Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Interrupted Tranquility

I scurried, realizing I didn’t have time to complete my blog and post it before needing to leave for work. The morning winds made my decision not to run an easy one, even though there’s the lingering frustration of flaccidity and the sobering reality of too-soft-ish places in my anatomy. But since I didn’t run, the door remains locked and bolted.

So I packed my lunch bag, thinking life was basic indeed today, checked that the door knob was still locked, and exited the nest. I walked in the usual way to the gate, fishing for my car keys in my bag . . . and that’s when it hit me. My keys were still hanging merrily from the coat hook in the house . . . on the other side of that locked door.

Not only am I prevented from driving to work; I cannot get back into my house tonight, either! So getting a ride will only help half my problem. I hang up on the friend I was dialling.

What about the windows? I’ve got in before in the summer . . . I pull and reef on the pane, scratching my knuckles (not good for my profession), and getting nothing but a pathetic wiggle in response. The window won’t budge.

And I’d just been composing about peace: the presence of God with us in our messes, that makes all the difference. I did not feel placid. I whined, “God! What am I supposed to do?” The nearest family member with a key sat 80 miles away . . . and the Proverb reverberated in my muddled mind: “Better is a neighbour nearby than a brother far away.”

Okay, so God knew this was going to happen, He knew how stupid I’d feel, He knew that my client would be waiting for me . . . so He has a plan and purpose for GOOD in this madness. I would call my landlord. Thank God I remembered my phone today! I feel so dumb . . . and it’s justified . . . it was dumb of me. The landlord’s wife answers! And she can come right away!

I phone the office, and my story sends the secretary into a mild laughing fit. Thank God she can laugh at me.

So now I have to wait, and linger in this stupidity . . . this gratitude . . . this me-needing-major-help-and-some-kind-person-is-on-her-way-to-rescue-me essence: this mercy. I’m helpless, and my God is taking care of me. I’m humiliated. I’m humbled. I’m so grateful.

She comes, and lets me in. Hmm . . . after all this turmoil, it seems a shame to linger only a few seconds in the house: the ability to enter these walls suddenly becomes very precious to me. Keys in hand, I lock the door behind me, unlock my vehicle, engage it to drive, and go to work.

Wouldn’t you know . . . this chinooking wind makes it warm enough for me to drive without running my vehicle for 10 minutes first. And the road conditions are good. And there’s a place for me to park. And my client did not mind having to wait. And the Secretary is still laughing. And the sun is shining. And this day is wrapped in mercies.

So I will take His mercy, and taste that He is good, because I need His mercy, and I crave His goodness. And isn’t that just like Him: sheer goodness coming into our mess, and changing our world forever?

And I’m going for a run this morning.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Angel's Candle (The Shepherd's Candle, Pt. 2)

20 December 2011

Drawn away, the outskirts of civilization, lonely fields where children face sheer elements and grim, bleak reality . . . in these far off, unimportant places heaven touches earth, drawing its inhabitants close in embrace.

The hushed solitude of an inner temple chamber, the claustrophobic quarters of a peasant home, the desolate quiet of windswept heights . . . these mark the place of miracles. Here, earth life altered forever—there’s no shrine of remembrance, no tourist destination, no glorious memorial . . .

just rubble and dust . . . because that’s where God chooses to play out His story.

And He sends His angels, His messengers, like winds and flames of fire, these ones who see His face and do His bidding; these ones He commands to carry His news.

So they announce: to a shriveled priest, to an unimportant girl, to a poor carpenter, to forgotten children and leathery men out in the boonies—to these the angels come, and bring peace.

Why is the angel’s candle “peace”? They disrupted and disturbed everywhere they flew, upset every corner they crammed into, terrorized the landscape they used for a choir loft. They didn’t bark out commands that brought peace to those who obeyed them. The angels didn’t tell anyone what to do. So why did their coming bring peace?

Angels did not bring orders. They brought news—God’s reality, making order in our world.

They didn’t come with swords and threats, but their message impaled the human soul, and turned existence on its head.

They came singing, and set the world to dancing.

So this peace . . . it’s the coming of God’s reality: the Director comes onto the stage, and the angels choreograph Him in with music from heaven. We don’t hear these melodies much . . . we’re not listening for them. The prophets heard them before they sounded. Now, their echo pulsates ever-stronger, penetrating every battlement formed against it, melting every resistance with the miracle of imperceptible vibration.

God speaks His final word, and sends the crazed world reeling.

All that’s chaos explodes into mayhem, trying to drown out the angel’s song. But all that’s of heaven harmonizes with the messengers, even when it’s crying pain, and groaning for sheer life. Because peace doesn’t mean tranquility—peace means that the Creator is here, and nothing can happen to us outside His control.

Peace means we’re poor shepherds in the fields, tired old men, impressionable young girls, aspiring craftsman—singing the song of heaven.

Peace means we’ve been touched by God, have heard His final word, and surrendered to it as Reality . . . the heaven we can’t see utterly undoing and redoing the world we can see.

And He calls us further up, and further in, crawling into our shoddy hiding places with us, rescuing us where we are . . . this heavenly Man.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Shepherd’s Candle, Part 1

Dear Pilgrim,

We lit the third candle in our Advent wreath, and basked in the growing illumination. The Shepherd’s candle, pink candle of Joy, it blushes with pulsing adrenaline. Rosy and healthy, laughing and panting from exercise, perspiration dripping down its stout frame. Its life wastes before our eyes, but what triumphant demise!

It’s nothing special, a wad of wax and some string, melted into shape, then melted out of shape, till it evaporates or cascades into useless puddles onto the wreath and table. Simple, inexpensive, basic: it lives to be consumed as a memorial of another’s life. Significant only for what it represents, not for what it possesses inherently; still, it melts away merrily.

Why did the Shepherds have so much joy? Why is their candle different from all the others: that tacky pink that clashes with our decor and insults our sense of refined, contemporary design?

Tacky shepherds—low, odd-ball-ish, smelly, ignorant of life’s finer pleasures, bankrupt of education and station and the ability to better themselves—somehow, they possessed this joy. Children brushed aside, shooed to lowly, simple tasks, out of the way, out in the quiet lonely fields.

The soul sighs: so what Hope is there to keep us going? What Love can spur us to become something more than we have been? What can make this dreary life significant? What if we never can alter what we do?

“Do not be afraid,” he said first. Fear calculates the future without God.

Fear believes good will not come.

Maybe that’s why he said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”

We have to know that God is fundamentally, ultimately good . . . we see the opposite in our world and in our hearts. We need assurance of what we can barely whisper, wishing it to be true, unsure if it can be . . . knowing we are utterly undone if it is a mirage. What is the point, if there is no good?

We just don’t expect God’s revelation to come.

We don’t look for Him.

Maybe that’s why He shakes us out of our minds with angelic choruses bellowing His reality. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

These stirrings, these cravings, these groans and bellows and heavenly fireworks . . . these mark the journey of Joy, and take us deeper yet . . . .

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