Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sticky notes and mud pies

If my brain were an office, there would be file cabinets gaping wide, saying “ahhhh”, waiting to be checked and cleaned and filled and drilled. Papers would be aflutter, seeking a superior filing system that would link them by subject, chronology, urgency, and importance. Carbon copies, relevant to several different compartments, would swell manila folders and cram drawer space. The repeating lists would keep me bouncing from cabinet to cabinet, because items affect multiple facets of the mind’s working. Mental sticky notes would clamour their hurried reminders from available surfaces all over the office.

Yes, there is a good filing system, but sometimes life doesn’t fit inside the neat spaces I create for it. Compartments like “sleep” intensify in importance; “meals” grow urgent, rushed, and nomadic. “Sewing”, “Sketching”, “Writing”, fluctuate between meagre, skimpy, neglected, bingeing, or guiltily remembered.

How do things get in such disarray? Wound into a tizzy, and overwhelmed by the foolishness and poor planning that brought me here, I don’t know where to begin the cleanup.

Life is not static, and cannot be surmounted with just mental systems and organizational rampages.

Life is fluid, boiling to a vapour, creating impressive sculptures of mammoth proportions that disintegrate on a breeze’s whim. How do I handle this fleeting, sticky, slimy, mysterious substance?

I can’t handle it. I’m not made to.

I’m made of dust.

I am dust, and life is vapour.

Dust and vapour mixed makes mud.

Steamed dust, moulded, dried, baked in heat makes bricks.

And what are bricks for but building? And what are buildings for but to live in? And who else but the Maker of mud and steam would want to live in it? Who else could make sense of all the colours, textures, weights, and potentials of my life, of our lives?

So I look up from bended knee, surrounded by the stacks of paper and dust and mold and possibility. I sigh, close my eyes, and know that I am dust.

I breathe in air and breathe out praise to the God Who knows my frame, and remembers I am dust.

Praise is His life in me, making sense of all my noise, making a way though all the piles I can’t conquer, making me new and clean and right.

So God, breathe Your life in me, give me praise, whether I’m being mixed up, blown on, slathered, baking, or drying out. Help me not make mudpies out of life, but yield it to You, and trust Your skill to make something glorious from it.

What could be more glorious than God indwelling us, enabling us to enjoy Him as He intends?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Little One

Little One you were called, before I knew if you were a boy or a girl. Little one you have remained, your extra-petite frame finally filled with 25 pounds.

I remember the tickle of delight that coursed through my heart when she told me you were being formed, told me I was now an aunt. Her eyes sparkled pure blue, revealing her entire delighted soul.

And you came, and I held you, prayed tears over your little life, watched you grow under the deepening rays of summer sun.

Your frame slowly extends, making room for arms and legs and tummy a little bigger than they were yesterday. Life music touches your soul too: it soothed you as a baby, and delights you now. You love to sing in your high soprano, cooing praise again and again. Praise rings perfected in your innocence.

And so you grow, the never-ending miracle of life. You wanted to measure your tummy and hear the stethoscope’s echo when the midwife came to check Mummy’s new baby bump. You saw the next little one right after she came into our world. You love her, and mother her, without even knowing why.

You bounce and play and sing and cry and dream, and we marvel at the wonder of you. How could it be that one who knows so little would teach us so much? How is it that your simplicity confounds our complexity, and makes sense of all our conundrums? How does it happen that we who are busy and flitting and dizzy in the spinning, decaying world, suddenly feel whole and healed when we nestle your round frame in our arms?

How is it that your unspoiled, untrained smile can melt our hearts?

How can it be that one who has seen so little can tell so much with eyes that disclose your whole soul?

How is it, little niece, that two years have passed since you came to us; and that now, I cannot imagine life without you?

So I pause, and I worship the God Who formed you perfect in the secret place, and gave you to us.

You are a masterpiece, and your life is a priceless treasure.

I love you, little Hope.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wonder in the Shed

We hurry across ploughed yard, scuffling rapid and clumsy in velvet and polyester padding, till we reach the door. Inside, mellow, golden light from ceiling bulb mingles with crimson ray of heat lamp. The homemade delivery suite, equipped with old blanket, towel, pillow, contains our sought-after treasure.

She bends low, cooing love through smiling lips, heart filled with long-awaited delight. This one who suffered scratch and nip and hiss and ignorance and arrogance, she descends to delight in life.

This one who watched and waited for swollen bellies to empty, who embraced and wooed batch after batch of yellow and blue-eyed fuzz balls into friendship; this one who grieved and cried for little ones lost or starved or hit by the milk truck, now caresses wriggling helplessness. These hands, that petted and brushed and scrubbed, applied ointment, stroked friends into purring contentment, now they touch ballooned milk bellies of the newest ones.

In all the books of memory, this has never happened, these kind of friend born on our farm. She cuddles one to cheek, to ear, and he whispers questions, happiness, and love. He whimpers from exposure to cold, and she tucks him into velvet warmth. He quiets, and I know he is smiling. She gives the best hugs.

