Sunday, August 28, 2011

Forfeit Shame

Emptiness haunts her footsteps, a gaping shadow threatening to engulf her present and paralyze her future. Hollow legacy, like wind sweeping through sterile plain gouged and filled its own chasm in her heart. What was the point of her life if she could not give life to another?

Taunted every moment by happy squeals of another woman’s children, their joy doubling her anguish, she suffered silent. Each successful pregnancy, each living child cut into her soul, the children’s mother knew it, and used it to mock and malign the devalued woman.

Her generous husband loved her, but supposed he could fill her void with himself. She knew he meant well, but his presumptive evaluation of his own worth slit her soul. He did not understand. He would not enter her grief. He would not go where he was not enough. She was still alone.

Her rival’s pride enshrined her in unattainable superiority, and her own shame thrust her into untouchable estrangement. Hot teary rivers stained her cheeks salty white; her stomach repulsed food—what was the point in nourishing this living isolation? Daily function kept her moving, a hollow, listless life.

Then, she capitulated. How it happened, and when, she did not know. It had something to do with Shiloh, the tabernacle, making the yearly trek to worship as a family. She neared the tent of The Presence, where God came to commune with His people. God . . . the Creator, the God-Who-Sees-me, the Covenant-Maker—stories of His intervention through history flooded into her soul. God: the One Who makes barren, and gives life, the One Who owns the fortunes and destinies of man. This God, it was about Him, it was up to Him. Her quarrel was not with her rival, her husband, her community, her culture; it was with her God.

And in worship, the dike broke: she wept liquid anguish, all the bitterness heaving from her soul. Convulsed, speechless, crumpled helpless before God, she remembered His reality: the Lord of hosts. God was God, and she was not.

And in worship, she found her place: a life forfeit, a life surrendered, a life from God, for God. That’s all she was. And it was enough.

And any fruit from her life would be forfeit. No echelon of pride, no pit of shame, no emptiness or fullness—nothing was hers to claim as her own. She lost distinction, and found identity in belonging to God. Here, nothing could touch her, nothing could destroy her, because her whole existence was bound up in the reality of God.

That’s what worship does—it frees us from our beneficial and detrimental confines, and draws our eyes up, to see the Reality beyond us. This God commands our worship, designed us for worship, because He knows it is where we will be fully alive.

Lord, help us, like Hannah, worship You, and succumb to Your utter reality washing, cutting, defining, and filling our entire existence.

Thoughts from 1 Samuel 1

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shimmering Air

Early in the morning—too early for one who’d gone to bed at 10:30 and 12:00 previous evenings—I rouse off the chesterfield. Sun’s already up, and the day basking in her smile. Pack last few items of food and clothing, then drive quiet out the lane. Road stretches long and silent. It is early, and it is Sunday.

Follow along, through border crossing, into mountain country. There, I find the prize, the campground of friends. We sort and pack and laugh light in morning levity. We’re endeavouring a 15-mile hike today. We start later than planned, but no one minds. I settle with ease into this loving family of artists and dreamers.

So we begin, our trek revealing nuggets of beauty in the world, and in each other. Each person is a treasure trove, as they open up and share, I see the glimmer and beauty of soul, and know even deeper that this one is precious.

So we delve, we march, we balance, we tiptoe, on and on in this journey. Exploration gives way to awe, to praise, then to the contented silence of kindled, deepened enjoyment and wonder. We inhale shimmering air, the vistas glimmer in happy haze, and we feel alive.

Some of us take our own dare to climb an extra two miles to the fire lookout. Why, we cannot say, except for the mere adventure of it all. A gruelling ascent, and we question our sanity. But at the top, it’s all worth the effort. We gaze for ages, further into the mountain range, deeper to the distant camp, and beyond to the flattened prairies, basking in their own unique glory.

Then we go down, descending for half the journey. Its ease comes laced with specialized pain, danger, and glory. Our perspective diminishes as we sink lower into the engulfing crevices. We talk less and listen more. Legs turn to jelly, hands swell, tongues crave water, and hearts long for comforts and rest of camp.

Sun sets as we arrive, move slow, linger long over hot dinner, and talk deep into the black night.

The stars above us sing and beam with pleasure. We look up, and know we are small, know we are known, know we are loved.

