Nov 22 2011

The Deeper Magic

Hungry and tired, she waited for the campus bus, the visible world reduced to the lamp light’s reach. The chill made her burrow deeper into her jacket, the library’s warmth only a memory in the foggy twilight.

Decisions yet to be made pressed in upon her. She worried at all the questions as she worried at her frayed sleeve, plucking threads and watching the fabric unravel. A familiar sting pricked her eyes.

Clenching her teeth, she shoved her hands back into her pockets, roughly setting her thoughts against the ache and her eyes to look for distant headlights.

And there, on the sidewalk, she saw them, just at the edge between sight and obscurity:

Paw prints.

Large paw prints, like some gigantic creature only meant for the wilds had stepped through paint and then sprinted into the darkening fog.

She half-turned away. It was cold. Late. I’ll take a closer look tomorrow, she decided. 

Pinpricks of bus lights cut through the fog. Supper and bed beckoned. Warmth and sleep wooed.

Yet her eyes kept finding their way back to the prints. Even in the fog, she could just make out more marking a path into the distance. A little spark of adventure flickered to life in her heart. A little less weariness weighed down her limbs.

She hardly noticed stepping out from the certainty of the stop.

She followed, up and around, down and back, street lamps lighting her way, one moment certain she had lost the trail only to find it again further up and further in, until the paw prints finally stopped.

And she stopped; breathing deep from the chase, hope of a deeper magic rising in her heart.

At the end of the trail, scrawled joyfully on the pavement, were two shimmering words from her childhood, catching her up in the Story, breaking past all her doubts, filling the ache, until her heart spilled over in laughter and tears and laughter again:

 

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ASLAN LIVES!!

 

(And edited repost from the archives, in honor of CS Lewis Day, and based on Deborah Smith Douglas’ mention of finding paw prints on Duke University’s campus and following them to the joyful words.  She writes: “I simply, with all my heart, recognized the transforming truth of the affirmation. Aslan is alive. Resurrection happens. Christ is risen.  In a single leap, Aslan had bounded past the watchful dragons of my mind and all the intervening years to return…Because my whole childhood rose up to greet the Lion, my tenuously sophisticated young-adult self had no defenses against the saving “allelujah!” truth of that moment.” –Weavings, Jan/Feb 1997, 21)

 


Oct 5 2011

{Day 5} Welcoming Back Hope

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For many years, I took Amtrak everywhere, rather than flying. There were many reasons for this–I enjoyed seeing the beauty of this country and crossing timezones at a slower speed. I loved getting to know fellow travelers, many from distant countries where train travel was the norm.  I also was terrified of flying, which thankfully, has been healed.

One of my favorite things about train travel was the anticipation. When I got on the train, it felt like the beginning of an adventure–new sights, sounds, and people to enjoy. Everything was interesting, everything called to my attention.

At night, sleeping on a moving train can be challenging–it is much more turbulent than a normal plane or car ride–so I would find myself staring out the window, watching the darkened landscape zip by, wondering about the souls asleep in houses tucked away just beyond the tracks.

One December, I traveled from Boston to Texas via Chicago and as I kept vigil in the dark, speeding through Western Massachusetts, I saw something beautiful: houses miles apart bejeweled with holiday lights. These farms were far from towns, major roads and even sight of each other, and I wondered why they put up lights. Certainly, their occupants no doubt enjoyed coming home to the bright splendor on dark winter nights, but in this one long lonely stretch of farmland and trees, it was a regular sight. Even random outbuildings were lit up.

Then I realized. Near as they were, they could see the passenger trains and knew we could see them, if we looked. In the time-honored tradition, that still happens in rural America, you wave at trains–and during the day those on the train wave back.

That night, every shining house was waving, hoping to be seen, giving a gift of beauty if we on the train would but look.

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Contemplative living is an odd mix of both paying attention without expectation about what will be noticed, and hope that there is something and someone to notice, maybe to even receive a glimpse of the deeper Love that holds everything together.

But sometimes what beckons to be noticed is not lovely or beautiful or desired.

Sometimes what we hope for is dampened or destroyed in disappointment. And when this happens, I often ask: Why keep paying attention? Why live contemplatively–to look with and for God in the world–when all I see are disappointed hopes?

