been wondering. How, practically speaking, do you give your all to something? Not a physical or temporal goal but a principle you’ve decided is missional for you. If you say you are All for Love or All for Justice or All for Freedom or All for Jesus or All for ________ , how do insure that you are in fact ALL IN in a loud culture full of distractions? How do you not get overpowered or keep from skimming the surface?

I think most would agree that anything worth being FOR requires both a full commitment and the long view. It needs to be strong enough to move you across the line from belief to action. It should cause your eyes to fill with tears at one moment and a steeliness to do the impossible in others. 50% Love or Most of the Way Justice lacks the aspiration needed to make any meaningful impact. It has no staying power. And, more importantly, if we want to be ALL IN for something that endures it also means we probably won’t be around to see it come into fullness. We have to be ok with being bit actors.

I don’t know the complete answer for how to truly give your all to something that matters but I read something recently from CS Lewis that suggested a good starting point: What you choose to fill your mind with when you wake up.

“The real problem comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each mornings consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life coming flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings, coming in out of the wind.”

Many of us, me included, have a habit of picking up our phones first thing when we wake up. As habits go, it seems rather benign. And yet, it is in effect blindly turning over our first thought to something we aren’t actively choosing. Even if that thing is good or neutral it probably isn’t that bigger thing we want to align ourselves with. The danger is that what we expose ourselves to isn’t simply a matter of getting informed or being entertained. Its fuel for how we will act. It therefore makes sense that we ought to buffer our intake first with the reference point we claim to be central in our lives.

I had an experience in Spain last week. It was warm and so we slept with the windows open. It was also windy and so the sound that woke me most mornings was the wind rustling through the palm trees. It was loud enough to both get my attention and still the other voices that weren’t as demanding. It wasn’t until I choose to listen past the wind that I heard a rooster in the distance, birds in cheerful conversation, pans coming out for service in the kitchen. The simple exercise of re-tuning to those other, sweeter voices didn’t still the wind but it pushed it to the back of my morning symphony.

They say you only have one chance to make a first impression. The good news is that we have a new chance each morning to decide which voice we will listen to first. What our morning symphony will be. If what we eat (or don’t eat) for breakfast sets our energy for the day, how much more does what we choose to fill our minds with set not only our mood – but our motivation and action – for the day.

The wind in the US will be howling loudly today and tomorrow. No matter the outcome, we need the ALL IN people – on both sides of the political aisle – to come in out of the wind for a moment and listen to those quieter, enduring voices that promise to speak hope into and well beyond the next 4 years.