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Posts tagged ‘family’

I Spy



As a child, I loved playing “I Spy,” watching for the obvious in the obscure. While waiting for my dentist appointment, I hunted hidden pictures in dog-eared copies of Highlights, a children’s magazine. On field trips, my classmates and I played endless games of  “I Spy,” spotting something hidden to pass the time in the noisy, un-air-conditioned yellow schoolducks in fog bus.

Even now, on routine errands or rambling road trips, my husband and I watch for what is just outside the window. My husband, swifter than I to spot birds, deer, or Rocky Mountain sheep, knows what to notice. A birder, he watches for fast movements of winged creatures that I easily miss.

I’m new to this “I Spy” birding life, learning gradually the telltale shapes of finches, kingfishers, kestrels, hawks, or hummingbirds. I’m noticing how the crow’s silhouette differs from the raven’s, and where to look for ducks in the cattail banks of the river. Sitting on my back deck, I scan the trees that edge the backyard, hunting the faint outline of the bronze-green female rufous hummingbird, resting momentarily in the shadows. The more I know of the shape and habits of these hummingbird, the better I become at spotting them.


Taking these actions in another direction, isn’t noticing the obvious in the ordinary and the obscure one way to watch for movements by God? If I learn His character and habits, I see hints of heaven, here in this nitty-gritty space of earth. Then, I scan the environment, noticing afresh the silhouettes of His Presence within my daily life, within my life in the Body of Christ.

New to town, we’re enjoying a vibrant church family. It’s where we hang our heart. We hang out with folks of all ages and stages of life: seminary students, singles, and marrieds. We are a bursting-at-the-seams-of-grace place—made up of all sorts of people from all walks of life. We are young families, middle-agers, and empty nesters. At the heart, we are all just madly in love with Jesus.

Our church is home to many seminary students. It’s also a church that keeps a vision of church planting within the Denver area rather than church expansion within the adequate neighborhood church building. So there’s a lot of coming and going among us. Folks come; stay a while, then go out, to offer Jesus’ life in new places in this bustling city and beyond. In a setting like this, it could be easy to get lost in the shuffle and not know folks. Yet, I don’t see that happening.


Almost every month, a couple hosts a “get to know you” dinner. We’ve gone to a few of them this summer and it’s been great fun. There’s no agenda—not a prayer time, or a talk, or a Bible Study—just an opportunity to meet each other and visit. Sit on the back porch and hang out. Eat a shared meal and tell stories. Gather and be together—singles and marrieds, young and old—becoming more of a family.

Youngsters accompany their parents so the atmosphere feels like a family reunion picnic; you know you are related in this crazy family of God, but, oddly, you don’t know each other’s names. Kids draw with chalk on the patio, teens talk about back-to-school plans, and folks ooh and ahh at the plethora of food at the potluck table. People take turns pushing swings full other people’s kids and all of us get to savor the generations of life pulsing within the Body of Christ, where we spy hints of heaven here in the ordinary places of earth.veggies

Through these simple gatherings, we begin to do life together. Then the next Sunday, as we slip into our seats or walk up the aisle to partake of communion, Christ’s body and blood, suddenly we see bright-eyed children that we pushed in the swing. We smile and say hi to someone we sat next to on the back porch. We claim a bit more of this wonder of being the Body to and with each other.

Now we know a wee bit more: who’s expecting a long-awaited baby, who’s adopting, who lost their job, who just graduated from seminary and who’s just starting, who got their stitches out or is scheduled for surgery next week, who needs prayer for a life decision, who’s freshly married or freshly widowed. We become a bit more a family, one that cares because we’ve seen and heard the vignettes of one another’s story.

For me, there is one moment in our service that is symbolic of the wonder of being part of one another as the Body of Christ. Truth be told, if you are standing next to me at that moment, you’ll see guaranteed tears of joy run down my smiling face.


left hand shadowhand shadow

Before we say the Lord’s Prayer aloud together, we reach over and take the hand of the person next to us or the person across the aisle from us, friend or stranger, and form one long row of hands touching one another; a family holding on to each other. Then we pray together to our Father in heaven. The handclasps only last the few minutes of the prayer. Yet it stands as a glorious moment for it reminds me again that we are all in this thing together, Christ-followers, called to be the Body to and with one another.

