Friday, October 14, 2016
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
I wish I could write words and have them flow out in music. Tonight's words would be cello and classical guitar—calm, reflective, soothing. There would be the deep voice of the cello, humming that there is no hurry, no place to be. The intricate finger-picking of the guitar would be the drops of thoughts all strung together, drip-dropping slow and steady. Tonight's music would be dark cello softly illuminated by stars of silvery guitar. . .the clear calm of night after a whirlwind.
Because, life has felt rather like a cacophonous, rushing wind in the last weeks. Work and weddings and writing. New seasons and more responsibilities. These punctuated by loss—coming home to me in a score of ways, in unexpected moments or places. Marriage is so very good, but it changes friendships, and the loss sweeps over me in final slumber parties, in having to share my dearest friends in sacred moments. I don't mind being on my own, but I do mind my fellow adventurer's getting swept further up the mountain at new and different paces.
And yet. . .if I love my friends—and I do—then I want what is best for them. If it is walking with someone else more often than with me, if it is for their deeper good, if it draws them closer to the Lord, then I will not slow their steps. . .I will not seek to hold them back. Now I am encouraged to change my pace, or to call more frequently upon the Shepherd, the Prince of the High Countries. I can still walk with my friends, even if we are not exactly in sync anymore, and I am grateful for that. They still spur me on, encouraging me to go further up and further in.
As the dust of the whirlwind settles, I find myself too much the same. Rhythms are well and good, but they should not become ruts, deep wells to confine my vision and my stride. It isn't that I should stop taking joy in Autumn colours and crisp air and the scent of crunchy leaves. . .Nor should I cease to find pleasure and renewal in making a meal or crafting thoughts with paints or words. I should not find that Beauty is hollow and empty because the season of life has changed.
Every season of the year has its special Beauty. Each season comes and fades by degrees to make it bearable. Seasons will not be rushed. They ought not be hurried to or through. Each has glories to enjoy. Perhaps each season also teaches us, a little more, how to be thankful even for the things we don't like. Summer's heat and beating sun are what make the mountain meadows blossom. Though I love Winter, many do not enjoy its frigid cold and barrenness. But the sting of Winter's chill brings a rosy glow to our cheeks; the barren trees sway in their unique Beauty—perhaps if they were never bare, we might not realise how rich it is to have their scores of leaves in the other seasons. Even Winter's grey skies make us appreciate blue ones and they give us the chance to stay indoors before a cosy fire with friends or belovéd stories.
Seasons are good in life, too. Or so I tell myself. Reminded that they come creeping in often—though not always—like a green leaf with gilded edges slowly becomes wholly golden. It is a process for change to happen. Thus, I will not lose my friends in a day—or perhaps at all—though the relationships will change. I will not become good in a day, either. I will not form new and better character all at once, but by daily asking for the Spirit of the Living God to have His way in and through me. I must also submit my will, must expect that the Spirit truly will come, in order for new habits to be formed.
Tonight carries on, like a throaty cello, reflective. The day melds into evening, the stars are o'erhead. A good dinner and a London Fog cannot fix the loss I feel inside; yet I have savoured these special things, being glad for them and for tastebuds, thankful that the change of seasons is gradual this time.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Sunday, September 18, 2016
At eventide, when the pink light fades,
come the faerie-folk from the deeper shades
to dance upon a flower face,
and ride the fireflies shimmering fair
in the silvery realm of Otherwhere
The red-tailed fox might stop and stare
whilst he is running errands there
then on his way he goes again
whilst the faerie-folk rise into the air
in the silvery realm of Otherwhere
As night glides on tóward the day
the frolicsome faeries work and play
harvesting in a merry dance
nectar for their golden mead, a kingly fare
in the silvery realm of Otherwhere
When misty streaks of dawn's first song
whisper through the glimmering throng
the faerie-folk scamper on their way
longing to tread again the air,
in the silvery realm of Otherwhere.
Photo Credit: http://www.ceraunavoltaunapiada.it/sites/default/files/fireflies_in_the_forest.jpg
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
What if freedom's price is higher than I want to pay down the road?
What if the investments of the years, of the now, come up hollow?
What if I am not ready for love until all my chances have passed me by?
What if fear doesn't own me?
What if I am strong in Someone else's strength?
What if that Someone is more faithful than any man I know?
What if all of my friends forget me?
What if there is One who sticks closer than a brother?
What if friendship's price is a high stakes sacrifice?
What if the wounds of a friend are the faithful sort?
What loss, if my heart were not shared with those I have been gifted...
What if all the unknowns crash in on me?
What if the future is darker than I know?
Then I'm glad I can't see it.
I'm glad I know the Faithful One.
I'm grateful that Someone knows what I need and when.
I'm glad my timing is not what matters.
I'm glad this life of mine isn't about me.
I'm thankful for Love Eternal.
Thankful for deep calling out to deep.
Grateful that I am not alone.
I am grateful that the price of my freedom has been paid.
That I know the Light of the world.
That He was wounded for my transgressions.
That I need no longer bear the marks of sin in my body.
I am free.
Free to give.
Free to live.
Free to love.
Free to be fearless.
Free to face the unknown.
Free to be known—and still loved.
Free to drink deep of the waters of Life.
...I am free?