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The author of Proverbs writes, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when longing is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)

Our hopes point us to the Author of All Hope, and while we live in a world where hope is often deferred, to live in hope is to live abundantly in God.

We can take our longings to the God who holds us and weeps with us, and live again in hope for how he will redeem our disappointment (and oh, yes! How wonderful is his redemption revealed in Christ.)

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Yesterday, we considered how a way to find out what you love is to pay attention to what breaks your heart.

Today, I’d invite you to tenderly and gently pay attention to your disappointment in order to find your hope.

Follow the bread crumbs back to that fragile hope, to the house bejeweled with light in the darkness, and to the Love waiting there to hold and heal and cherish you.

God is waving at you in your hopes, look out the window and see.

31 Days


Jul 30 2011

Creating Space for Beauty

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I’ve found that experiencing beauty as a regular part of my day requires cultivating a welcoming space: physical space, such as having a special area to display something I find beautiful or art supplies at the ready for creating; space in my schedule to intentionally notice beauty, such as walking to a look-out, taking my camera on an urban hike, hand writing a letter, or sharing a meal and seeing the beauty of a friend; and mental space, where I release behaviors and thoughts which clutter my head and blind my eyes to joy, and instead look at life with a gaze of gratitude.

When I invest energy in looking with a grateful eye on all that is beautiful, small things and experiences especially, it balances me and helps me see life as a whole, not just what is painful or difficult in the moment.

When I intentionally cultivate space for daily beauty, I find that any energy invested multiplies exponentially. Beauty is nourished by beauty.

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Awhile ago, I wrote about seeing a lovely cottage and garden near my apartment, and how sad I was, knowing that owning such a place is many years down the road. After pouring out my desire to God, it became clear that I had a choice: live in sadness and scarcity, looking longingly toward a future dream, or make space to be inspired by the real beauty of that garden and to cultivate a similar beauty in my own life.

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Making space for beauty, or really anything, is difficult if we keep a death grip on one vision or image of what must fill the space.

Instead, if we clear the space and then let beauty breathe into it (in-spire it), what fits our particular life and situation can grow organically.

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We make space for the possibility of beauty. Rather than making demands, we invite, welcome, practice hospitality.

For me, after seeing the cottage garden, inviting beauty meant taking time to clean up my balcony and simply sit, allowing a vision of beauty for that space to superimpose itself on reality.

Clearing mental space helped me feel: my hands were itching to get into dirt and to nurture growing life. I realized I didn’t want a ready-made garden, but to start from scratch.

Then, after planting the seeds, patience was necessary to nurture the space, as I waited weeks for any sign of life and then more weeks until flowers bloomed.

Now, when I look out on my balcony, I see the beauty of that cottage garden, but in a form perfect for my situation. The bees buzz, butterflies flutter, and hummingbirds greet me in the morning. A bit of Eden, four storeys up.

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Gardens are all through scripture, places of growth and healing.  A garden at the beginning when all things were new, the garden of Gethesmane when tears flowed and angels soothed, a garden for the tomb when the world held its breath. Even for the resurrection, in the garden, Jesus greeted is beloved friend, and what could happen but, “She thought he was the gardener.”  So true.

And finally, finally, the end and a new beginning: a Garden around a Tree in center of the Beautiful City.

That final glorious Day will come, but the greening, growing beauty of that Day can in-spire our days now.

Clear some space, welcome Beauty, wait and see.

What is a beauty that captures your heart?

This week, clear some space, in your physical surroundings, in your schedule, and in your thoughts for this beauty to find a home.

No need to fill the space, just let it breathe.

What vision reveals itself?

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May 11 2011

Resurrecting Hope

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The past couple of months, as the trees leafed out and the wildflower seedlings poked their tiny heads through the soil, I felt the chill of winter.

It could be that Seattle had it’s coldest, grayest April on record.

But as the joy of Easter seeps slowly in, I realize Lent just lasted a bit longer for me this year.

I planted my blue morning glory seeds over four weeks ago and kept checking for signs of life, even as I checked my own heart.

Hope had gone into hiding.

Is anything growing?

Will anything ever grow?