We touch. We pray. We are family. We need each other. We are literally bringing heaven to earth in our gathering to worship the One who is worthy of all of our praise.

During another era, in another region of the country and culture, I attended another flavor of church, one which, at that time, was stiffer and less connected, full of more shoulds and oughts, less full of more being with and knowing deeply each other. It didn’t ever feel much like home. We didn’t gather and hang out. We didn’t touch hands and pray together. We didn’t tell stories. It didn’t feel much like family.

But isn’t that what we are supposed to be: Family? His Body gathered to praise His name? Isn’t that what Jesus was talking about in John 17 when He asked that we, the ones He made, become one, as the Trinity is one?

I love our new church family, where I am noticing afresh the silhouettes of God’s Presence. We tell stories. We hold hands and pray. We are ever becoming more to one another and thus, becoming more one, and more of the shape and being of heaven here on earth.

Thanks be to God for this gathering of believers where “I Spy” hearts hinting of heaven. It’s here I hang my heart alongside others who savor the heart of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

How about you? Where are you “spying” heaven on earth in your church? With whom and how do you do life with others in the Body of Christ? How does the physicality of being together enhance your spiritual connections as the family of God?

Cross against storm

Book Giveaway details:

This post springs from the exploration of Body/body life and its impacts on our physical well-being and spiritual formation. My coauthor Valerie Hess and I wrote a book that expands these thoughts, The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual FormationLife of the Body, The #3571

InterVarsityPress, our publisher, is generously giving away two copies of our book this month, one this week through my blog post here at (yes, co). In a few weeks another free one will be up for grabs at Valerie’s site:

If you’d like to win a free copy, please share a response here or at my Facebook (Lane M Arnold) site by Friday, September 13, 2013. I’ll put all the names in a hat and draw one winner, which will be announced on Monday, September 16, 2013.

Keep an eye out for the announcement so you can claim your free book, which InterVarsityPress will mail directly to you. You’ll have three days to respond back to me or I’ll need to choose another winner. I’m eager to hear about your experiences in the Body of Christ.


© Lane M. Arnold, 2013. All rights reserved.

What would you grab in a fire?

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. Walking early with a friend, we inhaled Colorado’s beauty as the sun rose, glowed on western ridges, and illuminated Pikes Peak.  Usually snow-capped in June, how bare it looked now due to winter’s snow drought. Another outlandishly hot, dry day loomed here in Colorado Springs. We walked among a tinderbox. Trees and bushes, shriveled and brittle, drooped beside wildflowers, wilted and weary-looking, all wavering in the early morning heat. We gulped water as we wandered. Parched landscape looked longingly at us, wishing for rain. At walk’s end, we returned to our own welcoming air-conditioned abodes.

After lunch, my husband, headed out for a haircut. Moments later he called, wondering if I too could see the angry black plume of smoke billowing off to the west. From our back deck, I saw it and shivered, despite rising temperatures. Fires, part of living in the arid high desert out west, are never a welcome sight.

Within the hour, our local television station reported a wildfire in Waldo Canyon. Just up Ute Valley Pass, an easy twenty-minute drive west of town from us, this popular hiking trail lingers along a ridge, after gaining quick altitude above the city. Firefighters hiked up as hikers scurried down as the fire increased.

Gathered here at an overlook above Garden of the Gods’ famous Kissing Camels rock formation, an erratic and aggressive fire grabs our attention with its aggressive regime. Like the square dancers’ do-si-do, winds swirl on remote ridges. We gasp with other gawkers, as flames flare, darting nearer and nearer the subdivision closest to Waldo Canyon. As we gaze mesmerized, the fire grows exponentially, spreading south and west, then sprints suddenly northwest. On one hand, I count the ridges between the fire and our home. Suddenly, I don’t want to be among the gawkers. Our eyes meet. We nod to one another, hop in the car, as my husband steers us home.

