Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beauty Quest

We are pilgrims, questing beauty. We are worshippers, seeking the Master in His handiwork. We are redeemed rebels, longing for a deeper taste of the goodness we have received.

And so we look,

High and low,

Delighted by nook and cranny’s treasure,


Breathing full,

Drinking deep from the river of His delights.

This is our joy—this trek into mercy, this searching for ever-greater height and depth, this urge to keep going till we find a view. Grace makes it possible.

So we search, further in, further up, further out of ourselves. We listen, and hear creation’s anthem.

And our hearts hum along.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Redeeming the time, Part 3

I’m just stepping into the pantry, pulling item from shelf lip or freezer’s deep cavern, when I am compelled to stop, and consider.

She makes semi trucks look impish. She defies iron men. She obliterates the marvel of LeTourneau’s earth-moving machines. And she has no idea of her power.

A discarded grain of rice, fallen from the bag months ago—she finds it, and takes it home. But where is home? How far must she travel? It doesn’t faze her, because it’s all in a day’s work, and effort exerted shows that we’re alive. I think she understands better than humans, this dance of duty and delight, this mystery of muscles clenching and hands raised in praise, this paradox or working out what God works in, and it is all grace, given in God-life-power.

She scouts out her journey as she travels, clinging with one thread arm to the printer lip, while the rest of her frame hangs, clenching rice grain in her jaw. How can she hold a load her body size, and double her weight?

She changes her mind, struggles back on top of printer lid, and tests more possibilities. Finally, she shimmies down the face, rice dangling ahead of her, pulling her towards the fall off the shelf. She does fall, onto freezer, where she immediately searches for the rice grain, which bounced away from her when they landed.

She’s walking in circles—how can she not be dazed? So I scoot the rice grain towards her. “Here it is!” She finds it, and treks again, this time off the freezer lid, down the side—a feat five times harder than the printer expedition.

I’d be done by now. I’d quit. I’d say it’s not worth it and curl up in self-pitying, lazy heap.

She keeps going—without prodding, or nagging, or competing, or supervision.

She works, and her life is praise to her Maker.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.”

And maybe, just maybe, the infinitesimal, the too-small-to-notice, the minute marvels of creation teach us what it really means to redeem the time.

“Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Redeeming the Time, Part 2

20 June 2011

I thought I was a good time manager, because I was always busy, always had three or four projects on the go. Efficiency haunts me like a shimmering dream, the twinkle of sun on drying glassware, the gleam of washed floors, the reflection on dusted piano lids.

Why is stress so alluring? Why does the rush and last-minute mindset appeal? Why do deadlines and insurmountable to-do lists capture the imagination?

Do I think somehow, that I’ll become a Cinderella, a damsel deep in suds, ready to be rescued? Or winding self up the staircase of busyness, into a tizzy tower—is the harsh exposure and comfortless vantage really worth it? What if rescue doesn’t come? What if I’m not supposed to be here in the first place? What if I actually become a dupe, inadvertently used for the enemy’s purposes, in all this bluster and jockeying for prominence?

And there’s the lie: stress seems attractive because stressed people seem important, valuable, indispensible. The work needs them, the cause requires them, it will all run amuck without them. I want to be valuable, so I make myself stressed.

Problem One: stress starves the soul. Vital life undergoes anorexic neglect. In the body, blood leaves stomach and deep organs to feed the flailing limbs and taxed mind. In the soul, authentic life drains while I race in circles, too busy running to notice that I’m not going anywhere good. Sure, I accomplish good things, but this lifestyle is not fundamentally, transcendently good, because it’s built on a lie: that my efforts are good enough, that I am the only one looking out for me, that God might not be good after all.

Problem Two: stress isolates me from community, rusts relationships through neglect, destroys koinonia. If a soul is left to decay and despair because I am too busy to care, then I make a shrine of myself, my goals, my needs, and become an idolater.

And if my soul shrivels to nothing because I’m addicted to my own aggrandizement, then I’ve sold myself cheap on synthetic existence.

There’s more to life, and it haunts the soul deeper than tinny time-crunch goals . . . .

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Making a Father’s Heart

Like the land he tills, his heart stays quiet and predictable most of the year. His life seems so simple; we assume that’s all he is: boring and brown and tilled in straight lines. But that just proves we know nothing, either of the soil, or of the heart.

During the drought we languished, tired of grieving and wishing for rain that did not come. But each spring he planted. Each autumn he harvested. Other farmers’ fields lay abandoned, crops never brought into granary, because it wasn’t worth it for three bushels to the acre.

But he just kept going out: waking early, working late, keeping us linked to life by radio conversations and tractor rides.

So we kept going too, not aware that our own roots were growing deep.

He could do something other than farming, this brilliant man. In four years of high school, he spent only thirty minutes total with homework. He could have become a chemistry professor with the Canadian military. He could have been a local name with his community club book-keeping and school bus driving and golf swing. He could have vacationed and built bigger and been a good average farmer.

But he didn’t.

He came home to the farm, because there was no money to put him through military school. He gave up the local clubs and golf league. He decided children were more important than early retirement or new equipment. He chose to pay off inherited debts rather than leave his sons with liabilities. He risked loving people outside his community, and loving children beyond his family.

In his long, slow journey of surrender, he was transformed. Ambition morphed into invention, prowess into stewardship, pride into grace.

