All Who Wander Are Not Lost

“All Who Wander Are Not Lost”
J.R.R. Tolkien
It was Easter morning in Kenya and we were in a bus making our way from Kisumu to Kijabe. All along the road we saw groups of people walking and running to church. Some congregations were simply meeting in open fields gathered around a large cross planted in the ground as a sign of the place to worship.
Every Sunday – every day – is colorful in Africa but that day was especially so. Robes, headdresses, suits and ties were brilliant everywhere and on everyone. Had we not been so far from home on Easter morning it would have been perfect. But we were not really a part of it. We were driving through all of it on a bus and everyone was quiet and preoccupied with the beauty of the people the hills, the road, and the morning itself.
All morning I had been considering what a friend had described as “losing the plot line of his life.” That might have described what I was feeling as we bounced along between mountains and streams. It was not desperation or even restlessness. It was a sense of wondering how to describe – to myself and others – what my work was. It had been my once-a-decade exercise.
If you know anything about my work you know it is pretty amorphous. I’ve used the metaphor of being a quilt maker at times. I put pieces together and try to find the patterns between people, resources, ideas, and opportunities. It is satisfying – just difficult to explain.
It was especially so that morning for some reason. I wanted to either find a new metaphor or between Kisumu and Kijabe get a clearer sense of the value of my work.
The bus pulled into a filling station for gas and we all jumped off for drinks and a stretch. I went into the little store to look around and wait to get started again. Grabbing a soft drink and going up to the counter to pay I was distracted and thinking about Easter morning and my own conversation with myself. As I reached out to pay the woman at the register held my hand for longer than necessary. She looked me straight in the eye and said “Bless the work of your hands, my brother.”
Tears welled up and I was just barely able to thank her without telling her why. She had been the messenger that morning. That is what I was missing. It wasn’t the definition or a new metaphor. It was the blessing of the work of my hands – whatever that might be. I have never wondered since what I was meant to do.
I say all this because there might be someone reading this who is having the same experience. It may not be on a bus in Kenya on Easter but you are wondering what you are doing and whether or not you too have lost the plot line of your life. I would just like to say to you “Bless the work of your hands, my friend.”
I wish I could be there in person to speak that to you.


  1. This is wonderful Fred. I wish you were here as well…I’d love to hear you speak this to us. And bless the work of your hands today.

  2. Means more to me this very day than you knowFred. Bless you friend.

  3. You’ve named itFred and so many of us who work in the realm of intangibles and relationships know of which you speak. Gracestrength and joymy friend.

  4. Thanks for helping me put together my quilt and blessing my life for so many years now. What a privilege it has been and continues to be to be blessed by your hands.

  5. FredI think the metaphor is in your story itself in the journey. Your work is that of journeying together with your companions. We have unusual work that many cannot understandbut it is a delight to discern the breath of God in it. Thanks for journeying with me.

  6. To recognize the significance of another’s unique contribution and name it for them surely is one of the greatest privileges we have as the body of Christ. Thanks Fred for reminding us of this sacred calling through the faithful work of your hands.

  7. Wow! Sometimes just the thing I needed to hear from a source that was unexpected. Thank you Fred.

  8. Fred – you touched me deeply today with this little piece you wrote. I am now in Bulgaria for the start of another trip. Bless the work of your words and connections.

  9. I love every one of these comments! I was telling our Gathering editor (Leigh Vickery) how much it means to actually hear from people. Some of you – notably Marshall and Robert – are well aware of sending out what Sting would call a “message in a bottle” and then having it come back to you. My sister took me to lunch today and told me that my father had 13 000 index cards in a file and each one of them was filled with ideasone-liners quotes and mental triggers he used in countless talks. She told me it’s going to be a challenge to find an appropriate home for them when the time comes for her to turn them over. That’s going to be some yard sale! That’s the nice thing about a blog. No storage problems!

  10. FredI’ve been considering my visual of my life in. And I believe it’s been rather linear and marked by starts and finishesmilestones met and success rates of each noted. In a goal-oriented society the results are futile. I’ve been living life wrong no two ways about it and my mind’s eye has been misdirected. For my and our end is known Christ our ultimate Example of the race Paul urged us to run certain of our hope. And Christwith no hesitation and reflection only in His solitude times with His Father lived a life marked by purposeful interactionone after another. This creates in my mind not a linear image of my life but one in which He orchestrates relationship after relationship experience into experience a circle in fact. And in my self-induced pressure to define that which I dolike you I cling to the reality that my present is as certain as my future in Him. And this this is joy! And certainly too!

  11. Your words are water to my weary soul Fred. My former trainingway of thinking(as well as the questions of well-meaning friends and acquaintances) compel me to justify the time effort and resources spent on connecting people resourcesknowledgeinsightetc. etc. in a way that makes tangible sense or shows ROI within a relatively short time frame or at least fits a definition of work that can be readily understood.
    I suppose that Isaiah 55:8-9 applies to my own doubts about what I sense I’m called to do: “For My thoughts are not your thoughtsNeither are your ways My waysdeclares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” NonethelessI feel a constant pressure to justify the use of my time effortsand resources according to my own thinking and the expectations of men…..Lordhelp me :0)!


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