Saturday, November 12, 2016

Swallowing Light


i am alive. i am awake. i am aware of what [life] tastes like.1

It tastes like meteors. Like sunshine spilling warmth over me as I lie on a mound of woodchips. Like black currant tea and dark chocolate. Like thought-full and heart-felt conversations. Like fear from a film—and fear of the unknown. Like crisp autumn air, scented by leaves crunched. Like solitude under the moon. Like sorrow piercing my heart. And it tastes like Hope springing from Truth. 

May I help you taste Hope for a little while? I want to point you toward Hope Himself; to give you Something real to reach for; to write a truer story than fear would project. I want to breathe colour and Beauty and life into you. 

When I first heard the song quoted above, I thought it said, i am aware of what life tastes like. Turns out it says, of what light tastes like. What does light taste like? Does light taste like sorrow, like life can? Maybe. The song goes on to say:

i want to be. 
i want to be at my best. 
it’s bittersweet, it’s poetry. 
a careful pruning of my dead leaves.

Light is bittersweet. Perhaps because light is necessary for seeing, and seeing is wonderful. Yet living in a broken, fallen world means that seeing is also horror-full. I live in the mountains; I think they are the most stunning in brilliant autumn and scintillating winter. But the beauty can be marred by beetle killed forests; by plumes of black smoke, charcoal trees, and ash falling like dead snow. In the same way, human beings can be so intensely interesting or lovely that we can hardly look away from them. But footage of skeletal men being sent to gas chambers, or babies being dismembered—we can hardly look at that inhumane reality. Life under the Curse is exposed by light to be both indescribably beautiful and unspeakably horrific. But the Curse has an expiry date. Light does not. Not the Light of the world Who will make the sun, moon, and stars obsolete. 

Notice, though, that light is also a careful pruning of my dead leaves.  If we are like a tree (planted by rivers of living water, as Psalm one says), we need to be pruned to stay healthy. The Morningstar clips sucker shoots, prunes even our healthy branches to keep us growing. He is careful, observant, wise. He does not prune unnecessarily, only what is best—even when it hurts so much it feels like He has cut off far too much for us to keep living.

so i propose a toast: to fists unraveling, to glass unshattering. to breaking all the rules, to breaking bread again. we’re swallowing light, we’re swallowing our pride. we’re raising our glass ’til we’re fixed from the inside. ’til we’re fixed from the inside.

Where does the light get in? Where we are cracked, even shattered. The Light gets in when we raise a toast to the King: through the broken bread on our tongues, the wine burning our throats. We swallow the Light again and again, until we are fixed from the inside. It is a process, like eating daily, it is not a one-time meal that satiates our hunger for only a day. Swallowing the Light is our daily bread (Scripture); it is our weekly feast (the Eucharist); it is our continual sustenance (meditation and contemplative prayer); it is the bitter gall we sometimes taste (weeping over sin); it is the banquet to come tasted a little now (worship and adoration). It is the swallowed Light Who heals us from within, not from shining on us – exposing us – from without. We must be revealed and healed from within. We must be unshattered from the inside.

May I help you taste the Hope that is now, as well as to come? We are a people who are united by our King. We live in His Kingdom now. We build His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. We get to participate in the Kingdom's colours and tastes and smells, to build and steward and welcome others into His Kingdom. We do this when we create a meal. When we weep with those who are grieved. When we build homes and roads and grocery stores. When we play music to inspire—breathe life into—the souls around us. When we love on others by loving their children. When we give sacrificially of our possessions or bank account; or harder still, of our time and our emotions. We co-labour to construct the Kingdom of Christ in many ways—seen and unseen, big and small. In this, we are the Body of Christ, joined and knit together with Jesus as our Head. God builds His Kingdom through us upon the Chief Cornerstone: Jesus. This is what Light tastes like.


________

1. "Taste" by Ryan O'Neal {Sleeping at Last}, Atlas: Year Two (Copyright 2016, Asteroid B-612)

Friday, November 4, 2016

Row the Wind

You scallywag scavenger,
                  throaty chatterer,
           who rows through the sky
                          with graceful pride,
                                 your wings black
                                                 and white
                                        dipping the wind,
                                        tipping like a canoe
                                but never capcised—
                           that is you,
                     O magnificent
                 Magpie!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Yesterday was Summer's Sister



Yesterday was Summer's sister,
today the leaves come floating down;
Autumn haunts the gilded air,
while Orion trails the Summer Crown.