Of all the ones she has loved: the best friend for sixteen years; then the one she picked from frisky litter; now this one, this music in winter, ebony hair dancing on the white snow. And now we’re given these six treasures of the frost. Black and chocolate, with marshmallow smudges, they squirm and nuzzle and grunt happy in the red light.

How many male? How many female? How will we give them all away? But for now we just enjoy. We listen to their rumbled baby talk. We giggle and exclaim and laugh. We oooh and aaah at the miracle. We shake our amused heads to think of the sire, running eighteen miles through ditch and coulee and fence to visit—five times he came, and now, this.

We marvel at life in the cold. Then we must leave, over the yard on hopping toe, scurrying into warmth of house and fireplace and homespun quilt. We know mother and pups will be safe overnight. God made it so.

And I think I see a twinkle of heaven’s smile in the setting sun over the shed. Here, in the bleakness of our shivering winter, in the deepest part of our half-year cold spell, He makes life. This pup-now-mother tries our patience with her bounding energy, stubborn defiance, and whacking tail. But He gave her life, and made her bear life.

And doesn’t He do the same for us? Calling, catching, stroking, taming us again and again, just because He likes to have us near? He could leave us wild and devilish, but He comes and finds us, and woos us into the warmth of His embrace.

And I wonder what I’ve missed out on, all these years of not being kitten tamer or dog trainer? And I think she, the one with the scars, has more pleasure than I can imagine in this new life.

So does He, the One with our scars in His hands.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Last dance in the lamplight

Last dance in the lamplight

Impeccable quiet, wind calmed to dreamy hum, sun spreading her arms wide, twirling one last, slow pirouette on the hand of earth’s axis. The fabric of her misty dress floats on the air, organza shimmering in the lamplight of the day’s final dance.

The music fades, just the reverberation of bow to string remains. All is hushing, aching, breathing deep and wistful, falling mesmerized in the moment’s beauty.

We glide on the setting sigh, wheels hushing on snow’s rich carpet. Diamonds glitter on every side, the cold air is sweet, and all feels brilliant, deliciously haunted.

So we travel on, somewhere before us gemmed dust gusts into air, dancing, blurring the air like bridal rice, beckoning us to follow. The vehicle ahead passes our corner without a glance, but we slow down. Now, instead of bashful sideways glances towards her peerless face, we turn to look at the sun, and soar in her smile the last five minutes of our journey.

Past the colony, whose lights hem in the vastness of our nights, and dim in the brilliance of sunrise.

Past the dance hall of generations past, with plank walls and broken windows and stripped floor testifying to the community once spawned in it.

Past the last green electrical box buried in ditch’s drift, we drive. And it rises into the setting sun, the homestead, nurtured, tilled, planted, painted, tinned, and trimmed with loving hands.

Sun kisses it goodnight, begging for more time, wishing for one more dance, shedding silent tear for the beauty she must surrender to night’s grasp. But we smile, our own hearts hurting; we sigh, waiting to sing in the warmth of summer’s air; we turn our gaze from heaven to the golden windows of home. Inside, heaven’s echoes reverberate from the walls and windows and floors in the hearts of redeemed people.

We light our fire, quieting our souls in its subdued light, it’s mellow heat, it’s promise of safekeeping till dawn.

And we are home, journeying to our real home, dancing in the echoed light while it is here, till we are swept into grander brilliance, and the smile and warm embrace of our Creator.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Discovery's paradox

His family gave him away to strangers. He never fit in. He ached and raged to see people in pain, but his endeavours to help ended in murder. His stepfather then attempted to kill him. Disinherited, friendless, banished, utterly alone, he escaped to a desert. There, he lost himself. The stranger from Egypt melted into anonymity, groomed aristocrat turned tent-dwelling wanderer.

So he settled into silence, content to be alive, wishing for nothing more. A wife, a son: she, christened after a small, flitting, insignificant bird, and their son called stranger in a foreign land. Drab, colourless, predictable, and safe, his life turned into shadow, at the very back of the barren desert.

He was made for more, craved it deep inside: the kind of hunger words cannot express, the longing the hurts more than pain, the exquisite ache for joy. Life remained silent, and he did not speak. What was the point? How could he articulate the throbbing wound, the sting calling for greater healing? He spoke a long time ago, and was rejected, accused, exposed as impetuous, foolish, rash. He would not be refused now, but there was no one to listen, just his flock to lead and guard and feed and hit over the head.

A failure, outcast, refused son, he groped for significance in his labour. At least he could still work. He took his charges, and contented himself to live in dusk.

But hope scorches deeper than despair, a perpetual burning not sedated by mountains of ash or grotesque, charred remains. So, he looked, shed silent tear, heaved unheard sigh. And he saw. And he turned out of his way to see closer. And he climbed and grunted to gaze and muse and figure out why.

And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush, and said, “Moses, Moses!” Man drawn from watery death, man rescued from infant genocide, man adopted, man loved enough to salvage.