And if it does, what’s its purpose?

I wait in hope that the lifeless seeds will one day bloom. It’s seemed to take forever, just to get this far, and I can’t see the end.

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This morning, asking my questions, I picked up a book by Richard Sterns, The Hole in Our Gospel. Sterns is the president of World Vision.

I  randomly opened it to an amazing story of seed planting.

Edward Kimball taught Sunday school in Boston and invested in the lives of boys and young men. One of these teens was particularly challenging, so Kimball visited him at his family’s shoe store. He spoke about the love of Christ (actually mumbled it nervously, not sure what to say), and surprisingly the young man committed his life to Christ then and there. This teen, Dwight L Moody, would ultimately share the gospel with over 100 million people during his life, as well as start inner city ministries and a college in Chicago.  In 1879, F.B. Meyer was influenced by Moody’s witness and became a minister, he in turn mentored J.W. Chapman, who ministered to professional baseball players. One of those players, Billy Sunday, became one of the most known evangelists of the early 20th century.  Sunday’s ministry of preaching led Mordecai Ham to follow Christ,  and Ham became an evangelist as well. Ham’s preaching and invitation to follow Christ was heard by a young teen, Billy Graham.

Richard Sterns writes: “Do you sometimes feel that you have nothing worthwhile to offer–that you are a nobody when it comes to doing great things for God? I wonder if Edward Kimball felt the same way. He never did anything spectacular or particularly newsworthy. He just showed up out of faithfulness to God, an hour or two each week, to teach the boys in his class. And yet Edward Kimball’s dedication to teaching Sunday school faithfully and caring about those boys changed the world.”

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Our daily work of love is a seed. Loving one person near us cannot but unleash God’s love in some unique way into the world.

And that amazing transformative Love will sparkle and spiral and twirl as it touches the lives of countless others down into the future.

We may never know to where and to what just showing up and sharing God’s love will lead.

But knowing that God’s Word of Love created the universe and raised his Son from the grave, we can hope for a garden of abundance to spring green.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than those who watch for the morning,

more than those who watch for the morning.

–Psalm 130:5-6


Mar 25 2011

Friday Florilegium

ONE time our good Lord said: All thing shall be well; and another time he said: Thou shalt see
thyself that all MANNER [of] thing shall be well; and in these two [sayings] the soul took sundry
understandings.
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One was that He willeth we know that not only He taketh heed to noble things and to great, but
also to little and to small, to low and to simple, to one and to other. And so meaneth He in that He
saith: ALL MANNER OF THINGS shall be well. For He willeth we know that the least thing shall
not be forgotten.
Another understanding is this, that there be deeds evil done in our sight, and so great harms
taken, that it seemeth to us that it were impossible that ever it should come to good end. And upon
this we look, sorrowing and mourning therefor, so that we cannot resign us unto the blissful beholding
of God as we should do. And the cause of this is that the use of our reason is now so blind, so low,
and so simple, that we cannot know that high marvellous Wisdom, the Might and the Goodness of
the blissful Trinity. And thus signifieth He when He saith: THOU SHALT SEE THYSELF if [1] all
manner of things shall be well. As if He said: Take now heed faithfully and trustingly, and at the
last end thou shalt verily see it in fulness of joy.
And thus in these same five words aforesaid: I may make all things well, etc., I understand a
mighty comfort of all the works of our Lord God that are yet to come. There is a Deed the which
the blessed Trinity shall do in the last Day, as to my sight, and when the Deed shall be, and how it
shall be done, is unknown of all creatures that are beneath Christ, and shall be till when it is done.
[” The Goodness and the Love of our Lord God” will that we wit [know] that it shall be; And
the “Might and the Wisdom of him by the same Love will”
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hill [conceal] it, and hide it from us what it shall be, “and how it shall be done.”]
And the cause why He willeth that we know [this Deed shall be], is for that He would have us
the more eased in our soul and [the more] set at peace in love—leaving the beholding of all troublous
things that might keep us back from true enjoying of Him. This is that Great Deed ordained of our
Lord God from without beginning, treasured and hid in His blessed breast, only known to Himself:
by which He shall make all things well.
For like as the blissful Trinity made all things of nought, right so the same blessed Trinity shall
make well all that is not well.