Today is golden in its passing glow,
Yesterday's shadow soon to be;
the stars dance on and on, while
our lives by the moments flee.


Yesterdays race by more swiftly
than Today knows how to catch,
the months and years, they disappear, 
like flame upon a match.


Today is the joy, the gift, the song
that Yesterday poured her music into;
it is the symphony in which we play,
which tunes our lives anew.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Squirrel Life





A pair of squirrels is playing tag in the autumn sun: around the fir, across my porch, over my roof. They flirt their tails and chirrup, they thunder boldly through the day, through life. Perhaps I envy them their simple lives—unworried about elections or the future. Yet, the squirrel can’t think about the fact that it is a squirrel. It can’t wonder what the purpose of its life is or if it matters in the world and the universe. A squirrel simply is. It fears predators and looks for food; it mates and bears young. The squirrel sails into the pumpkin on the porch with his tiny, fur-fringed hands; he turns brusque and reprimands when someone gets too close to him.

I, however, am not a squirrel. I get frustrated over elections. I am anxious about the future of our country and world, about the future for my niece and nephew, for the child being born today. I grew up with old-fashioned ideals and aspirations, with courtesy and a deep appreciation for human life. I grew up with a sense of wonder, with an awe of the numinous, with a firm belief that there is hope outside of my small self.

I grew up much like a squirrel. Like squirrels, people worked to make a home and provide meals. Fears were few and obvious, or so it seemed at first. I didn’t know cancer or divorce from personal places. War was in the Gulf, policemen were valiant and safe. Right and wrong were easy to discern. The people where I lived were the comfortable, trustworthy sort. Terrifying things were “out there”, not inside my safe world. But the borders of safety were breached. Evil and Sorrow and Death crossed the threshold. Not far behind were Uncertainty and Fear. I discovered that hard things, scary things were outside of my parents’ control, and certainly outside of mine. Squirrel-life shattered.

Sometimes I don’t like the realities and responsibilities that come with sentient, incarnational human-life. I don’t always appreciate the boon (or burden?) of being able to question if there is reality or if truth exists and is knowable. At times I let fear paint the picture that life is dark and crumbling and frightening. I let in the lies that marriage will fail, that motherhood steals one’s identity and is stifling, that tyranny and the ungodly will win.

Truth did not shatter with squirrel-life, however. Truth, in fact, illuminates life and gives me a clearer view. When the enemy of our souls portrays shadowy, suspenseful, formidable scenes of what life is for or is going to be, God stirs up the embers of truth. When the fire of truth is blazing it casts the shadows away, it gives me light to see that there is hope, there is redemption. All manner of things shall be made well. Sadness will come untrue.

When shadow-lies are shot-through with truth’s light, beauty and goodness gleam: as Christians we are the bride to a Bridegroom who will never desert or abandon us—He remains faithful, even when we are faithless. Marriage will not fail ultimately. I am reminded that children are a joy, that they deepen us and our ability to love and to sacrifice. Being a mother is part of one’s identity if they are called to that, but it does not mean they have to give up all the rest of their giftings. Mothers, in fact, change the world through their ideas, the truth they speak, and through their children, too. In the bright light of the truth I am reminded that Christians throughout history have faced wicked governments, evil oppression, violence, death, and injustice. Many in other countries face these things today. But evil cannot exist without the good thing it mocks and twists. And one day, if not now, it will be done away an the good, the true, and the beautiful will stand solid and bright and real.

Our salvation does not come through politics and laws. If those things we’ve looked to save us begin to crush us, they reveal themselves as the false gods they are. Some trust in chariots, some in horses—some trust in presidents and some in their own way of life—to save them, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7). If, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we must face the furnace, we still need not bow down to false gods. We will rise and stand upright (Psalm 20:8).

Like those men before us, we know that God can save us; even if He chooses not to deliver us from the fire, we are not lost. Our destination is sure and steady—even when we have wracked our limited minds over the questions of truth and certainty and reality. We question, we seek certainty, we have that uncomfortable gift of knowing that we don’t know it all. We walk in the questions, and we walk by faith. In that balance we thunder boldly through the days and we thunder through life, not like squirrels, but like the sons of God we are.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Come, Let us Judge

Can we get something straight? It is okay to judge. I know it is the unpardonable sin of our society, but it is not unpardonable before God. In fact, he calls Christians to judge.1

Before someone runs off decrying me as a heretic, let’s talk about what judging isTo judge means to esteem, to select or choose, to determine or resolve, to sift or weigh evidence, or to pronounce an opinion between right and wrong.2 In short, it means to assess. Not to be confused with asses: what people make of themselves when they draw no distinction between judging and condemning, trying to shut down reasoned assessment by crying, “Don’t judge me!”