Before him danced hope, the ever-burning fire, all-consuming, yet not consuming the one it possesses. The voice, calling him into identity, connecting him with past and present and future. He called, and called forth a man. Moses had no position to protect, no empire to lead, no treasure to guard. He spoke the words that make a man, the only words he could say to this God: Here I am. These words make a man.

He looked, only to discover that God had been watching him the whole time, waiting to see if he would notice, if he would seek, if he would exert effort to search.

God waits for me, watching to see if I will turn aside and seek Him, waiting to reveal Himself to me.

O God, help me detour to see and savour and experience You in the hidden, forgotten places today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Does God Inhale?

Does God Inhale?

The screaming child upstairs: gasping air into her lungs then propelling it out in heavy bellows of anger. The gusting wind beyond the pane of glass: deporting rubbish from other neighbourhoods into the bushes and drifts along my house.
The words she and I speak, long and thoughtful, in the space of Saturday indoors.

Both we and nature exhale, breathing out as a result of life and heat energizing us, stirring the systems around and within us to fulfill their purpose, however warped our misuse of the resource.

But the Maker of screaming children, billowing Chinooks, and dreaming women, He is different. He too breathes out: but He has the breath of life, making a living soul. He exhales, and ice is given. Stormy wind fulfills His word. He thunders from heaven. Sea’s channels, earth’s foundations are laid bare and exposed at the blast of the breath of His nostrils.

His quietest commands outstrip our loudest hollering, revealing His omnipotence and our frailty in one fell swoop. His exhales leave us bare and exposed.

But the source of our exhalations carves the ultimate chasm between human and divine. We breathe in because He breathes life into us. But He does not need to breathe in. He does not need inspiration. He is life. Because of Him, we exist, but He is His own first cause.

So, melt in wonder, my soul, at the thought of a God-breathed, God-spoken story given me to believe and to tell others. Marvel to consider this all-powerful, self-sustaining, all-encompassing breath of God sighing out long and labourious through the chasm between us. He speaks the Incarnation—word made flesh—revealing the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person as God-Man. Immanuel, God with us. Logos, the cause of all physical and ethical life, spoken in Christ.

To cry as an infant, Christ breathed my air. To buy me back from hellish slavery, He exchanged lives, and deaths, with me. He exhaled His last breath in triumphant purity. To fill me with His life, He overpowered death, and breathed again. To seal His possession, He breathed heaven on me, into me, by the Holy Spirit.

He breathes life into me so that I might breathe His life.

Worship breathes His breath back to Him.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vault of diamonds

Vault of diamonds: 6 February 2011

Weighty steps echo through the corridor, rebounding authoritative and pedantic. The massive form thrusts air from its sentry stillness, sending it singing and swirling beside, behind, and around. The song overwhelms, daring to blow me over, then it quiets to a whisper, and I wonder if it has returned to its stationary post.

Towering doors—impossible in size, devastating in substance—stand vigilant at the corridor’s end. The master stops and faces the entrance, breezes around him swaying to a halting stillness. He has arrived. To possess this vault-filled passage is to own supreme sway, the dominion of influence over all life. But only the master can bear the weight of the keys, and wield the doors from their locks.

The jangle of golden authority sounds like bells from a tower. He lifts key to latch, and wind follows his arm. Decisive power hurls faithful teeth and gears from their holding grip. He leans into the door. Thunder groans as hinges bear down under their burden. Stones shout for the grinding shove against their faces.

Then, all is silent, except for the faint sigh of wind, who exhales in wonder at the sight. He steps in, turns all around, and gazes at his treasure. Wind follows him in silent grandeur, stirring loose bits of wealth from the floor, and scattering them in swirls of feathery brilliance. This is the storehouse of diamonds.

He smiles, and breathes, a deep, powerful breath. His exhale harmonizes with wind’s song, propelling a burst of luminous gems into the air. They seem to expand, twirl, suspended in dance, gazing on the master. His eye twinkles. They sparkle, then tumble in whirling arcs to new niches in the heaped wealth.

He reaches down, gathers a handful of jewels, while wind scatters loose gems with his echoed movement. He gazes up at the domed room, now gleaming with pure light, then out the iron doors into the corridor. He looks beyond, past all framing and space, and smiles.

He turns, and strides out the vault. Wind ripples his gestures through the room, glinting, sighing, singing, till every particle of treasure sparkles under his passing light. He closes the doors, locks them. They will hold till he returns to the treasury. He knows, because He designed them.

Out, out, out the corridor, into his quiet resting place. Wind sings a high-pitched melody as he sits by his dearest invention. He turns the sphere round and round, finding the perfect spot. He lifts mighty hand, and sprinkles diamonds onto the orb’s surface. He blows a soft breath, warm and cool air spiralling his command. The place on the globe turns white. He smiles. It sparkles.

Wind giggles for joy, sending the diamonds into mounds and drifts. Clouds of diamond dust hover at the surface, then eventually settle, glimpsing over sparkling shoulders to catch the glint of his delight, and reflect it back to him.

Have you entered the treasury of snow?

He sends out His command to the earth; He word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out his hail like morsels; who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow.
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