And our every breath echoes creation’s symphony.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Letter from Words

Dear Pilgrim,

It’s time we met. We have been acquainted long; but I want you to know me better, because in knowing me, you will better understand the world, its people, and your place in it.

I am a tool, thought up in God’s mind, used by Him first, when He made the world. Then men used me to name and label, and form first theories. An enemy twisted me into lies, and made the world run amuck.

I form civilizations, and cultures form me. I am a servant, and a ruler. I bend to another’s will, but bind him stronger than iron. God bids life and death by me, and men either save or lose their life with my aid.

Banished and embraced, exiled and welcomed, pirated and treasured—I always live in paradox.

You feel insecure because I am volatile, capricious, mysterious. I’m beyond you, and yet beneath you. I possess objective purpose, yet I yield to subjective whim. I define your world, but am utilized for its undoing.

You wouldn’t believe what’s been blamed on me. “All my fault” people would have you believe. I’ve been cajoled, dissected, dismembered by men for their own deceptive ends. And I’ve been scrutinized, studied, tested, and loved by men who search for truth.

Poets paint sonnets with me. Musicians agonize over me so that I will blend with their work. Sometimes, they let me speak silent, through the haunting beauty of song.

The world spins by me, it seems, and why shouldn’t it? I was used to conceive the world.

But beyond my grandeur and danger, at my truest heart’s purpose, I am only an instrument. I’m the cord thrown from one person to another, always outstretched, always pleading, always inviting.

Let’s walk this road together for a while, till knowledge blossoms into wisdom and guessing yields to sober understanding, till confusion gives way to clarity, and unintelligible hope grows into believing joy . . . and we comprehend our place in the Creator’s hands.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Waiting: folly and triumph

Afternoon sun caresses golden all the way down the long, south-bound road. I love this highway, and would rather drive south to the small Montana airport, than north to the crazed hub of central Alberta.

Police pull over speeders, and I remember back to when a limit was finally fixed for drivers in this state. I stop to fill my tank with American-priced gas, and wipe translucent insect remains from my windshield. Road is quiet, traffic is fast, and open spaces bid the heart dance in their security.

I arrive late, and rush to the restroom, fearing an awkward moment of recognition, reunion, followed by a rude interruption from Mother Nature.

I stand at the baggage claim, searching faces, scanning heads and shapes of bodies. Maybe she too is attending her needs, or coming from the upper story.

A purple-blotch faced Grandpa glides down escalator. A dutchess-carriaged woman walks to the conveyer with glassy stride. A motorized wheelchair puts in front of me. Families cluster around baggage carts. Couples wait for missing items. Friends embrace and joke. All around me pleasant bluster swishes, but I wait, apart from the celebrations, stoic and poised.

Another flight comes in. More people, more faces, more expressions, more amusing travel outfits. But she is not there.

And I wonder if I am waiting in vain. I recall the flight time and day. I am supposed to be here, now. I don’t have her itinerary, and am too embarrassed to ask at the counter about a friend whose departure and connecting airports are unknown, and whose flight number is a mystery. I chide myself mentally.

I guess I just assumed everything would be fine. But it’s not.

One more flight, then four hours till the next arrival. Surely I won’t have to wait that long!

Finally, I turn on cell phone, accepting the fact that I’ll be charged for roam in a foreign country, and call home. She’s been delayed, and can’t come now till tomorrow night.

All this way for a delay. But I’m not going to stay 27 hours in a strange city, with nothing to do, and no need to binge a whole day at cheaper American stores. So I purchase a smoothie, buy some clothing articles for my siblings, and head home.

The next day, she calls from her plane seat. She got on a standby flight. I leave immediately, heading down the three-hour road. And joy meets me on the way.

A worship CD sets my heart delighting, and I have to remind myself not to close my eyes in praise while driving. I pull up to the border stop, and the same guard from yesterday greets me, and we laugh and balk together over this predicament.

I arrive again, the airport is quiet today. I walk up the stairs, and she is there, more beautiful than I remember, my dear friend, in the flesh.

Today, we embrace, and laugh, and talk purposeful and deep. After all, we’re operating on a day less than we planned.

And in the end, waiting wasn’t so hard, because I knew what was coming, and it was worth the wait.

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.

My soul waits for the LORD more than those who watch for the morning—yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130: 5-7

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