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Sorrow, sorrow everywhere
splattering world headlines with its stare,
making worry-lines on the faces of
those I love, and some I've yet to know;
yet sorrow is the strand that binds us,
find us, weaving us into God's ancient tale
Broken, broken everywhere
within our hearts, or bodies hale;
cancer cells and expectations stale
growing unchecked can usher death—
brokenness devours both body and soul
with all its demands it is never full
with all its demands it is never full
Heart ache, heart break everywhere
and many are the ways to cope—
mothers cry, their faces aging,
men grow sober and waste away,
heart-hungry, not for food, but for hope,
dying for want of the Water of Life
Echoes, echoes everywhere
of Eden and of the Fall—being God
is our desire, to have and to control;
to cry out, "I don't love you anymore!"
and have it reverberate in all divorce,
in every act of our damned selfish wills
Bleeding, bleeding everywhere
from hands and brow, feet and side,
from the broken hearts of those betrayed;
death presses on mortal men, they are afraid...
But glory! Blood atones from the Sorrow-Man,
Redemption shouting into God's story
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
It is said that grief makes our hearts break;
this is both figurative and literal truth—
because when I cry, I quiver and shake,
my heart splintering with a violent ache
Not merely beating, there is actual pain—
my broken heart spills out of my eyes,
a white-hot, cleansing sort of soul-rain,
wracking my worn body again and again
Breaking comes quickly, mending is slow,
impetuous thoughts voiced in an instant
take years to root out, for truth to re-grow,
and in their stead, for healing waters to flow
Healing water dripping at the tip of my nose,
all freckled and snuffly—as my soul mends,
my physical heart shudders, its beat slows
into rhythm, works its way into lyrical prose
Weeping may endure for the soul's dark night,
but the tears do not write our story for us,
our deep Joy dawns with the morning's light—
we yearn for all manner of things to be made right
Friday, August 19, 2016
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Thursday, August 4, 2016
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”1
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?" Well, yes. Yes I am, I thought upon reading those words one morning. Summer is hot—full of sweaty, heavy work. Summer is crowded with delightful people visiting my state, inviting me to join them for celebrations or conversations. This is excellent—but also draining. I crave weekends with no plans or expectations. I tend to burn out like a sparkler sometime in late July. Everything is an eager spark right until the end of the wire. Then I'm simply a bare, hot piece of metal—useless and a bit dangerous.
As if this were not already a difficult season, this summer has been full of more violence than any other which I can remember. Our country, culture, and world seem to be gathering speed for a headlong crash into something history-making, or perhaps even history-breaking. My emotional empathy feels stretched to capacity, to shattering. News reports begin to glance off of me, as if real humans were not killing others or being killed. I feel stuck inside an insidious nightmare from which I cannot wake. I fear losing feeling in my heart—in my outstretched hands wanting to comfort, wanting to heal, wanting to help those who have been bereft of loved ones, safety, and homeland.
Sometimes I shove grieving off to a more convenient time, because I simply cannot bear it and everything else my daily life calls out of me. So, I run to whatever will help me escape the things I don't want to consider or process. They might be the exact same things that normally breathe life into me, but rather than receiving them as gifts, I grasp at them, hoping they will save me. I try to force stories or visits with friends to block out the darkness, the bleeding wounds I cannot heal, the world full of people whom I cannot turn toward God.
Jesus calls, "Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest." Come. I drag my heels a good bit. Rest is deeply appealing, but when? When do I have time to get away with Jesus? It all depends on what I long for. There is always time to do what my heart longs for. One more dinner with friends, one more chapter, jotting another e-mail, a walk under the stars before bed. . .But am I seeking to meet Jesus in those places, or am I using them to distract myself from the destruction I cannot control or stop?
Patiently, so patiently, I hear my Saviour invite, "Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it." Watch how I do it. How can I do that? The answer is not difficult: read the gospels. Study Jesus. How does He treat broken people? How does He treat hardened people—like the arrogant religious leaders? How does He seek rest and refreshment for Himself? What is His motivation, His heart's desire? What work is He is doing which He is calling us to join?
Digging through the gospels shows me layers of answers to all of those questions. In recent years, I have discovered that the last two go together. Over and again in the book of John, the desire of Jesus' heart is to glorify His Father and to obey His will. What is that will? The Father desires to bring His Kingdom to earth. But here is the astonishing part: that is the work which Jesus is calling us to join in with Him! He has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. He has chosen the weak things to exhibit His strength. The Father is bringing His Kingdom through Jesus working in us. We are repealing the corruption and darkness of the Fall by the wholeness and light of Jesus in us.
“What you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are—strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself—accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world.
Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings, and for that matter, one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honoured in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.
God's recreation...began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God's people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit...what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted.”2
Our sorrow and suffering are not meaningless. Our work and creativity have an eternal purpose. God's own beauty, infused in this world and spread through us, is not made for destruction. We are building the Kingdom of God with every act of love, with art and creativity, with thankfulness, with every meal shared. We push back the darkness by the creative and recreative light and love of Jesus at work in and through us. It is not something demanded of us, rather, it is a gift given to us that we get to join Jesus in building the Kingdom.
I begin to understand what Jesus means when He says, "Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." Grace, charis. It means both thanks and favour. God's favour is not forced upon us, and we are not forced to give thanks for His gift. Thanksgiving or delight is an overflow of the heart, the spontaneous response to God's favour. There is that thrumming rhythm of God's grace gifted to us, our thanks to Him, and our delight or joy in giving thanks. So it goes, over and over. It is our choice to receive the invitation into the dance, to let Christ through us build His Kingdom. We must constantly lean into the rhythm, to learn to step into the dance "freely and lightly."
1. Matthew 11:28-30 The Message, trans. by Eugene Peterson
2. Wright, N T, Surprised by Hope (New York: New York, Harper Collins, 2008) 208-209