cityscape: skyline of faith and nightmare

How do you navigate? Where do you find home? How do you choose your maps? I bought my maps from two old Greeks and a Russian dissident. I ask a lot of questions of Nobel laureates, mostly poets. I’ve had many maps over the years, but I’ve only kept a few.

At some point faith needs to leave home and go on its own adventure, facing danger on its own. Faith needs to learn how to build a fire, make a shelter and find clean water. Faith needs to learn how to make a family, build community, engage commerce and, most importantly, faith needs to learn to keep watch.


The faith that we want our children to have won’t really come from the devotions we’re struggling to maintain. The paper and the printed words aren’t what make faith great, or even viable. Faith comes with callouses, walking for miles, getting lost and finding one’s way home. Faith is found when we return home.

My wife and I have to raise a boy to be a man, and a better man than his father. My wife and I have different ways of doing the same thing. She is nurturing the deep, beautiful side of the spiritual life, while I take him down the alleys of the city. I take him to the Valley of the Shadow.

Quite often we walk together just to walk together. Sometimes I take him out early morning, sometimes late at night. I don’t like to have a reason for walking together, I like to discover the reason along the way. I want him to experience life unfolding; the city blossoming in the morning, or the city nocturnal, full of real shadows.

When we head out together, we always walk through the parking lot of a church building that has a large stained glass work of Jesus tending sheep. When we walk through here, we say together, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Having him say that on his own has been my only spiritual goal for him this year. Maybe next year we’ll add the part about not wanting. Maybe.

Many times we have walked among foreign gods, military machines, prostituted women, drunken men, and known criminals. We’ve been out in all kinds of weather and pushed the limits of wisdom, but always together. I led him. I held his hand. I carried him.


You can teach a kid anything during playtime. They are vulnerable to facts and wisdom. During our walks, I lecture with my hands, opening doors for others, paying for everything I take from a store, cleaning my messes. He just thinks we’re walking to the park, but I’m teaching him along the way. I want him to intuit his surroundings as a seasoned pathfinder; mindful of who he is wherever he is. I want him to navigate with his blood, making decisions with his core, not his skin.

Are these devotions? Maybe. Certainly disciplines.

Right now the needle of your success-o-meter might be bouncing around. That’s ok. Someday he’s going to face all of this on his own (as will your children). I don’t want him to merely be ready, I want him to lead.

When we come home with muddy boots, Momma smiles because she knows we were doing our devotions.


-Mark Liebenthal

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