And through all the loss and exposure and deep tilling and hardship, God made a Father’s heart.

So now, he cultivates and sows and harvests. He plays with children, labours with his sons, listens to his daughters, shields and supports his wife.

Nothing special.

Nothing so hard.

Nothing so worth it.

He opens calloused hands and dies to himself, and others come to life.

This is way of the seed in the field. This is way of the Father’s heart.

For my Dad, on Father’s Day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Letter to a perfect Baby

Dear Baby,

This is the second time in seven days we've been notified by numb, sterile words in cyberspace that a life like yours ended before you entered our world; and that your family missed you terribly.

And we are numb now. Shock and grief and ignorance blind us to comprehending the tragedy. Even if we can make out a hazy picture, we can’t imagine the searing pain, the potent shock, the monstrous sorrow. How can we, unless we experienced it? And who would want to?

You never breathed our air or felt our skin or tasted our food, but you’re living fuller than we ever have. We know God Himself embraced you when you entered His heaven. He kissed your perfect cheek and whispered in your warm ear that He loved you. All our love here is only and echo of His bigger love.

You’re meeting all the little ones who’ve gone before you . . . the 11-week old boy last week, the girl two years ago, my four siblings. They were all smaller than you, but I suppose you don’t measure by size in heaven, do you? So it doesn’t matter how much or little you weigh now.

Little Baby, this grief rips lock and key and bar off our hearts, incinerates every containment device, every shield, and lays us bare. If you only knew how scared and shivering we feel in this burning cold, how exposed and utterly undone . . . you would pity us. Or would you?

We stand helpless. We cannot change this, cannot avert it, cannot fix it. And we hate that, because we want to know, want to help, want to control. This sorrow unearths our souls, and shows us that we are made of dust.

This pain sears and melts our icy sculptures, and reveals that we really are just a vapour.

And Little Baby, we don’t have words. How can we?

The mother in Bethlehem, she didn’t have words either. She was told how much it would hurt to see her Son die, but how could she know, what could she say? She could not have known.

This Son, He died, and no one understood why. He felt pain like you never will.

And His Father, well, He watched Him die. He knew how much it would hurt.

And the only reason we are not destroyed by grief is because this God is our God. How could we go on unless we knew that the One Who is in charge of life knows how much death hurts?

The only way we can go on is because God is the only One Who understands our isolated grief, and can do something good with it.

And the only reason you don’t need to pity us, is because, while we are pathetic—saying the wrong things and standing by stupidly and being so very human—we are not pitiable, because our God gives us resurrection life, and rescues us to know His love, and enables us to whisper “Yes” to Him in our grief.

Little One, though you never knew our love in this world, you already know His love in perfect wholeness. Though you never spoke a word, your life tells us the truth about ourselves, and about God.

It is a gift, and we say “thank You” to God.

And I can hardly wait to meet you, in heaven.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Redeeming the Time, Part I

“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” rings in my ear, resonates in my heart. But what does it really mean? I ask God to help me redeem time, to live abundant, to operate productive and full-capacitated.

Funny. When I asked, I thought I’d receive some divine energy boost, I’d crank into higher gear, I’d streamline and pare down and tone and set myself with incredible determination.

I didn’t get what I thought I wanted.

I’m learning about what I really need.

Sun plays hide and seek through leaves, sparking off insect corpses sprayed across windshield glass. Satin dresses adorn velvet manikins in the dress shop, beckoning the soul to dress up and delight in beauty.

I sit behind the wheel, blank, dumb, unable to move. I scold myself for such foolishness, yet I’m incapacitated. I have time. I have options of how to spend my time. And I have no idea what to do.

I hate the dither—just do something! Even if it’s dumb! But I don’t want to act foolish, then regret it. Shame bubbles up, mixing into the vortex of my mind. All the stupid stuff I’ve done, I’ve said . . . don’t want to repeat that. Just make a decision and live with the consequences . . . . snap out of this limbo.

Time suspends when I realize I have time. It puts my life into slow-motion, and actions take on new meaning. This moment could be significant, special. It involves choice, not just instinct; creativity, not just habit; discernment, not just preferential or deferential default.

Am I so used to racing that I don’t know how to walk? So used to operating on a “top-up” mentality that I don’t know how to slow, and feast? Inhale and run, recharge and charge . . . is this really where I want to live?

The space tells me the answer. I don’t want to operate in this gear. I did once; I don’t have to now. Just because I can doesn’t mean I should.

And I see my sin, the presumption that supposed this is how I should go about my life, not asking for help, because “I know how to do this.”

No I don’t. But I didn’t know that I didn’t know till the Space.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Treasures

Things I can’t answer, things I don’t know, choices and changes nearing—I don’t know what to do, or how it will all work together, or even why it happens this way . . .

But my Shepherd comforts me, and tells me: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.

So, I thank Him . . .

For apple blossoms,

And little girls with kissable cheeks.

For glorious over-sized butterflies sitting all morning for me to capture with camera and paintbrush,

For boys who climb and make engine noises,

For friends whose hair makes me laugh,

For a Daddy who loves little children,

For little boys who dine on tricycles,

For passionate, sporting siblings,

For a group of women who meet to seek the face of God,

These treasures gladden my heart, and help me trust Him-Who-Sees-Me, when I can’t see my way clearly.

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