The television in the den billows information as dark and scary as those fiery plumes.  Meteorologists warn of wind, temperature and lack of humidity conditions. US Forest agents talk terrain from topographical maps. Fire department personnel pose possible plans of attack. Officials talk of evacuations.

Suddenly this is not a fire drill. This is not some question posed to get people thinking about their values. It’s a little too real. I feel as if I’ve had a gallon of caffeine, and I’m not a caffeine person. I’m revved up and a bouncing off the walls a bit. Evacuate? As in, leave because a fire is coming, and maybe come back to nothing? Really? Evacuate?

My mind runs as fast as a wildfire. What’ll I pack if we have to evacuate? What’s important to have with me as the fire potentially threatens to hop ridges, careen across canyons, and whirl on the winds?

I look across the room into those sparkling blue eyes of my husband and my son’s thoughtful brown ones. Here are my two greatest tangible values in this home. I can walk away with these two and I will have lost nothing of great value. It’s that simple. My beloveds, here and afar, are my greatest tangible value beyond God Himself.

The newscaster interrupts my thoughts. “Gather 72 hours worth of belongings to live off of, and be sure to take whatever you want to save.” I may come home to only ashes.  That fuels my thoughts further. A task is good to have when your mind is swirling.

I stash my favorite shirt, comfortable shoes, faded hiking shorts/pants, and toiletries into a canvas bag. My old black daypack, once carried on a Waldo Canyon hike, is gadget central: camera, computers, iPhone, and all companioning cords.  Memories, vital information, and writing projects reside there.  Looking through five boxes of photos, I choose one containing snapshots of my children growing up and some of my recent wedding day to this old/new sweetheart of mine. In my study, my hands linger over the worn leather Bible, its margins thick with faith responses to Jesus’ love notes. I toss it and a blank journal into a bag. That’s it. I’m done. If nothing else survives, I’ll be contented.

I circle back to the den, where the latest news shouts. Voluntary and mandatory evacuations creep closer and closer to our neighborhood. We scan the boundaries of the screen’s map. Where’s the squiggly line of our street? Are we pre-, voluntary, or mandatory evacuation? We decide we are none of the above, yet are just a few smoky miles north of one mandatory boundary. We could be ordered out next. That feels weighty and full of waiting.

“Be sure to gather important papers,” one newscaster says. I’ve not even considered that in my scavenging. “If there’s time,” he urges, “take pictures of each room in the house. That may make the insurance dealings somewhat manageable if all goes aflame.” Another task is good for my still swirling heart. My husband and son agree.

Time is one thing we seem to have. My iPhone in hand, I set off systematically, basement to top floor. Snapping photos, I notice so much stuff that matters so little at times like this.

What leap out are memories. My heart that’s been pounding full force grows calm, full of prayerful gratitude as I go. Smiles, laughter, even tears come. A snapshot on my desk of my three little ones, singing to me in their yellow slickers one long-ago rainy Georgia afternoon. Photographs my daughter gave me one Christmas from the travels we did together in Australia. The wooden cross in the kitchen from a women I’d mentored. A silly line drawing on the bookshelf, created thirty years ago, which one son found and recently framed for Mother’s Day. A woodcut and poem another son wrapped up for my birthday. The place my husband and I gather and pray each morning for our children and grandchildren. . A tiny angel ornament from a friend who’d been in Haiti. A watercolor from a prayer partner. The collage of childhood photos from my children’s life that greets me each morning upon my dresser. A bookcase full of journals, notes from almost sixty years worth of living. The photo of my husband and I at our high school prom and another one of our wedding in 2008. Love notes from our courtship. A few of these join the stash of things I’ll take with me.

If the fire leaps our way, today, tonight, tomorrow, no doubt I’ll miss some of this stuff that won’t fit into bags or boxes. But most of it has no hold on me. I finish taking photos of the last room then wander slowly back down to the den. My husband and son grin at my calmness. I smile back.

What will I take if my house is on fire or, in this case, in the line of a fire?  The ones here who are the fires of joy to my heart.


What about you? What would you grab if the fires come your way?


© Lane M. Arnold

June 23, 2012