Today’s florilegium is from the 32nd chapter of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love. I recommend reading it aloud–this allows the lovely flow of the prose to aid in deciphering her meaning.

Julian’s anchorhold (a little two-room cell with a garden built against a church) was right on a busy street, in Norwich, a town of over 10,000.  She had one window that viewed the church altar, one window for people on the street through which people sought spiritual direction, and, most likely, a cat. She is the first woman to write a book in English.

Her book is the fruit of twenty years reflection on visions she had of Jesus during a brief life-threatening illness. Julian wrestled with reconciling the love of Christ with a Christianity of hellfire and brimstone, and the reality of extreme suffering. Her local bishop led a bloody Crusade and burned heretics a half mile from her home. She also witnessed the plague kill 80% of the population of Norwich when she was 6 and then 80% of the children (the adults had some immunity from the first time) when she was nineteen, likely losing her own children.

For all that she would have witnessed, Julian’s book is full of joy and trust that God would “make all things well.”

One time our good Lord said: All things shall be well; and another time he said: Thou shalt see thyself that all manner of thing shall be well; and in these two sayings the soul took sundry [many] understandings:

One was that He willeth we know that not only He taketh heed to noble things and to great, but also to little and to small, to low and to simple, to one and to other. And so meaneth He in that He saith: all manner of things shall be well. For He willeth we know that the least thing shall not be forgotten.

Another understanding is this, that there be deeds evil done in our sight, and so great harms taken, that it seemeth to us that it were impossible that ever it should come to good end.

And upon this we look, sorrowing and mourning therefor, so that we cannot resign us unto the blissful beholding of God as we should do. And the cause of this is that the use of our reason is now so blind, so low, and so simple, that we cannot know that high marvellous Wisdom, the Might and the Goodness of the blissful Trinity. And thus signifieth He when He saith: Thou shalt see thyself all manner of things shall be well. As if He said: Take now heed faithfully and trustingly, and at the last end thou shalt verily see it in fulness of joy.

And thus in these same five words aforesaid: I may make all things well,  I understand a mighty comfort of all the works of our Lord God that are yet to come. There is a Deed the which the blessed Trinity shall do in the last Day, as to my sight, and when the Deed shall be, and how it shall be done, is unknown of all creatures that are beneath Christ, and shall be till when it is done.

And the cause why He willeth that we know this Deed shall be, is for that He would have us the more eased in our soul and  the more set at peace in love—leaving the beholding of all troublous [troubling] things that might keep us back from true enjoying of Him. This is that Great Deed ordained of our Lord God from without beginning, treasured and hid in His blessed breast, only known to Himself: by which He shall make all things well.

For like as the blissful Trinity made all things of nought [out of nothing], right so the same blessed Trinity shall make well all that is not well.

Friday Florilegium 1


Jan 28 2011

Friday Florilegium

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As the birds build nests, as the furry catkins bud on the willow, new bright green leaves open in the sunniest places, and cherry blossoms begin to pink-tinge the trees, I begin this Florilegium with my most favorite quote, from the book Christ the Tiger by Thomas Howard:

“Here from this stable, here, from this Nazareth, this stony beach, this Jerusalem, this market place, this garden, this Praetorium, this Cross, this mountain, I announce it to you. I announce to you what is guessed at in all the phenomena of your world. You see the corn of wheat shrivel and break open and die, but you expect a crop.

I tell you of the Springtime of which all springtimes speak.

I tell you of the world for which this world groans and toward which it strains. I tell you that beyond the awful borders imposed by time and space and contingency, there lies what you seek. I announce to you life instead of mere existence, freedom instead of frustration, justice instead of compensation.

For I announce to you redemption. Behold I make all things new. Behold I do what cannot be done.

I restore the years that the locusts and worms have eaten. I restore the years you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheel-chair. I restore the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder and the identity lost to you because of calumny and the failure of justice; and I restore the good which your own foolish mistakes have cheated you of.

And I bring you to the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow.

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If you would like to contribute to the Friday Florilegium, please share a quote or scripture verse that has been meaningful for you in the comments or in a blog post.

Friday Florilegium 1

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