Though the word “judge” may at times be translated to condemn, it is not the first or top use for the word—in either the lexicon or the dictionary. A person can be praised for having good judgment (discernment), but shouted down the next moment for judging (having an opinion). I have witnessed Christians bandy about the first four verses of Matthew 7, only to have them completely miss verse five:

Don’t [judge], and then you won’t be [judged]. For others will treat you as you treat them. And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own? Should you say, ‘Friend, let me help you get that speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t even see because of the board in your own? Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother. “Don’t give holy things to depraved men. Don’t give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls and turn and attack you. (Matt 7:1-6 TLB emphasis mine)

Let’s see what Matthew’s words look like, fleshed out in our mirrors, in our daily interactions with people. . . How we make assessments or criticise others is the same measure that will be applied to us. We don’t live up to our own critiques, let alone God’s, so it is important to first know and love God, and next to ask the Lord to help us to be holy as he is holy. Whereby, we are able to not only use God’s word to assess our fellow men, but to first use it to judge our own motives and actions. Though we also sin, it does not mean that if we see a fellow believer outside the boundaries of God’s word that we can ignore his sin. It is our calling to examine our own hearts before God and then to help set our brother straight again (James 5:19-20).

We are to be both bold and humble if we see our brother in sin. Bold in speaking the truth, humble in our motives—do we desire our friend’s good and growth, or do we just want to be right? Before we approach a fellow believer who is in sin, we need to first turn away from any sin in our own hearts and lives. Not long ago, when a friend of mine was angry, he said some very untrue and unkind things to and about me. Though I was praying before our conversation to clear things up, I began snipping at him and accusing him once we began talking. Right in the middle of our conversation, I heard my tone and I knew that whatever else the case may be, I was in the wrong. I prayed silently for the Lord to forgive my attitude, and that I would be humble enough to ask for forgiveness. 

When I next had the opportunity to speak, I took a deep breath and asked if we could start again, asking for forgiveness for my cutting words and haughty heart. The tenor of our conversation changed immediately from heated battle to comrades-in-arms, fighting together against the enemy who sows discord among brethren. Once I had removed the “board” in my own “eye” by confessing my sin to God and my friend, I was free to approach my brother to help him remove the speck in his eye. We are not free to call out sin in a haughty spirit, but instead, to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15)—and love is not arrogant. We are not free to simply say nothing—He who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it, to him it is sin, says James (James 4:17).

Note that I say these things about making a judgment in regards to our fellow believers. Even though God holds us all to his standard, Christians are to judge differently between believers and non-Christians (I Cor 5: 9-10, 12-13). We are specifically called to judge (discern the words and actions of) our fellow Christians; not to throw away the holy gift of speaking wise judgments to evil men, as Matt 7:6 says above. We must speak the truth, of course, but we must let God hold unbelievers to his standard—that is his role, not ours. It is okay to call sin what it is: sin. It is okay to stand up for God’s character. And in the painful times when a brother continues persistently and unrepentantly in sin—even after exhortation and Godly confrontation—Paul tells us we must break fellowship with him (as in the case of unrepentant, gross sexual immorality in I Cor 5:11).

It is okay to judge—to sift a matter, to observe behaviour patterns, to see if actions and words align, to see if there is good fruit and assess the roots thereby. We can do this for all men. We cannot judge (in the condemnation or passing a sentence manner) the hearts of men, because only God knows the heart of a man. We are called to be discerning of what we observe. Let us, “Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. Don’t be vague but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of God” (Eph 5:15-17 PHILLIPS).

We must not be vague—we must make wise judgments based on what we know of the will and the character of God. We do not have to back away from speaking the truth simply because someone demands that we “do not judge” them. We must ask for the boldness, courage, love, and humility that we need to continue to judge rightly, to turn away from our own sin, and to help our brother to turn away from his, too. So, come, let us judge.

__________


1. See Matt 7:5, I Cor 5:3, 12
2. krino or judge as defined in the Strong's Concordance

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Changing Seasons and Cello Strings



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

Otherwhere




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...




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.


What if...

                                                    ...I am free?


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Echoes



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

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