Tag Archives: spirituality

Death by GPS, part I

The girls and I traveled, along with my mom and sister, to Dallas this weekend for a girly getaway. On the way home, we turned to the GPS to get us back on the road. “Nancy,” our GPS, kept trying to get us on a highway blocked by large orange barrels and flashing lights.

Nancy continued recalculating, instructing us to “when possible, take a left” and (maybe it was my imagination), but seemed to get more and more angry and insistent the farther away from her path we tread. It’s tempting to take the GPS as an authority, and just follow that route.

A few weeks ago, though, I read this piece on NPR, that discussed our over-reliance on GPS and the flaws in that trust, especially in dangerous locations, like Death Valley, which was so named because of a wagon-train’s ill-fated “shortcut.”

Some have found themselves on long-forgotten logging roads, desert paths, ice roads, and a few each year die because help doesn’t find them in time.

Many people have been misdirected by their GPS systems because of over-reliance on the map, and as Korzybski says, “the map is not the territory.”  The green tree icons are merely representations of reality, a cheap simulation of the richness of nature.

‘Somebody had a map, and somebody said, this is a faster way to get to the gold fields,’ Callagan says. ‘Deep down back in the brain, the common sense says, you know, this is not the wisest thing.’

That’s what makes the difference between our trip home yesterday and dying on an unmarked road in Death Valley: common sense.

I’ve got this idea that following a GPS to your death (turning directly off a bridge into icy waters) is a lot like those who elevate Scripture above the Spirit.

“The Letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” – 2 Cor 3:6


Legalism is following the map, not being guided through the territory. You can use the Scripture as a guide and SHOULD use it as a guide, but call it common sense, call it intuition, call it what it is, the SPIRIT should discern the best way to proceed.

Look for Part II of Death by GPS next week.

Has your GPS ever led you astray?

How do you know it’s the Spirit and not the Letter that guides you?


Sleepless over Sprechstimme

Has God ever kept you up late at night, or awoken you from a deep sleep with a thought? It happens to me, sometimes, and it’s always motivational. First, it motivates me to prayer, then, once I’ve discerned the meaning, motivates me to action. Recently, I awoke with one word, not my one-word for 2011: green,  but Sprechstimme.

** This is an illusion**


It’s an operatic term, one I haven’t given thought to since approximately 1998, when I competed in Academic Decathlon and we studied opera for our musical selections. Sprechstimme means to approximate speech by messing with the tonal composition of song, there is lilt and rhythm, according to the free online dictionary, but not precise pitches.You can hear an example, here.

Tone markings are something like suggestions. You might sing higher or lower than the note on the page, singing around it, but not on target.

Why in the world would God speak to me through composers like Schoenberg? After prayer and seeking, I am starting to get it. I’ve been getting close, but not hitting the mark.

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14.


It reminds me of a creative writing term: verisimilitude. Verisimilitude means to add enough details to create the semblance of truth in fiction.  Verisimilitude, like trompe l’oeil, it just a picture that stands in the place of reality. It’s an approximation of the truth, but not the Truth at all.

I don’t want to be missing the mark. I want to be hitting the target, shooting for accuracy, following what is written, not playing around with the pitch of my life.

I still need to follow this thought farther. I still need to seek discernment on this matter in my life. What is God trying to tell me? What areas of my life represent simulation and how can I strike the right note?

I wish  there were Spiritual decoder rings available, so I could move some dials and voila! the meaning to my late-night epiphanies would appear! For now, I’m going to be watching my life closely to make sure that my life isn’t a cheap imitation, or even an exquisite imitation, but the true mark.

Have you ever been woken up by a Spiritual message?

What word sounds just too, too, weird if you repeat it over and over?



Locked in a Cage

There’s the day you come back from vacation. You know that day. It’s probably circled on the calendar. The same calendar that you kept marking off all those afternoons, the one you kept on your desk, and you watched the vacation approach. You never bothered to take the calendar with you on vacation, because, no one wants to be reminded of when it ends, when you have to pack up the suitcase, when you have to settle up with the hotel and make your way home. We never got to rest when we got home. There were bags to unpack and clothes to wash and life to do.

That’s where you want to be! Not at home or coming home or back at work. You want to stay in vacation mode! You want to be in the place that made you feel relaxed and happy and came equipped with calorie-free food (it is, right?), little fruity drinks with umbrellas, perfect weather and no responsibilities except the one to apply sunscreen. That’s the place.

Forget vacation, what about the retreat, or the camp or the convention? I remember coming home from an awesome ski trip. I wasn’t any good at skiing at first, because I didn’t do so well in the group lessons, but after that, when the really nice evangelist took time to teach me, I picked it up. That ski trip wasn’t about learning to ski for me, though. I had such an amazing spiritual experience. I felt like I got to a place where God and I were like this. >.< That tight. Every night, the youth group would meet together to worship and I got to a point by the end of the week that I was afraid to go home.

I was anxious about returning home, not because it meant the end of Spring Break and the beginning of the rest of the school year, but because coming home meant the influences of home. As soon as the plane landed in Houston, I knew that the world was going to claim me again. It wouldn’t be hours sitting in the presence of God, soaking up that delicious feeling of being steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.  My steadfastness was going to loosen. Something was going to move me. I was to return to occasionally abounding in the world of the Lord.

Someone introduced me to an alternative Christian band named Skillet about this time. They had a song that was moderately popular when I was in high school that talked about being Locked in a Cage. The singers metaphorically ask God to keep them locked up, chained to a chair and to have their legs broken to keep them from seeking to escape. Why in the world would they want to do that?  I did. I wanted God to perform a scene from Misery so I could stay in that perfect place forever. I wanted that on the ski trip. If God could have just disconnected my limbs or incarcerated me in a cave, I probably could have been content.

I wonder if that was how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego felt in the furnace. There they were, dancing around in the flames with the Lord, livin’ it up and probably didn’t want to come out. Daniel 3 said King Nebuchadnezzar went to the mouth of the blazing furnace and called the three condemned men to come out of the fire. They came out of there with nary a hair scorched and didn’t even smell of embers.  King Nebuchadnezzar was awed at this and said, “Prase be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants…. for no other god can save in this way.” Then the King, who had ordered the three men be put to death, promoted them. If they had stayed in the fire, dancing around, no one would  have smelled their hair or checked their feet for burns.

We can’t be locked in the cage. We can’t simply extend our spiritual retreat or rest in the God Spa. At some point, we have to come out of the fire to be a sign to the world. There are bags to unpack and life to do. God doesn’t just call us to live in him, we are called to live through him out in the world, not sequestered away from temptation. That ski trip changed my life. I came back with a terrible case of bronchitis that kept me coughing for months, but more than a lung passage inflammation, I came back with a desire to spend time in His presence, soaking up the Son and drinking in his promises.