Friday, August 27, 2010


“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.”

—Matthew 25:1-4

There is something about the song “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning” that makes me tired. Not just because I often hear its peppy tune on still-sleepy Sunday mornings, but also because I’m not so sure it would be a good thing to just keep burning all the time without a break.

It’s not that I don’t prepare; like the wise girls I am always over-prepared with everything I might possibly need for my trips. So I’m sure I would have enough oil in my backpack, ready to go even through a long night of waiting. But even with enough oil, I imagine myself getting angrier by the minute as that oil is used up, wondering what the delay was about and silently scorning those who didn’t think ahead as well as I did. With every second that went by, with every lick of oil on that flame, I would grow slightly less loving, slightly less gracious, slightly less alive.

Today I heard something on the pray-as-you-go podcast that encouraged me to think symbolically about the passage: what might the lighted lamp represent in my life? And what is the oil that will keep it burning?

Because of course the story isn’t about being prepared; it’s not about greed or getting high marks from the bridegroom for planning ahead. It’s about a different kind of oil, one that keeps you alive instead of consuming you.

What is the oil that keeps me going, that keeps my lamp alive, that keeps my soul from growing dark and dead and tired? Because whatever it is, this kind of oil—oil that flows down the beard of Aaron, oil that anoints my head, oil that brings gladness instead of morning—is not about scarcity at all, but abundance. And maybe with enough of that kind of oil, I can keep my heart alive and full of grace, burning, burning, burning till the break of day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


“Everything is possible for one who believes.” —Mark 9:23

We have friends a newborn baby, and last time we visited, my husband leaned close and smiled at the baby, talking in a voice I haven’t heard him use in years. As I watched him, I thought to myself with a pang, This is impossible. How am I supposed to look at him doing that and NOT want another baby? And yet, that, too, is impossible. I’m too old; there would be too much space between our now eleven- and thirteen-year-olds; we don’t have any baby stuff any more; we couldn’t adjust our lives to a baby schedule again.

So we ended our visit with the baby, and I came home and stared at my daughter’s teenage feet, which it seems just yesterday could fit entirely in my hand when she herself was a baby. And those lanky, impossibly large teenage feet hit me like a wave of sadness: some things are no longer possible.

It’s not possible to get back the days that are gone. Long summer days when entertainment was as simple as a popsicle and a wading pool and “making it better” as easy as a band-aid and kiss. Evenings with newly bathed kids in blanket sleepers snuggled beside me to read a story for the one hundredth time. Days that seemed impossibly long at the time, but now seem impossibly far away.

Even as I am grieving what I miss, I see in those big feet other things that are still possible. It’s possible to talk to my children about things in the world like floods and forest fires and poverty and wonder with them about why they happen. It’s possible to sit on the edge of their beds and night and hear their ideas and questions about the world without knowing, as I used to, how I can answer easily in response. It’s possible to love what someone else has without needing to possess it for yourself.

And this is the art of living by faith: finding what is still possible in a world that shuts us down from a delightful sense of openness. This is one reason I have joined the High Calling Blogs Network—to see, in the voices of others who struggle to walk the life of faith, what is still possible. And in hearing their stories, to trust the words of truth that everything is still possible for one who believes.